Toolboxplaybook-back-btn Playbookplaybook-back-btn Chapter 11

CHAPTER 11

Field + Office Best Practices

Debriefing technicians on high-opportunity service calls, handing off unsold jobs to a followup coordinator, and selling, renewing and maintaining service memberships can all increase revenue and drive success. Performing those tasks efficiently requires a plan.

SECTION 4 OF 4

Recalls, Callbacks and Warranty Issues

Recalls, Callbacks, and Warranty Issues

Mistakes happen. HVAC technicians, plumbers, electricians, and others working in the skilled trades simply want to help homeowners and commercial businesses keep their mechanical systems running optimally. But, sometimes service technicians miss things, which can result in a callback to the work site.

"They're human," says Vanessa Gonzales, co-owner of Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in New Mexico. "Anytime you have a human component, there will be some room for error." 

Gonzales, who also serves as ServiceTitan's Senior Product Manager for Utilization and Customer Experience, advises being very open and honest about the mistake with the customer.

"We let them know, 'This was a mistake. You're not going to be charged for this. We'll do whatever we need to do to make it right,’" she says. 

Most home service businesses define a recall or callback as errors or omissions by the service technician within 30 days of a service call or within one year of an installation job.

"Sometimes, it will be the technician simply forgot to adjust the gas valve or the technician installed an air conditioner, but they didn't do a full startup and check on the furnace when they installed the combo unit," Gonzales says. "The minor, little things would be defined as a callback or a recall, where it's technician fault or human error."

Defining a parts warranty gets a little trickier, she says, but most contractors define a parts warranty as one that applies to the equipment and any other products "we get from somewhere other than ourselves," Gonzales says.

Most manufacturers maintain strict guidelines on what they will accept as a warranty. Make sure your entire team gains clear understanding of those specific guidelines.

"All of the manufacturer's guidelines must be followed to make sure the warranty claim is honored and the customer gets reimbursed for the parts," Gonzales explains. "Sometimes they even get reimbursed for the labor, due to a lemon furnace or a defect on a specific part that came from the manufacturer. That's how most shops separate the two."

Why should companies track servicing recalls and warranty claims?

Job recalls—such as services provided on a recent HVAC installation, AC refrigerant check, or water heater repair—can result in customer dissatisfaction, lost opportunity, increased labor expenses, and lower company morale. Without a proper process for tracking callbacks, a service company can’t find the root cause and solve the problem.

Recalls/Callbacks can serve as a valuable indicator of holes in training, knowledge, or customer service. Warranties can flag issues with a supplier or manufacturer.  

"Johnny Tech may be really good at installing toilets, but any time he touches kitchen sinks or faucets, it always results in at least three callbacks," Gonzales says. "Well, Johnny Tech is no longer going to be working on sinks until we get him more training, right? 

"It allows you to see where the weaknesses are in their training process, their understanding, whatever it is, and allows you to cater coaching and training specifically to that technician," she explains.

ServiceTitan's field management software gives companies providing HVAC services, plumbing services, electrical services, and others a way to closely track recalls and callbacks—down to the exact number for each technician, how many hours it took to fix each issue, and the negative impact on revenue—as well as monitor manufacturer defects and warranty issues.

"With our previous software, we had to have Excel spreadsheet after Excel spreadsheet to go over it, to get the percentages, to get all that other information, which is frustrating as a business owner," Gonzales says.

Benefits of tracking callbacks

  • Happier customers

  • Improved efficiency and profitability

  • Improved morale

  • Culture of excellence

After Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling started tracking its recalls using the ServiceTitan platform, Gonzales says the company reduced its customer concerns by 35%.

"We were surprised at how many callbacks were due to rushing and minor errors," such as failing to turn the gas valve back on after repairing an HVAC system or forgetting to turn the water on after installing a water heater, she says.  

"We were able to improve our training purposes and give more time for certain repairs. It also showed who our rockstar techs were," Gonzales says.

In ServiceTitan, the recall procedure companies follow includes: 

  • CSR takes an incoming call from a customer who received repair services within the past 30 days or installation services within the past year, then marks it as a recall.

  • Dispatcher or CSR identifies original tech on the job and type of service—such as an AC repair, furnace tune-up, or plumbing system replacement—then notifies the tech and their service manager.

  • Company dispatches original tech, if possible, to perform needed repairs.

  • Company debriefs technician and/or service manager to confirm the recall, and whether it resulted from a parts warranty or workmanship issues.

  • CSR updates job status on the ServiceTitan dashboard to reflect recall and warranty status.

  • Technician completes job.

  • CSR follows up with the customer within 24 hours.

  • Company utilizes ServiceTitan reporting to review all recalls in regular tech meetings, and provide training to reduce callbacks and improve service.

Gonzales says ServiceTitan's clearly defined processes and reporting capabilities for handling recalls, callbacks, and parts warranty issues proved to be a game-changer at her company.

"ServiceTitan gets so granular that even if the job was six months ago and it's still covered by your labor warranty, you can go back and attach it to the original call. That way, the percentages, revenue, all of that is done correctly," Gonzales says. "That is one part I love. You just go in, find it, click it, and it's all put together."

How to reduce customer dissatisfaction

Recalls often result in customer dissatisfaction, lost opportunities, and increased labor costs, Gonzales says, so it's imperative for companies to immediately address the problem—if only to give customers peace of mind.

"The customers are coming to us because they expect us to be experts," Gonzales says, rather than trying to DIY a problem, accidentally reduce its lifespan, and break it even more. "They have a need they can't take care of and they're calling the people who should be able to service that need."

Most recalls result because of a process issue. Every time a recall happens, check each step followed by the technician. Modify the process as needed to prevent future recalls.

When a home services company fails to fulfill its commitment to the customer, it's just like any other relationship. The customer may start second-guessing your company's capabilities and not trust you to do the job right.

"There are some customers who will give us the opportunity again, and there are others we may never know about," Gonzales says. "They may call another company to come out (to fix the mistake your tech made on their AC unit repair, for instance) and we've lost them."

Lost opportunities result anytime you lose one customer, because you not only lose revenue from that particular customer, but also potential revenue earnings from referrals to friends, family, businesses, and other community ties. 

"Once you lose that customer, for whatever reason, you have potentially lost $10,000—or it could be $100,000," Gonzales says.

To decrease unpaid labor costs due to callbacks, Gonzales uses the tracking features in ServiceTitan to immediately assign a new tech to fix the problem, or send the same technician accompanied by a service manager to address the issue.

"We let them know we're doing everything we can to change the process, to make sure no other customer has that exact experience," Gonzales says. "They should know when we go to fix the toilet and reinstall it, it's not going to leak, it's still going to flush, and it's not going to back up. Or when we work on an AC system, the thermostat is going to work. Or when we install an electrical panel, it's not blowing breakers.

"We do our best to fix that relationship, gain that trust back," she says.

Tracking tech recalls also creates opportunities for training, improving morale, and establishing a culture of excellence within your organization. Your techs may experience “off” months from time to time. They might miss a step on an air conditioning repair, make a mistake while installing ductwork or replacing a heat pump. With ServiceTitan reporting, you'll know immediately and can work to steer them back on course.

"Our technicians are amazing at what they do, they just sometimes stumble," Gonzales says. "It's up to us, as the leaders of the company, to build them back up, pick them up, dust them off, and say, 'Get back out there. You can do this.'"

To improve efficiency, provide techs with checklists for installs, troubleshooting, and common repairs that result in a high level of recalls.

Define your priority level for recalls

Establishing a priority status for jobs helps your company better meet customer expectations on initial calls, as well as recalls. Simply put, priority levels tell you which jobs need to be scheduled first. 

For most companies, a recall takes high priority, as it puts the customer relationship at risk.

If a customer's air conditioning system breaks down in the summertime with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees and your tech just installed it, then that's a higher priority call because it could be a matter of life or death, Gonzales says.

If their plumbing issue is simply a dripping faucet or their electrical issue is a non-working outlet, there's no urgency to make it a priority call.

"Most of the time, it's just educating and making customers aware," Gonzales says.

-Diana Lamirand