By: Peter DeHaan on March 20th, 2018
The Key Benefits of Using an HVAC Answering Service
The mission of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) providers is to keep people comfortable in their homes and at work. This means air-conditioning when it’s hot outside, heat when it’s cold, and proper ventilation throughout the year.
For new construction this entails a properly designed and installed system. For existing buildings, it also includes regular preventive maintenance. And because these systems normally work the way they should, people tend to take them for granted—until they stop working. This brings us to the third element of the HVAC industry: repair and replacement.
Because HVAC issues never seem to happen at a convenient time, this means the leading HVAC providers must be available around-the-clock to meet the needs of their customers. Though you could staff someone in-house to field these calls twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the ideal, cost-effective solution is to outsource the work to an HVAC answering service that understands your industry and can meet your specific requirements.
Here’s what to consider.
Finding an answering service is a good place to start. Download our free infographic to find out the attributes on which to compare providers:
Being available during the business day is a good start, but that ignores three fourths of the hours each week. While quotes for new construction and requests for preventative maintenance usually occur during the business day, emergency situations often arise outside of regular business hours.
That’s why you need an answering service that’s available 24/7. And this must be full-service availability, not scaled-back, automated, or sent offshore. Pick an HVAC answering service that can handle your calls in the evenings and on weekends—including holidays—just as professionally and proficiently as they do during regular business hours.
However, answering the phone is just the beginning. What happens next is even more critical. If the caller requires emergency service, what should the answering service do? The answer is simple. They must reach the emergency on-call personnel. But how they do that may signal the difference between success and failure.
Will they send an email that might go unread for several hours? Will they transmit a text message that could get delayed or lost? Certainly, they shouldn’t hold the message for the office, but this happens with inexperienced providers. They could also try a home phone or other number, but the best, fastest, and most reliable method is to page the on-call personnel. Paging avoids most of the problems associated with other communication methods. Make sure your HVAC answering service can page your staff with urgent calls.
In some emergency situations, the best response is to connect the customer with the on-call person. This saves time and provides the customer with a quick assurance and the on-call technician with a better understanding of the situation.
This doesn’t mean every after-hours call should be patched to the on-call person. This would make no sense, but that’s what some inexperienced answering services do. If patching is the right option for your HVAC business, then your answering service should be able to guide you in establishing a protocol to define what constitutes an emergency and what does not. Only true emergencies that meet your criteria should be patched through to your on-call personnel. Make sure your HVAC answering service can do this and do it right.
Understanding the HVAC Industry
Any answering service can answer your phone, but do they understand your industry? That’s why it’s critical to select a communications provider that understands HVAC. Do they have experience with other HVAC companies? Do they have a working grasp of industry jargon? Do they know what it will take to configure their system for the specific needs of your HVAC business?
In addition to the answering service’s capabilities, their agents should be equally experienced and adept at handling HVAC calls. HVAC answering services train their agents in basic skills before they take their first call, but they can only learn advanced capabilities over time. That’s why agent tenure is so important. The longer their track record at the answering service in handling HVAC calls, the better the outcome they can provide for you.
Message Delivery Options
We talked about the importance of paging and patching. Yet, despite careful preparations and a specific protocol to follow, sometimes HVAC answering services can’t reach the on-call person or their backup. What happens them? For a haphazard answering service, nothing. At best they’ll hold the message for the office in the morning.
But will the frustrated customer still be waiting? Probably not. Likely they’ll call your competitor, who may even complete the repair before you know there’s a problem. That’s why it’s important to have an array of multiple contact options to reach every on-call personnel and their backup. Your answering service might never use these options, but it’s important information to have if the primary method falters.
Sometimes, perhaps often, the customer may have an emergency but not require an immediate response. That is, they may opt to wait until the next morning, provided they can get help quickly. When you can provide this option, it protects your on-call staff from overwork and helps keep your customers’ invoices lower. But how do you do this?
The answer is simple. Allow your answering service to schedule service appointments for you. If you provide your HVAC answering service with secure, online access to your service calendar, they’ll immediately know your availability for the next day. That way, a customer who calls in the middle of the night about an underperforming air-conditioning unit, may delay repair until the next morning, providing there’s a technician available first thing. If your answering service has access to your schedule, they’ll know exactly your availability and fill the open slot with a service call to meet your customer’s need.
Last, ask about their current HVAC customers. They’ll be able to provide great insight into the HVAC answering service’s overall quality of service and specific understanding of the HVAC industry. In addition, factor in key, general traits to consider when looking to hire a telephone answering service.
No one likes to switch answering services, but when the time comes, put forth the extra effort needed to find the right HVAC answering service provider. A careful selection now will keep you from repeating the process in another six months. No one wants that. And just as you want a long-term relationship with your answering service, they want you to become a long-term client.
In summary, here are the seven key items to consider when making your HVAC answering service selection:
- 24/7 Availability: they must provide full-service, around-the-clock coverage.
- Paging Services: make sure paging is one of the options they provide.
- Patching Capability: being able to connect your customers to on-call staff is a critical service.
- Understand the HVAC Industry: find an answering service provider with both knowledge and experience in the HVAC industry.
- Message Delivery Options: select a provider that offers multiple message delivery routes.
- Appointment Scheduling: use an answering service that can access your repair calendar to schedule service appointments, which will set you apart from your competition.
- Final Considerations: check references, and talk with their other HVAC clients.
Finally, learn more from this free resource, How to Select an Answering Service.