Looking to provide a better level of customer service and constant availability, many HVAC contractors turn to a HVAC answering service or call center provider. While this can indeed be a viable solution, it has to be implemented correctly in order to prove effective.

If you view using an answering service solely as an easy way to remain available 24-7 without spending much money, you’re going to miss out on other benefits, such as improved efficiency, better reputation and name recognition, and, most importantly, happier customers who return to you again and again.

This article will provide some tips that HVAC contractors and their office managers can use when setting up and managing a relationship with a call center.

1. Put extra thought into personalizing your service and making sure the instructions fit your business

Anxious to let someone else take calls so you can get back to work, you may be inclined to rush into your new service and get it operating as quickly as possible. Because of this, you may not put enough thought into what information operators will be providing customers, what scripting they’ll be using, or how they will go about delivering messages to you.

If you’re working with an experienced call center, one that has worked with a lot of HVAC businesses, they probably have a general script and basic instructions already available. However, these resources should only be seen as a starting point, not the final product.

Think about your business, your customers, how you operate, and how calls were handled prior to using a service, then think about the answering service will fit and how they can best serve you and your customers.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • A generic answering phrase is “Thank you for calling, may I help you?” but it’s probably better to go with a personalized one, such as “Thank you for calling Jack’s HVAC, may I help you?”
  • If your existing customers are used to reaching you directly, they may be put off by the fact that you’re using a service. If you have a close relationship with some of your clients and they know you by name, it may be worthwhile to allow your call center to offer callers the option of reaching you directly and then directing them to your cell phone. This will allow your answering service to handle new customers while maintaining the personal level of service that existing customers have come to expect. Over time, if you’re getting busier and can’t maintain this level of contact, you can slowly wean them off.
  • Some scripts ask callers for their email address, but if you’ve never emailed a client in your life, there’s no sense asking for it. It’s best to keep your script as short as possible and only gather the information you really need.
  • If you offer emergency service after hours, make sure your service is providing callers with accurate, detailed information at the end of the call. For example, they may close the call “Thank you for calling, I will dispatch your message immediately” by default. However, if you specify that all emergency callers should be contacted within 15 minutes and provide your call center with a procedure to follow in order to reach you or your on-call, then it will sound a lot better to close the call by saying “Thank you for calling, I will dispatch your message to our on-call immediately. You will receive a call back within 15 minutes.”

2. Inform the right people of your answering services’ procedures

If you have employees, existing customers, or other people involved with your business prior to using an answering service, it’s important that they all be informed of your new setup and how they will be affected. Otherwise, you’re in store for a load of communication problems that may ultimately affect your business.

Examples:

  • If you have rotating on-call technicians, they need to be aware of how the answering service will be contacting them and when they may be contacted in a back-up capacity. No one should be surprised when they receive a call.
  • If you have certain criteria for determining what calls are urgent or need priority service, make sure your existing customers are aware. They won’t be happy if they call and expect you to come out right away, only to find that they have to wait.

3. Your answering service is an extension of your business, so treat them as such

Your answering service isn’t in your office, so it’s easy to view them as a separate entity that is only casually involved with your operation. However, since they’re handling your calls and interacting with your customers, it’s really important that you view their work as an extension of your business. By thinking of them in this way, you’ll be more likely to include them when instituting changes that may affect how they operate.

Examples:

  • If you’re running a special advertisement in the paper, make sure your answering service is aware.
  • If you setup an account with a lead generating service that will send automated calls to your office line, make sure your answering service knows how to handle them.

By following these steps and working with a reputable provider, using an answering can prove to be a wise business decision. As a reminder, the tips listed above are for HVAC contractors and others within HVAC companies that will be utilizing answering services, not the answering services themselves. There are obviously a lot of responsibilities on their end that play a part in the success of the relationship.