Busy phone lines are a sign of a healthy business. Now we’re coming to the busiest season it’s time for all HVAC business owners to make sure you’re set up to make the most of inbound calls and leads this summer.

Sudden call volume increases test the efficiency of your call intake process. If staff struggle to manage call increases, they get overwhelmed. And that leads to mistakes, missing out on jobs, poor service, or no service at all – as calls are left for voicemail. 

It might feel like a big ask to answer every call during major call volume increases. However, it requires thought as the HVAC industry is growing. Competition and customer expectations will grow too, which makes customer service even more important.

HVAC companies are in high demand:

  • An overwhelming percentage of US homes have air conditioning.
  • HVAC consumers spend more than $10 billion each year on repairs and maintenance.
  • The HVAC market is growing at a rate of 8.9%.

With high demand comes competition. So it’s key for HVACs to provide 5-star customer service 24/7, even during sudden call volume increases.

The impact of poor call intake management:

  • Missed opportunities: Callers can’t be blamed for looking elsewhere if they get a poor experience. Your typical job is worth thousands of dollars – you’re leaving money on the table every job you miss.
  • Broken Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Slow response times or not answering phones could lead to breaking SLA agreements.
  • Productivity drops: The aftermath of a poorly managed phone call drags on. Confusion leads to goose chases that take staff away from their priorities.
  • Negative reviews: People will likely have researched HVAC businesses on websites like Trustpilot, and Google reviews before calling. So if customer service drops when call volume increases, negative reviews can add up.
  • Customer service levels drop: A poor call intake service invites poor customer experience. Even if technicians do outstanding work, poor customer service is hard to overlook.

Managing call volume increases is not simply a case of hiring more receptionists. While that’s a great idea to explore that guarantees no calls are missed, it makes sense to take a good look at your call intake process first.

There might be some low-hanging fruit; simple steps you can take ASAP to improve your customer experience.

1. Look at your call management process

It’s common for HVAC businesses to have either no process or one you set up when you just had one other person around, it’s time to change that. Managing increased call volume is often overlooked as long there are bookings in the diary and customers are happy. But the chances are, there’s space for improvement. 

A better understanding of your call intake process helps you manage the increased call volume in the busier seasons for HVAC pros.

What to look at:

  • Call types: Are call types filtered into emergency repairs, service calls, technical inquiries, new installs, and general inquiries?
  • Average call duration: Long phone calls negatively impact customer service, team productivity, and resource allocation. If you have lots of long calls, try to spot common themes that lead calls to drag on.
  • Call volume trends: You expect seasonal peaks. But what else leads to an increase in call volume? Look for spikes. Do customers make maintenance-based calls as the temperature goes up and they turn on the air con? Or maybe a type of marketing campaign always returns a big spike in calls.
  • Response times: On average, how long does it take to answer customer calls and emails? Speed is key. Waiting too long leaves room for callers to find a competitor.
  • Identify bottlenecks: Identifying the touchpoints above may reveal issues harming your customer service. It could be a call transfer issue, diary mismanagement, human error, etc.

A closer look at your call intake process reveals steps to improve your intake efficiency. Making those improvements will be crucial to managing future call volume increases.

2. Where can you improve your customer experience?

Now you have a picture of what your customer experience looks like. With the data at hand, look for opportunities to: 

  • Reduce waiting times: If it’s not possible to get more staff to answer phones during peak hours, consider other options. 24/7 answering services, live chat services, and call queuing systems give customers a faster, professional service.
  • Improve lead capture and qualification: Look at how you’re capturing information and qualifying leads so your sales rep(s) are maximizing their impact.
  • Improve appointment scheduling: Explore an appointment scheduling service to make common tasks easier for you and your customers. Create a simpler service that makes life easier for both parties and reduces the chance of a missed appointment.
  • Make communication concise and personalized: From first contact to job completion, how many customer touchpoints were there? And out of the digital content, such as emails, marketing, etc. could it have been more personalized to suit your customer’s unique needs?

A simple way to gauge your level of customer service is to go through the process yourself or ask a friend to. In the retail industry, “mystery shopping” is a popular way to score customer service. A mystery shopper company sends a customer, working on their behalf, into a store with some requests to complete.

The mystery shopper company then passes the results of the visit back to the store. Calling your own HVAC company gives you a taste of what your customers experience. 

3. Streamline your call intake process with services, automation, integrations, and HVAC software.

Data conflicts, manual data entry, lead qualification, and the non-stop backlog of voicemail messages eat up time. They’re constant headaches for HVAC businesses. Leads and customers get a slower service. However, integrations can streamline the workflow to ease the burden.

Automated processes can scare companies as they don’t want to lose the warm human touch people expect from businesses. While that’s a legitimate concern, HVAC integrations can rapidly improve processes. They streamline tedious tasks while improving customer service. And they can be set up within minutes.

Digital tools and services for HVAC businesses:

  • Specialized HVAC software: Streamline your workflow with software that integrates with your call intake systems, tracks job information, and prioritizes calls based on urgency or customer history. 
  • Outsource calls to virtual receptionists: Get your calls and live chats answered by a team of virtual receptionists 24/7 to make sure you answer every call. 
  • AnswerForce CRM integrations: link AnswerForce to your existing business software to remove tedious manual work. View our integrations.

4. Put systems in place to improve your customer experience

Processes play a huge part in your customer experience but the most important part rests on how your customers feel after speaking to your company. Do they – more times than not – end the call feeling valued and satisfied with your service?

The odd disaster phone call from an upset customer happens to every company from time to time but when it’s a common occurrence, something’s wrong. 

How to help staff provide great customer service over the phone:

  • Write brand scripts: A consistent brand experience adds professionalism. You can welcome callers the right way, identify their reason for calling, and then take action to solve their issues with the steps already laid out. 
  • Create troubleshooting guides: Having step-by-step guides to follow helps address and solve common customer issues. Troubleshooting guides may not be enough to resolve all issues but they determine whether a technician is required or not.
  • Train staff: First impressions matter. If some members of staff aren’t comfortable answering phones yet or they have had a few complaints, it’s best to train them up to standard before they answer calls again. 

5. Create a system to collect feedback regularly

All types of companies use Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) to measure customer service performance. Customers are asked “How satisfied were you with your experience?”, and to rate it from 1 to 10.  

There are many ways to collect feedback from your team and customers to help you improve your CSAT.

How to collect customer feedback:

    • Customer survey software: Popular tools such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are often used to collect feedback, and your CRM may include a customer feedback feature too.
  • Follow-up emails: Create a customer feedback email to send out shortly after a job is completed. This can be a templated email that’s set up as part of your CRM’s customer workflow.
  • Follow-up calls: If you’d rather speak to customers directly, set up a reminder in your CRM workflow to check-in with the customer over the phone following successful project completion.
  • Check company reviews online: Customers may have already given you feedback on Yelp, Angi, HomeAdvisor, etc.

When to collect employee feedback:

  • Weekly team meetings
  • Performance reviews
  • Feedback forms
  • Anonymous surveys

Key takeaways

  • HVAC businesses can get overwhelmed when call volume increases, which harms customer service standards, productivity, and – most importantly – revenue.
  • Great customer service and lead intake will grow your revenue.
  • Look at your call intake metrics to measure the quality of your customer experience.
  • Automation and integrations can streamline your workflow to improve customer service.
  • Brand scripts, troubleshooting guides, and training staff help you keep a high level of customer service.
  • A feedback mechanism in place helps you spot areas to improve.