Competing as a Small HVAC BusinessBy My Service Depot on Tuesday, February 5, 2019
How do you keep pace with the big guys? Don't act like them. Embrace your own advantages!
Right now, there are more than 100,000 HVAC businesses in the United States, so competition in this sector can get fierce. Altogether, HVAC represents an $81.1 billion industry. Even so, all the money never seems like enough to go around. Some HVAC providers make just enough to provide for themselves, while others employ hundreds of techs. Approximately 10 to 20% of all HVAC companies belong to this latter group—maybe some in your own service area—and competing with these juggernauts can pose a major challenge.
The larger your HVAC company, the easier it is to offer value-added features, like 24/7 assistance, top talent, lower prices, and better tools. They might also have next-level communications, like chatbots that let customers schedule appointments and day or night call centers. As a small HVAC business, competing against these giants can feel impossible.
Being one of the little guys doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You just need to change the way you do things.
Start with the right approach.
Start with the right approach. You aren’t a big corporation, so don’t try to act like one. You could try cutting your prices, but the big guys will go lower. You could try to expand your service area, but the big guys will put up a satellite location. You could spend all your money dressing your company up with matching uniforms, a professional logo, a spiffy website, some social media efforts, and an answering system. Forget it. You’ll end up going broke before you realize a return on those investments.
While marketing is certainly important and image does count for a lot, you have to remain authentic to what you are—a small HVAC company. This fact lets you do three things really well: personal service, improved value, and product knowledge.
One of the biggest things you can do as a small HVAC company? Offer personalized service. When your guys are out there on a call, they can get to know your clients. Why? Because you don’t have a hundred guys all working different shifts. You have a small team, and everyone knows each other. You might even opt to have dedicated techs for certain service areas or job types.
Your customers can trust that Bob or Julie will be there if they have a problem with their heating or air conditioning. Over time, trust is built so when Bob or Julie recommend something, those customers won’t hem and haw or ask for a second opinion. They know your tech knows them, knows their needs, has met their kids, has played with their dogs, and won’t steer them wrong. Think about how powerful that connection is. Big companies cannot come close to offering that level of personalized service.
As a small HVAC company, you can also improve value in different ways.
The big guys will always beat you on cost, so forget about new client service specials and discounts on bundled services. Those strategies could work for some businesses, but that type of pricing won’t work for everyone.
What does work? Doing more for the same price.
This could work in a few different ways. Start by putting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in place. Record details about your clients, like the names of the people who live in the house and any pets they have. Note how long a customer has stayed with you and how often they need your help. HVAC software that maintains customer service histories can help with this.
Next, think about how you can help your customers have the best HVAC service possible. Consider providing free HVAC system inspections for your regulars before the heating or cooling season starts or a discounted ventilation cleaning, so your systems always work as well as possible. Train your techs to talk about possible upgrades that could work for your customers. For instance, if you have a customer that travels frequently, maybe you should recommend a smart thermostat so he or she can save some money.
The extra value you can provide as a small company is in the little details.
The final place you have a leg up on larger HVAC companies is in product knowledge. As a whole, the big guys may have had more collective training, but they might primarily service only the systems they carry. As a small, independent HVAC business, you can stay informed about multiple brands and different technologies as they become available, and your customers will benefit as a result.
Keep your team up-to-date on the new systems coming out that you could sell to your customers, but also make sure that they know how to work on older heating and air conditioning units. Your customers shouldn’t feel the need to upgrade a perfectly fine older system because your techs don’t know how to fix them. While efficiency savings may exist, lots of your customers are perfectly content with their existing HVAC systems. Work with that.