Customer retention can be profitable for your HVAC business. Selling and marketing strategies, as well as incentives, are key to successful customer retention.
As an HVAC contractor, you may not have considered a customer retention strategy for your business before. The nature of your business is emergency repairs, not proactive purchases, after all. However, a customer retention strategy can set you up for success in this increasingly competitive industry.
Not only is it more expensive to recruit customers than to retain them, but returning customers are also more profitable. In fact, you could see a 25% to 95% increase in profits if your HVAC business’s customer retention grows by just five percent. So, how can you maximize customer retention? Let’s look at a few methods.
USE MULTIPLE SELLING STRATEGIES
Sales isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Each salesperson is different, and so is each customer. Your techs will approach sales much differently than a car salesperson. And that’s going to help you in the long run.
Car salespeople try to make one sale, not build a relationship with the customer. Their goal is to convince that customer to buy so they can get a commission, which naturally lends to a pushier sales process. This customer researched the car, not the salesperson, and they’re likely not going to come back for years, if ever.
As an HVAC business, your service is your product, and this customer relationship could last years. So, interactions between you, your techs, and your customers are essential to getting repeat and referral business. A pushy sales process just won’t do, and your techs likely aren’t comfortable with that. Instead, these alternative strategies can create a more comfortable, successful sales process.
Sell Solutions, Not Products
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: HVAC technicians are problem solvers at heart. That’s likely why many of them — and even you — chose this industry, even subconsciously. Whenever you get a call for something other than maintenance, you get to diagnose and solve a problem.
Sometimes, though, you have ideas for your customer long-term while they’re focused on the present moment. It doesn’t hurt to suggest these ideas to your customer anyway. Just focus on the solutions, not the product, and offer a few options to keep it from being too salesy.
Let’s say your customer has severe allergies, for example. There are multiple solutions you can offer for this problem: a better air filter (good), an IAQ upgrade in addition to a better air filter (better), or a new system with an IAQ upgrade and a better air filter (best). If your customer isn’t interested in the “best” solution right now, don’t push it. Go with whatever they’re comfortable with. They still know about the other solutions and can come back to you in the future if they change their mind.
Educate Your Customers — You’re the Expert, After All
Customer education is also a great strategy to incorporate into your sales process. People are used to having information at their fingertips. But that doesn’t mean all the information at their fingertips is accurate. As an expert, they rely on you to provide accurate information about the products and services you’re providing.
Reliable information shows you and your techs are trustworthy. Plus, education helps start a conversation with your customer. It allows your customer to ask questions and naturally start a conversation. From there, you can dig deeper to learn more about the customer and their needs so you can recommend appropriate solutions.
Take Customers On the HERO’s Journey
The HERO’s journey is a classic tale. A person encounters a problem, rejects the call, is forced to find a solution anyway, and meets a mentor along the way who helps them become the hero. We see this same tale told in many classics, from The Wizard of Oz to Star Wars to Harry Potter.
So, what does this have to do with your HVAC business? In your customer’s story, you are the mentor who helps them along the way. Like Morpheus to Neo, Weird Barbie to Barbie, or Glinda to Dorothy. As a mentor, your job isn’t to force them to take action — it’s to guide them through their decision-making process.
Try using the HERO acronym to help your customer:
- Hear their problem
- Evaluate the information you’ve gathered
- Recommend realistic solutions for this customer
- Offer options that give your customer the power of choice and control
Using this acronym lets you provide solutions for your customers without forcing anything on them, letting them be the hero of the journey.
STAY IN THEIR INBOX AND IN THEIR MINDS
In an ideal world, your customers won’t need you often. Their HVAC machines will work without a hitch; heat will turn on in the winter, and the A/C will stay on all summer. You’ll see some of your customers for preventative maintenance, but the rest you’ll only see for those emergencies. Marketing and reputation management are key to ensuring all customers become repeat customers.
Invest In Your Marketing Strategy
In the past, HVAC marketing relied a lot on word of mouth. Although word of mouth is still a strategy used today, many contractors invest in other marketing methods. This includes social media, which is the top marketing method for HVAC contractors in 2023.
Typically, marketing is seen as a way to recruit new customers. But it can also be an excellent tool for customer retention. Like we mentioned before, most of your customers aren’t on your books regularly. They could easily go with the first person who answers the next time they need their HVAC system serviced.
Marketing requires investing time, such as regularly updating your social media accounts or sending emails to remind clients it’s time for a seasonal tune-up. It can also involve money if you use paid social ads or a paid email management system. But it is well worth the investment, especially when marketing for customer retention. Recruiting new customers is five times more expensive than retaining customers, and it’s statistically more difficult to sell to new customers than customers you already have a relationship with.
Manage Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is as important as your marketing when getting repeat business, especially for customers you don’t see regularly. Maybe a former customer just moved back to town, or someone decided to try your services again after being dissatisfied with another business. They’re still technically a repeat customer, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them. They know your business name already, but they don’t know anything else. Has the ownership or management changed? Are people comfortable inviting your current techs into their house? Is your business still even open?
These questions can typically be found online through a Google search and reading reviews. But that’s if your online presence is up to date. Be sure to keep your hours updated online so people know you’re still in business, and ask customers to leave reviews so they stay relevant. A review from two years ago isn’t going to tell anyone about your business today.
OFFER INCENTIVES TO CREATE REPEAT CUSTOMERS
Repeat customers don’t just come out of nowhere. You have to do something to earn their business, like creating a fantastic customer experience. In addition to creating a great experience when interacting with your customers, you can offer incentives to keep customers coming back.
Promote Service Contracts
There is no easier way to ensure customer retention than offering and promoting HVAC service contracts. About 30% of customers already use preventative maintenance plans, so you have 70% (or possibly more) of your customer base to work with.
Service contracts benefit both you and your customers. Your customers get to see your techs more often, build a better relationship, and ensure their HVAC system is working correctly. You benefit from increased business and increased opportunities to create trust with the customer. Your techs also become more familiar with each serviced HVAC system and can recommend solutions that will benefit the customer and bring in more profit.
Give Loyalty Discounts
To thank your existing repeat customers and recruit new ones, consider offering discounts for customer loyalty. While you may feel hesitant because discounts mean less money at that moment, consider retention vs. recruitment cost again: it’s five times cheaper to retain a current customer than to recruit a new one. So even though a discount may seem to negatively affect your books at the time of the transaction, it can help in the big picture.
Discounts can also help you promote other services and get new customers. You could offer a 10% off repairs discount for customers who have service contracts. Or offer a discount to customers after they give you a referral (you could offer a discount to the person they’re referring, too). The possibilities are endless, and you can customize them to fit your business. A 5% discount is much more enticing than no discount at all.
Present Financing Options
At FTL Finance, we always suggest presenting every single customer with financing options. We know what you’re thinking — “Of course you suggest that; you’re a financing company.” We are, but there’s a good reason we recommend this.
As of October 2023, 60% of Americans feel behind on their emergency savings, and 81% did not increase their emergency savings this year, primarily due to inflation. This includes people who usually increase their emergency savings every year. A customer who paid for their emergency out of pocket five or ten years ago may be unable to do the same today.
Offering financing to every customer, even those paying with cash or card, plants that thought in their mind. If they don’t have the savings in the future, they know you offer financing and don’t have to worry about how they’ll pay for their repair. They come to you, even if they haven’t needed your services for years, and become repeat customers.
KEYS TO HVAC CUSTOMER RETENTION
Retaining customers isn’t always as easy as it may seem. Just because someone uses your services once doesn’t mean they’ll use them again. But, as we’ve discussed, there are plenty of ways you can encourage customers to return. You can adjust your sales strategy to focus on solutions, education, and the customer instead of trying to make a sale. Investing in marketing can help you stay in the minds of customers you haven’t seen in a while, and offering incentives like service contracts, loyalty discounts, and financing gives customers even more reasons to come back to you. Incorporating all of these methods isn’t necessary, but they’re a good starting place on the road to customer retention.