Call Smart – Estimate And Service Agreement Screen

Call SmartWhen we go to the estimate screen, the system has the ability to look back at previous calls. For example, in this case, the system looks back and sees that a contractor was recommended but declined by the customer on the last service call. The system provides the tech with the opportunity to again make this recommendation to the consumer. Regardless of which technician makes the call, the system allows them to be consistent in their conversation and recommendations to the homeowner, not only for the type of work that needs to be done but for the cost of the repair as well. Once the work is done, the repair is removed from the pending list. The estimate screen provides the customer with everything they need to make a good decision. If a recommendation is declined, it goes to the bottom of the page in a pending status until the next service call. It doesn’t simply languish on the service ticket somewhere sitting in a file cabinet.

Now the service technician is well positioned to present a service agreement. The service agreement screen shows the details of your customized program in a way that allows any technician to present the pertinent features and benefits succinctly, yet completely. It also means that no matter who the technician is on the call, they will present your service agreement program the same way to every customer. The system will automatically track the service agreement regardless of whether it was accepted or declined. If it was accepted and your program allows for a discount on the invoice, the system will automatically compute the correct amount.

At this point the customer has the opportunity to authorize the work by signing the invoice. They first accept the terms and conditions on the screen, then they provide their signature which converts the estimate into an invoice. A review of these two screens yields the following key opportunities for enhanced profit.

  • Previous work needed but declined by the customer is brought to the attention of the technician, regardless of which one is on the call, who can then present this again to the consumer
  • The service agreement screen will prompt every technician to offer your customized agreement in a way that will clearly and concisely allow the consumer to make a decision
  • If the consumer agrees to a service agreement, any potential discounts are automatically computed for the technician
  • Every invoice will have a recorded signature which also shows that the consumer has agreed to your terms and conditions

In the next Call Smart blog, we will discuss the invoice, payment and receipt screen.


Call Smart –Flat Rate Lookup Screen

Call Smart –Flat Rate Lookup ScreenThe first point to make about the flat rate lookup screen is that each component screen has a camera function that allows you to replace the cutaway illustration with a photo of the exact unit. That can help another tech from your company on a future service call to be sure they have identified the proper piece of equipment. On either side of the equipment picture is a list of component categories. (I.e. motor, electrical, valves, refrigerant circuit etc.) Let’s walk through an example for a motor. First we press on the red motor button and we are presented with a question screen. Bypassing the questions for a moment, let’s simply press the replace button and we are presented with a lookup screen which allows us to search for a specific OEM part or a generic part. Let’s say we don’t know the specific part number, so we select a 1075 RPM motor and are presented with a number of choices of different horsepower condenser fan motors that are all 1075 RPM. If we choose a 1/3 hp motor, we are presented with a picture of such a motor along with its associated price. Once we press the select repair button, the information immediately goes to our estimate page.

 

Call Smart serves as a point of sale system by making things easy for the customer to understand in a highly visual way that gets the point across quickly. All of this translates into the customer’s ability to more easily make a decision. Earlier in the service call as we were performing our diagnostic, we made notations about the condition of various components in the unit. Now as we look at the equipment picture with its list of component categories, the components are colored red, yellow or green. Red means dead, green means good and yellow is an area of concern. This is a highly visual and very simple way to translate our diagnostic for the consumer.

 

That’s all there is to it. We knew the condenser fan motor was bad and we knew that it was a 1/3 hp motor. Following the easy steps outlined above we were quickly able to communicate this information along with the price to our customer in a highly visual way. We were also able to communicate areas of concern that can be addressed via a maintenance agreement or during a future service call. In the next Call Smart blog we will discuss the estimate screen.


Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Why did you go into business for yourself? You did it because you thought you could do a better job than others, you did it for the opportunity to make more money and you did it so you could be the boss. After all, no one else can match the passion, dedication and hard work that you bring to your business. There’s one thing you might not have thought of however, and that is that like all of us, you are not equally talented at all things. And now that you are a business owner – you have to do all things! You have to run the load calculations, you have to make the sales, you have to run the service calls, you have to do the books and you have to collect the bills. Some days, perhaps many days, there just isn’t enough time to do everything, so those last two things get set aside for “later”. Those last two things being the books and collecting the bills. The second of those two – collecting bills – is a lot more important to your business than you might think. Consider the chart from last week’s blog, shown below.

The Irresistible Lure of the Large Customer

Chart courtesy of the Commercial Collection Agency Association

What is that really telling you? For one, it shows you that the job of collecting the bills cannot be sloughed off until “later”. According to the Commercial Collection Agency Association who developed this chart, you have less than a 90% chance of collecting a bill that is only 30 days old. By 90 days, your odds are less than 70%. Now, let’s turn that into dollars. What is the value of a 90 day old receivable that you originally billed out at $3000? According to this chart, it’s only worth about $2100 because by all odds you’re only going to collect about 70% of your 90 day old bills. Even worse, what happens if you have to write off that $3000 sale. Consider the following chart which defines the amount of sales you need to recover a bad debt write-off of $3000, given your company’s net operating profit.

 

$600,000 $300,000 $150,000 $100,000 $75,000 $60,000 Sales
0.5% 1% 2% 3% 4% 5% Net profit

 

Don't Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Picture courtesy of ACHR news

Therefore, if your net profit percentage is 2% you need $150,000 in additional sales to recover the $3000 you wrote off. Keep in mind on that $3000 sale that you just wrote off, you have already paid your suppliers for the materials, you have paid for the labor that created the sale and you have paid for the overhead that supported that sale. The only thing you haven’t done was to collect the debt which paid for those expenses – plus of course the profit which that sale was supposed to generate. If the two charts shown above don’t shock you into paying attention to your sales terms and accounts receivable, then it’s probably because you already know this and have good processes in place.

Of course, collecting when the job is complete – and letting the homeowner know of this requirement up front – is a great first step in reducing receivables to begin with. This policy coupled with having an array of consumer financing tools available can go a long way to avoiding some of the nasty numbers shown in these two charts.


The Irresistible Lure of the Large Customer

The Irresistible Lure of the Large Customer

Chart courtesy of the Commercial Collection Agency Association

As a business owner, it is very important to understand the power of money at work in your company. Over the life of the business, understanding the cost of not taking a vendor’s discount or of not following up on receivables until they become uncollectible can literally make the difference between success and failure. Some companies understand that all too well, (usually the large ones) and they are very good at putting your money to work in their business.

 

It all started when the RB (Really Big) Company called on Friday at 4:45 PM. While you have been a small but regular customer of theirs, you have also been trying to get their business for years. While the caller wasn’t particularly friendly, you chalked that up to the fact that he was under the gun and it was late in the week. You saw this as perhaps your chance to get a foot in the door and win some business for your firm. The request was a bit complicated, and you weren’t sure the final dollar amount of the invoice was representative of everything that was involved on your part to fulfill it. On the other hand however, you were sure the effort put forth to obtain the item you tracked down for RB Company would likely be rewarded with future business. As a customer, RB’s accounts receivable group was very efficient at collecting money owed them. Their terms were 1% 10/Net 15, and after 30 days you would begin hearing from their credit group. By 45 days they were firm in their discussions and by 60 days they were downright importunate. Based on that, you are certain their payables department would handle invoices the same way. You sent off your invoice following fulfillment of the order… And it was never heard from again.

 

Your contact at 30 days was not returned, but a busy schedule prevented you from realizing they still hadn’t paid at 60 days. You were more persistent this time when contacting them, especially since you had gone out of their way to meet their need when they were in a bind. The best you are able to get from them however was a gruff statement about they would “look into it.” By 90 days you are getting seriously aggravated and that showed in your voice when you spoke with their accounts payable department. Finally, you received payment 110 days after your initial invoice was sent – and they had taken the early payment discount!

 

Has that ever been your business? If so, you would not be alone. It’s unfortunate that there are companies who abuse their vendors by not paying them in a timely manner, but don’t be the one that lets them ensnare your funds into their deliberate web of cash flow manipulation.


Are You Prepared for What’s Coming?

Are You Prepared for What's Coming?The June 8, 2015 ACH & R News featured an opinion article by Kyle Gargaro which asked the question, is your organization changing? If not the opine stated, it should be. The article quoted former NFL coach John Gruden who said, “When talking about teams and players: you never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse.” What about your organization? Are you prepared for the changes coming in this industry? Consider the following.

Another article in the same publication talked about the changes coming to condensing units. In an article by Ron Rajecki, he stated that if you are like most consumers, the condensing unit represents the “face” of your system – but big changes are coming to that face. While multistage condensing units have been around for some time now, variable speed compressors offer the ability to better match equipment performance with the needs of a changing load, according to Tom Archer, product manager for Carrier Corporation. Variable speed condensing units have enabled manufacturers to make drastic reductions in the overall size and weight of condensing units, sometimes by as much as 50% with the same efficiency rating is a traditional single speed unit. Archer also noted that communicating HVAC systems are becoming increasingly prevalent.

According to Farook Mohamad, director of product management for Rheem Manufacturing, US manufacturers have traditionally used the air side of the system to gain higher efficiencies. Therefore the size of heat exchanger surfaces have increased and more efficient fans and motors are being used. “We’ve kind of come to a crossroads in that the size of the equipment continues to increase, and the cost of materials goes up,” said Mohamad. “So, we are increasingly turning our focus to the refrigerant side of the system and going with variable speed compressors and drives to increase efficiency. On the air side, we are beginning to run into the law of diminishing returns.”

What does that mean for contractors? According to Mohamad, “Contractors are going to need to understand the technology and diagnostics the equipment is providing them. Training is going to be very important. ” Looking down the road, Mohamad said he expects consumer demand to drive more high-end products. Traditionally, the bulk of the industry has been built on minimum feature, minimum efficiency products but Mohamad thinks that’s going to change in the next five years because society is becoming more informed and tech savvy. “Everything is moving at breakneck speed,” he said. “Products are becoming more sophisticated and there is a general expectation that people want to be able to control and communicate with their appliances, and our industry is just catching up with it.”

For more information, see Giving HVAC’s Face a Tech Lift in the June 8, 2015 ACH & R News.


Call Smart – Your Smart Service Call

In the last blog, we talked about what Call Smart is and how easy it is to customize.  In this blog, we will walk through the preauthorization and marketing portion of a typical service call using Call Smart.

Call Smart - Your Smart Service CallThe first screen the service technician will utilize is a preauthorization screen.  Using this screen, the service tech will ask for the customer’s permission to conduct a diagnostic check on the equipment, while letting them know they will be charged a diagnostic fee for this service.  Both the verbiage and the screen are customizable, and can be turned off if so desired.  Following the preauthorization comes a marketing questions screen.  Companies often ask their technicians to gather this information, but the information garnered is typically nonexistent or insufficient.  The reason companies want this information is so that they can better target solutions for their customers.  These questions can be customized and this screen encourages your technician to gather the information that you want.  For example, you can ask questions about areas that are too hot or cold, whether the customer feels their energy bills are too high etc.  This information allows for subsequent messages which are highly targeted to your consumers.  If a home has multiple or unique components, the next screen allows you to set up a service history by each system or component.  Once the tech clicks on the icon for the type of unit, (furnace, condensing unit etc.) a screen comes up that allows them to input specific information pertinent to that unit.  For example, they can input information such as unit location, make, model/serial number, capacity, age, physical condition, type of refrigerant used and so on.  If that information already exists, the tech can simply bypass that screen.

What comes next is the fastest and easiest flat rate lookup in the industry!  In the next blog, we will talk specifically about the flat rate lookup screen and show you exactly why we say this.  In the meantime, look through your service tickets over the past six months and see how many of them reveal marketing information that allow you to target specific products and services to individual customers.  I’ll bet you will find you are missing opportunities to more precisely assist your customers, thereby helping to distance yourself from those companies who market themselves strictly on price.

Get more info on Call Smart


Call Smart Flexibility– Your Smart Service Solution

Call Smart Flexibility– Your Smart Service Solution

Image courtesy of talentintelligence.com

In the last blog, we discussed the problem with service tickets.  All too often they can be sloppy, and the information they convey is often insufficient both for office and customer use.  Worst of all, they can potentially be booby-traps which cause your customer to become very upset.  We finished that blog with a discussion about a solution called Call Smart, a revolutionary point of sale, mobile system from Callahan Roach Business Solutions.  We also finished that blog by asking you to look through your service tickets.  Did you identify any of the problems that we talked about?  I’ll bet a number of you did, so let’s begin to look at the flexibility of the Call Smart program.
Call Smart is an electronic program that runs on both Droid and iPad.  It features a unique and secure logon for each tech, and can be customized with your graphics and information.  Once a tech logs on to the system, they are positioned to capture the customer’s complete information – and it only has to be entered once.  In the event you have integrated with a service dispatch software or QuickBooks, you can look up the customers information from there.  Once this information is in front of the technician, they select the correct call type, the diagnostic fee and any discounts or taxes which may apply.  From there they press the start call button.
It is important to note that Call Smart is extremely customizable.  From any web portal you can change parameters ranging from call types to diagnostic fees and discounts.  You can also input your own customized service agreement program, as well as marketing brochures and videos.

Get more info on Call Smart

In the next blog we will walk through a typical service call using Call Smart.  Following this blog, you will likely begin to wonder how you ever made it using paper forms!


We’re from the Government – And We’re Here to Help You… Part II

The first 100 years of central heating in America featured 0 lawsuits relative to furnace efficiency.  That changed however when the Department of Energy began regulating the energy efficiency level residential furnaces and boilers in 1987.  Not that the implementation of efficiency levels is a bad thing in its own right, but consider the latest turn of events.

Did DOE take the 2014 settlement seriouslyIn 2011 the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a ruling that effectively established regional standards – calling for 90% AFUE in the North and 80% AFUE in warmer southern climates.  So far, so good.  The ruling however did not account for certain issues when upgrading to more efficient furnaces, at least according to an association of natural gas utilities and equipment distributors who challenged the rule in court.  In 2014 a settlement was announced that vacated DOE’s minimum efficiency standards and remanded the procedure back for further rulemaking.  It certainly didn’t take them long to conclude their further rulemaking!

On February 10 the DOE issued a pre-publication notice of a proposed rule which would raise the national minimum energy efficiency standard for residential non-weatherized gas furnaces from 78% AFUE to 92%, while also setting new efficiency standards for electrical consumption in the standby mode!

So, if raising minimum efficiency standards under certain installation conditions doesn’t make sense in northern climates, how on earth can raising minimum efficiency standards to 92% everywhere possibly make sense?  Perhaps only in Washington.  Needless to say, industry officials are watching this closely.  Stephen Yurek, president and CEO AHRI was quoted in a recent Refrigeration News article saying… “Even though natural gas and oil prices are lower than they were three years ago, DOE now feels a 92% nationwide standard is appropriate.  How can that be?  What’s changed?”  In the same publication, John Metchi, vice president of government affairs and business development for HARDI said, “Anecdotally, I can tell you I’ve heard concerns from members regarding the potential cost to homeowners who would require a significant retrofit and the cost benefit to those residing in warm weather climates.”  Charlie McCrudden, senior vice president of government relations for ACCA said he was surprised by DOE’s proposed 92% AFUE standard.  “It’s very aggressive,” he said in the publication.  “It effectively eliminates noncondensing furnaces starting in 2021.”

Did DOE take the 2014 settlement seriously?  You be the judge.

Part 1 : We’re from the Government – And We’re Here to Help You


We’re from the Government – And We’re Here to Help You

Ronald Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help. That language might be used to describe the department of energy today as it regards furnace efficiency standards. For about 100 years American homes were heated by central heating systems, and not one lawsuit was filed relative to their efficiency. Market advances improved both the comfort and efficiency of these central appliances, and the consumer decided what would go into their home.

We're from the Government - And We're Here to Help You

No Efficiency Standards on This Baby

That changed in 1987 when the Department of Energy (DOE) began regulating the energy efficiency level of residential furnaces and boilers. Residential furnaces are defined as those having a heat input rate of less than 225,000 BTU per hour. These furnaces are rated in terms of annual fuel utilization efficiency, (AFU E) a measure of dynamic operating conditions as performed in a laboratory using a DOE test procedure. In 1992, the DOE standard specified that residential gas furnaces would feature a minimum of 78% efficiency. At that time, DOE estimated the standards would result in energy savings of $46.2 billion for product shipped between 1992 and 2021. While technology was certainly capable of producing furnaces with higher efficiency levels, market forces were allowed to drive the consumer toward the furnace of their choice.

In 2007, DOE proposed raising the minimum efficiency to 80 AFUE effective in 2015. This change however would have little impact, because almost all gas furnaces on the market already met or exceeded that level. Before that proposal could be acted on, a group of states and efficiency advocates challenged it in court, encouraging the DOE to arrive at a more stringent standard. In 2009, a group of efficiency advocates and equipment manufacturers prepared a consensus agreement to advocate for new efficiency standard levels for residential furnaces, heat pumps and central air-conditioners. The basis of this agreement was to establish separate regional standards, which represented a whole new concept in the implementation of energy efficiency levels. The concept seemed to make sense, because what is cost-effective for a furnace in Illinois may not be cost-effective in Texas. The DOE preceded to issue a ruling in 2011 that was scheduled to go into effect in 2013, which established a regional standard of 90% AFUE in colder climates and 80% AFUE in warmer climates.

Before the effective date however, an association of natural gas utilities and equipment distributors challenged the rule in court, arguing that the DOE had not accounted for certain issues when upgrading to more efficient furnaces. They argued that switching from a noncondensing to condensing gas furnace often requires modifying the furnace’s ventilation at additional expense. In March of 2014, the plaintiff group announced a settlement with the Department of Energy. The US Court of Appeals issued an order that among other things, vacated DOE’s minimum efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces and remanded the procedure back to DOE for further rulemaking. The settlement agreement included a provision that in the rulemaking, DOE would make available to the public the data gathered and analyzed by the agency prior to publication of a proposed rule in a timely manner.

Whew, glad that’s over. Well, tune into next week’s blog to see what the DOE did next!


The Problem with Service Departments

Does your service department suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Incomplete or sloppy service tickets
  • Low service ticket revenue
  • Customers who feel the need to shop the Internet after the diagnostic



Yes, but what do you do about it?
Call SmartYou train your technicians but you are still not achieving uniform results.  You talk with other owners and they have the same issues, so you resign yourself to live with it.  After all, you don’t receive that many customer complaints about it.  Not so fast.  Let’s examine this issue in a little more detail.

Let’s take the example of a service tech who went out on a no cooling call and found a bad capacitor.  After replacing it, he wrote the words “25 MFD Cap Bad” in the area of the ticket detailing the work performed.  Then he showed the price of the capacitor at $118 and labor at $69 for a total ticket invoice $187.  What might your customer do?  They might just get on the Internet and surf for 25 MFD Cap and correctly determine that a capacitor was replaced – only to discover that a 25 MFD capacitor can be purchased online for about five dollars.  Now they’re hot!  Obviously, they don’t understand your cost of doing business so what do they do?  Call you and complain?  Probably not.  In all likelihood, they simply stop using your services and tell everyone they know that your company is a ripoff.  Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about their experience with your company, but a dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 people about their experience.  The odds are not in your favor.  And the worst part about it?  You have no idea it’s going on!

So what is the solution?  Consider Call Smart

What is that, you ask?  Call Smart is a revolutionary point of sale, mobile system from Callahan Roach Business Solutions that runs on both Droid and iPad.  It features a unique and secure logon for each tech, and is customizable, utilizing your graphics and information.
Stay tuned for more blog posts on this subject.  In the meantime, take some time to go through recent invoices generated by your service technicians to see if you are fully satisfied – or if you think there is a better way to go.