When Preventive Maintenance Becomes a Service Call.
I have seen it happen many times. A customer calls in and asks how much a "tune-up" is for their type of HVAC system. They agree on the price and schedule a time. The technician shows up and finds that the system is not working correctly or not running at all! This is frustrating for the tech and the service company. Some service companies send out newly experienced (apprentice) personnel to perform preventive maintenance services (PM). This is advantageous for both the company and the apprentice. It helps the company keep their prices lower for PMs. The technician gets field experience on the type of system they are servicing. Other organizations will send out experienced service technicians to perform PMs. But what happens when the apprentice or technician is confronted with a system that is not working correctly? You can not tune-up a car that doesn't start! We need to break this scenario down by going back to the beginning when the customer called in looking for a price for a PM. The person receiving the call should be versed in that customers agreeing to a fixed PM price are given a brief scripted reply. The reply can not be dismissive. A customer can not be made to feel uncertain about hiring a company to service their HVAC equipment. For example, the customer can be told, "Our $X preventive maintenance service for a 'Y' system does not include the servicing of the system if is not working properly." Continue with, "If the technician finds something wrong with the system, they will stop and notify you of the matter." I like a softer approach toward a customer's inquiry especially when there is a fixed price involved. By eliminating the 'gray' areas in a subtle manner, a customer who knows the system is not working correctly may revert to asking the price to service the system. This is not always the case. So, what about the under-experienced apprentice who goes out to perform a PM on a system that is not working correctly? This is where they need to stop the work and notify the customer of the problem. One thing you do not want to deal with is a customer making accusations that the system was "running fine" until the tech worked on it. This is where the apprentice needs to be direct and up front about the situation. For an apprentice, an example statement could be, "While I was checking the pressures on your heat pump, it shut down and started to short-cycle. I can not complete my PM at this time. Do you want me to call my office so you can schedule a service technician to look at it and finish the PM?" If an experienced technician is performing the maintenance, an example statement could be, "When I went to check the pressures on your outdoor air conditioning unit, it would not come on. I can stop the PM and start to troubleshoot the system, it would be $X." Even if the customer questions the extra service and denies further actions, they were informed of the situation up front. These are instances where there needs to be an open communication between the apprentice/technician and the customer. Performing PMs and developing preventive maintenance and service contracts are a great way to establish long-lasting, professional relationships with your customers. This will lead to future service and installation projects.