Summer is coming to a close (technically it already did, but tell that to the 100-degree temps we’re still getting in Nashville).
Customers with AC problems want to spend as little money as possible to stay cool until it’s time to transition from AC to heat.
So naturally, on the surface, it may seem ill-advised to replace the AC with potentially only days left of using it till spring comes back around. However, techs are bound to run into situations where the customer truly will find themselves worse off if they choose to wait and waste money on a futile repair — when a replacement is really what they need.
Walking a Fine Line
Too many customers out there have been burned by contractors that have insisted on replacing a unit when it only requires a repair. And on the other hand, there’ve been plenty of customers who didn’t get the right advice and education by their provider, opting to go with the cheaper repair option, only to find themselves in need of that replacement a month or two down the road.
Tim K., of All Systems Mechanical, observes, “Figuring out whether you should repair or replace your air conditioner can be a difficult decision to make” and points out that his company quite often gets called out for a second opinion “only to find out that the old AC has plenty of life and still doesn’t need to be replaced.”
Moral of the story: There’s a fine line when it comes to making this decision, particularly given the timing, and you want to make sure your business falls on the right side of it with every customer.
The Resolution: Show, Don’t Tell
A big part of the problem here is that technicians might as well be speaking another language to their customers when they talk HVAC. You certainly can’t bet on the average Joe understanding MEP lingo. When it comes to communicating with your customers, you’re better off showing than telling. That can go a long way when your techs are responsible for educating and empowering customers to make an informed decision.
Photos and videos documenting the current state of the unit, as well as the appropriate recommendations can empower techs to provide their customers the necessary info to make that call. A new air conditioner is an investment in future years of comfort. If it makes sense to spring for one, then by all means, advise on that. But make sure you’ve got the support of an actual look into why.
An honest service tech with evidence to back him/her up is in the best position to advise the customer when it comes to any recommended course of action. It builds trust with the customer, putting you in a better position to win not only that business, but the business that follows from them and the people to whom they refer you.
Tim K. offers more good advice on explaining to the customer (in plain English) when it’s time to throw in the towel and just replace it already, focusing on the age of the unit and calculating the cost of the repair to be too high — even if it feels like the cheaper option in the short term.
The Problem & Solution is Hardly Black & White: What Else the Customer Needs to Know
Sometimes the problem only involves a more expensive part like a condenser coil, still leaving the customer with a substantial financial decision to make. A new condenser coil can run about $2,000 — expensive, but not as pricey as replacing the whole unit. Of course, it’s often not that easy to just replace a coil like that.
Ending up with mismatched coils and condensers results in all kinds of problems for the customer, from higher energy bills to more frequent repairs and ultimately putting more money into keeping the unit running than it would’ve cost to replace the whole thing from the beginning.
Of course, if something is repairable, it should always be repaired, but technicians are doing customers a disservice if they don’t explain the risks that come with repairing something that needs replaced. The key to balancing these tough decisions, informing and educating customers, and keeping them happy is to incorporate the power of visuals into every service call and maintenance visit.
This is the ultimate win-win situation for both contractor and customer, particularly because most contractors are not willing or able to provide the visual piece that backs up everything they’re saying. When you do, however, you’re not only covering your own ass, but you’re also being as transparent and personable as possible, providing the customer with the service and experience they deserve.