HVAC Business Challenge: How to Deal with Difficult Customers and Keep Their Business

angry frustrated hvac customers

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Like any other industry, the HVAC industry gets its share of difficult customers. How do you deal with them?

Equipment can break down at the most inconvenient times: late at night or during the extreme temperatures of the busy summer and winter seasons. Plus, it can be expensive to repair or replace.

And sometimes, customers are simply hard to handle no matter the circumstances.

When you’re out working in the HVAC industry, you’ll run into some people whose attitudes might make the job more difficult than it needs to be. But even the most difficult customers aren’t a lost cause, and we’ve outlined some tactics that will help you keep their business.

HVAC Customer Service Tips for Difficult Customers

How important is HVAC customer service?

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Consider this: every year, U.S. companies lose an estimated $41 billion as a result of bad customer service. One dissatisfied customer can result in the loss of many thanks to negative online reviews.[1]

Use these proven practices to turn angry customers into satisfied ones and prevent your list of clients from shrinking.

Tip 1: Start with Full Disclosure

“The less people know, the more they yell”’ -Seth Godin, entrepreneur[2]

Most customers don’t have the same technical knowledge of their HVAC equipment as professional technicians do. Take the time to explain the problem in terms they can understand. Walk them through what’s required to solve it.

Communicate clearly about your company’s policies, how much the service will cost and the possibility that additional work may be necessary. You may even want to have this information in writing on your service agreement or invoice.

Keep customers informed at each step of the service, including when mistakes occur.

These steps can help technicians manage customer expectations and prevent unwanted surprises, such as anger over extra work or parts.[3]

Tip 2: Respond Promptly

Across the industry, HVAC contractors may respond to difficult customers in different ways, but most agree that it’s important to respond quickly. Keeping angry customers waiting could make them even more upset.[4]

Try to call the customer within 24 to 48 hours to address the problem.[5]

Tip 3: Keep Your Cool

Always stay calm and collected in the face of irate customers. Just because they’re yelling and flailing their arms about doesn’t mean you should, too.

Communication essentially fails when both parties are raising their voices.[6] You’ll end up wasting valuable time or, worse, losing the customer altogether if a confrontation erupts.

The important thing to remember is not to take things personally. When people are fuming, it’s often more about them and their issues than anything you could have done to their HVAC equipment.[7]

Tip 4: Listen, Listen, Listen

Angry customers need to be heard, and you need to understand the problem. Listening can allow both to happen and is the cornerstone of good customer service.

Allow the customer to vent their frustration and explain what when wrong with the service. As they do, take notes to organize information and help prepare a thoughtful response when it’s your turn to talk.

It’s also a good idea to repeat back to the customer what you’ve heard to make sure it’s accurate.[8]

Consider the customer’s side of the situation with empathy. Be supportive. Offer an apology—even if it’s just for how they feel about the situation. Provide solutions, whether that’s agreeing to the customer’s requests or reaching a compromise both parties can live with.[9]

Tip 5: Be Careful

If the customer becomes verbally abusive over the phone, it’s time to tell him or her you’ll have a supervisor call back. This will give the customer time to cool down before someone with more decision-making authority can step in and try to resolve the issue.[10]

When issues arise on-site, technicians should leave if they feel physically threatened. Tools and equipment can be picked up later, and problems can be discussed with management over the phone.[11]

Tip 6: Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Dealing with dissatisfied customers is part of working in the service industry, but these days, they have more platforms to complain on. When a customer leaves a negative online review, it’s important to respond quickly.

Remember that this is not a one-on-one interaction with the customer. You have an audience. Avoid becoming defensive, blaming the customer or trying to prove who is right and who is wrong. Focus on the situation. Stay positive.

You can either resolve the issue publicly, or, better yet, apologize and write that a service representative will personally contact the customer to resolve the issue. This way, all of the messy details can be hammered out via email or telephone—not in front of potential customers.[12]

Fine-Tuning Your Soft Skills

While you can learn most of the technical skills necessary to work in the industry in an HVAC program, having soft skills is important as well.

Techs regularly enter customers’ homes—their personal spaces—for service calls. Strong communication, customer service and problem-solving skills can help prevent them from having to repair more than the equipment.

Behaving professionally is extremely important in the HVAC/R industry. Learn more about HVAC standards of professional conduct and a code of ethics.

Additional Sources

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