How to Reduce Last Minute Cancellations for Your HVAC Business
Communication tips to ensure your customers don’t leave your HVAC crew hanging.
In the HVAC business, work can go just as quickly as it came. Emergencies make people book appointments on zero notice, every day life makes them cancel on short notice. This unpredictable nature of client needs isn’t going to change, so you’d better figure out a way to manage the number of cancellations and no-shows you have to deal with.
Software like Jobber that offer automated client communications via text messages and email can help, as do clear policies around cancellation penalties. What follows are some ideas gathered from the experiences of other HVAC contractors in establishing clear processes for limiting cancellations, while still keeping clients happy.
A no-show is more than one lost job
More often than not, the client needs to be present for HVAC work to be completed. The last thing you want is to arrive at a job site and find out no one is there, because you’re losing a lot more than a little time. You’ve scheduled the appointment and put it on the calendar, so there’s some planning time out the window, for starters.
That time slot is no longer available (did you have to turn down other work to book the appointment?), and the employee or subcontractor you’ve assigned to the task is still on the clock, you’re just not billing for them. You’ve lost on the gas it took to get there, the wear and tear on vehicles, perhaps there were equipment rentals involved, too? All that expense and nothing in the bank . . .
Your customers are busy, just like you. Sometimes they need to be reminded of upcoming appointments. Whether you choose to call, text, or email, by touching base with your client a fecw days or hours before you’re scheduled to start the job, you’ll significantly cut down on the chances of them forgetting the appointment, and you losing money.
Automated appointment reminders for the win
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a system in place that automatically sent out reminders to your customers prior to their appointments? You could save extra time each day normally spent checking the calendar for upcoming jobs, locating the client’s phone number, and trying to track them down via phone, email, or text.
Automated client reminders can be configured to a custom timeline (one week, 72 hours, the day before), and delivered via the customer’s preferred method of contact—Jobber offers email and SMS reminder options.
Clients get an automated reminder they can easily respond to and either confirm or cancel the appointment. In the event they do have to cancel, you get a heads-up and have the time to reallocate the scheduled resources to another job, minimizing any non-productive time for your staff.
Another great idea to cut-down on no-shows are ‘on my way’ notifications. Whenever your employees leave for a new job site, they can send an automated text message to the next scheduled client to notify them of their estimated arrival time. It’s a useful tool if your truck happens to be running late that shows courtesy for the client’s business, and did you ever hear a client complain about your staff or contractors over-communicating with them?
Great customer service = great communication
Whether it’s with new or repeat customers, you’ve worked hard to set a standard and make a name for yourself in the industry. Don’t let sloppy communication around scheduling or time management ruin that.
Clients appreciate it when you keep them informed. A small set of automated reminders and confirmations, delivered in a manner of the customer’s choosing, is both a great tool for managing your business and a nice way of demonstrating the hard work you do to take care of your clients, every day. Again, HVAC software like Jobber offers a convenient and efficient way to accomplish this.
By sending automated text messages or emails, you don’t need to worry about crafting a carefully worded letter, or a staff member mis-speaking during a phone call (more about phone etiquette here). If you don’t have an automated system, you should at least set up templates for phone calls, emails and text messages. These can be used for all future communication, by all your employees, helping to maintain a consistently high level of customer service.
The industry’s take on deposits and cancellation fees
Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, cancellations and no-shows will still happen. It’s up to you as a business owner to decide what your cancellation policy is and to be very clear about it with each client. Again—consistency.
Van Wu, owner of Trust Home Comfort Ltd. says he doesn’t charge fees for last minute cancellation, or no-shows, because they don’t happen very often for him. His secret? He ensures there is good communication by using Jobber’s automated appointment reminders to contact clients ahead of time.
Members of the Contractor Talk Forum offer some other ideas for mitigating bad outcomes from cancellations, including requiring a deposit to prevent potential losses.
One forum member wrote that his company requires a deposit just to put a customer on the schedule, after which they have a three day right to cancel. If a customer cancels after the three-day window, the company keeps 10% of the deposit. While this may work for one business, it may not for yours. It’s important to develop a policy that suits your business and clients. That said, there are exceptions to every rule.
For example, one Contractor Talk Forum member relates the tale of an elderly customer who had unexpected financial troubles, forcing them to cancel services after they had booked. It was past three days but no work had been started. The contractor had already cashed a large check used as the deposit, but upon hearing the customer’s story, chose to refund the money and tear up the deal. Needless to say, the customer was thankful to have recovered their money, and grateful for the good customer service and kind heartedness of the contractor.
Each situation will be unique but it’s important to be as prepared as possible. As a business owner, you should have policies governing cancellations clearly stated in your contracts. This, along with using simple mobile tools to manage communications will help you cut down on the possibility of cancellations and no-shows, letting your business run more smoothly and profitably.
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