Winter is right around the corner here in the Northeast, and as we get closer to cold weather, our detail to preparation procedures will play a huge role in our ability to help our customers through the winter months.
Whether you offer propane deliveries, HVAC or both services, the next few months are a critical part of the heating season. As a technician years ago, I knew long work nights were right around the corner when September ended. I knew that being prepared would not only benefit the customer and the company, but it would ultimately make the on-call nights more manageable, allowing me to get home to my family.
Preparation for the winter months really starts around mid-September, supplying service vehicles and maintaining proper inventory. As a technician, I knew that having all of the necessary tools and parts stocked would be crucial to my winter success. I would also go through my van to perform more than the usual maintenance, making sure it was clean inside and out. Depending on your company’s policies and procedures, making sure your van or truck is correctly stocked to handle all of your customers’ needs is important.
Our main goal as technicians is to repair the customer’s problem. The extreme conditions of a New England winter can really take a toll on heating systems and put the maintenance calls at an all-time high. Technicians are under more pressure to get repairs done efficiently, as customers cannot be without heat during these times. The best-case scenario is repairing the problem during the first visit. So not only do technicians need to have the proper inventory, but they must be sharp with their paperwork and communication with the parts department to ensure they have everything that’s needed for the job.
Another point that cannot be overlooked going into winter is the scheduling and dispatching of the service department. As we know, this is a huge role in the operation, as things can become fast paced during the winter months. The service coordinator should know the strengths and weaknesses of each technician, using their respective skillsets to help disperse the workload. For instance, if one technician is known to troubleshoot hydronics, then he should utilize those skillsets in a call for water leaks as opposed to a fireplace not lighting. It seems like an obvious practice, but these types of resources sometimes get overlooked once the busy season sets in and people are under pressure to get customer’s issues resolved.
The scheduling side of the service department can also be strategized before the winter craze by assigning specific demographic zones for the technician staff. The beginning of fall brings the height of our tune-up/gas check season here in the Northeast. Service coordinators and service managers should be prepared to accommodate the high rate of customer-scheduled cleanings this time of year. The average customer does not think about the home-heating system until summer ends and the heating system is needed again. So trying to get customers to prepare ahead of time is also helpful for any company.
There is no way to predict the weather or severity of a New England winter, but we can help prepare for the busiest season ahead of time.
Technicians are at the forefront of long hours and late nights, so giving them the necessary tools and resources to complete the jobs is vital. Keeping a fully-stocked inventory, updated paperwork and coordinating the workload ahead of time are all keys to a successful winter. Communication between the service department and technicians is also invaluable and should continue beyond the winter months.
Ryan Card is the operations manager for D.F. Richard Energy in Dover, New Hampshire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-516-3225.