One Third of HVAC Companies Relegate Critical Inquiries to Hapless Automation

35% of heating and air conditioning companies fail to meet callers’ basic expectations on important inquiries

The results of recent testing revealed that 21 percent of businesses force callers to use voicemail. This is appalling, especially considering that many callers will just hang up and phone another company rather than leave a message and wait for a call back that may never occur.

Even more shocking is the performance of a particular subset of service companies, those specializing in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning niche (HVAC). In this industry, over one third of companies tested (35 percent) subjected their callers to some sort of phone automation, such as voicemail or an answering machine.

This is troubling given that many of those calls come from businesses and homeowners looking to hire a contractor for their installation and repair services. These callers have a need, often an emergency, and want to give a company money in exchange for their help. Yet the companies called can’t be bothered to have a real person answer the phone to assist them.

“A voicemail system never sold anything; an answering machine can’t close the deal. You need a real person for that,” said Adam Berkson, president of LiveVoice. “I can understand why some individuals use voicemail and answering machines to screen calls,” he says, “but why a business would do that is beyond comprehension.”

Industry expert Angela Garfinkel, president of Quality Contact Solutions, has built her career and business around the telephone. “Businesses have a telephone to facilitate communication, not hamper it. Yet subjecting callers to impersonal automation when they call is disrespectful and rude.”

“It defies common sense,” Berkson adds.

Professionally trained agents placed the test calls over the course of nine days from May 2 through May 10, 2016. Two hundred and twelve HVAC companies were included among the sample of almost nine hundred businesses.

Project coordinator, Bill Haack, was aghast at the results from the HVAC niche. “Too many of these heating and air conditioning companies seem to have forgotten basic customer service etiquette. Don’t they realize each inquiry means money? If they don’t handle these calls right, that money will go to their competitor.”

The obvious lesson for service companies that rely on the telephone as a source of business is to not take callers for granted. Consumers have options, and it takes only the smallest of slights for them to take their business elsewhere.

One such oversight includes expecting callers to leave a message when they want to talk to a person right away. If you care about your business and your customers, don’t do that.

Peter DeHaan, PhD, is a freelance writer, call center authority, and publisher of Connections Magazine, which covers the call center industry.