The management team at any HVAC company has many core tasks, from ensuring the smooth day-to-day operation of the business, to long term strategic planning. And if your team isn't currently considering selling the business, thoughts of your corporate valuation might not be on your radar. Consider monitoring and improving your valuation as an ongoing business process, opening your company up to opportunities for new financing or strategic partnerships. And use your current valuation as a valuable metric by which to measure your business success over time.
There are many long-term factors that impact your HVAC company valuation, such as:
In today's post we'll look at more tangible, short-term improvements HVAC companies can make to improve their valuation. And specifically, we'll explore online technology that can increase your customer base, fight customer attrition, and increase your suite of customer services while simultaneously reducing costs.
Stand Out with Customer Facing Services
Part of your HVAC company's perceived value is based on what separates you from other companies in a competitive market. But if your company offers and resells similar products and services as other HVAC companies in your region... what's your unique selling point?
Competing on cost can be a slippery slope that drives your valuation down over time. Instead, consider competing on customer facing services rather than cost. The ability to convert a high percentage of leads to customers is an asset. The ability to fight attrition and increase customer loyalty is an asset.
The 21st century American customer has developed extremely high expectations in terms of customer service. They can order a product online and have it on their doorstep within 24 hours. Order groceries and meals from their couch, and switch on the lights with their voice. Some companies consider catering to the modern customer as an unwinnable battle. Instead, change your mindset and consider this an opportunity to get in front of the competition.
Consider the following...
Be available to your customers 24/7/365. Times when sales and support teams are typically out of the office are opportunities to generate a lead or satisfy a customer's request.
If a communication component can be automated... automate it. You don't need to be a technology company to provide online support like one... and at scale. Look at phone IVR and SMS systems, and web-based chat components that can often answer common questions without human intervention.
If useful information can be exposed to your clients, expose it. Allow customers to securely pay invoices and review statements via your web portal.
Identification and Automation of Repeatable Processes
Many customer facing communication and support tasks are repetitive, and create opportunities for automation and cost savings. Traditionally, HVAC companies attempt to make most of these interactions driven by human staff. But consider that the modern customer has been conditioned to expect less human interaction but more interaction availability.
Review your company's interactions with potential and existing clients, and consider which interactions still demand the personal touch, and which could actually improve service via web-driven automation.
Consider the following...
Attempt to put processes in place where the customer initially interacts via automation, but can easily escalate an issue to human interaction when required.
Consider a help-desk ticketing system where all customer requests - even if initiated via a personal interaction - create a formal ticket. This allows the customer to feel that their issue is being "tracked" and allow for smaller support teams, where any available team member can step in to pick up a ticket. These tickets can form opportunities to find recurring issues, and possibly increase automation or improvement of common processes.
But How Much Will this Cost?
Internet technologies - and especially web-based services - have become a core part of every back-office in the HVAC industry. But since internet technology is not at the core of your business, it can be difficult (and expensive) to stay on the cutting edge.
The good news is that there now exist online software companies that can tackle almost any business task and specialize in many industry niches and verticals. Many of these companies provide these solutions as a service (SaaS) to solve common requirements such as payment processing, customer service automation, client communications, and much more. There can be many benefits:
Solution providers are responsible for keeping up with technology shifts and advances, at no additional cost to you.
Paying for technology as a service (usually with annual or monthly contracts) allows you to fix the costs.
Handing over common technology tasks to 3rd party services allows your staff to focus only on what must be done in-house.
Consider the following...
Make sure that technology research and development is an ongoing process withing your HVAC company. Spreading costs out consistently will be cheaper in the long run that scrambling to catch up with shifts in the market.
Consider contracting a technology evangelist that can make your company aware of existing systems on the market that can cut your IT costs and improve customer service. This person would be responsible for tasks such as evaluating the best solutions for any given task, and calculating the costs of integration with your current platform.
Work with proven companies that are well established within the industry. Although new companies often bring fresh and exciting solutions to the table, perform due diligence on potential partners before committing to the expense involved in integration and training.
Strengthening your company's valuation should be an ongoing priority - not something to focus on only when looking at mergers, acquisitions or financing. Utilizing web-based solutions to improve customer service can both drive up revenue by generating new business, and drive down costs via automation or recurring tasks. Consider the demands and expectations of modern customers not a problem, but an opportunity to create a truly unique selling point.