4 Tips for Managing HVAC Seasonality
Those who run HVAC businesses are very used to the seasonality of the work. People need HVAC services, and often emergency services, on the hottest and coldest days. That’s when their air conditioner breaks, or their furnace stops working. At other times of the year, when temperatures are mild, people are much less likely to need your services.
This creates a challenge for HVAC companies. You have the staff and the overhead of a very busy business, but you’re not busy enough to justify it. Or, you try to slim down your business on the off-season and have trouble ramping up for when you’re busy. How do you handle these transitions and make the most of both seasons? Here arefour tips for managing HVAC seasonality.
Ways to Handle the Off-Season
Most businesses first feel the pain of seasonality in the off-season, when work dries up, and even customers who need work aren’t in a rush. How you handle the off-season can make or break your business, so here are some tips to help you manage it.
1. Maintenance Plans
Do you sell maintenance plans? These are a great way to drum up business during the offseason while providing a useful service to your clients that can save them money in the long term. The idea is that you charge a monthly or yearly fee to your clients and provide them with some kind of maintenance plan based on their needs. How you structure it is up to you. Maybe you package together maintenance of all of their HVAC appliances, and then conduct that maintenance during the offseason.
Your clients get the benefit of well-maintained equipment that is much less likely to need major repairs or to break down suddenly. This is an especially compelling selling point to those clients who call you for emergency service. You just need to take the time during your busy season to sell these plans, so that you have them in the off-season.
2. Shift Your Services
Every service that you offer will be in demand at different times. If you can, you should try to offer HVAC-related services that are in demand during your lowest point of the season. Here are some examples:
- Installing geothermal systems: Geothermal systems are energy-efficient ways to heat or cool homes that are often in high demand from some of the best clients, including builders and wealthy people who are building custom homes. People start building homes in the spring, so that’s when you’ll be doing most of this work.
- Air purifiers: Air purifiers are a huge benefit for people with allergies, pets, and other respiratory concerns. They also tend to be most popular in spring and early summer, which is allergy season for many people. However, they can generate year-round interest.
- Commercial: If you’re currently in the residential world, you may find that some commercial business is a good way to pad your work in the offseason. These customers are more likely to be making big investments in new equipment during their offseason so that it doesn’t disturb their customers. Hopefully, that’s also your off-season.
It’s possible that you could also offer a service that is outside of the HVAC world, although this can get complicated and expensive,depending on what you choose. Those that pick installing skylights or snow removal may find that they really end up running two businesses. If those businesses overlap, this can be a big challenge.
3. Focus on Customer Retention
If you have extra staff and time during the off-season, it’s smart to focus on retaining customers for the busy season. There are lots of low-cost ways to stay in touch and at the top of your customer’s mind through the off-season. Social media is one great option. If you can post useful and engaging content, you can keep your customers engage and build a reputation that can help you keep their business and get new business.
SEO is another great strategy to invest in during the off-season. It’s typically thought of as a long-term strategy that will take time to build and refine, time that you now have. Although, depending on your current situation, focusing a bit on SEO can yield some quick results that may be able to boost you this off-season, not next.
4. Scale up Smarter for the Busy Season
The next big challenge of running a business with a lot of seasonality is that it is hard to ramp up during the busy season. Every permanent staff member you hire now could be a liability later. Plus, it can be hard to figure out exactly how much you should be spending and how much you should be saving for the offseason.
Here are a few tips to help you handle the busy season in a way that sets you up for year-round success.
Start Advertising Earlier
The earlier you can get the busy season to start, the easier it will be to handle the volume of work you’ll have at the peak. Many homeowners respond smartly to reminders that they’ll soon need to maintain and turn on their furnace or air conditioner. You can get a jump by sending out email or mail reminders.
While you want the busy season to start as early as possible, getting ready for it before it arrives can really hurt you.Don’t hire the employees you need for work until you have that work. It’s also wise to avoid hiring additional people when you don’t have to, as it’s hard both on them and on your business, to be let go later in the year.
Outsource When Possible
Choosing a virtual receptionist for your HVAC business is wise because you get dedicated support when you need it but can cancel the service if business slows down too dramatically to justify them. It’s much harder to let go of employees and much more costly to have them in the first place.