HVAC With Integrity — You Get What You Incentivize

By: Brian Schutt  |  September 23, 2013

Forgive me for getting into the minutiae of business practices for a little while here, but I do so only because I believe it’s an important understanding for any home owner. As a home owner, I can appreciate the limited window our customers have to make important decisions about HVAC and other household related services. You have to gather data, prioritize needs, and make a decision. Many times with heating and cooling, this process happens under special duress because hot or cold weather has driven the breakdown of the system in question.

What being focused on the industry has provided is a window to analyze operational practices more broadly than the average home owner, and what I’ve seen through that window is disconcerting and needs to be said. The caveat with this statement is that not every business subscribes to these practices, but because of consolidation of many firms and the perceived success of the operational tactic, many do. The statement is that in the pursuit of profitability many in the HVAC industry incentivize dishonesty.

…in the pursuit of profitability many in the HVAC industry incentivize dishonesty.

The thinking is this, if we have a technician in the home already, and that technician identifies an issue, we should reward him for making the sale to the homeowner in the same way we would reward a salesperson. But, if we’re already paying that technician an hourly wage, we can make the reward structure less costly to the company, and reduce the sales workforce in the process.

The issue is that unless a homeowner is either technically savvy or pursues a 2nd opinion, this technician has no accountability but himself for making an honest assessment of the issue and the solution. Further, once the new system or expensive part is put in place, there is no way to determine if it was indeed necessary once the system is working again. And in case you haven’t caught the news lately, the economy has been a little slow. With the need to bring in more income, almost no oversight, and a carrot of commission dangling tantalizingly on each job, technicians are making recommendations that are simply dishonest and many employers are happily allowing them to do so.

I don’t want to come across as histrionic, but this operational strategy has become more common than not. And while I am sure many good technicians are maintaining their own integrity, I’d rather not let my home’s balance sheet be left up to crossing my fingers that I got one of the good ones. What further muddies the well, is that as short term profitability has improved for the companies utilizing this practice the carrot alone didn’t suffice. The stick has also been employed. Sales quotas are now commonplace for service technicians. So even if a technician was inclined toward honesty and willing to make less to keep his integrity, he could be at the risk of losing his job should certain baseline numbers not be met.

All of this leads to a truth that prompted us to start Homesense – integrity and the trust it produces is the foundation of a fruitful customer relationship. We are hyper aware that we aren’t immune to human nature. Thus we separate our technicians from any sales related incentives. We incentivize objectivity and reward precision. With the customer experience and the center of our mission, we know we are likely sacrificing short terms profits but do so with a firm belief that our unmatched commitment to integrity will bring rewards far beyond a financial windfall.

If we sound like a company you’d like to work with, we’d love the opportunity.

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