Reprinted from Contracting Business. Click here to view original article.
If every HVAC business took the time to sweat the details like HomeServe, the vast majority of the industry’s problems would be solved.
From its attention to service, to recruiting and training, to applying state-of-the-art scheduling technology, HomeServe Energy Services of the South Jersey region does what customers want, and what the company must do in order to prosper.
HomeServe Energy Services is a subsidiary of HomeServe, a leading provider of repair service plans. Since 2003, HomeServe has protected homeowners against the expense and inconvenience of water, sewer, electrical, heating, cooling and other home emergencies by providing affordable coverage, and a quality service.
HomeServe serves over 3.4 million homeowners in the U.S. and Canada, and dedicates itself to being a customer-focused company providing best-in-class emergency repair plans through leading utility partners and directly to consumers.
HomeServe Energy Services (HES) provides reliable heating and cooling experts that service over 1,000 communities in 26 counties across New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, from five “depot” sites supporting metro New York, southern New Jersey, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts.
With almost 200 technicians (including certified refrigerant handling technicians and NATE-certified technicians), HomeServe provides emergency heating, cooling and water heater repairs as well as tune-ups and new equipment installations.
This past September, HomeServe acquired South Jersey Energy Service Plus, LLC’s (SJESP) residential HVAC and plumbing contractor operations. SJESP, an indirect subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, Inc. currently serves as one of southern New Jersey’s leading HVAC and plumbing solution providers. This transaction has enabled greater operational efficiencies in the region for HomeServe, while creating a more streamlined customer experience for the nearly 62,000 South Jersey households currently served by SJESP under HomeServe warranty and service contracts.
Meeting the Talent Challenge
HomeServe and HES leadership teams realize the importance of quality employees, even more so in recent years, with the diminishing ranks of available and trained technician talent. For that reason, they reward employees for their service and continue to help them develop their HVAC IQs.
“We want to make sure we give the technicians confidence, so that all they need to focus on once they arrive on site is to take care of the customers,” explains HomeServe Energy Service Vice President Mark Crook. “We give them all the tools they need. We have meetings with technicians, and are constantly picking their brains to ask what they need, what will help them be more successful in front of the customer? We use their comments to help design training so they’re successful. Some training is standard, such as training in high efficiency testing. Then we also talk to technicians individually, an ask what training they would like in order to feel better about their skills,” Crook says.
“We have several different tracks for training based on the tech’s experience level which are further personalized based on needs,” explains Crook. “For example, we have a path for our apprentices working to become General Technicians, as well as advanced technology tracks for our more experienced techs. Additionally, we utilize tech scorecards that track key performance metrics that help us determine if further coaching or training is needed for a particular tech.”
As every quality owner or manager knows, the balance between training and in-field work can be difficult to balance. For that reason, Crook says, HomeServe devised a “technician capacity planner,” that helps them match resource needs to the anticipated service and installation demand for each upcoming year.
“That planner also accounts for the amount of training hours we determine are needed for the year,” Crook says. “We structure our training calendar based on where our model recommends training should occur without impacting customer service levels, with much of the training typically in the traditionally slower shoulder months of the late winter, early spring period.”
HomeServe has developed a program with Lincoln Technical Institute, Lincoln, N.J., that allows students to gain real-world experience in the HVAC field by providing them with the opportunity to shadow HomeServe certified technicians.
HomeServe has developed a program with Lincoln Technical Institute, Lincoln, N.J., that allows students to gain real-world experience in the HVAC field by providing them with the opportunity to shadow HomeServe certified technicians. The program is designed to give students from the HVACR program at Lincoln Tech the ability to add valuable field experience to their classroom curriculum, as well as provide them with a mentor in the HVAC field.
“We started with Lincoln Tech in 2016 as part of our commitment to find ways to support our industry,” says Crook. “We interview a group of near-graduating students that meet our program criteria for GPA and attendance, and then select a few to shadow our techs. These students travel to our depot after class and ride along with our tech mentors for approximately four weeks.”
In this way, Crook says the students derive real-world repair and customer service experience that’s not available in the classroom, which undeniably helps in preparing them for HVAC careers.
“Based on feedback from the mentoring techs, we have then hired students as full time Apprentices once their internship ends,” Crook says.“HomeServe’s reputation and focus on customer service are exemplary and played a big role in why we chose to partner with them in offering our students this valuable opportunity,” said Scott Shaw, Lincoln Tech’s President and CEO. “By partnering with HomeServe, we are providing our students with the hands-on experience that shows them the real value of what they are learning in the classroom and motivates them to get the most from their education as they work toward graduating and finding jobs with organizations that offer the promise of a long career,” Shaw says.
HomeServe’s contact center and repair management departments use innovative technologies to deliver the best customer experience possible. The goal is to have a convenient, easy, fast and all-inclusive process. Within our Chattanooga-based, 400-seat contact center, the Repair Management Group is staffed 24/7/365 with live agents ready to serve our customers whenever they need assistance.
• Click Route Optimization Software. HES uses innovative software to optimize technician scheduling and dispatch. It helps techs arrive on time as promised, and compensates for variables such as appointments that go over the expected amount of time due to unexpected problems at the home, heavy traffic cancellations and other snags. Even the best planned schedules invariably change as jobs start or end slightly out of line from what was scheduled. Instead of this time simply being “lost”, Click Route software enables real-time integration of updates coming from the field for intelligent schedule optimization that allows the company to gain back those minutes, which aggregate into hours of gained productivity each day.
Technology Provides Feedback
HomeServe implemented two platforms that use speech analytics to monitor and optimize call center interactions. In addition to significant customer service utility, these programs serve to enhance the HomeServe marketing message.
• A platform called “Rant and Rave” enables and captures customer feedback on call center interactions through an opt-in program. Survey opportunities are presented to customers through channels such as email, automated outbound contact, and SMS text throughout their journey as a HomeServe customer.
• CallMiner: This platform analyzes calls based on individual words, patterns, tone of voice, extended silences and many other data points. It provides insight on language used–product information, compliance/sales terms, customer service measures–empathy, ownership, dissatisfaction, etc. It measures average handle time, silence, hold language, etc.; automates quality monitoring process, and data can be used for training and refinement; and, based on frequency of specific words or phrases, trends can be anticipated and proactive steps taken to further improve customer service.
The practice of “giving back” to the community is common in many great companies. However, Crook says HomeServe is the first provider in the industry to introduce an initiative to help with hardship funding in service areas.
“The ‘HomeServe Cares’ program leverages the company’s existing service infrastructure and financial resources to assist disadvantaged homeowners who are faced with a service emergency and don’t have a service plan or the funds to cover an emergency repair,” Crook says.
Congratulations, HomeServe, for designing and maintaining a culture of HVAC service, training and recruiting that is second to none. We welcome you to the ranks of the Contracting Business ‘Contractors of Excellence.’