HVAC Service Technician Supply & Demand
Finding High Caliber HVAC Service Technicians
The biggest frustration I have as the owner of an HVAC company with outstanding employees, is that most people see our labor as a fungible commodity; similar to that of gasoline, milk, etc. The reality could not be more different. We charge more for our services than most others in our area because it costs more to have the proper overhead to service customer needs and keep highly competent employees on staff. In this case you do get what you pay for!
Foremost of importance is the caliber of individual who comes to your door to fix your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. We live in times where the ‘skilled blue collar worker’ has become an oxymoron; the pressure to put your kids in a college or university program is huge, and those who do not go that route are pushed into unskilled labor work in retail or hospitality. The number of young men and women going into the skilled trades is a fraction of what we need coming into the trades. The wages for this work is excellent for someone who does not have a higher education, and the pressure to get an unskilled person for a skilled position and ‘hope for the best’ is very high for any HVAC contractor.
As a union contractor we have access to the local Journeyman-Apprentice Training Center (JATC) for training. We also invest heavily in training with manufacturers on the latest technology, we train all employees on customer relations and basic business skills in which to do their job, and supply our technicians with proper tooling and a good truck to do their job with. The result is that our Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews are off-the-charts good; and we have a customer base that, almost unanimously, are extremely happy with us. This is especially remarkable in that by definition we are the type of company no one ever wants to deal with in that we all assume our homes or place of work should be comfortable automatically, and no one has a line item in their budget to fix or replace their HVAC system. Every time we show up someone is spending money that they do not want to spend!
Providing the ‘The Best for Our Best”
The reality is that many HVAC companies send out every day technicians who are not very good at what they do. We know because we sometimes have to hire techs from our competitors and are almost always underwhelmed by their skills, effort and attitude once they are past the ‘honeymoon period’. Yet we have people call us for prices all the time looking for a cheaper deal. We have 5 highly skilled technicians and 2 equally skilled sheet metal workers, with 2 apprentices. We weed out all field workers who do not meet our criteria of excellence pretty quickly. When you are calling around for prices, please remember that the up-front cost is a long way away from the value you actually receive.
Another key element is available capacity; we know that with limited availability of skilled labor we need to be careful on who we choose to work for. My good friend Jeff Kaas’ company Kaas Tailored has the motto ‘The Best for Our Best’. His intention is to provide the best level of service to those customers who are willing to pay the going rate, pay in a timely basis, be reasonable in their requests, and see Kaas Tailored as a value partner (and not just a supplier). Well run HVAC companies need to look at customer relationships in the same way; we should not provide capacity to those who insist on unprofitable pricing, take 60 days to pay bills, or abuse company personnel.
Beware The HVAC Parts Salesman
Why is this important to the customer? Caveat emptor, buyer beware. Make sure that you do not have a part salesman masquerading as a service technician. Many times no new parts are needed, simply a component needs to be adjusted or reset. Most homeowners, even technically savvy ones, are completely HVAC illiterate and must completely depend on the technician for advice and insight as to solve the problem. My best advice to a home or building owner is to research contractors for quality based on referrals and online social media reviews rather than who is offering the best deal. Also make sure you do this research before it gets really cold or hot, as by the time the temperature is extreme your most competent contractors will be overwhelmed. Rather have them service your unit with a full maintenance during the spring or fall before major problems can occur.