Ask the Experts | Managing Tech Hours on Slow Days

Question: How should we handle our technicians’ hours on a slow day?

Drew Cameron; President, HVAC Sellutions & Energy Design Systems, Inc.:

Well, very carefully. We don’t want to go ahead and waste people’s time, as far as the people on our staff, number one, and second we don’t want to waste consumers’ time. We’ve got to make sure -- we’ve got limited resources -- and we have to use those to the best of our ability when we have them. I guess what I’ve done, and I think it obviously varies based on the company and how you’re set up and what you’ve got in place, so I’ll throw out a few ideas.

If you’ve got service agreements and you’ve got some precision tune-ups you haven’t done yet, try to get those scheduled and done if you can.

Follow up on technician recommendations that were previously given to customers that maybe they didn’t buy. Maybe you can offer some kind of package discount or something like that, to stimulate some work.

Maybe you can send the technicians to ride along with another technician – if you have a senior technician, have a junior technician ride along so he can assist and learn and be coached a little bit there. Maybe if you have big jobs on the installation side you could send some technicians – I’m assuming we meant service technicians here, maintenance techs – send them to assist the installers, maybe knock out the job a little quicker.

Truck inventory! If they’ve gotta do their truck inventory, if you don’t keep that up electronically, do a truck inventory, a truck cleanup, washing. Warehouse cleanup. Cleanup your scrap around your office and the back of the warehouse and the shop and whatnot.

Work in the sheet metal shop making sheet metal if you have sheet metal shop going.

Building projects around the office to kind of spruce up the office and beautify the property if necessary.

And then, like right now: We’re in August, and so things are getting a little bit slow, it’s the end of the summer, seasons have been mild out here on the East Coast a little bit, we didn’t get the hot weather like everyone else did, we got a lot of rain. So plan for activities and book in time and flexibility for vacation, education, coaching, practicing and training of certain skills.

What systems can you work on internally to streamline? What company projects – for the company and the community – can you get involved in? Is there some type of community outreach you could get involved in? Could they go around and do some knocking on doors and door-hanging for lead-generation?

And don’t forget to have some fun and celebrate. Sometimes when things slow down a little bit it’s a good time to take a little time and say, What went well? What didn’t go so well? What can we do better? Can we have a little bit of fun and celebrate the success that we did have over the summer when we were super busy?

The one thing I would caution people about: Sometimes you do need to slow down; you need to slow down in order to speed back up. So this is a great opportunity slow down.

I was on a client consulting call this morning and we had, I think, about 12 salespeople on the staff and three of them were off this week. And you might think, “Geez, three salespeople were off?” But, yeah, it’s August and it’s vacation month and a lot of people aren’t calling in for leads at this point. The weather just dropped off and people are going back to school, and on vacation themselves, so why shouldn’t our guys take off and recharge their batteries too.

The one thing you have to realize is that the plane cannot fly at full capacity at maximum altitude and maximum speed forever. You do have to land, you have to refuel, you have to give the crew some rest, restock the plane, train the crew a little bit, perform maintenance on the plane, and get ready and plan for your next journey. And take on new passengers of course!

All of that needs to be worked on at some point, and so this is an opportune time to reflect on the business and see how things went and what can we do to kind of get going again. Business is the same way: It’s not downtime or slow time, it’s time to adapt, adjust and execute f or what’s coming next.

Yes, I understand that you may lose a little revenue at this time if you don’t have the work hours. But if you’ve planned that into your schedule, and I’m going to pass that buck to Gary here in a minute, if you’ve planned that into your schedule, then you know this is kind of a (what we call) shoulder season. So you may dip in revenue, and we don’t want to lose revenue, but we also don’t want to lose people and we don’t want our people to lose pay.

So find a way to make the best use of this time, and with that I’ll throw it to Gary.

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