This month's column touches on an aspect of servicing high efficiency modcon boilers that many contractors don't think about — the paperwork associated with the proper required annual servicing of these modcon appliances.
In order to have a complete and operational game plan, it will be necessary to designate someone as a responsible party to run and maintain an annual maintenance program. This duty typically falls on the service manager, if you have one within your organization. In lieu of a service manager, the office manager could perform these duties in the service managers' stead. Once you establish who will oversee these duties, start with a game plan, which requires documentation of when the installation and commissioning of the appliance was completed — the anniversary date.
Let me take a few steps back. As a part of the commissioning process, the manufacturer requires you to perform a combustion analysis and recording of other critical system parameters. This documentation should be kept on site, and a copy of it should be kept in your office.
I recommend the issuance of a “birth certificate” for all new appliances. Present this certificate to the homeowner — it gets them familiar with the product. Give their new appliance a unique name, like Hilda, so they will remember it. Include information that pertains to its “health” at the time of installation. This should include the date of commissioning, all of the combustion analysis parameters and your signature. Take a digital photograph of the appliance with the homeowner standing next to it.
This gets the homeowner involved with their heating appliance, and you will see the benefit of this effort down the road. Plus, they'll get a chuckle out of receiving a birth certificate for their appliance and tell their friends about you and the service that you performed for them.
Back to the game plan — you need to have, at a minimum, the homeowners name, type of appliance installed, date the job was commissioned, job site address and other important contact information, along with a record of the conditions of the appliance during its last check up. I would recommend that all of this data be maintained and backed up on a PC for easy reference, as well as making it easy to remind yourself as to when to contact the homeowner to remind them of the required annual service needs of the appliance.
If you leave it up to the homeowner to call you for service, I can just about guarantee you that it is not going to happen. The homeowner will not call you until there is an issue, at which point, there could be some major issues that could have been avoided had regular maintenance been performed.
Make certain that you mention this in your correspondence with the homeowner, reminding them about required annual maintenance. Also remind them that in order to maintain the manufacturers warranty, annual maintenance is a requirement.
So, what will you mail to the homeowner or current occupant? You will mail them a Happy Birthday card for their appliance. When the consumer receives the card, they will think to themselves, “Who the heck is Hilda?” If you include the photograph that you took of them standing next to the appliance, they will remember that the appliance in their basement needs a check up.
It is important to follow up with a telephone call and schedule an appointment to get the appliance serviced. Consider performing the service either at night or on a Saturday when they are off for customer convenience.
Follow up may take some time, and it might even require another mailing. During the second mailing, send a newsletter, describing the need for service of these appliances, and maybe include a story about what happens if regular preventive maintenance is not performed. Also take this opportunity to let customers know about the additional services your company can deliver that they probably weren't aware of, like air conditioning installations and service, solar hot water heating or ground source heat pump installation.
Remember, when these folks hired you to do the installation, they hopefully consummated an agreement for life. Do your part to uphold the friendship and insure their well being, and your profitability.
Mark Eatherton is a Denver-based hydronics contractor. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 303/778-7772.
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