I just had the best and worst experience with small businesses in my area. There are statistics that say if you have a bad experience you tell 10 people, but when you have a good experience, you only tell 1. In this article, while I will tell you my bad experience, the company will not be named. They are a small business working hard and I am not interested in hurting their business. On the other hand, the company that gave me a great experience has already been reviewed on Yelp and will be named and tagged in this blog. Here is how the story goes:
Early in the season we turned on our air conditioning. It was clear to me that the downstairs was not cooling down as it should have been. I called an HVAC company that had been recommended to me. They were extremely busy and the soonest they could get out to do a tune up on both systems and a diagnostic on the downstairs system was 3 weeks. They had come recommended by someone I knew and if they were that busy, they must be good, so I took the appointment.
Fast forward 3 weeks, the technician arrives and tunes up the system. He tells me the downstairs system has no freon and likely has a leak. He thinks I need a whole new system for the downstairs and asks what I want to do. I ask for a quote and he tells me they will email me one, and I should expect it by the end of the week. To be fair, he only charged me to tune up one system, not both, so that was nice.
Two weeks later, I still have not received the quote. I call the office and they tell me the owner is really overwhelmed but he is working on it and I should expect it shortly. Two more weeks pass, and still no quote. It is now mid July and we are having a heat wave. In my case, the upstairs system was working, so it wasn’t unbearable, but I was not a happy customer.
I spoke with another neighbor who recommended Silver Lake HVAC. I called and left a message on their voicemail. Given my experience with the previous company, I had little hope. It was July and the middle of a heat wave so I was sure they were busy. John, the owner got back to me within the hour. I explained my situation and he said he could be there before 5 that day. When he arrived, he quickly took stock of the situation, tested my system and informed me that while I needed a new condenser, I did not need a whole new system. If I wanted, he could order the condenser and install it. Needless to say, I answered that would be amazing. Two days later, the new condenser has been installed and my house is cooling down. The technician that installed the system was gracious and friendly. When I told him how great my experience had been, he told me John was local, had been doing this for many years, was great at what he did and was a good guy.
What can other small businesses learn from my experience?
Both companies were small businesses servicing the local area. Both companies came recommended by neighbors and had worked in my neighborhood. The first company lacked communication and a customer first focus.
The second company, Silver Lake HVAC had an owner that focused on the customer. He was busy also, but I honestly thought I was the most important customer he had at that moment. He is good at his trade, which is critical, but he also listened to his customer, was communicative and responsive. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, his employees respect and like him. My overall experience tells me that the owner knows that it is people, employees and customers, that have made him successful.