Monthly Archives: October 2012

This is a story about a FedEx driver/delivery person who decided getting paid was more important than doing the job properly.

A young couple in Nashville, Tennessee, like many 30-something couples these days, are into juicing….fresh vegetables and fruits fed into what is basically a seriously beefed-up blender, creating an end product that is healthy and pretty much free of chemicals and other things that aren’t good for us. So, since a sister in Tucson, Arizona had a birthday coming up, the couple decided to send her a juicer.

And, so they ordered it on-line, and it was shipped via FedEx Ground….

And FedEx delivered it…..by throwing over the fence into the yard.

Now, on the surface, this story might seem to be about nothing more than an un-motivated, lazy employee, but as you can see by my title and opening line, there could be more to this story, and based on what I know about the shipping business (which, I admit isn’t a great deal) I’m betting that there is more to it than just laziness and inexcusable behavior on the part of an employee.

The reasoning behind my opinion is that since I am regularly on the receiving end of shipments due to on-line purchases and business purchase situations, I’ve had a few brief discussions with drivers and discovered some things that aren’t necessarily common knowledge. For example, while some companies that deliver things to your home or place of business (UPS for example) employ drivers who are just that….employees who are paid an hourly wage plus benefits to drive a company-owned truck and deliver packages to their customers, other companies have a system in which not all drivers are exactly an employee, and not all trucks are exactly company-owned.

Instead, the truck that shows up in your driveway or in front of your store or shop is owned or leased by the person doing the driving, and, under contract with a major, branded, well-known shipping company, is paid by the package. Which, by the way, is a system that I’m all for…I think it’s truly a wonderful idea to create opportunities for small business of all kinds. Heck, that’s how it works for most of us in the HVACR business, and I personally wouldn’t take back 99% of the experiences I’ve had as an independent service company owner. So, like like I said…..bravo….let people have opportunities for independent employment. It’s an essential element of the heartbeat of American business and I think it’s one of the greatest things we have going for us in the United States.

But, in this case, I’m convinced the system broke down and resulted in horrible, inexcusable, unbelievably bad behavior on the part of a FedEx driver/delivery person.

Sure, there was a fence and closed gate around the property. And sure, there was nobody right there in the yard at the moment so the gate could be quickly opened, allowing for a speedy and efficient delivery of the package (which wasn’t ‘just a package’, it was a gift that somebody decided to send to somebody else, and they trusted that it would be delivered in a professional manner that would ensure that it got there safe and sound, because as the customer in this scenario, that’s what they had every right to expect would happen regardless of the structure of the delivery system) but, what I’m convinced happened here is that somebody decided it was more important to get paid for that package right then and there rather than leave a notice that would result in a return trip to get the job done correctly.

(Author’s Note: In order that you understand just how I feel about this type of situation, re-read the above paragraph, note again the italics, and imagine that the well-known comedian Lewis Black is telling this story.)

So, what is the lesson here for HVACR technicians who provide a service to customers and, as an arrangement with their employer, part of their compensation package is based on commission or bonuses?

Never lose sight of what your responsibility is to your customer. Never cut corners. Always do the right thing for your customer, even if it doesn’t result in getting compensated immediately.

Because, there’s more to your job than just getting paid.

(Another Author’s Note: If somebody from FedEx wants to tell me that I’m wrong about what happened regarding that juicer delivery, by all means, get in touch. I’ll be happy to make sure I’m correct.)

Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today….Look Foward To Tomorrow

Jim

 

I’ve often said that as human beings, we often make the mistake of making things more difficult than they are. One example of this is the simplified idea of troubleshooting an HVAC electrical circuit from the perspective of reading a wiring diagram and applying the concept of what I like to refer to as Potential Voltage and Applied Voltage.

To illustrate, consider the diagram in Figure One below that shows the circuitry of an electric furnace.

Figure One

 

On this diagram, you can easilily locate test points related to Applied Voltage and Potential Voltage. For example, isolating one of the heating elements, we can see that there is an N.O. (Normally Open) switch shown wired in series with it, and the identifiers on this particular switch are M1 and M2 (M, meaning Main set of contacts on a sequencer …SEQ #1 in this case…..), and in a sitution in which a technician would want to find out if this circuit is working like it should, a smple test for Applied Voltage would be a good place to start.

Checking with a voltmeter directly at the wiring connections for the heating element to find out if the required 240-volts was being applied or not would allow us to begin to evaluate this particular circuit in the event we were troubleshooting a situation in which the customer was complaining that the unit wasn’t heating properly. And, depending on the results of that test, we would be able to find out if the element itself, or the switches wired in series with it, could be a source of a problem.

For the sake of creating a troubleshooting scenario, let’s say that the answer to the question, “Is there voltage applied to the element?” is no. The reading we get with the meter is 0-volts, not the 240-volts that would allow the element to provide heat as long as it OK, meaning that it would have the proper resistance if we checked it with an ohmmeter.

But….I digress. We’re not talking about using an ohmmeter to check resistance, we’re talking about doing a “hot” test with a voltmeter to determine which component in the circuit could be a source of the problem, so, back to the idea of Applied Voltage and Potential Voltage….

Once our first test showed no Applied Voltage, our next step would be to check the switches wired in series with the element ot see if they were doing what they were supposed to do, which introduces the idea of checking for Potential Voltage.

Moving to the left of the element, there is a fuse. Checking directly at the terminals of this fuse would be implmenting a check for Potential Voltage because of a simple rule regarding a switch (which, is technically what a fuse is….just a switch that only opens once). And that rule is, “Voltage can be read across an open switch”.

And, in the event that we read 240-volts at the fuse terminals, it would prove six things, all with one check of the meter:

1. The fuse is open.

2. The heating element is not open.

3. The limit switch to the right of the element is not open.

4. The M1 and M2 terminals of the sequencer are closed.

5. The fuse shown at #1 on the main terminal block on the L1 side is not open.

6. The fuse shown at #1 on the main terminal block on the L2 side is not open.

The above can be proven as true when you consider tracing the Potential Voltage circuit we’ve set up by checking the fuse.

If you trace from the left terminal connection of the fuse, you’ll go all the way back to the L1 side of the line. If you trace from the right terminal connection of the fuse, you go all the way back to the L2 side of the line, proving along the way that the element, the limit switch, and the fuse at #1 on the L2 terminal block must be in the condition I mentioned above, because if any of those  conditions didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to get the Potential Voltage reading at our test points.

Like I said….no reason to make things more difficult than they really are.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today……Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

 

In wrapping up this series on the topic of HVACR contractors and their web sites, I want to talk about blogs.

First, regarding a blog….have one on your site. And, second, understand what a blog is and, just as importantly, what it isn’t.

A blog is something that a visitor to your site can click on and learn something, anything, that you think is of value to them. It could be a simple explanation on how a heat pump operates, complete with an animated drawing that explains how the system removes heat from the building in the summer and sends it outside where it’s not wanted (remember, the formal definition of a refrigeration is “the transfer of heat from a place where it’s not wanted to a place where it’s not objectionable”), and then, during the winter, it picks up the heat from the outside and sends it into the building.

And, yes, a consumer will be somewhat confused about the fact that a heat pump system can actually transfer heat from the outside to the inside when it’s colder out there than it is inside the house, but, trust me, they will be able to understand a simple explanation on the concept of some heat being available until the temperature drops down to -460F. All the blog needs to do is explain the concepts that we take for granted in simple terms so your potential customer will be able to read what you’ve posted there without wondering what you’re talking about.

As far as what a blog isn’t, there are two factors for you to consider. First, it’s not a place for you to discuss your personal beliefs on religion or politics. If you want to discuss those subjects, create a new site that doesn’t have any connection to your business site and say whatever you think you need to say because you’ve decided it’s your responsibility to save the world or educate people that don’t have a clue.

And the second factor is that your blog isn’t a pitch page.

If you want to post information on condensing gas furnaces and explain why they are more efficient that other furnaces, fine; explain away, but don’t put a link in the blog that says “Click Here For More Information” that takes your visitor to a page where they fill out a contact form. If you want to put that link on the pages on your site that are pitch pages (of course, you’re going to have pitch pages on your site for crying-out-loud, that’s why you have a site in the first place) that’s fine. But a blog is a blog is a blog. It’s for information, learning and enlightenment. Your visitor knows darn well that they can click around on your site and get to a contact form if they want to. There’s no need for you to push them into getting in touch with you while they are enjoying being educated by information you’ve so generously provided for them.

And, speaking of your blog, you need to commit to doing it over, and over, and over, and over again, on a regular schedule, keeping it fresh and up-to-date. If you decide to commit to posting once a month, then do whatever you need to do in order to post once a month. People don’t like to see that you haven’t posted since 2010. And beyond that, when you use a content management system site, your posts can be easily archived so visitors to your site can access them, and having a consistent blog also affords you the benefit of more and more key words appearing on your site, which sets up your very own in-house SEO (Search Engine Optimization) system, a process that allows potential visitors to your site find you easier when they Google, Bing, or Chrome the services you provide.

So, by all means, blog.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

HVACR contractors understand that their customers depend on them to make the complex simple, and a reputable contractor can do that. To the average consumer, their air-conditioning equipment is a mystery even if they have some fundamental understanding that it has an electrical system, blows air around and through their home or business, and somehow employs that “Freon” stuff in order to keep them comfortable, or uses some type of fossil fuel in the winter to keep them warm.

Yup, contractors who have taken the time to make sure a customer’s questions are answered as completely as possible when they call to request service, and that the technician who responds not only knows what to do technical-wise, but also possesses the soft skills necessary to put the customer at ease and explain what will be and has been done, understand that they need to make it as simple and easy as possible for the customer.

And, yet, when it comes to their web site, some contractors fall short of accomplishing this fundamental mission.

The factor that I see most often that supports my theory on this subject is contact information…..and I don’t mean just a phone number and an email link. Certainly, that information has to be prominently displayed, but if you have a store-front operation or a building (even if it is in an industrial area that your customer would likely never visit), there’s a simple format that gives visitors a feeling that they can trust you when your home page, or any page on your site, shows up on their screen. And accomplishing it in WordPress is a simple task.

When your web developer/designer sets up your site, the page will be set in what is known as a Theme, with a banner across the top that shows your company name and logo (yes, you need a logo) along with drop-down menu buttons shown across the bottom of the banner. Directly below the banner there will be a larger area in the left and center of the page where you can place text and photos, and also a smaller area to the right known as a sidebar. The sidebar never changes no matter what page your visitor navigates to via the drop-down menu buttons, and the information that will always be front-and-center, right at the top of that sidebar will be:

1. Your company name.

2. Your street address. (If you use a PO Box for mail, list that too.)

3. Your phone number.

4. Your fax number. (Yes, believe it or not, some people still communicate via fax, so have one set up for them.)

5. The email address that a customer can reach you via a simple click that brings up a contact form.

The point of this simple format is to give the customer the opportunity to be familiar with your company as quickly as possible, and not have to search for your contact information or where you are located by scrolling down or searching around. I recommend this not just because of the familiarity issue, but also from an SEO standpoint.

What’s SEO? It’s Search Engine Optimization, which is a system that ranks your site according to its visibility on search engines, and if a visitor has to search tediously for some basic information, the fact that they are clicking around, back and forth, lowers your ranking. So make it easy for them to find out where you are and how they can get in touch with you.

Other things you can place on your sidebar are helpful links to other information resources for your customer, and a link to your blog, which is another must-have on your site. And, when you create a blog, make sure that’s all it is is a blog. Too often, a contractor takes the time to set up a blog on which they can discuss something related to HVACR, such as new developments in the industry that have resulted in higher efficiency operation of equipment, and then they include something along the line of “Click Here For More Information” which is a link that leads to a contact form or some other method of obtaining information or a sales lead.

Ummmm. no, that’s not a blog anymore. That’s a sales page. And, obviously, while you’re going to have sales pages on your site, a blog provides information, period. Free information. Information that your potential customer can use, learn from, gain a better understanding of things, etc….it’s not a page for direct selling.

When your web site is designed properly, there are pages that give you an opportunity to sell, and there are pages that are for providing help and information to your visitors. Let them pick the pages they want to buy from.

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

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