How do you know you’re hiring a qualified company?
I got a call the other day from a customer who had been shopping around. She did her homework and found us online. I could tell she was a responsible homeowner because she knew that she needed a chimney sweep but she didn’t want to spend more than what was necessary. We are admittedly higher priced that many of our competitors but I always share our reasons.
In our industry, and most other service industries, the customer is at a disadvantage. The homeowner is trying to hire someone who is competent but they don’t necessarily know how to gauge what counts as competence.
Certifications are a great way to start. If you can see from a company’s website that they are certified, they might be a good fit. However, this in itself is not usually enough. I’ve known of at least a few companies in our industry (even within our immediate area) that will post a certification logo on their website when they don’t, in fact, carry that certification. Many times the certifying companies don’t have the means to police this type of behavior. The best way to check the certifications of any company you hire is to go to the certification body’s website and search for the company you are hiring. The certifying companies always have certifications listed on their website.
Another thing that might happen is one individual in the company might hold a certification but not everyone in the company does. The certifications within the chimney sweeping industry (I can’t speak for all service industries) are specific to the individual. If an individual comes to your home make sure that individual holds the proper credentials. (Again, you can find this information on the certifying body’s website.)
In our case, each of our technicians are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). We feel that this qualifies each of our technicians to give an accurate Level I inspection, which is part of each of our chimney sweeping services. Additionally, Cole is F.I.R.E. Inspector Certified. We send Cole to do Level II inspections because of his expertise.
The other way to tell what you’ll be getting is by considering the price point. There are discounted services available everywhere. However, consider that every company needs to make money. I’m telling you, service businesses cannot make money on deeply discounted services. (I’m talking about prices WAAAAY below what anyone else is charging.) So, when you book a deeply discounted service, ask yourself, “where does this company make its money?” Usually the answer is in up-sells. Up-sells are not inherently bad. We up sell all the time…when the customer needs it. However, certain unscrupulous companies will use scare tactics to up-sell crazy expensive repairs that may or may not be necessary. Even if the repair is necessary, they are frequently very very overpriced. The best way to handle this is to ask for documentation. We alway provide pictures to our customer that show where there is a structural flaw and we are more than happy to explain/educate. Here’s a warning, the unscrupulous companies I’m warning you about will be angry that you’re questioning their work.
Not all discounts need be avoided. For instance, our company discounts when it’s hot. We have “Peak Season” prices and “Off Peak Season” prices. We know that people don’t look for us when it’s hot, so we like to reward our regular customers with a seasonal discount for booking when we’re not getting organic leads.
All of this leads me to my point. All companies make a business model choice. We choose to price our services in such a way as to make money off of the core services we provide, which is chimney sweeping, dryer vent cleaning, and inspections. We also believe that our technicians bring value to our customers because they are experts in their field, which means we are also selling their opinions. Because we make our money off of these services, we can give our actual opinion about what our customers might need. Also, we quote accurately for additional services (up-sells). We strive each day to be an honest, quality service company. So, while we might be more expensive than our competitors for the first appointment, we could end up saving our customers hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in the long run.