Building Your Customer Database

Not too long ago, Rolodexes functioned as customer databases, Wite-Out was the delete button and yellow highlighter was bold.

Boy, things have changed.

Business owners today need more than a flimsy index of cards to build a customer database. While Rolodexes might have been the earliest versions of customer relationship management (CRM) software, they are certainly no substitute for technology.

A good customer database helps build brand loyalty, encourage repeat business and improve customer service. For HVAC businesses, customer databases are particularly important during seasonal lulls when customer contact is essential. 

Many business owners think they need an advanced IT degree to figure out the best system. Nope! Customer databases do not need to be complicated to work well. 

Consider these database options:

  • Simple spreadsheets
    Most of the popular online word processing programs come with spreadsheet options such as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Spreadsheets can be good options for small businesses, including start-ups, to track customer data.
  • Software and mobile apps
    Software and mobile apps make it easy to manage customers on the go. Some are free for businesses that track a limited number of customers, while others are equipped to help larger companies. Look for CRM software and apps that are easy to use and back by dependable customer service.
  • Customized solutions
    Businesses with more complex needs can opt for software that can be adapted to meet specifications. Business owners can build their own programs through Microsoft Access or Apache OpenOffice or hire a software engineer to do the work.

After determining the best type of database, consider what information needs to be included. Basic data – name, address, phone number and email address – are essential.

The following additional information can help craft a useful database for customer relations and future sales:

  • Personal details
    Does your customer have kids? Pets? Other relatives living in the home? Keep a running list of names for a personalized touch to service. Customers will appreciate the gesture.
  • Repair and replacement history
    Document all HVAC service calls, repairs and replacements, including date, reason, type of equipment and technician name. Also, record any add-on sales, such as humidifiers, air cleaners or thermostats. Use the information to make follow-up calls after a service.
  • Maintenance agreement information 
    Customers who have HVAC maintenance agreements should be earmarked in the database for calls because they will be booking tune-ups.
  • Social media profiles
    If your company hasn’t hopped on the social media train yet, do it now. Social media can be used to send out messages about company news, incentives and specials, to name a few possibilities.
  • Special offers
    Record the names of customers who used special offers or discounts. Over time, you may be able to see patterns in customer behaviors.
  • Complaints
    While complaints are never pleasant, they do help companies serve customers better. Jot down problems and issues that specific customers had so they don’t happen again.
  • Sales call data
    What’s the easiest way to lose a customer? Call them repeatedly when they have no interest in your service or have said not to call back. Keep track of customer-care calls, including the date, time and outcome of the conversation.
  • Sundries
    Is the Jones family’s HVAC system hard to access? Did the Smith family’s dog snarl at a technician? Jot down specific information so technicians can be on alert before they get to the location.

Business owners find scores of ways to use the data – from making customer-care calls to understanding purchasing decisions. A database is one of many essential tools for success, so safeguard the information to protect customer privacy.   

Although building the database may be time-consuming, the payoff is customer loyalty, better marketing and more sales. And that’s the name of the game.