Have you ever considered the value of maintaining a relationship with your customers after the installation or sale of the home? A relationship that would be profitable for you while providing an important service to the folks living in manufactured homes? Maybe it is time to consider a long-term service plan where you help your customers with their routine maintenance, and potentially identify and address small problems before they become big problems.
Service plans are very common in many other industries. Look at this advertisement I received from a local HVAC company.
I know people that have long-term service plans with their electricians, plumbers, exterminators, and landscapers to name a few. There is no reason that the manufactured housing industry can’t offer this same option to customers. While very few manufactured housing industry professionals have been offering service plans, the ones that do claim that it is a good source of income, and it also had a great impact on customer relations and the overall performance of the manufactured home!
I believe there are two important tools that retailers or professional installers must use in order to establish a smart, effective and profitable service plan or agreement with their customers:
1. A legal contract outlining the overall plan, the limitations and the expectations.
2. A written checklist to direct and document the inspection process that is the basis for the service plan.
I did a little research on this, and found that there are several service agreement templates available on the web. Just search for “service agreement templates”. Look these over to get an idea of how a service plan could be drafted. Or if you prefer, talk to a lawyer.
The scope of work for a service plan should be extracted from the Installation Checklist that you already are completing (I hope), and the homeowner’s manual that is provided with every home. The contract should clearly state what elements of maintenance are covered under the service plan, which elements require an additional charge, and what may be totally beyond the capabilities of the agreement.
Ultimately, you would give the home an “annual check-up” and document anything that might have a negative impact on the durability and overall performance of the home. For example, you would check for holes in the bottom board. Look over the piers, are there loose shims or cracked blocks? How about the anchoring system? Are there loose anchor straps or components? Inspect the rain gutters and downspouts. Are splash blocks in place? Does the water drain away from the house? Are the roof penetrations sealed? Do the furnace filters need changed? Do the bath and kitchen exhaust fans work? Is the dryer vent clear? Are the P-Traps tight? Is the heat tape in place and properly installed? Test the smoke alarms and change the batteries. I think you get the idea.
Keep in mind, a typical service plan is limited to addressing the basic maintenance requirements that every homeowner is expected to perform. The difference is that you would provide this service for your customers for a fee. As is always the case, should you were to run across any code related defects, you should report the issue to the manufacturer and document the reporting.
I personally believe that the reputation of the manufactured housing industry is directly tied to the relationship (or lack of relationship) that we have with our customers after the sale/installation is completed. Maybe service plans can be a step towards improving our reputation, while helping the homes reach its’ full potential as not only affordable, but high quality, safe and durable housing.