In these slow times, trying to do anything to keep shop working. I offer service work, but never advertised "24 HR service". Is 24 hour service work more of a headache, and slow pay, or actually profitable?
Here's the truth, most guys advertise 24 hours but fail to answer thier phone after 3:29pm. I go out all hours of the night and hear the same story almost everytime, " We've called 10 electrical companies and you were the only one who called back." Knowing this I bill out like a surgeon after hours and people are happy to pay it in an emergency situation.
Jesus may have been a capenter,but God was an electrician.Genesis1:3
I ran a 24/7 service organization for a lot of years and the first thing I will say is "critical mass" ends up being 4 or 5 guys if you truly want to get your work done during the day, cover vacations and holidays without killing your people. I do agree, if you are really going to do this you need a duty pager/phone that always gets answered. Service is rapidly becoming a lost art but our objective off shift was call the customer back within an hour every time and be on site in 2 80-90% of the time. That was actually better than the day shift. The hourly rate was about 2.5 times the contract day rate.
It has always been a waste of time for me. Most people abuse it with "how do I" calls, not to mention when they are told what it is going to cost, their emergency isn't quite so bad. By far, the worst abusers are people doing an office move over the weekend. They find one little thing not working properly and they are on the phone at 10:00 on a Saturday night. They pull the "we are paying movers" game trying to shame us into coming out. It's just not worth it.
I get at least one emergency call every weekend and it's always a waste of my time to even talk to them.
One needs to focus their business, and their marketing, to reach their target customers - and address their needs.
For example, "24 hr. service" makes little sense if your business focus is on tenant improvements.
If you're specialty is providing emergency generator hook-ups, then '24 hr. service' is essential.
I think we're also overlooking another aspect of the 25 hour day. Apart from emergency repairs, there are plenty of businesses that want their maintenance or remodels done during off-peak hours. There are companies that seem to ONLY work at night .... maintaining the lighting at your local supermarket, setting up holiday displays for the big 'box marts,' etc. There is even a role for 'night work' in tenant improvements. Working closely with a GC, the rock can be hung on Monday, you can do your work, and the painter can come in on Tuesday.
Likewise, there is a role for 24 hr service, if you also have other trade qualifications. For example - and here, be sure to comply with licensing laws - I've had a fair amount of refrigeration / air conditioning emergency calls this summer. Most of these problems have been the result of electrical issues - bad motor capacitors, stuck interlocks, etc.
Otherwise, if your business is based upon a handful of regular customers .... you better be willing and able to respond when they need you. You're the guy they are going to call.
How much to charge? Remember that there might more to the job than that one call. If you're helping a proven customer, by turning up at 3AM Sunday, you've cemented your relationship with them. They won't even think of calling someone else for the next job. If you've always been 'someone they can work with,' you've also closed their minds to sales pitches from your competition.
For those in the service business, where every customer is a one-off ... a high off-hour rate does help separate the real emergencies from the mundane. Ditto for routine off-hour work - the customer ought to pay for you to schedule for his convenience.
There's more to this than just convenience. I have a fairly large truck, and a decent inventory - but nearly every job still calls for a trip to the supply house. In a very real sense, your service schedule is determined by the hours you can get parts.
I don't ADVERTISE 24/7 service, but I've been known to work at just about any and all times, and on just about every day of the year.
As Reno states, this is an outstanding way to maintain a customer base. You will acheive an outstanding bond with people when you come through in a pinch. Also, it always feels good to be the hero.
As far as billing, do whatever you think is fair and makes it worth your loosing sleep and being tired the next day. Just be SURE to tell them your after-hours rate BEFORE you leave the house. I usually charge a minimum, like travel plus a 2 hr minimum. If it's just flipping a breaker and running an ammeter on a circuit, I get 2 hours. I have never had a complaint, and a call at an odd time has never been the last call from that customer.
Advertise on the phone book and you are stuck with that 24 hours post untill the end of the contract, if not longer (old books) I guess it also matters where you advertise, if your not sure about how it's going to work...don't do it!
Or at least find a place, where they have a 24 hour feature you can turn on and off. If it's ON then when someone needs a electrician for a midnight problem the client needs only to include this into their search requirements and ONLY electricians who service 24 hour will show up in the results. Turn it off and you won't get those calls, then turn it back on and you will. see? on/off on/off on/off on...ok I'll stop, but i do like that.
Mate, I've done break-down work most of my electrical career. I'm not sure what your experience level is, but I would vehemently stay away from Residential faults work, you are on a hiding to nothing. Sure you get the lights and other bits working at the time and the customer is singing your praises as you head out the door with a nice fuzzy feeling. Now, when the bill gets sent, it is a totally different feeling. IMO, anyone that works after hours should be paid accordingly, this is reflected in the invoice to customers.
Having said all that, factory break-downs and commercial shops is where the money is, but you need to be really on your game to trouble-shoot some of these jobs. These folks almost NEVER dispute the invoice, when it comes in, especially where minutes being without power or when mission-critical gear is not working at all or not working properly, will cost them good money.
If you are looking to get into this area of electrical work, expect to truly work 24 hours a day. You can be called up at 1am, 3am, even 5am, or even all 3 in a single night. There is a full working day ahead of you, yet, you can't simply take the day off because you got the odd call-out over night.
This is OK for the man that is not a family man, because when you get up, open the doors and start your truck up, it will disrupt everyone else's sleep in the house.
Believe me, mate, I've been a PoCo Electrician/HV faults-man on and off for years, I've also seen other guys marriages end, because they are never at home. Sad yes, reality yes.
Last edited by Trumpy; 09/05/0804:36 AM. Reason: Typo