When COVID-19 hit, SMACNA St. Louis looked for ways to help contractors help their customers who worked on the frontline of the pandemic. Eligible customers were offered $100 off any service they received, or $400 off a full installation and received their rebate at the time of service. For these specific rebate promotions, the St. Louis chapter reimbursed contractors through surpluses from the existing residential rebate program that were never cashed by customers.
Frontline worker-customers were offered the new rebates first, followed by teachers during the back-to-school season, and veterans in November. Hospitality workers are currently eligible for the ongoing rebate.
Kyle Tibbs, executive vice president of SMACNA St. Louis, thought using the surplus funds in the rebate program was a great idea. “With the hours being down, it only felt right for us to spend money on something that had good PR, where we could give back, but that would also help us keep hours up and keep some of our local members employed.”
Ray Reasons, president and business manager of Local 36, was immediately supportive of the idea. “With the climate of our market at the time, we saw a need to help those on the frontline fighting this pandemic. It was the right thing to offer assistance to the people helping so many others.” While it was good for market share, Reasons notes that wasn’t the point. “We’re not talking huge gains, but every little bit helps. And I’m sure every little bit would help a customer working on the frontline as well.”
Contractors advertised the rebate program on their company websites and social media with the help of SMACNA St. Louis staff. To ensure that no one missed out on the rebate, technicians would also ask customers if they were part of the eligible groups.
Seth Goldkamp, vice president at Design Aire in Maryland Heights wasn’t sure people knew the price of a service call and wanted to be sure customers understood the value of the rebate. After getting the OK from the Better Business Bureau, he chose to market the rebate as a free air conditioner or furnace maintenance tune-up, instead of $100 off.
He notes that the residential HVAC industry did well in 2020. The rebate program “felt like the right thing to offer customers, and it felt good to be able to provide something for free to people who had a completely different experience than we did — people who were either working nonstop or who had hardship in their job,” said Goldkamp. “There were a lot of people, a lot of industries, a lot of occupations that were hurt terribly by COVID and so it felt like we were doing something to give back to the community and to the people who were hurt by it.”
Paul Heimann, controller at St. Louis’s Welsch Heating and Cooling, helped develop the rebate program. “Participating contractors came up with the idea of offering a discounted service call. Customers on the frontline were doing everything they could to help keep people safe and healthy and take care of their home life,” Heimann said.
The team at Scott-Lee Heating in St. Louis was also on board with the program from the get-go. Service manager Jim Baillargeon noted that everyone was affected by the pandemic and wished the rebate program had begun sooner. “Customers are obviously combating and dealing with all sorts of stress at work every single day. The last thing they want to do is deal with an HVAC problem at home.”
Scott-Lee company president Russ Scott was very impressed with the idea and the initiative taken by SMACNA to start it. “If you look at groups that have benefited, it made us feel good to help them, to help the community, and it helped Scott-Lee. So everyone here was excited to take part in a win-win-win opportunity,” Scott
“This was a feel-good program for everyone,” added Paul Heimann, who also noted that his employees were “happy they could help provide a service to the community. The customers obviously were ecstatic to get a rebate that they would not normally qualified for, but I think they were just grateful that people were doing everything that they could to help out in that situation.”