September 2011

Service COVERT STYLE. Why Settle For Less?

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Three enormous HVAC guys sat shoulder to shoulder across the tiny truck bench seat, sporting three-day beards and wearing dirty brown quilted jackets. Larry, Darrell and Darrell, squeezed out of the truck with effort and hunched over the on-the-fritz compressor unit. Larry towered over brother Darrell and other brother Darrell, supervising with his arms crossed, casually spitting tobacco juice on Darrell 2’s back. Ewwww, we thought, so that’s where the dirty brown comes from.

No amount of technical expertise can make up for that kind of customer service first impression. It’s just not a pretty picture, and it’s the last thing you need to experience when you call for HVAC service. Fortunately, with Covert Aire you don’t have to.

Mike Covert owner of Covert Aire, prides himself on impeccable service that includes reliability, integrity, ethics and even things as basic as crisp, clean trucks and uniforms. Covert Aire, he says, is a customer service company that just happens to do heating and air conditioning.

The philosophy seems to have worked for this company that had its start on the leading edge of the Great Recession but has managed to grow and prosper over its first five years.

Covert started the company with a single truck that was essentially a rolling tech center and office all in one. Since the start, the company has shown growth every year and success, which Covert defines as not posting a loss year over year, and perhaps more importantly, building relationships that have led to new customers and an ever-increasing company commitment to the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton community. Giving back, he says, is a key component in his long-range business plan.

Clean vehicles—now up to a fleet of five—are also part of that. Beyond that is a friendly office staff, rapid response to emergency heating or air conditioning needs (service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week), and technically savvy technicians.

Covert has more than 27 years of experience in the heating and air conditioning business and has been in the Hilton Head area for the last 16. He says friends and colleagues told him he was nuts when he decided to start his own business but he had a feeling that the time was right.

“It’s actually turned out to be a great time to do it,” Covert said. “I mean the economy was terrible and everybody told me I was crazy. I’m not Warren Buffet, by any stretch, and I’m not the smartest guy on the earth, but I’ve learned a lot of what not to do in my 45 years, and I figured it was the right time of my life to run a business the way I think it should be run and see if I can make it work.”

Covert started with word-of-mouth advertising and found that dedicated exceptional service worked to produce referrals and personal testimonials. He and his wife Theresa decided early on that business success would flow from community involvement and have made a concerted effort to get involved in the Student Improvement Council, local PTOs, athletic teams and support seniors programs at Sun City where Mike’s parents Bernice (pronounced Bur-ness) and Karen live.

“We believe emphatically that it’s not what you get, it’s what you give,” Covert said. “My parents taught me that, and now that they’re part of this business, they continue to remind me.”

Mike’s parents handle office odd jobs and provide gentle business advice. That advice, Mike says, can sometimes be interpreted as “old school,” but he’s okay with that as long as the definition fits a personal ethic consistent with the teachings of his parents.

On the road, though, when handling service calls, old school needs to mix seamlessly with knowledge, experience and a comfort zone with new age technology, and that’s where Covert says Covert Aire can truly shine.

“Wireless technology, multiple speed compressors, this was stuff we were just talking about five to 10 years ago,” Covert said. “And it’s reality today. We talk about stuff today that we hope is the future of this industry 10 years from now, and we have stay current on all of it or we start to fall behind.”

Most of the ongoing education in the heating and air conditioning business can be accomplished online these days—it’s just a click away—but Mike says experience counts in providing context. Knowing where the basic concept of heat exchange came from helps to provide a baseline for continued learning, and that’s Covert Aire’s approach to tech-savvy customer service.

“We’re just moving heat,” Covert said. “Taking heat out of a room, transferring it through a machine, removing the moisture and bringing it back in as colder air. It’s not rocket science. It’s easier than rocket science. The hard part is getting people to understand that, for us, our customers’ needs come first.

One of his highest priorities is providing service that flows across a dozen brand names. “If it’s a device that heats or cools your home, restaurant, office or business, we can help you,” Covert said, “which makes our clients basically every living soul, regardless of brand names. If you look at our trucks you’ll see no brand names there, and that’s by design.”

That’s one of many things Covert says separates Covert Aire from its competition. He does not publicly favor one heating and cooling brand over another and accepts no favors to advertise them on trucks, his website or promotional literature.

“Quite frankly, the people who hire me, hire me,” he said. “They’re not hiring Amana or Trane or Carrier to fix their problem. All these different brands—and there are plenty of them—are just like tennis shoes. They come in brown, green and orange, just like tennis shoes; but at the end of the day, it’s more a matter of how the technician installs, maintains and repairs that makes the difference. We are going to put a unit in for you better than anybody, and we’re going to guarantee it.”

If you really want his personal opinion about the best model to install, he barely pauses before recommending Amana, mostly, he says, because of a superior warranty. But he stresses that model really doesn’t matter all that much. It still goes back to service.

“There’s an old saying that you can teach a monkey to do most anything,” Covert said. “But you can’t teach a monkey human interaction. Human interaction starts as soon as someone answers your phone call. If that person doesn’t give you the impression that they’re on their game—that they are sound and trustworthy and that there actually is a human who’s answering the phone—if any of those parts start to break down, then people are being encouraged to call someone else.”

Covert says that it also starts the minute a technician shows up at your house. If he shows up in a dirty old truck and he’s dressed all dirty and sloppy, it speaks to capabilities, sincerity and trust—which is a philosophy and a promise that’s easy to appreciate and understand if you’ve ever had HVAC work done by Larry, Darrell and Darrell.

Covert Aire serves the Bluffton-Hilton Head and Beaufort market. For more information, call (843) 706-5090 or visit covertaire.com.

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