N.E.T.R. COVID-19 Update for 2021 (Podcast)

Mike Cappuccio talks about N.E.T.R.’s COVID-19 protocols for consultations, equipment, and employee safety. We also cover the thorough protocols in place to ensure the safety and well-being of our clients during HVAC installations and maintenance.


John Maher: Hi, I’m John and I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R. Inc., a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about the N.E.T.R. COVID-19 update for 2021. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Cappuccio: Good morning, John. How are you?

John: Good, thanks. So Mike, we’re still talking about this almost a year into this pandemic, and we just wanted to get a little bit of an update for 2021 and find out how things are going to N.E.T.R. with COVID-19 and sort of what are the new protocols that you’re using for both your customers and to keep your employees safe as well. So tell us what’s new.

Mike: It’s been a challenging year between shutdowns and having to develop new ways to do business and everything. It’s definitely been a challenge, but I think as a thought leader, you’ve got to really put the pandemic behind you and look at ways to still continue business.

I’m not saying just ignore it. We’re not ignoring it by any means, but you’ve got to come up with new ways to keep your customers safe, keep your employees safe, keep everybody safe as we’re going through this. So I’m going to thank everyone in my organization for the thought processes and how we’ve developed things. And it’s been challenging, I’m going to be honest with you. But we’ve looked at how we conduct business. We’ve looked at how we go into people’s homes. We’ve looked at a lot of things this year. 

3 Ways NETR Conducts Consultations in the Time of COVID-19

One of the big things we really looked at was how we do our in-home consultations with the consumer. And that’s how business has been done for the past 50 years in the HVAC industry. You go into someone’s home and you look at what’s wrong, or you look at what needs to be replaced. You look at what they’re looking to install, et cetera. And we’ve had to look at different ways of how to do business.

 And so what we’ve developed is we have three ways of doing our consultations now. We have the in home consultation, which gets done on a daily basis still with a lot of COVID precautions that I will go through in a couple of minutes. And we’ve also allowed people to come into our showroom, where we have equipment, working and running equipment, in our showroom, where you can now book a showroom consultation online. Everything we’ve done, we’ve developed an online system where you can do your booking, pick your date, pick your time. And then COVID screening will be done prior to the date of the showroom consultation.

The other one that we’ve moved to, too, is a virtual consultation, where you can go online, book your virtual consultation, pick your date, pick your time, pick your comfort consultant.

And we’ve got software now that is basically going to send you out a meeting invite, and it’s almost going to be like a teleconference that you have with your doctor. It’s going to be all branded with our company logo and everything. And basically, the conversation will be recorded. It has the ability to look at your home. It will be able to flip the camera around right on your phone. We can see everything that you’re talking about, just as if we’re in your home to get a good understanding of what you’re trying to do in your home at that point. No COVID screening will be needed to be done with that appointment because we’re not coming into your home.

We do have a questionnaire though that we’re going to send you out prior to the virtual consultation to understand your needs, and what you’re trying to do in your home at that time. So those are the three different ways of being able to get a price, or get an understanding of what your home would need. 

N.E.T.R.’s Customer Safety Protocols for AC and HVAC Installations

John: Right. So why don’t you talk a little bit more about customer safety? And you mentioned that if people are doing in home consultations, that you’re taking the necessary precautions. What are you doing to make sure that people are staying safe when you’re coming into their home?

Mike: So before we go into your home, day before the consultation, there’s going to be a COVID screening, so it’s going to ask the basic questions.

Anyone in your home have a temperature of 100 or greater? Has anyone been experiencing any symptoms of illness? Has anyone in your house been tested positive for COVID-19? Has anyone been around anyone?

And the big thing is: Have you traveled within the past two to three weeks outside, or if you’ve been on any public transportation or near any hotspots at that point?

So if you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, we’re going to look at it a little bit further and make a conscious decision of: Are we going to enter the home at that point?

John: Right. And maybe at that point, you decide to do the virtual consultation instead.

Mike: At that point, it would probably go to a virtual consultation if any of those questions are answered yes. Because number one, we don’t want to put the customer in any danger, and we don’t want to put our comfort consultant in any danger at that point either.

So the COVID screening is going to get done prior to us coming into your home, the day before or the day of, maybe an hour or two before. But usually, it’s done the day before. So they’re going to get an email on that, and there’s a form that we need to fill out.

COVID-19 Safety Protocols for In-Home HVAC Consultations

Let’s say everything does pass, the day of the consultation, the comfort consultant would come out to your home. They do have masks. Mask protocol is always followed, whether someone says you don’t need to wear a mask, they will always wear a mask.

They will have booties on their feet. They do have plastic gloves, if needed, they can use those too, as well. Social distancing will be practiced. All of the tablets have been sanitized before they go into the home. So they have wipes on them, sanitized wipes where the tablets are all wiped.

There’s no touching. We’re not bringing in any material into comes. We’re not leaving any paper, or folders, or anything. Everything has gone to a digital platform where any literature that we would leave into a home is being emailed to them right after the consultation, along with the quotation, so that is going out to them at that point. So it’s a no touch appointment, pretty much of what’s going on in there.

If the contracts are signed, we can sign your name onto the contract for you with the finger, or we can email that to you, and you can sign it and scan it back to us. So we’re trying not to have any type of touching going on at that point. 

Employee Safety Protocols for AC Installation

John: And then moving onto employee safety, what are some of the protocols that you have in place in order to make sure that your employees are keeping safe? Obviously, you mentioned some of them already, wearing masks when you’re going into people’s homes and things like that. But what else is it that you’re doing?

Mike: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got pretty much a two-part safety point out here with the employees because today is January 19th, and we’re back to a 25% in-office, people that can come actually into the office, so we still have 75% of our workforce is working from home.

But when we were at 50%, masks were being worn at desks. And we’ve actually put up put glass partitions inside our office, and we’ve actually got glass sliding doors and everything, so each office has been surrounded by glass right now, so you’re pretty much in a glass bubble I want to say. It’s actually kind of funny what we’ve done.

It was costly to do, but I’m going to tell you, it’s probably one of the best things we’ve done. The six feet distance, all temperatures are being taken and recorded every day when you punch in and punch out. We have an actual box in there that says you have to put your temperature in. You cannot submit your time card in for payroll unless your temperature is on there.

Washing of hands frequently for 20 seconds. We have hand sanitizers distributed throughout the building. Front door is locked on the building. We don’t allow any propping on the building. We’re not allowing any outside salespeople or anything like that to come into our building.

We’re not even allowing technicians to come into our building. Everything is pretty much brought out to them at that point. The doors are locked for a reason. And again, if you’re sick, stay home. If you have a fever over 100.4, stay home. So pretty much following the basic protocol that everyone else is following at that point as far as trying to keep everybody safe on the inside. 

Safety Protocols for Equipment and Technicians Installing HVAC

John: Right. And then when technicians need to get equipment and then bring that to somebody’s home, they’re staying outside and the equipment’s being brought to them. And then is that equipment being sanitized before it’s brought to somebody’s house, that kind of thing?

Mike: Yes, it is. So any equipment is being sprayed down. We have hand sprayers with an agent in there that all boxes that need picked up at a distributor and bring back, we sanitize those when we get those, before we hand them to anyone.

Any new installations that are going out to your home, all boxes are being sprayed and treated before they come out to your homes, so all that cardboard has been cleaned and sprayed prior to it showing up in your home, and even when the technicians are picking it up and loading it too, so that’s all being done.

And then if a technician is coming to do a service call in your home, and again, the COVID screening got done, let’s talk about an installation where the COVID screening has been done prior to the installation.

Now the day before the installation, there’s going to be another COVID screening that needs to go out before the technicians come into your house to do the installation. And vice versa on a service call, when you call in, if you do need a service call on your home or your business, there’s a COVID screening that gets done as well, and that gets checked off and logged into the dispatch to the work ticket that the COVID screening has been completed and the questionnaire gets attached right to the work order, so we know that the COVID screening has been done prior to our technician entering that building or entering that home.

And I’m going to tell you, it’s amazing how many things are getting postponed sometimes because when we’re finding out the answers to some of these questions that, I’m not saying people are being careless at all, but some people have said, “Yes, I have traveled,” or, “Yes, I have been on public transportation,” where we have to kind of make real strong judgment calls as to: Do we want to go do this?

John: Right.

Mike: Because I mean, we’ve had COVID in our office. We’ve had cases where, make some moves and send people home and have people tested. And we have a protocol for that now where: If you’ve been around somebody, how do you work that? How do you do that? There’s a whole protocol that’s been put in place for that too because I think every business and every home is being challenged with it every single day right now.

Is there a Big Difference Between Virtual Appointments and In-Home Consultations?

John: For sure, yeah. Now with those virtual appointments, have you been on some of those virtual appointments? And how do you feel like that compares to being in somebody’s house? Are you able to learn the things that you need to through that virtual appointment?

Mike: I’m going to tell you, John, the virtual appointments are working very well. I mean, when COVID first hit back in March, and we were doing virtual appointments, how we were doing them then, and how we’re doing them now is a whole different ball game.

Now, the appointment is actually being recorded. So you can go back and look at things. The software, the technology that we’re using with it now, where you don’t have to get onto a Zoom call, or a Zoom app, or anything. This is just very instant. You get it on your phone. Here it is. Click on it, then you click on it, I click on it. We’re both seeing each other at that point. Has the ability to reverse the phones. The software we’re using is not similar to what a doctor uses, it is what doctors use. So when they’re doing a … The whole medical field has gone to virtual doctor’s appointments now.

I mean, we can see a lot about your home through the virtual appointment. And being able to look at your home on Google Earth, Google Earth is tremendous. We can see all different angles of your home on Google Earth. You can use Zillow to see certain things on your home. So when you’re talking about your home, we’ve learned how to do virtual appointments through COVID, and basically, having the questionnaire filled out prior to us even getting on the call with you, of what you’re trying to achieve, whether you’re trying to heat or cool your whole home, or you’re trying to do a replacement system, we can look at what we’re doing prior to getting on the call, (or about) 15 to 20 minutes before we go through. We scan it, we look at it.

Okay, now we know what to get right to in that appointment to make it quick, easy, and efficient for the consumer and ourselves to get you what you need. Big enhancement, let me tell you. It’s totally different. 

Will N.E.T.R Continue Virtual Consultations Remain After the Pandemic?

John:  Absolutely. Do you think that you might actually continue to do some virtual appointments even after COVID is over? Is it really helping that much?

Mike: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s 100% part of our business. We’re not going to take it away just because of COVID, no, because I feel that a lot of people want a virtual appointment. And if people aren’t really 100% sure about letting someone into their home, and the high-pressure sales things, and this and that, that’s not what we’re about.

We want to see what’s going on in your home, and it’s a very soft approach to just, hey, let’s see what’s going on and see if we can help you at that point. There’s no obligation to do a virtual appointment. It’s a learning curve for the homeowner and us to see, “Okay, what do you need? What can we help you with?”

And it saves people a lot of time that really aren’t maybe sure, or they don’t feel safe having someone come into their home, or they don’t want to wait to have somebody there.

Think of the virtual appointment of when you’re dealing with someone. They’re telling you there going to be there at 3:00, and they don’t show up at 3:00. This is a virtual appointment. This has been booked. It’s on a calendar. It’s on a schedule. You’re not driving somewhere. We’re not going to hit traffic. There’s someone waiting at a computer half an hour before you to get on.

So there’s no need for anyone to be late, there’s no need for anyone to be tardy, or anything like that. It’s going to be, hey, let’s get on it. It’s amazing because they’re all timed right to 3:00, or 2:00, whatever that high point is on that hour. It’s like boom, let’s get on. Let’s do what we’ve got to do. Let’s get on, let’s get off, and let’s get to the point and see what we can do for you.

John: Yeah. And like you said, a lot of people just would prefer not to have somebody come into their home when they don’t even know them at all, so it’s a way for them to get to know you, as well as for you to get to know them.

Decide whether or not this is a relationship that you want to move forward with. And then once you’re more comfortable like that, yeah, then you can let people into your home to do the work, or whatever, so it’s a great way to do it.

Mike: And a lot of the appointments, it’s funny, because a lot of the appointments that we did back in March, that we did virtually, and some of them were very bobbled, John. I’m going to be honest with you. You’re in a learning curve right now of how to do business, and trying to do things. I mean, we’ve really come a long, long way with that now of how we’re doing a virtual appointment.

And a lot of those people that we did virtual appointments with when things did start to get better in July and August, when people, they actually let us into their homes, and we went out and did the consultation. So it could be a two part thing, it could start as a virtual, and virtual might go to a showroom, and then a showroom might go to an in home. So sometimes it’s three parts of it, sometimes there’s just one part of it. I’ve had people sign contracts over a virtual appointment.

John: Sure.

Mike: It’s all what fits your needs, the consumers’ needs.

What to Expect When Working with an HVAC Team During COVID-19

John: Right. Yeah, of course. So I understand that on your website, you also have an infographic, or a graphic that people can look at, that goes through the customer experience, or a customer journey. IT tells the people a little bit about what to expect when they’re working with you during this time of the pandemic and COVID.

Do you want to just explain a little bit about what’s included in that graphic?

Mike: Well, I mean, really it’s the scheduling of the consultation or a service call, and what’s going to happen, whether we’re coming into your house that day, or a week later, the COVID screening that’s going to get done, the day of the appointment, or the day of the service call, what’s going to happen with the technician when they come into your home, so there’s not a blind (spot).

No one’s going in blind. We’re telling you it’s a no touch appointment. We’re telling you that everything’s been sanitized. We’re telling you after they come in and do the work of how the payments are going to be made, how the tablets are sanitized, and things like that, daily. And then any equipment or any material that’s being brought into your house, how that gets sanitized, how the technicians are actually sanitized as well.

And then if you’re doing an installation, what’s going to happen after that with your customer quality audits, referral coupons, warranty certificates, thank you letters, things like that, how those are going to get sent out to you. We don’t really have control over the mail. We can sanitize before we leave, before it leaves the office, but what you’re going to expect after a service call. That will come to you digitally for review, so that is something you don’t have to touch.

And if you did an installation, it’s just: What’s the personal comfort going to be like after the installation’s completed at that point? So we’ve kind of gone through a pretty good detailed graphic of what you would see, and what’s going to actually happen.

John: Right. All right. Well, that’s really great information, Mike. And continued success during COVID, and we hope that it ends soon and we’re able to get back to business as usual.

Mike: Let’s hope so, John. Thank you, and enjoy your day.

John: All right. Thank you. And for more information, visit the N.E.T.R. website at www.netrinc.com, or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.