Q:What do your customers think of you and your services?

A: What do any of the items listed in Table 1 have to do with your business? It’s simple, all of the experiences listed often require:

  • a large investment
  • a large investment, spent with strangers
  • a large investment, spent with strangers, to make your life and those around you more fun and/or comfortable.

Once you’ve been to that last call, the one that resulted in replacing the existing central air conditioning equipment in your customer’s home, in which column do you think your customer placed your visit?

The main difference between the two columns, is that the situations in Column A share an element of fear.

I mentioned this concept to a colleague, and her response is worth sharing. The heat pump in her condo stopped working. She found a contractor in the Yellow Pages and called. The technician came out, looked at the equipment, determined that no fix was possible, and told her the cost of a replacement unit. The technician’s demeanor and his price quote stunned her. Fear of the unknown set in, and she said she would have to think about the purchase before making a decision.

The technician collected the payment required for coming out to the house and left. His demeanor, lack of empathy, and his look, left my colleague determined not to buy from his shop, even if she had to pay more with another contractor. And so, her first encounter with an HVAC problem was a poor one. The encounter for the first contractor who came to her condo was equally poor. His time on the job resulted in a break-even trip, and the certainty of developing a poor reputation with my colleague’s neighbors and friends.

It’s Your Business, But . . .
You determine the way in which most of your customers categorize you. You can build your business to be a respected, sought after provider of home comfort. You can help them plan their best comfort system over time, and help them provide for the expenditure ahead of time. With your help, they can actually look forward to the new system in 14 to 20 years, and what it will provide, rather than be frightened by an unexpected cost. You can be the welcomed bringer of knowledge. Show them what their purchase decision can mean to their reoccurring monthly payments, with an explanation of first costs versus a reduction in their monthly energy bills.

Consider your business model. In what way do you find most of your customers? Are you surprised when they call? How do you ensure their exclusive and continued use of your services?

I’m not talking about the services or products you sell or employ, but rather, the way you and your technicians interact with your customers. You train your staff to service and install the equipment, and you normally do a good job of that. But what kind of budget and focus do you have for training great technicians to become great relationship consultants?

The phenomenon described in this article is something many contractors see coming. We at Decision Analyst see it, and while the HVAC industry is slow to change, I believe you’ll see more companies from outside your territory who understand how to consult with the homeowner, entering your market. Local laws will require homes to become more energy efficient, and the good, innovative contractors who know how to make service like a trip to DisneyWorld will get the work.

Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at gupton@decisionanalyst.com.