Over the course of 2011, this space will identify opportunities within customers’ homes that you may not have observed in the past. The opportunities are based on a recent homeowner survey conducted by Decision Analyst, Inc.

Q: What can a company do to improve its community outreach and name recognition?

A: A friend of mine is taking over full management of the family business from his father, but he wants to find an activity for his father, who can still fill a useful role.

This made me think of a friend, the late Raymon Wells, a contractor I met when I took over an HVAC distribution branch in Dallas, TX. He would install HVAC systems as gifts for churches and other organizations. What a great friend for a company, a community, for myself, and others. I remember his request that I help with community causes as his distributor of choice, and the way he was able to influence my decision to support some of his efforts.

My thoughts then turned to the research project I had completed a few months ago. It covered service calls with homeowners. I asked my friend about his company and his father. Did the company and his dad have an active community outreach program? Was his father interested in clubs, associations, and church? Then, I asked if he knew that three of every 10 homeowner referrals come from friends, family members, or co-workers.

A referral usually indicates that the customer is happy with the contractors’ work. In Raymon’s case it also meant they were impressed with things they knew about the company and about Raymon. Their work for the community and the company’s outreach was as important (maybe more) as customers’ being able to recall and recommend the company name.

He said this would be the perfect opportunity for his active father to support the company and community, as a one-man outreach and advocate for the firm. It fell in sync with his Lions Club membership, his golf, his role in his church, and other activities that kept him and the company visible in the community.

In the HVAC industry, giving back to the community strengthens a business in a very real and direct way. Your company’s founder, and/or your soon-to-retire veterans may be just the advocates and outreach champions your company can use, as they begin their move from the business of the job, to the business of living and contributing in semi-retirement.

Garry Upton, of Decision Analyst, Inc., Arlington, TX, shares his interpretations of Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners, and explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at guptom@decisionanalyst.com.