Over the course of 2012, 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: How important to your next sale is your last one?

A: Our surveys over the years have included this question for residential HVAC customers: “Think for a moment about your experience with your new heating and/or air conditioning system. With how many friends, neighbors, or coworkers, if any, have you discussed your experience (whether positive or negative)?”

Here’s how they’ve answered over the years:

  • 2002: 72% discussed their home comfort experience with an average of 6.3 people.
  • 2004: 81% discussed their home comfort experience with an average of 5.4 people.
  • 2006: 72% discussed their home comfort experience with an average of 5.1 people.
  • 2008: 76% discussed their home comfort experience with an average of 5.2 people.
  • 2010: 78% discussed their home comfort experience with an average of 5.1 people.

Power of the Spoken Word
Do you know how many of these customer “talkers” are helping your phone ring? Do you know how many have diverted a possible customer? How many of them — who may have called you to fix their unit — didn’t call, because a past customer shared a poor experience they had with one of your professional installers, or with you?

Customers who bought a system recently — and who will tell others about the experience — will, on average, tell five others about their purchase. Slightly more will talk about their experience if they bought super high efficiency equipment. Of course, homeowners with a bad experience will tell even more. Those most apt to relate their experience to the largest number of others, are those who take the longest time to decide on the new equipment they buy.

So based on the research, count on your customers (those who do talk to others) to talk to between five to seven others about their purchase. Based on your knowledge of the way your technicians treat customers, consider how many of your past customers may have brought you other customers. Consider how many potential customers may have steered clear of your company because of your past customers.

How are you harnessing their desire to share their experience with ways you can further your success?

1. Do you have a feedback process in place to quickly find those who are disappointed?

a. What do you do when you know “Ms. Smith” isn’t happy?

b. Does your feedback process include direct communication between someone who will impress Ms. Smith?

c. Can the person talking with Ms. Smith make sure her problem can be fixed quickly and permanently and convey that fact in a positive way?

2. Do you have a process in place to quickly find those who are the happiest with your work?

a. When done right, a large part of your season sales could come from this effort.

b. Be careful here, programs designed for this group, may alienate them and can kill a good season and greatly reduce your “happy customer group.” Research your plans and programs to make sure they will work.

c. What are your programs for this important outreach group of customers? They could include:

  • Postcard-sized advertisement for them to hand to those with whom they talk?
  • Reward program for your happy customer and their referred lead?
  • Neighborhood hang-tag programs?
  • Shared referral program with other trades-friends, and a process of getting leads to each other quickly?
  • Book of work performed (including pictures) that your staff can show customers, which includes happy customers’ home sites?

The days of employing good technicians who aren’t skilled at talking with clients and still being successful no longer exist. Today, you must market your company and your technicians through each team member. One, who doesn’t know how to treat the customer, can spoil many, many opportunities.

For many of you, the next few months will make or break your year. What are you doing to have every member of your company ready for the PR they need, every time?

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.