How should HVAC contractors be ‘talking to’ homeowners about their newly-installed HVAC system?

A friend in another industry was telling me about how his company was working on “dumbing down” some information for other departments in the company. The thinking is that “dumbing down” helps others understand concepts better.

I’ve been in and a part of this industry since the mid 1980s, and back then R&D dumbed down the words when speaking with marketing. Manufacturers dumbed down the words to speak with distributors, distributors dumbed down the words to speak with the manufacturer and contractor, and they all either chose to ignore the homeowner, or “dumbed down the words” when speaking to them. It’s a mindset, and it disrespects the speaker and those spoken to.

Decision Analyst, Inc.
has researched contractor and homeowner service call interactions, and contractor and homeowner replacement of central product interactions over the years. Service contractors have lost much of the “dumbing it down” mind set when servicing customers homes. This can be whether they’re checking a working system before the next season hits, or actually repairing their existing central equipment.
But it’s the installing contractors who have dropped the ball.

As your new selling season approaches, where are the areas that need change in your sale of replacement equipment and installation processes? Is it just a mindset, or does it go farther than that? For years our homeowners have looked to us when needing new central equipment, and asked us to be their consultants. Often, the research shows, this is where we failed them. We either didn’t want to be, didn’t have enough time to be, or plain didn’t know how to be a consultant.  

We’ve reported it before, but here it is again: following the installation of a new piece of central comfort equipment, one in 10 customers will not use the installing contractor again. Many will not only not recommend the contractor, but will tell friends and family not to use the contractor as well. Right at the place when our businesses should be at its best, too often, too many of us fail. Here are communication/operations items missed by installing contractors, according to our 2010 study:

  • after installation, 60% didn’t talk to the homeowner about the system, and how to start it
  • 53% of customers aren’t seeing the energy bill reductions they expected
  • 52% said not all rooms are receiving the expected heating or cooling
  • 50%/49% said the operation and maintenance of their central equipment wasn’t explained
  • 41% said the contractor and/or crew didn’t keep the home clean
  • 38% of those surveyed said the purchased product didn’t meet customer home comfort needs.

All too often we fail to take the time needed to keep our service homeowners happy when it comes to their purchase of new equipment. All too often we fail to really become the consultant they have wanted. All too often, younger homeowners are no longer asking us what they should consider. They’re beginning to replace us with the knowledge they find online.     

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.