The HVAC business has long been a hard one for homeowners to understand. The first time they called you or anyone about their heating and cooling, they were uninformed, tentative about who you were, and what they would need. They bought a house and their HVAC system was simply a part of it.  It should last as long as the house, or so they thought.

The new numbers are in, and the clutter out there in front of the homeowner is huge. Many contractor’s business models, along with technicians with no communications skills, are two forms of clutter. Consumers’ desires to protect themselves with Home Protection Plans, and the emergence of Home Energy Consultants, are two more, that seem to be enough to erode our ability to “consult with the homeowner,” and get the HVAC sale.

 The “energy crisis” and the government’s desire to legislate homeowner buying and use practices, add to the clutter, as do the early season local news stings reporting about crooked HVAC businesses. 

The Internet is more often replacing you as the homeowner’s consultation platform.Even if they know you,  even if you performed their latest clean and check, you may not even get in on the bidding game, much less be the only contractor they call.

We thought it was difficult before. Unfortunately, especially for many small contractors, you’ve not seen anything yet.

The list shown here displays the change in the homeowner’s search for answers when they’re ready to buy their new central equipment. Less than half of them now come to you as their first source of information. That means their decision may well be made before they call you, and now they may not call you at all.

Sources Consumers Have Used to Gather HVAC Information Prior to an HVAC Purchase
(Source: Decision Analyst 2013 Home Comfort Study)

2002
Contractor: 55%
Internet: 21%
Friends, neighbors: 46%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 24%

2004
Contractor: 62%
Internet: 21%
Friends, neighbors: 35%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 7%

2006
Contractor: 66%
Internet: 24%
Friends, neighbors: 29%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 3%

2008
Contractor: 65%
Internet: 28%
Friends, neighbors: 25%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 5%

2010
Contractor: 63%
Internet: 32%
Friends, neighbors: 25%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 5%

2013
Contractor: 43%
Internet: 43%
Friends, neighbors: 35%
Yellow Pages, advertising: 10%

As more contractors devise consultative business models, find better ways to market their companies on the Internet, improve their understanding and explanation of government and energy utility programs and manufacturer programs, and train their technicians in the best ways to approach and talk with homeowners, fewer homeowners will make it to the contractor whose only instructions to technicians is to “make more calls” each day, with less homeowner contact. 

While today you’ll still get the call for the “fix it” homeowner need, your ability to get the central system replacement sale has significantly and officially been reduced.    

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.