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A Contractor’s Perspective: 6 Questions on Differentiating “From the Top”

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“Differentiation” is one of those words that gets a lot of buzz. But what does differentiation mean for the HVAC contracting business? For Tom Casey, Chief Visionary Officer at Griffin Service in Jacksonville Florida, differentiation transcends technical expertise, industry credentials or marketing strategies. It’s about a culture that embraces a four-letter word “C-A-R-E”.

As a member of the Owens Corning AirCare Contractor Program, Griffin Service has added “attic restoration” into its whole-home approach to creating comfortable homes.  Below, Tom chats about how focusing on what homeowners care about most can differentiate a contracting business, build customer trust and drive referrals.

  1. Why is an HVAC contractor conducting attic renovations?

As contractors, we’re in the business of creating comfortable homes and fixing things that take away from comfort – like a bedroom that is consistently too warm, particulates in the air that aggravate allergies, or musty smells. Problems with attic ductwork can perpetuate these problems. A homeowner might invest in a high-efficiency air system and filters, only to filter the particulates and send them back into their homes again. Getting the ductwork right is part of a broader approach to a high-performing home.

We make a point of advising customers that what’s going on in the attic could potentially have an impact on the install or service work we’re doing, and we ask if we  can check out the attic space. It builds trust with the customer and positions our team as experts. Even if the customer opts not to address problems with ductwork, noting the issue positions our team as diagnosticians and consultants who understand how the house works as a system to create what the customer cares about -a comfortable space.

  1. How does Griffin Service introduce ductwork into a service call?

In the southern region, the ceiling is second only to windows when it comes to allowing heat to enter a home. While we can’t do a lot about heat entering via windows, we can reduce one of the largest ways customers’ homes gain heat – through the ceiling. We’re also living in a time when indoor air quality is a huge issue for our customers. So, we talk about how holes or bad connections in ductwork can allow particulates to enter the conditioned living area. We’re not talking about adding insulation, the R-value of a product or the efficiency of a system; but about the problem the customer wants to solve.

When our techs get into the attic space, they can thoughtfully inspect the area and identify holes that need to be sealed, evaluate how the ductwork runs, lighting or ventilation issues, etc. This approach goes beyond blowing in attic insulation, and brings a whole home approach to the project that companies in various sub-trades cannot holistically solve. Being positioned as an Owens Corning AirCare attic renovation specialist with HVAC duct retrofit expertise differentiates us in the marketplace.

  1. How do you get the customer to think about how the attic influences their comfort at home?

Tom: We focus on educating the customer about conditions that interfere with their home comfort. When it comes to homes built on a slab, the nastiest air that infiltrates a house comes from the attic. So, we ask customers, “Do you enjoy the air in your attic? Would you feel OK letting your family camp up there for a night?” If the ductwork is leaking, the customer is actually breathing in attic air – adversely affecting occupants’ comfort, energy, and their enjoyment of home. Once we’ve raised the customer’s awareness of how attic air can influence comfort, we ask homeowners if they are interested in learning about a solution to fix the attic. That really opens up the door for a conversation about ductwork.

  1. What business opportunities does ductwork present in the attic?

While adding insulation is an additional revenue stream, it’s only an incremental part of the broader objective – creating a comfortable home. Ductwork provides an extra conversion tool that positions the contractor as a problem solver, elevates technical expertise and build trust.

Because Owens Corning vets the contractors who enter the AirCare Contractor Program, we can point to the confidence a global brand places in the program.

And while the attic opens up additional opportunities, we don’t expect every homeowner will say “yes” to this service. We follow the 80/20 rule. If 20% of homeowners say “yes,” this add-on service can have a significant impact on bottom line. And in the longer run, we are positioning the contractor as an expert capable of fixing comfort in the whole house – from indoor air quality to energy bills to a home where people are comfortable.  It comes down to what the homeowner cares and doesn’t care about. The homeowner doesn’t care about technical details or materials – but about the quality of the air in their home.

Ultimately, being selected to participate in the cohort is not about the revenue stream; it’s about the circle of trust and differentiation.

  1. How have you shared this mindset with your team?

Culture is a multi-pronged tool. First, you have to stand for something and we prioritize integrity as a core value.  We are proud that we sell nothing – we are advisors and in-home consultants which helps us build trust. We don’t want to be the dealer who is just there to swap out AC units.

We also think about the market we want to serve. One-third of the market is a price-focused customer, driven by the lowest cost. Another third can be described as value customers who are willing to spend a little more to get value – our target customers. Then there is a final third who are sitting on the fence and can be influenced to move toward value. Our opportunity is to shift them to the value side of the fence. The AirCare program helps us differentiate and convert customers to the value side of the conversation.

We’re in a reputation-based economy where we live off reviews, referrals, social media. A text from a customer saying, “I trust Griffin with everything” is the fuel that differentiates us in the business; especially when that customer refers us to a friend and shares her trust in our business.

  1. How are you marketing your inclusion in the Air Care Contractor Program?

Aside from letting customers know we’re vetted by Owens Corning, we are bringing the attic concept into our offices. We’re currently building an attic in our warehouse so we can demonstrate how ductwork in the attic influences air quality. And we’ll invite customers to come see the attic in our shop. While customers don’t care about the technology – they do care about their allergies, and this model will allow us to visibly explain how attic design – lighting, ventilation, insulation, ducts – work together to solve their problem.

Contractors can learn more about becoming part of the Air Care Contractor Program by visiting

Jessica Bazzi

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