Above And Beyond: Don’t Just Sell, Deliver!
It goes without saying that HVAC contractors can do more than simply install and service ventilation, heating, and cooling equipment. For contractors looking to boost sales and increase customer loyalty, it is extremely important to help your clients understand the various ways that a professional, experienced contractor can assist their needs. Here is how three companies are successfully showing their customers all the different ways that they can help them create a more comfortable indoor environment. At the same time, they are reaching the pinnacles of customer satisfaction by delivering measurable and tangible results.
A House Is A System
It is essential that homeowners understand that in order for an HVAC contractor to effectively heat and cool a home they must understand the home as a whole and the subsystems within it. Rob Minnick, owner of Minnick’s Inc. in Laurel, MD, endeavors to help his customers understand one key fact: a house is a system. Once they understand that, it is easier to show customers just how much value an HVAC contractor can add to their lives.
The first time a contractor walks into any home, he or she encounters a variety of question marks. It is only by answering these various questions that it is possible to know how to move forward in addressing both the needs of the home and those of the homeowners. Information is key and the best way to get the information is through a home energy audit.
Many Clients Welcome An Energy Audit
Minnick’s perspective on the value of a home energy audit couldn’t be clearer. He explains, “A home energy audit gives us a dashboard of what’s in a home.” The bottom line is that without a home energy audit, how can a contractor truly create the correct data to enter in the load calculation? It has been Minnick’s experience that customers are becoming more educated about the general importance of energy audits. He has seen the awareness levels increase considerably over the last eight years. Minnick points out that years ago customers would respond to the topic of an energy audit with a confused look, stating, “What are you talking about?” But times have definitely changed.
Today, more and more customers see the immediate benefits to their lives and their pocketbooks. Minnick points out that part of the reason that homeowners are seeing the benefits of energy audits is, “Our utility companies offer a program where if you do a home energy audit in Maryland, they will pay $300 of the audit. The homeowner only pays $100. To get your money, you have to enter the energy audit into their software.” Increasingly, homeowners are realizing that the process will save them lots of money over the long haul.
Offering the Customer Full Diagnostics
Minnick’s, Inc. not only performs energy audits, but they also perform HVAC system audits. “We do a dashboard of the ductwork and the equipment. This tells us what we need to fix, and often there are problems with ductwork. Afterwards, we can sit down and have a good conversation with the homeowner.”
Other issues also determine outcomes and the benefit that homeowners will receive. For example, if a manufacturer has a unit with a 16 seer rating, the homeowner will not see that actual level of performance unless the unit is installed correctly. Proper diagnostics are also essential and will help HVAC contractors deliver what they promised.
It is important to perform diagnostics both before and after a system has been installed. This way, it is possible to prove to homeowners that the improvements did indeed matter and that real tangible results have been achieved. Of course, if you have done everything correctly, your customers should also see the advantages with lower utility bills. Your competitors may not be performing diagnostics afterwards to show this improvement, but this is a great way to win over customers and make them happy before the lower utility bills start arriving.
Taking all of these steps gives a contractor a complete list of what they are working with at the start of the process and it becomes clear where to make adjustments. Minnick notes that, “50 percent of the time, once we fix the house, the systems start working better.”
Don’t neglect the value of proper communication with homeowners. When homeowners see proven results, it will serve to underscore that value has been added not only to their HVAC system, but also to their home as a whole.
What Matters Most? A Home’s Big Picture
Troy R. Helton, Jr., owner of Troy R. Helton, Jr. in Santa Clara, CA, has been in the business for 47 years, and the last couple of years he has seen more change in the HVAC business than in all the previous years of his career. Things are moving, changing, and evolving very quickly.
All of this change has meant big improvements and big savings for consumers. Troy points to many examples including Southern California Edison’s programs on quality insulation and maintenance programs. He explains, “Everything is about installing ACCA Standard 5 and that means much higher system performance.”
What is the most significant problem that Troy reports seeing in today’s homes? Like many other contractors, Troy is finding the single largest HVAC problem is occurring in the duct system. Ducts tend to be too small and this, of course, has a tremendous impact on overall system performance. Ducts play a key role in controlling both temperature and moisture in the air, so ensuring proper duct performance is essential for helping homeowners save money and get the most out of their HVAC investment.
It is important to remember that lab conditions and numbers are one thing, and heating a home in real life is quite another. This underscores why it is so important to determine what a home’s requirements are early in the servicing process. Contractors must properly mesh the load requirements with the equipment that is to be used. The right approach and information can change everything, and it is the job of the HVAC professional to help each homeowner understand this.
When it comes to a home, the whole picture is the only picture. A great example of this point is his observations on ENERGY STAR. Many homeowners may believe that buying an ENERGY STAR rated unit is all they need to do. Yet, as Helton points out, “Buying an ENERGY STAR unit and not addressing other key elements such as duct work isn’t enough. A failure to see the whole picture where a home is concerned can quickly lead to the best new unit packed with the latest and greatest technology not living up to its potential.”
No HVAC professional should leave the homeowner left wondering, “What happened? Where is my value?” Helton’s answer to not having this problem is to approach every home with the math and science, so as to ensure a uniform result each and every time.
Customers Want To Know All About Their Homes
Adding value to a home is all about information and providing great and consistent service. Chris Strand, president of Stan’s Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. in Austin, TX, says that few contractors provide more than HVAC service. “Hardly anyone does entire building work, though HVAC contractors are the perfect people to do it. They should be looking at the entire system as a whole, and considering questions like, “Is the ductwork big enough? Is it insulated? Is it leaky?” Asking these questions and then knowing how to address them can transform any home.
Strand’s view is that a true home performance contractor will look at the whole house and find ways to improve it. He believes that the industry as a whole has a real opportunity to look to the future in a new way. “We’re the ones that have the licenses to work on the HVAC systems and we are in people’s homes already. It’s a huge opportunity for people in the industry.” Strand points out that although it requires some extra work, like making alliances, the results are well worth it.
When Strand sends out representatives, they look at every key aspect of a house from the attic to the distribution systems and then provide homeowners with proposals for everything top to bottom. Chris feels that many contractors are missing a huge opportunity. If you make recommendations and have the infrastructure in place to pull off those changes, then new revenue is just waiting to be collected. In Strand’s mind, differentiation is the key and stresses, “Customers want to know the whole picture.”
When it comes down to being at the top of your game, it’s all about using tools to gather the proper information and then presenting those facts to homeowners. Provide tangible proof of both the need for service and the benefits your clients will receive once that work has been completed. Taking the time to showcase the value that has been added to a home is, in the end, the ultimate investment in building a loyal customer base.
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