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Turning Dust Into Gold

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HVAC contractors routinely get calls from homeowners wanting a duct cleaning quote. Some perform it in-house, creating a $400-$600 sale. Others sub it out or refer it to a local specialist. Many contractors simply don’t want to get involved, even going so far as saying duct cleaning is a waste of money. No matter how it’s handled, many consider these to be low opportunity “nuisance leads.”

However, some have learned how to better meet these customers’ IAQ needs and also greatly increase  revenue — typically to between $3,000 and $10,000+ higher margin sales. How? By using their website to educate customers about the benefits of performing a Home Performance assessment.

“That’s one of our favorite phone calls we get: ‘I want a price for cleaning my ductwork’,” says John Waldorf, GM of Estes Services in Atlanta GA. “We regularly turn those into tests.”

“I always direct the customer to go to our website to see the videos,” continues Same Rhone, Estes comfort advisor. “I say you should check this out, just to be sure before you spend the money on duct cleaning, go take a look at the video and get an idea of what else we can do, because otherwise a year from now you’ll probably call us back and say your ducts are still dirty. Once they look they call us back and say, ‘how much does the testing cost?’”

“When a customer calls and asks for a duct cleaning quote, we always ask ‘why do you want to get your ductwork cleaned?’” says Steve Schmidt of Frederick Air in Frederick, MD. “It forces them to come up with what the real problem is, which nine times out of 10 is ‘well I have a lot of dust in my house.’” We then ask, ‘well did you want to spend money to get your ducts cleaned, or did you want to solve your dust problem?’ That opens up the conversation about testing.”

“We give a quick overview of what could happen, but then driving them to our website is key,” says Schmidt. “In fact we barely want to talk to them before they’ve watched the online videos. We have this wealth of information to teach the homeowner what they need to know. So we actually say to them ‘tell you what, take a couple of minutes, go to our website, and watch these two videos and then we’ll have another talk.’”

“We usually charge under $200 to do a basic blower door and duct leakage test, says Rhone. “That seems to be very successful, because people aren’t apprehensive, they don’t feel it’s that expensive, and they’re allowing us to get in there and we turn it into a larger job. We might do duct sealing, a dehumidification system, a house doctor sealing day, air cleaners, an encapsulation of a crawlspace. Sometimes it turns into equipment, a lot of times it turns into zoning, you get a bit of everything.”

After performing the blower door, duct leakage, and negative pressure testing, and showing the customer how dust is getting into their home, Frederick Air has had good success reducing it by performing duct sealing and attic retrofitting.

Schmidt compares duct cleaning callers to people who take their car in to the mechanic because it’s making a funny noise. “When a customer calls us and says they want to have their ducts cleaned, they are saying ‘I’m a person who when I see a problem I do something about it’. They are perfect customers, because if we recommend something to them, they’re likely going to pay attention to us. They are calling thinking ‘I’m willing to spend some money to solve the problem’. The real problem is they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about or what’s causing their dust. But at least we’ve got them talking and they are open to the possibility. What we do is then educate them and become the expert for them.”

While there are many ways to generate Home Performance test leads, the best are often the IAQ leads that are trickling in every day. Next time someone calls your office or asks a service tech for a duct cleaning quote, or an air cleaner estimate, or a price on a humidifier … offer to test, not guess. Both you and the customer will come out far ahead.

Posted In: ACCA Now, Building Performance

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