What’s Going on with the Brand You Represent

What's Going on with the Brand You Represent

Notice the wording of this question and how it might be different from “What Is Going on with Your Brand?”  The two are related but more on that later.

Have you read the latest Consumer Reports?  What about your customers, have they?  The May 24, 2013 issue had an article entitled “Comfort Creating Air Conditioners” where they gave consumers buying tips along with the results of the latest reliability survey.  Brands rated included American Standard, Bryant, Rheem, Trane, Carrier, Lennox, Goodman, Ruud, York and Amana.  There reliability study was based on data from responses from over 40,000 readers who brought central air conditioners or heat pumps from 2005 through mid-2011.  The tagline underneath the headline “Central Air-Conditioning Reliability” was the tagline, “Our latest survey found three brands that you should think twice about.”  How will you react if you go into a consumer’s home and they start asking you questions based on the fact that you represent one of these three brands?

Broadly speaking, it might be one of two reactions.  The first would be to downplay or even denigrate the article, which would be a big mistake for two reasons.  The first is that there probably is something to the results of a 40,000 person strong survey conducted by someone as reputable as Consumer Reports.  The second and more important one is that by running down the article you are running down your consumer.  There is a better way.

Even if you haven’t read the report, acknowledge your customers legitimacy by thanking them for the information and letting them know that you have not yet seen the article.  If you have read it let them know and ask them what they thought of it.  This way you get an opportunity to see their perspective before delivering on yours.

After your discussion about the product, you have a great opportunity to remind them that the most important brand of all is the contractor they choose for installation and service.  “After all,” you can remind them, “even the best product poorly installed will not perform up to its capabilities or expectations.”  At that point you are perfectly positioned to lead the discussion about solutions to their specific needs.

Performance Contracting, Where Does Your Business Fit?

Performance Contracting, ACCA, Energy Saving HVAC

We have all heard the expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  For HVAC contractors, that means approaching a building as a coordinated system rather than a structure that contains mechanical equipment.  In October, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) explored this topic in detail when they held their inaugural building performance forum in Austin, Texas.  Taking this approach offers your customers big opportunities for saving energy and increasing comfort while providing enhanced profit opportunities for your company.  One of the speakers at the forum, Michelle Knaszak said “It’s very important that you do your research before jumping in with both feet.  You have to learn to crawl before you run a marathon.”  Michele is director of training and operations for Green Homes America.  What are some of the elements of performance contracting?

According to Knaszak, the logical first step is to examine attic insulation and air sealing.  “It’s unbelievable how much more comfortable and energy-efficient a structure can be when you combine shell work with mechanical work” she said.  Once you have addressed attic insulation and leakages in the air distribution system, you are ready to move on to doors and windows.  Temperature controls, lighting and zoning also present potential, particularly in older structures.

Performance contracting represents a completely different thought process from selling heating and air-conditioning units, so it’s critically important that you educate your organization and do your research before jumping in to this growing area.  Once you have done your homework however and are ready to take the plunge, performance contracting offers virtually unlimited opportunities to significantly increase your labor efficiency and average ticket along with your profit margin.  It is also a way to differentiate your firm from those companies who are simply looking to change out a condensing unit or furnace.  Ellis Diels, chairman of ACCA’s building performance Council perhaps said it best.  “The time is now for the HVAC industry to realize its full potential.  Only we have the expertise, skills, customer relationships, and marketing savvy to term building performance into a true market driven business and not some government funded boondoggle.”

Something to ponder as you turn the page to 2013 in your business.

Presenting the Price in a Flat Rate World: Part 2

Presenting the Diagnosis to the Consumer Using Flat Rate Pricing.

 “Okay, Mrs. Smith,” you start out.  “I have done my evaluation of your system and let me point out what I did, what I found and how we’re going to get you fixed up”.  “I found that in fact your bearings were the reason you heard the noise coming from your furnace.  During my evaluation I also found that the blower itself is dirty, which needs to be cleaned when I’m changing the motor.  Your blower is a “squirrel cage type”, here’s a picture of what it looks like.  I also found that the burner in the furnace needs to be cleaned and while it’s still summer, I can give you a discount on the repair if I do it while I’m here.  Finally, your humidifier pad also needs changing and I am recommending a system check out of your humidifier.”

You should point to the line item on the work order, and using the exploded views of the equipment in the Technician’s Flat Rate Manual, point out the Customer narratives for them to read.  Don’t forget to have the Tear offs ready to use and leave behind with the work order.  For each recommended repair, you will insert a price taken from the Flat Rate Manual. Let the customer see the manual and that the prices are published, based upon a national standard.  This will alleviate price concerns.

Show the customer that the additional repairs are discounted and that they would receive the discounted price had they owned a service plan from your company.  Be prepared to offer them a completed service plan at this time and be prepared to offer them the repair prices from the service agreement column.

Ask the customer to approve the suggestions.  If they tell you that they really didn’t plan on spending that kind of money today, the first thing you let them know is the discounts they would receive if they had a service plan.  If they don’t want that, inform them that they could perhaps wait a month or so to do the burner cleaning or the humidifier service, but that you MUST replace the motor and clean the blower.  Have them initial (not check mark) the boxes for the repairs that they approve and the boxes for the repairs that they decline..  They might just tell you to do everything, especially when you tell them that your company accepts MasterCard, Visa and American Express.

Because you presented options, consequences and a way to pay, chances are the customer will tell you to do all of the recommended tasks. But even if they don’t, you now have a paper trail of the things that will eventually have to be done anyway.  Guess who gets to do those?  Your company, of course and if the humidifier malfunctions or the burner won’t light, you can now say that it was recommended during the service call. You look better in the homeowner’s eyes because you have made your professional evaluation and recommendations.

You are now being judged by the quality of the service you provide, NOT on your hourly rate.