Financing Can Boost HVAC Summer Sales

June 25, 2007
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Jim and Billie Thompson are the owners of Thompson Services Unlimited, a residential HVACR-plumbing-electrical contractor in Rockvale, Tenn. The family-owned and -operated company “was a dream that started over 20 years ago” by mechanically minded Jim Thompson.

Part of the company’s reality is to offer affordable, sensible comfort solutions to customers. It’s part of the reason why the contractor is offering financing through its Maytag (Nordyne) HVAC lines.

The Heating and Air Department also is part of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dealer Club - the contractor offers ductless HVAC products, which increases its flexibility still more. “This group of guys are surely to be able to come up with a sensible solution to making your home comfortable,” said Thompson.

HVAC FINANCING

“The consumer financing program is working very well for us,” he said. “It has done wonders for us.

“I would say that since we offered it, 50 percent of our customers take us up on financing of some sort.” The company has been offering it approximately 90 days.

“It’s roughly a 50-50 combination of new and repeat customers,” he said. With the ability to get financing, customers seem to feel better about buying better equipment than they might have without financing. “About 70 percent of our customers will upgrade their equipment if financing is available,” Thompson said.

Roughly one out of 25 customers will not qualify for the main financing. A second level of financing is available for those customers with a higher interest rate; “but we have found that if they don’t qualify for the first level, they probably won’t qualify on any level.”

When the program was first offered through Thompson Service Unlimited, the offer was for 12 months same as cash, with zero cost to the consumer.

“Now it goes 90 days same as cash,” Thompson said. The initial offer primed the pumps, so to speak. “They primed us well!

“We have not advertised the financing except through word of mouth in the field, and on our billboard,” he continued. “I credit all the customer interest to the service techs. They get a commission on every sale. They don’t get any different spiff if it’s a financed sale or if the customer’s paying. The advantage is, a lot of customers will make a quicker decision.”

They also tend to spend more if it’s financed.

GAS AND ELECTRIC TOO

Thompson’s background includes a lot of work in the gas industry, which resulted in his input in area code books, plus work in Operational Management for the state of Georgia (“the largest single supplier of natural gas in North America,” the contractor pointed out).

It’s no surprise, then, that the contractor’s natural gas and propane work is the cornerstone of the business. “Our shop is designed to allow customers to come and see live burns of our many selections of Empire and Vanguard logs.” The company is looking to expand into propane delivery.

On the electrical side, the company has experience in “heavy residential” (high-tech), commercial, and industrial work. “No job is too large or too small,” Thompson said.

The company runs four trucks and subcontracts some of its installation work. “We cater primarily to changeout customers,” Thompson said. “Five percent of the work is new construction.”

SELLING MADE SIMPLER

When Complete Comfort Heating and Air Conditioning, Cleveland, Ga., finally started using the finance program Nordyne offers, “within six to eight weeks we sold five jobs that we might not have gotten without consumer financing,” said Dennis Wiley. “I’m using the deferred interest/deferred payment.

“A lot of the time, homeowners don’t have the money to fork out for a new system,” he said. Financing gives them the money and time to pay it off. Even with “a little bit higher interest rate, I still get the job because of the financing.

“I’m a very honest person,” Wiley continued. “I try to do everything like I’m doing it for myself. I have a Spacegard filtration system at home. I mainly sell Ultravation now,” he said. “It has this box that I really, really like. The furnace sits on top of the box, and it makes a really pretty installation.

Wiley has been in HVAC contracting two years - “not long” - primarily in the residential market. “I have three employees, two installers and a secretary. I am the service technician-estimator-do it all.”

For most homeowners, air quality is a big issue. “IAQ is probably their No. 1 concern,” he said. “It’s becoming a bigger issue, too.” Financing helps them get the solutions they are looking for.

Sidebar: Starting Up the Business

Jim Thompson, his wife Billie, and son Lucas started on the journey of company ownership just a few years ago in a room above their home’s garage, though it had been a dream of Jim’s for more than 20 years.

The business plan was to develop the site in Rockvale, Tenn., as a showroom for gas products such as logs and grilles, while also leasing out ministorages through five different buildings on the 5 acre site.

In addition to his roots in the gas industry, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC were also fields that Jim Thompson had worked in during his career. It seemed to fit in the business plan perfectly.

“In just three years, our business plan has quadrupled from what was originally expected, from the number of employees to the amount of work we are doing,” said Thompson. “We would like to think that it is our stellar service that has allowed us to be so blessed.”

Publication date: 06/25/2007

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