ACHRNEWS

Loyalty Isn't What It Used to Be

September 24, 2007
Butch Welsch

A couple of recent incidents have made it clear to me how much our society has changed when it comes to loyalty. As contractors, we have always counted on certain customers to be loyal when it came time to make a purchase. However, with the availability of information, the fast pace of everyone’s lifestyle, maybe we can’t count on loyalties like we have in the past.

Those who have read this space before know that I try to look at the positive side of things and truly think of the glass as half full. On the issue of being loyal to a contractor or not, I had to think hard to come up with a way to make a positive out of the current situation. After a couple of examples, I’ll let you know what I feel we can do to make a seemingly negative into a positive.

LOYALTY: PART ONE & TWO

The first incident occurred when my cousin (a widow, living alone), called and said her 20-plus-year-old air conditioner was acting up and could I give her a good deal on a replacement. I said “Of course” and dispatched a sales engineer to her home. He found, as I anticipated, the house was in need of repairs and especially needed a new furnace and air conditioner. He went about sizing the home, checking the ductwork, and doing all of the things we would typically do in preparing a proposal. He explained to my cousin that, because of the relationship, he wanted to review the pricing numbers with me and would get back to her later in the day. As he was finalizing his notes, he was surprised to see brochures from not one, but two of our competitors. When he explained the situation to me, I was disappointed but not surprised.

The second incident occurred unfortunately to the same sales engineer. A tennis friend of my wife called and said an air conditioning company she had out said she needed a replacement. She knew we installed units but didn’t know we serviced them as well (shame on us). She asked if we would give her a good price to replace her system. Our sales engineer only found brochures from one competitor during his inspection, however, as he was leaving, he was met at the door by another competitor.

HOW TO INCREASE LOYALTY

We, as contractors, have never been afraid of competition and have always prided ourselves in our ability to outsell our competition honestly and fairly. However, in these two incidents I was somewhat surprised that both individuals would have sought quotes from at least two other contractors.

After giving it some thought, I believe I have determined that the loyalty doesn’t have as much of a presence in business as it once had. With so much information, both true and false, available to buyers through the Internet, buyers are at least seemingly more informed than ever. With all of that information available to them, it is only natural, I suppose, that a buyer would seek more than one quote.

Now for the positive aspects of this writing.

We were successful in getting both of these jobs and at our normal margins. And I believe we learned some valuable lessons. If the amount of loyalty is going to decrease, we need to increase the number of our maintenance agreement customers to ensure a steady number of loyal customers.

Additionally, we are going to have to continue to work even harder to satisfy our customers in order to make sure that they will, hopefully, be loyal to our company. We have to realize that we can’t sit back and assume that customers are going to be loyal to us, regardless of their relationship. Times have changed and so has loyalty.

Publication date: 09/24/2007