ACHRNEWS

Software Promotes HVAC Industry Relevance

February 25, 2008

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less,” said Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former U.S. Army Chief of Staff. He considered change a necessary step as he proposed to “transform” the Army, preparing it not only for war, but also for the future “complicators” that were known and those that weren’t. According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times, “Shinseki’s notion of transformation meant greater reliance on technology, not troops, to achieve goals. It meant more intensified training featuring highly mobile medium-light brigades of mechanized infantry capable of a variety of missions.” It meant a new way of thinking when addressing every day practices.

Today’s HVAC contractors are finding themselves facing these same questions of relevancy and effectiveness. The daily stakes aren’t as high, but the overall risk to their businesses looms as new technology and diversified end user demands require contractors to change their ways of thinking and every day practices.



THINK ONLINE

Contractors seeking to keep up with the times and maintain their relevancy can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Multiple HVAC manufacturers are working to apply these same principles in their businesses as well, and as a result, many are offering assistance to the contractor.

Bryant dealers can take advantage of the Bryant Operating Cost Calculator. This online tool compares an end-user’s current HVAC system with three different Bryant systems. Consulting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather database, the calculator combines the weather data and Bryant’s performance characteristics allowing the contractor to show the end user an estimated annual savings for each of the three systems considered. The NOAA database, which updates hourly, provides current and relevant savings information.

The calculator also consults the information entered by the contractor, including the end user’s location, system, and local utility rates.

“It is an easy, effective way for Bryant dealers to both up sell and show energy savings benefits during their ‘kitchen table’ conversations with customers,” said Kevin Dudash, Bryant brand manager. “This may be especially helpful with today’s high energy prices, as dealers show how effective higher-efficiency units can be.”

Bryant dealers can also take advantage of www.HVACPartners.com, an extranet site developed as a “one-stop” source of information.

“This site is the dealer’s business resource, product resource, advertising and PR resource, and more,” noted Dudash. “For example, Bryant’s complete ad kit is available free online. It’s a great marketing tool.”

This online kit brings new mediums to contractors in pre-produced, customizable forms, opening opportunities in television, radio, newspaper, Internet, and magazine ads. It also provides logos and product photos that can be used for direct mail, door hangers, and outdoor boards. Dealer identification for trucks, vans, building signage, uniforms, apparel, and merchandise is available at the site, along with Spanish-language materials.

The extranet site not only supplies contractors with advertising tools, but it also provides them with instructions as to how to use the tools to their advantage.

“The Bryant ad kit provides dealers with tips for planning and buying advertising,” said Dudash. “It also guides dealers in implementing grassroots marketing, public relations, and local sponsorship opportunities.”



RETHINK TRAINING

As contractors and technicians realize the benefits and the necessity of continued training, they also realize the need to offer updated training methods that not only interest the technician, but also fit into rigorous and diverse daily schedules.

In an effort to help meet this need, Johnson Controls - Unitary Products has released the second installment of the ProficienTECH training series. This two-disc set is part of a series of media-based technical training tools designed for independent contractors, distributors, and technicians. Featuring segments on theory, the air conditioning cycle, components, installation, and service procedures, the 56-minute DVD systematically covers each component in the air conditioning cycle.

“It provides viewers a thorough comprehension of system operation with an easy to understand format,” said the company. “The step-by-step service and troubleshooting information provides technicians the opportunity to better understand the components that make up York®, Coleman®, and Luxaire® air conditioning systems.”

Along with the DVD presentation, contractors have access to the accompanying Windows software as well. This program incorporates a library of services including installation, service, and user documents, video clips, and step-by-step explanation of the electrical sequence of operation. The software and product data is kept up-to-date on the user’s desktop by incorporating an automatic update feature.

“The software is easy to use and designed to automatically update, keeping the most current information at hand,” said Scott Nelmark, manager of training services for Johnson Controls - Unitary Products. “We designed the ProficienTECH training series to ensure that York, Coleman, and Luxaire contractors and distributors always have the information they need to make their service efforts a success.”



CONSIDER AUTOMATION

Goodman Manufacturing Co. has found a way to assist contractors in remaining effective and relevant in day-to-day business. By automating the maintenance of its extended service agreements using ServiceBench’s Extended Warranty Solution, Goodman has pushed a time-consuming and labor-intensive process into a new realm of speed and accuracy. With the ServiceBench system, Goodman distributors and service contractors are able to register and process warranty claims.

ServiceBench, however, doesn’t only offer the Extended Warranty Solution. The company also offers a Field Service Management Solution that consists of the Service Network Center, facilitating interaction between a company, and its service providers, via the Internet. When customers call the customer service hotline, the Service Call Management Solution enables call center agents to capture transaction data, “gaining insights into trends.” Service appointments are then scheduled online. Service technicians are able to update their schedules through an online calendar and using software applications can coordinate service appointments on a handheld device.

According to ServiceBench, data maintenance is alleviated, contractual terms are maintained, and re-authorization of service agreements is automated.

“Furthermore, manufacturers can use the analytics gained from ServiceBench’s service intelligence solution to gain insights into trends such as part failures,” said the company. “Service Management Solutions are beginning to touch all points of service for the HVAC industry and will continue to be a growing trend.”



CLEAR VISION REQUIRED

Software and online applications may not be the solution to every problem in the HVAC industry, but maintaining effectiveness and relevance in a technologic age will require contractors to begin embracing the capabilities both can provide. Shinseki may have lost his position in the government when he called for a “relevant army,” but four years and multiple circumstances later, most critics are calling him “right.”

Publication Date: 02/25/2008