Selling Green in a Changing Economy

January 19, 2009
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Mike Treas

As the price of fuel and copper goes up, the heating and air conditioning industry is being hit from all sides. It cost you more to drive to your customer. Some of you have even reduced your market area to save fuel. Manufacturers are seeing their costs go up and have passed along price increases to you to account for it. Job losses, food prices, the price of gasoline, etc., all have led to financial strains your customers have to face everyday.

So, how are your customers handling the situation? Well, many of them are holding onto their money, spending it only on necessities. A lot of Americans are waiting to see how the Barack Obama administration affects the economy, taxes, and utilities.

Are you with me so far?

To a great extent, you have to agree that holding onto your money is a smart thing to do and riding out the storm for a little while longer makes sense. And when you find a way to save money, you need to jump on it because it may mean that your savings or return on investment might either pay for itself or something else. If you could reduce your yearly household operating expense by $500 to $800, would you want to know how to do that? Most people would.



GET TECH INVOLVEMENT

The average life expectancy of a comfort system is somewhere between 15 and 20 years. When a comfort system is approaching 15 years of age or is just running poorly, it is the duty of the technician to let the customer know. When you perform an operating cost comparison for your customer and show them that over the next five years they can save over $2,500 in utility payments, many of them will want to know how. The trick is getting your technicians in the habit of presenting operating costs to their customers.

Remember, technicians are proud of their abilities to fix things and are apprehensive about making other recommendations. However, when they begin to understand that their job is to help people save money, be healthier, and be more comfortable and safe, they open their minds to how they can do these things.

Your technicians are seeing the same challenges your customers see and have compassion for them. So, without knowing any better, they will recommend repair over replace. When they start using an operating cost comparison program and present utility overpayments to their customers, they begin to understand the true savings someone could expect. When they are convinced that a new comfort system saves a substantial amount of money in a very short time, they are more willing to begin to share that information with more and more people.

They should make other recommendations, too. Every product your company offers is beneficial to your customer. A programmable thermostat saves 8 to 10 percent off utility bills. High-efficiency filtration keeps your system clean and increases efficiency, therefore lowering utility bills. IAQ also helps the homeowners to become healthier, possibly lowering medical costs. Modifying ductwork to increase airflow makes the system more efficient, lowering utility bills too. Adding humidity in the winter makes the air feel more comfortable at lower temperatures, allowing the homeowner to be comfortable at lower temperatures, which saves them money. Regular tune-ups keep the comfort system running at peak efficiency, which keeps the utility bills down. I can do this all day, but you get the point.



MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS

Do not offer one thing to a customer that does not directly correlate to saving money in some way. And don’t forget that lowering utility bills means using less of our precious natural resources, which we all benefit from. Do your technicians truly understand this? It has been my experience that when they come to this revelation, they become excited about sharing it with their customers.

Every home your technicians enter has issues beyond the repair and, in most cases, there are many. Your technicians should be making approximately three recommendations to every customer. These recommendations should be presented as ways to save money and be healthier. Recommendations can consist of IAQ products and services, replacement, ductwork modifications, or upgrading the thermostat. They should even make recommendations for products and services you don’t offer, such as replacing old drafty windows or adding insulation. The customer will appreciate it and your technicians will become a valued consultant to your client base.

Your customer service representative (CSR) is your front line and can set the stage for the technician to be successful in making a difference in the lives of their customers through recommendations. Encourage your CSRs to let the customer know that the technician will find out what the problem is today and they will also be looking for anything that may be costing the customer more than it should just to heat and cool their home.

When a technician gives the customer a choice of fixing it today and overpay the utility company for as long as they own their system or replace it with a high-efficiency system that will cost them very little out-of-pocket money, if any, most want to know more. And, by making note of other recommendations on the invoice and telling the customer about them, you might not have to eat a service call for a bad contactor because the technician told the customer it needed to be replaced.

Your technicians will visit approximately 1,000 homes this winter. Over 90 percent of these homes have issues beyond the repair that your company can help with. Are your technicians prepared to take advantage of these opportunities to help customers save money? Do they have the tools and been taught how to present their findings to the customer? Will your company see a stellar year with high average tickets and more replacement jobs? It is all up to you.

Meet with your entire team soon and talk to them about their role in helping customers. Everyone on your team is a contributor to the success of your company. Give them the tools and teach them how to help customers save money, be healthier, and become more comfortable than ever before.

Publication date: 01/19/2009

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