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Ignorant Customers Cause Scratchy Heads

April 18, 2011
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Angela D. Harris

Customer education is more important than customer service. Don’t believe it? Ask the contractor who just left a sales call without a signed purchase order. On his way to the truck he scratched his head and asked, “Where did I go wrong?”

During the call, the contractor was knowledgeable, kind, humble, direct but not over the top, and he treated both the husband and wife with respect. The customers seemed pleased and ready to buy. As the final decisions were being made, the contractor began offering IAQ equipment, a yearly maintenance contract, and a duct sealing and/or cleaning option for the near future. All of which are arguably good ideas for any indoor comfort solution. Unfortunately, the price of the higher-efficiency system was already a tough number for the customer’s budget to swallow. When the contractor wanted to add the additional best practice items, the customer balked at the amount of money he would be spending to maintain the air quality of his home. It was at this point that the questioning looks began to furrow the customer’s brow. Mumbling something about a scam and how much air conditioning used to cost, the customer showed the contractor to the door. The deal was off and there stood the contractor scratching his head asking, “Where did I go wrong?”

CUSTOMERS AREN'T ALWAYS RIGHT

Arguably, the contractor really didn’t do anything wrong. Assume for the moment he followed all the rules of sales and customer service to a tee. Taking the contractor out of the equation leaves the responsibility for this botched sale at the customer’s feet, but in this situation, the customer’s reaction to the contractor’s additional sales items seems a bit much. Those in sales will likely admit that pricing is often a problem they must overcome, but the key to explaining the customer’s overreaction is not found in the price, but in the word “scam.” A new air conditioning unit, a new furnace, new air handler; all of these were acceptable products even if the price tag was heftier than the customer expected. Arguably, he accepted the products and their price tags because he knew they were legitimate items. The other add-on products, however, he was not very familiar with and IAQ, yearly maintenance, and duct cleaning weren’t just a “No,” to the contractor, they were perceived as a scam and disqualified the contractor’s expertise and integrity in the mind of the customer. The customer’s ignorance of these legitimate products cost the contractor a sale and has possibly caused damage to his reputation. Where the contractor went wrong was a lack of customer education, but that leaves him scratching his head with another question, “What do I do now?”

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Taking the time to further educate his customer about newer products should help this contractor close more deals; but overcoming the idea that IAQ, maintenance contracts, and duct cleanings lean more towards scam than legitimate HVAC products is going to take an industry-wide effort to make these products legitimate and acceptable items to a customer, despite their price tags.

Associations, manufacturers, and contractors are making these educational efforts and the word is spreading about the importance of these products. Still, there are many missed opportunities. Take for example the HVAC booths at a local home and garden expo I attended earlier this month. There weren’t many HVAC guys exhibiting, and from an education standpoint, their booths left something to be desired. There were multiple pieces of standard, high-efficiency equipment, but attendees were hard pressed to find any IAQ products or informational pieces on the benefits of yearly maintenance. As for duct cleaning, a prominent local duct cleaning company purchased a large space to display its truck, but there weren’t any displays or other devices to show those walking by how dirty their ducts might actually be. When I walked by, there wasn’t even anyone in the booth. What a missed opportunity.

Still not convinced that more education is the solution to your add-on product woes? Then consider the exhibitor with a thermal imaging camera. He offered an attendee a free scan of his home in order to provide an estimate on air leakage remediation. The attendee said, “Why would I need that? I already know where my air leaks are.”

He then walked away leaving the exhibitor and myself standing there scratching our heads.

Publication date: 04/18/2011
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