Scott McKain, author of What Customers Really Want, was the keynote speaker at the ACCA national conference.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The 2007 Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Annual Conference and Indoor Air Expo traveled to the land of Disney, where imagination is the central theme. “If you can imagine it, you can make it happen,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO as he opened the 39th annual meeting.

Nearly 1,000 association members and other professionals gathered for three days of education, networking, socializing, and Imagineering. The keynote speaker, Scott McKain, captured the essence of the three-day meeting when he asked the audience, “What is the most imaginative change your company has made in the last three years that was based upon customer input?”

McKain is the vice president and general manager of Obsidian Enterprises and the best-selling author of All Business is Show Business and What Customers Really Want. He talked about the fact that today’s world, “whether we like it or not, is changing.” According to McKain, managing change or preparing for change is not adequate in today’s world. Implementing change is the only way to stay at the top of the game.

McKain also talked to the packed ballroom at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort about providing customer service.

“Providing good service and good products at a good price isn’t good enough anymore. There are three levels of interaction that you can have with your customers: processing, service, and an experience. Processing is what we do every day to take care of customers needs; often it is those things that the customer doesn’t see or doesn’t know about. Providing service to the customer is that which they see and expect, and they don’t want anything less than good service,” said McKain.

“Good service is simply the requirement that must be met in order for the customer to be happy. Too many people in companies think that providing good service is something special. It’s not,” said McKain.

He then explained to the ACCA contractors how an experience is something that is carved into the mind of the customer, and binds that customer forever to the company. McKain had had an automobile accident in a Hertz rental car. When he called, he must have seemed shaken up because the woman on the line immediately asked “Are you OK, Mr. McKain?” She had asked the same question several times before he slowed down enough to answer that he had not been injured.

McKain finished the story. “She replied, ‘Well, you don’t sound OK right now. That’s why I’m asking. You know, Hertz can always get another car, but we can never get another Mr. McKain. Are you sure you’re OK?’ I told her, ‘Yes, really, I’m not hurt.’

“That was a superior experience with Hertz that I’ll never forget. Do you think I’m a loyal Hertz customer?” asked McKain. The audience collectively nodded as they gained a better understanding of McKain’s message about differentiating one’s company in a world of good service.

The annual CEO Forum at the ACCA national conference provided a few interesting moments as leaders from four major manufacturing companies bantered with “bartender” Mike Murphy, of The NEWS, who moderated the “Belly Up to the Bar” format. The NEWS sponsored the event. The participating executives were (left to right): David Pannier, The Trane Co. and American Standard; Halsey Cook, Carrier Corp.; Tom Huntington, UPG Group of York, a Johnson Controls company; and Dave LaGrand, Nordyne.


During the opening session, Richard Dean spoke to the ACCA members about his year’s tour of duty as the chairman of the association. “One of ACCA’s major accomplishments during 2006 was helping to gain final approval for a joint ACCA/ASHRAE ANSI Standard for Commercial Load Calculations. Creating industry standards through this kind of committee work is a grueling job that took untold man-hours over many months to accomplish. I think that our success in getting a final standard provides a shining example of how giving our time and resources to worthy projects can make important contributions to our industry’s future.”

Dean, who completed his 2006-2007 stint as chairman, will now take a seat on the board as the outgoing chairman. Looking back, he said, “While I’ve had a good year, I don’t envy my successor. Phil [Forner] will face a host of important challenges that ACCA members must continue to take on. I’m sure he’ll find it fascinating, but it won’t be easy dealing with the regulatory issues surrounding 80 percent furnaces and mercury reduction.

“And that’s not all. There are supply problems with refrigerants, questions about standards development, a pressing need to improve contractor-manufacturer relationships and countless other issues. If we, contractors, don’t address them, who will?”

With that challenge issued, Dean stepped off the stage. Later in the week, Phil Forner officially took over the reins as the 2007-2008 chairman. Forner grew up in the HVAC industry, learned about Manual J before he graduated from high school, and enrolled in the HVAC program at Ferris State University immediately after high school.

Forner captured the hearts of the audience with his mild mannerisms on stage and his self-deprecating humor. “Who could have imagined that ACCA would come this far after becoming a federation five years ago?” said Forner. “I know I didn’t; just as I didn’t imagine five years ago that I’d be standing before you today, as chairman. And I’m sure there are some past ACCA board members who certainly didn’t imagine this either! I guess nominating me for ACCA leadership is what Jim Hussey, John Saucier and Skip Snyder would call imagination in action.”

Forner then imagined a number of scenarios that would make the industry a better place. He closed with one challenge that he suggested might make the ACCA association an even better place.

“And finally, imagine if every contractor was an ACCA member. If this were true, what would our industry look like five years from now? Years ago, ACCA might not have tried to affect such major change in our industry; frankly, we were much more inwardly focused. But today’s ACCA has imagination and, more importantly, today’s ACCA has you. With your help, together we can put imagination in action,” said Forner.

The 2008 ACCA Annual Convention is scheduled to be held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 5-7.

Publication date:04/02/2007