What are HVAC contractors using the Internet for these days? Air-Advice Inc., developer of the AirAdvice® HVAC-IAQ™ program, recently asked some HVAC contractors for their input for its online IAQ management tools, titled AirAdvice SmartWeb™ Tools. The goal was to learn what contractors thought about this new Internet business tool.
“At AirAdvice, we count on contractor input to drive all of our IAQ product innovation and development,” said Lucas Klesch, AirAdvice product manager.
“For each new development, we choose an innovation team. These groups of HVAC industry volunteers come from a broad range of business types and locations and each bring different areas of expertise. Their feedback helps us ensure that we’re meeting real-time, right-now contractor needs and providing real value with every diagnostic and business management IAQ tool we deliver.”
One contractor, Jonathon Moscatello of Oregon Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Beaverton, Ore., said this new online tool is as good as anything he has used. “I now have a tool that will rival my [AirAdvice] IAQ business advisor in terms of the power this system gives me,” he said. “The placement and proposal features are going to be invaluable. Process is critical - SmartWeb Tools is going to make my job a lot easier. It puts everything at my fingertips.”
SPEAKING OF FINGERTIPSThe NEWSwanted to know what some AirAdvice users felt about the importance of the Internet in their business - not just for the SmartWeb Tools but also for all applications. Contractors talked about the biggest Internet benefits to them and their businesses.
“Speed and flexibility is important to me,” said Scott Needham of Princeton Air, Princeton, N.J., “It also gives you the ability to transact business when it fits your schedule. It has become a huge timesaver when you are working on an obscure piece of commercial equipment that no one has any info on, and you Google the model number to find all the info and parts you need to fix it.”
An educated customer is the kind that contractor Gary Dorman of M.E. Flow, Leesburg, Va., wants and the Internet is a great educational tool.
“The biggest benefit is that the customers who use the Internet, on average, are better informed as to the quality of the equipment being sold and make their decision with more research,” he said. “This decision-making process gives our company a leg up on our competitors that don’t offer the same quality and level of expertise.”
B.J. De Waal, general manager/IAQ Specialist at BCS Mechanical, Barstow, Calif., operates her business in a high desert area. IAQ selling tools via the Internet are very important to her. She noted that there are new commercial/industry opportunities thanks to Web-based IAQ/zone monitoring. Web-based tools allow her to tap into markets that before, without the Web-based tools, were prohibitively expensive.
“The HVAC industry can be proactive and identify problems before the building management is even aware, and also really help building management control costs, save time, and cut down on complaints,” De Waal said.
USING THE INTERNET TO COMMUNICATESome AirAdvice contractors noted specific ways that they use the Internet as a communication portal with existing and new customers. Charles H. Martin III of Woodfin Oil, Mechanicsville, Va., said, “On a direct level, I keep in touch with homeowners throughout the sales process and beyond.
“One such customer for whom we installed a complete heat pump system asked that I assist her dad, who resides here but works in California, on the installation of a new natural gas hot water boiler. After much correspondence, we were chosen to install the system (yes, we were much higher than others) and we now have another very satisfied customer!”
Needham listed a number of ways he communicates with everyone:
• Process all of our manufacturer warranties online.
• Visit manufacturers’ Websites for parts searches and service bulletins.
• Internet banking with direct deposit and funds transfer.
• Pay payroll taxes and submit forms.
• Receive electronic funds from customers and partners.
• Run credit checks on prospective new commercial customers.
• Order equipment and supplies.
• Order office supplies.
He added his company also uses Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) on all field and sales vehicles that allow them to keep an eye on the fleet and to “help a bit with efficient dispatching of both techs and salespeople.”
Some of the other benefits of having a Website include sales lead generation, offering online discounts, and free tech support for customers. Having a Web presence is an important business tool, according to Martin.
“We try to be proactive in having a good Website,” he said. “It is a good reflection of our company and its potential to assist homeowners.”
AirAdvice® SmartWeb™ Tools was released to AirAdvice customers in October 2006. For more information, contact an IAQ business advisor at 866-247-4800 or visit www.airadvice.com.