Tom Warner

Customers within my company, Utility Service Express’, Reston, Va., market want to be empowered. They want to be in control of their own research processes and buying decisions. Most of them are upper income and middle class professionals who prefer to shop and make buying decisions online at their convenience.

They also want to extensively research products, brands, and systems before buying, but are often too busy or don’t want to wait for a sales staff member to walk through the door and sell. In fact, many of my customers don’t want what the salesman wants to sell; they want what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. With this in mind, I applied my 40 years of HVAC and plumbing systems experience into developing an Internet-based sales system that works.


For the past two years, homeowners have used Utility Service Express’ Website,, to get an HVAC cost estimate, and in many cases, purchase the system quoted. It is designed as a magazine highlighting and informing customers about our many services. But most importantly, it is available all the time.

From our Website, clients can click on the flashing “Immediate HVAC Quote” and then be instantly directed to’s online customer segment that prompts the user for specific information. Using the data entered, the program provides information for users to make their own buying choice.

We don’t sell to these clients. The customer determines the quality desired and we immediately give them the price for the installation of a matched system at that level. My customers are empowered to select their own HVAC system and like doing business that way because anytime accessibility is convenient, there is no high-pressure sales pitch to endure, and the process is easy.

We have also taken measures to protect them from identity theft or compromised data. The site encrypts the data through data security provider VeriSign™.

Once ordered, installation arrangements for system replacement are also made online. Before the installation, however, a project manager visits the home to handle the necessary paperwork and to verify that the homeowner has furnished accurate data.

The process is easy and accurate with over 1,000 installations sold that were correctly sized, integrated systems with a contract quote-generated in real-time. This system proved to be 100 percent accurate in 19 out of 20 times, and the discrepancies were caught during a technician’s onsite verification visit prior to our acceptance of the contract.

In 95 percent of our online sales of installed and matched HVAC equipment systems, the contracts and prices generated by the algorithms are the actual price of the job purchased by the customer.


Beyond quotes and financing, my customers can also go online and get to know who will be in their homes installing and making repairs. Our outstanding individuals are featured on our Website as the employee of the month.

When HVAC installers or technicians have been featured as the employee of the month, before going to a new customer, we send a copy of their employee of the month presentation to them. The customer then learns to appreciate our technician as a skilled professional and often greets him at the door using his first name. Many customers are more comfortable in a cosmopolitan city, “knowing the skilled individual” who is working in their home.


Already many homeowners prefer to shop online, and we are available for them to peruse our company’s services, policies, and award-winning staff at their convenience.

Being able to take care of comfort system requirements any time day or night from the convenience, calm, and autonomy of home, office, or even a favorite Wi-Fi coffee shop is a developing trend that customers are beginning to demand.

Today almost all teenagers are communicating by text messages. These teenagers will soon be future homeowners. Current customers, and those in the future, will continue to demand this instant service as time progresses.

This paradigm shift from selling to empowering customers to “select and buy” works.

Publication date:03/24/2008