So, how is it possible that Knueve & Sons is not only surviving, but also thriving on high-end system replacements?
CUSTOMER REFERRALSDespite the economic challenges, Knueve & Sons had back-to-back, record-breaking years in 2007 and 2008. In fact, company President Dan Knueve reports that he and his sales staff sold five high-efficiency units in as many days last November.
An important key to this success, according to Vice President Mike Knueve, has been customer satisfaction and referrals, and a reputation built by the family-owned operation since Mike and Dan’s father opened as a one-man shop in 1970. Working out of the back of the family station wagon, Frank Knueve started out offering bathroom remodels, along with HVAC and plumbing service calls.
Today his sons have 35 employees and several branch locations throughout the Columbus region. The company specializes in HVAC sales and service, along with electrical, refrigeration, and plumbing services.
In addition to the customer satisfaction and referrals, Dan Knueve credits the company’s continued long-term success, especially during periodic downturns in the economy, to three fundamentals of the business:
1.Delivering quality products from Trane, his premier brand.
2.Providing staff with top-notch training provided by the manufacturer.
3.Offering financing options to every potential customer, as well as rebates when available.
CLEAN AND QUIETThe contractor appreciates its ability to offer technically advanced features that matter to consumers, which helps boost referrals. Dan Knueve recalls a woman who called his office wanting a system as quiet as her daughter’s new system (a Trane). The mother said she couldn’t believe how much quieter and dependable it was than her own system. “Quiet and dependable, we hear that a lot from our customers,” he said.
Demand for clean air is something else he hears from customers. The CleanEffects™ whole-house air filtration system has provided great sales and referral success for Knueve & Sons. Dan said that up to 75 percent of the company’s high-end systems now include the whole-house air-filtration units, which is said to remove up to 99.98 percent of allergens from all the air it heats or cools.
“It’s a huge advantage over the old systems and makes it easy for us to instill in the customer the value they are getting for their money,” he said.
Mike Knueve said that today’s homeowners have really done their research when it comes to major purchases, such as a new HVAC system.
“Our customers are more knowledgeable than ever, and they view a high-efficiency heating and cooling system as an investment in their comfort and home,” he said.
Based on that research, “Our customers know we are using the best products, and that we do the job right. It makes succeeding at our business that much easier.”
EMPLOYEE TRAININGDan credited boot camp-style training with helping Knueve & Sons close these profitable sales. The company has invested in training for the entire sales staff. Dan said the training has helped the staff build the value of the company with the customer and the brand.
“It’s our duty to make sure that our customers understand what’s available today when it comes to high-efficiency products and systems,” he said. “We take the time to really understand their home and its issues. It’s about building a system that fits their needs, and making sure they know we’re a trusted partner in their total home comfort.”
Knueve & Sons’ technicians are also factory-trained and designated Comfort Specialists. Dan said his employees care deeply about what they do, and it shows in their increased sales - even during a time when fuel prices have risen and people are hunkering down to weather the economic storm.
FINANCING AVAILABLEKnueve & Sons offers six-month, same-as-cash financing to every customer, as well as the option for flat financing at a low fixed rate. Financing has been a standard part of sales presentations for the last 18 months. Dan said it’s an attractive way for homeowners to achieve the long-term operating savings from the highest-efficiency systems.
Sustaining and growing a healthy business for 38 years of economic ups and downs is no easy task. In recognition of their success, the contractor received the S.O.A.R. Award for its performance in 2007 by the Trane Columbus Sales Office. The Columbus office presents the award annually to the top-performing dealer in their market based on sales, service, and customer satisfaction.
When accepting the award, Mike remarked, “The majority of our business, since 1970, has been referrals. Part of the award is based on customer satisfaction, and we couldn’t be more pleased to receive this honor because our customers’ comfort is truly our concern.”