Does Tool Brand Preference Exist Among HVAC Techs?
Numerous factors go into brand loyalty, but the importance of brands can vary
We are all familiar with the concept of brand loyalty. Nearly every consumer has his or her own preferences.
There is an internal debate that rages when choosing between Pepsi or Coca-Cola, Apple or Android, Ford or Chevrolet, Google or Bing … well, scratch that last one, but the point remains that brand loyalty is commonplace across the country. In fact, per a blog post on
accessdevelopment.com, 77 percent of people are considered brand loyal and, of those, 37 percent make repeat purchases and are loyal to specific companies, and 40 percent make repeat purchases but are not necessarily loyal.
So, does this type of loyalty translate to contractors’ and technicians’ preferences in HVAC tools? Perhaps there isn’t a clear-cut, black-and-white answer to that question, but contractors and technicians certainly do develop brand-name preferences, and it can be hard to change opinions once they’ve set in.
DEVELOPING A BOND
Most contractors put function and quality ahead of everything else when it comes to brand preference.
“We do not require specific tools, insofar as brands,” said Greg Crumpton, vice president of critical environments and facilities, Service Logic, Charlotte, North Carolina. “In most cases, we provide all of the tools necessary. Our service managers work with each technician, based upon skill level, to ensure he or she is equipped to service, diagnose, troubleshoot, etc.”
“Yes, the [technicians here] do have brands they like,” said Rich Biava, vice president, GAC Services, Gaithersburg, Maryland. “In fact, I’ve heard them going back and forth on brand-name tools like you would hear people debate which is best, Ford and Chevy. A lot of guys have mentors or people who have helped them become handy. Many times, what they learn with, and the respect they have for the person training them, gets transitioned to the brand.
“My dad always had DeWalt, and when I got older, I always looked at DeWalt as my brand,” Biava continued. “Now, if those tools broke regularly or easily, or if they didn’t do a good job, then my preference would change. So, loyalty, to me, depends on what you grew up with along with your personal experience.”
Travis Smith, president, Sky Heating & Air Conditioning, Portland, Oregon, said brand preference often comes down to finding out what works and what is most reliable. “Almost all manufacturers make the same tools. There is nothing out there that isn’t made by several manufacturers; however, with so many brands, some tend to last much longer than others,” he said.
Butch Welsch, president, Welsch Heating and Cooling, St. Louis, also noted functionality and reliability trump the name on the side.
“Generally, in regards to tools, our techs and installers do not have a strong brand preference,” he said. “They are much more concerned about the functionality of the tools and their reliability than they are the brand. Any brand preferences exist because our guys have had a good experience with a particular brand and like the way those tools operate.”
It is often a recommendation that gets younger techs started with brands to begin with. Randy Hamilton, trainer, GAC Services, said experience is what keeps them going.
“The loyalty is built by the tools’ reliability and longevity,” he said. “Hand tools get left on job sites more often than meters, so cheaper hand tools will attract less-experienced, younger techs.”
MAKING A SWITCH
If and when brand loyalty does develop with a brand of tools, it can be difficult to make a switch to a different product line for a number of reasons that may not always coincide with personal preference.
“When it comes to switching tools, the major roadblock for us would be the initial cost,” said Welsch. “We much prefer to utilize all the same brand of particular tools because the parts and batteries are interchangeable, and we don’t have to wonder which brand of tool a guy has if he needs a part or a battery on a job site. The cost in switching 50-60 of a particular power tool can be expensive. For example, we had one tool manufacturer offer to give us an amount equal to one-third the total initial cost of their tools and accessories, and we determined there was really no advantage to us to change. The cost would still be excessive.”
Smith believes it would take a groundbreaking new product not offered by his favored manufacturer in order to get him to switch brands.
“We, as a company, would normally buy one and have a lead installer or service technician try it out for a few months to get their thoughts on it,” he said. “At Sky Heating, we pay for our employees’ tools, and when we purchase something, we are often purchasing 20-30 of them at a time. We can’t buy something that is going to break, so we must torture test it first.”
In order for him to change brands, Hamilton said it would take a recommendation from an experienced tech, a fantastic deal, or an exceptional warranty.
“Most technicians change meters or hand tools when they encounter a problem or a tool has let them down,” he said, while also noting, especially in the case of experienced technicians, that their reputation is on the line. A tool that does not perform is essentially useless.
“Younger techs are looking for deals, but with experience, they grow out of that stage and are on to something better than they had before,” Hamilton said.
Smith mentioned that brand loyalty is not all that important to him unless a technician is loyal to a tool that simply doesn’t work as well as it needs to.
“Back in the late 2000’s, almost everyone had [a certain type of] equipment,” he said. “Now, we outfit all of our employees with [a different brand]. Our installers and technicians preferred a new brand of saws by a count of four to one, so we switched over.”
At the end of the day, ensuring technicians use the best functioning tools is all that really matters, said Crumpton.
“As long as [a tool] is capable of doing the testing and performing the job, given the quality piece as a baseline, then, regarding a certain brand, we go with what the technician likes,” he said.
Publication date: 6/5/2017