Occasionally I hear or read negative comments about the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in a particular part of the country. Those are discouraging to me, because here in the St. Louis area, we have one of the strongest and most active BBB’s in the country. They are no longer a “complaint bureau.” Not only do they encourage positive and negative reviews on companies, but they regularly publish materials to assist companies in being more reactive to consumers in their area.
BBB’s latest publication is a follow-up to studies previously published in 2004 and 2016. The studies commissioned by St. Louis BBB were conducted by Dr. James E. Fisher, a marketing professor at Saint Louis University’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. The name of the studies is “Factors Influencing Consumer Buying Decisions.” While the study is not specific to the HVAC industry, I believe the results give us some important insight into why a consumer chooses a particular product or contractor.
CUSTOMER FEEDBACK: A survey by the BBB shows that customers value quality and business ethics over price.
BBB’s intention with the most recent survey was to determine if factors had changed significantly from the previous two studies. For our purposes, the raw results are the most important data, and I will mention any factor which showed a major change since one of the previous studies. The percentages indicated are those where the item received a ranking as very important.
The two most important factors in consumers’ minds are quality and business ethics. They were ranked very important by 91 percent and 86 percent of the respondents, respectively. This is good news for any business that wants to prosper. Don’t sacrifice on the quality of the end product or service you provide, and do everything you do in an ethical manner. Both of these seem to be obvious, but it is clear that the public is watching.
Responsiveness is the third factor. Keeping in mind that this survey refers to all purchases, I believe we can assume that in our industry, responsiveness is of extreme importance to our customers.
Selection is shown next, but I don’t believe that it is that high of importance to the HVAC industry. Most reports indicate that the consumer is choosing an individual contractor more than he/she is choosing a particular brand.
Next is professionalism. I believe this is extremely important to a company’s long- term success. The bad news is that for many years, there was a noticeable lack of professionalism in our industry. I believe we have come a long way in improving professionalism in HVAC, but we still have a way to go. Nearly the same ranking as professionalism is that of a company’s complaint record. That makes sense because the more complaints you have, the less professional you appear. It is interesting that since 2016, the importance of complaint record has gone up, from 59 to 67 percent. Similarly, online reviews increased from 30 to 35 percent in the four years between surveys.
For many of us, especially our sales personnel, the fact that only 60 percent rank price as very important probably seems surprising. I believe that is because we “feel” that the price is the most important factor to a consumer and talk ourselves into that belief. While these studies clearly show that quality, professionalism, and ethics are far more important to the consumer, many companies continue to sell strictly on the basis of price.
Speed of service has decreased in importance. However, we should remember this is a survey of all purchases. Speed of service in our industry is still extremely important. By the way, I believe overall speed of service has decreased because Amazon has made it a given that you will get your order quickly.
As a final personal note, it has been disappointing to me, as I have read all three surveys, that years in business ranks so low. As a company about to celebrate our 125th anniversary, I would hope that that factor would be of more importance.
Hopefully, looking at these studies will help each of us as contractors make sure that we are excelling in those areas that are truly important to our customers.
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