It’s shocking to say, but we’ve passed the one-year anniversary of total lockdown. The year 2020 changed everything for us — and while the HVAC industry was deemed essential, it didn’t mean “business as usual” for any of us. Through the unprecedented times, we adapted. With the many changes that occurred, from working from home to virtual gatherings, learning from this new way of operating was key to staying afloat. As we continue to navigate 2021 and the evolution of the pandemic, it's time for us to reflect on how the past year has shaped our businesses and to take inventory of the tactics and solutions that will propel us forward. By being mindful of these insights, contractors can grow their HVAC businesses in the right direction.
Here are a few considerations for HVAC businesses this year:
Accounting for a Shift in Consumer Mindset: Within the past year, we’ve seen a new desire and need for cleaner air filtration systems in businesses, restaurants, schools, and even in homes — and this trend is seemingly something that has stayed top of mind. The pandemic had people thinking about what’s in the air they breathe at home more than ever before. A shift in consumer mindset is apparent, and those who don’t oblige may be left behind. The year 2020 ushered in the time of the conscious-consumer, and we don’t see any signs of this customer segment slowing. It’s more important than ever before to appeal to the desires of our planet-conscious consumer.
As such, education around the options and solutions available to customers is extremely important.
Education Around the State of Air Quality: As this attention to cleaner air will only increase this year, it is an area that HVAC companies can invest in. Contractors should educate their customers about air filtration and basic maintenance that they can do themselves. Information around replacing filters — how often, with what kind, where to buy them, etc. — is invaluable to this group and will be noticed throughout the purchasing experience.
This topic is particularly top of mind in urban areas. Airborne pathogens and general pollution, especially in big cities, are always going to be around. As traffic increases again and travel, manufacturing, and business pick up, our air is going to be filled again with pollutants, especially in heavily populated environments. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently pointed out global carbon emissions in 2021 are projected to bounce back significantly, marking what could be the second-largest annual increase recorded. While these are global figures, it informs us a trend is arising. As the world opens up again, our air quality will suffer, and consumers will endure the effects if they aren’t aware of what they can do to increase the quality of their indoor air.
Delivering Affordable Options: While there has been a demand for cleaner air systems, on the other hand, economic uncertainty has halted many optional upgrades and/or needed replacements for homeowners and businesses. To address this, contractors can provide basic education of what IAQ is and what building managers can do about it without spending a ton of time or money. Additionally, it’s to the owners’ benefit to invest in the maintenance and filtration of their systems — as it’s clearly a selling point for bringing in future renters.
Proper preventive maintenance is a requirement of many manufacturers to be covered under limited warranty eligibility. We saw an increased need for all these things in residential properties with people staying at home with their kids and pets, working from home when possible, and generally spending more time indoors than they normally would. Even with many return-to-office plans in action this summer, people are finding they will still require a flexible work-from-home environment to accommodate the shifts (i.e., staggered days in office).
Additionally, many homeowners and property managers are taking this time to remodel or renovate spaces — a great opportunity for people to switch out an old, inefficient system with something that provided an affordably sustainable option. We’ve seen very extreme weather in the past 12 months in different parts of the country, which just goes to show the importance of maintaining safe temperatures inside the home, especially while more vulnerable people are cooped up inside.
Adapting to the Times: With an increase in businesses going virtual, it is crucial to incorporate online services into the customer purchasing experience to be successful now and in the future. Just like real estate agents are conducting virtual tours of the homes they’re aiming to sell, contractors can leverage video content to help educate their customers on basic things like how to replace a filter or what the best product is to service their needs. During the pandemic, we’ve seen more and more transactions happening online and digital is truly the future of commerce.
E-commerce has slowly been increasing in importance in the HVAC space, and now more than ever, people are choosing to buy appliances and higher value products online. Contractors should be aware of what brands are available to purchase online and which brands allow them to use their own e-commerce platforms to sell online. Further to this, social media has never been more frequented. All businesses should be leveraging a digital-forward approach to engaging and communicating with customers this year.
Keeping in mind that the world has changed drastically for not only us, but our customers too, is the key to success in this post-COVID era. While we’ll slowly return to a new normal regarding operations, the consumer mindset has shifted permanently. Being cognizant of the challenges many people have faced and staying present when interacting with new clients will ensure success in the year ahead.