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An HVAC contractor is running his business with many happy customers, but the only reviews he receives online are from the angry ones — it’s a tale as old as time. Eric Rea, co-founder and CEO of Podium, heard this same story from his very frustrated father one day and decided to create a tool that would make it easier for customers to leave reviews. Launched in 2014, his interaction management platform, Podium, does that and more.

Podium at AHR Expo.

BEING PRESENT: Podium made its exhibitor debut at the 2022 AHR Expo. The company emphasized the importance of being present and immersed into the HVAC industry. (Staff photo)

Although methods like billboards and direct mail might have been the go-to advertising techniques in the past, the world is slowly but surely transitioning into a heavily digital market. Katie Hill, sales director at Podium, said this shift has only been accelerated by the pandemic and the need for people to keep a safe distance from one another. The need for physical distance, however, does not mean that contractors need to stay away from their clients altogether. Providing customers with touchpoints can help build trust and through Podium, contractors can send texts, collect payments, facilitate communication on social media, and request reviews. Going the digital route also has the added benefit of making it easier for contractors to track their return on investment, which can be difficult when using traditional methods.

“Texting from the website, from Facebook, from Instagram, and having it all funnel into one inbox in Podium is very convenient for the contractor to use,” explained Hill.

According to Hill, Podium allows its users to set up different automations or templates, making it easier for technicians to send a text when they are on their way or post a photo of themselves on the job. She said personal touches are important in the HVAC industry because many individuals like to know who is entering their homes, especially during the pandemic. Podium’s goal is not to help HVAC contractors gain customers on a one-by-one basis, but to help them gain customers for life. Hill said one of the easiest ways to do this is by texting clients directly — if customers have a local HVAC company saved in their cell phone, it’s unlikely for them to visit Google again.

“I don't think a lot of people in HVAC have had the experience of what it's like to call a contractor, but when they put themselves in their customers’ shoes, they figure out how they want to be communicated with,” Hill said.

An AHR exhibitor for the first time, the company’s overall theme for the year is, “customer-obsessed.” Hill explained the theme stems from Podium’s clients, who are customer-obsessed themselves — underdogs who are looking to succeed by attracting a solid customer base. Even though Podium serves both small and large businesses, Hill said the company recently launched packages and pricing that specifically cater to local businesses. She emphasized the importance of supporting local businesses and helping them thrive during the current economic conditions.

“It's about arming contractors with the tools they need to help make them money and grow their business,” said Hill.