NEW ORLEANS, LA — In a time of concern and sometimes-downbeat news, some 750 Trane Comfort Specialists gathered here in New Orleans, a carefree city with a decidedly upbeat atmosphere.

While the contractors did take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city, much of the time was spent exploring the basics of building even more profitable businesses.

Fred Poses: "When this economy improves, we will be ready to prosper."


Fred Poses, chairman and ceo of American Standard Companies, acknowledged current tough times, but noted that “economic cycles always impact businesses. When this economy improves, we will be ready to prosper.”

He added, “We seem to often think that when it is light, it will never get dark. And when it is dark, it will never get light.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is Trane.”

Poses contended that the fundamentals of the hvacr industry “are sound and will continue to get better.” He said Trane is well positioned to prosper because of the perception of Trane as a quality company. “When we say we are the best, we don’t say the best in our eyes. We say the best in our customers’ eyes — our dealer customers and your customers.”

He took a positive view of the future. “Our markets are fundamentally sound. Air conditioning is not going to go away. There will be new homes and machines will continue to break and need to be replaced. A housing start not started today is not a housing start that will never occur. And people will not live without air conditioning.”

Looking at specific issues within Trane, Poses cited a strong brand awareness, strong distribution channels, its program with Sears involving high-end products, a website “that makes it easier for you to do business,” and an emerging program with Home Depot that a later speaker reviewed in greater detail.

Poses acknowledged 2001 as being a tough year. “We thought the first half would be difficult and the second half would get better. As it turns out the first half was difficult, the second half was more difficult. We didn’t get growth, vs. an historic growth of about 7% [a year].

“We are short of our long-term goals. But in this tough economic environment, we feel satisfied. We think we’ve accomplished a lot that will make our business better as we move forward.”

Dale Green: "I've heard several of you say, 'We're not participating in this recession.'"


Dale Green, Trane vice president of marketing and sales, spoke of the need “to have a sound foundation during times of adversity.

“In business, like our personal lives, a strong foundation can help us weather uncertain times. It is an attitude, a feeling, and a passion for excellence.”

That passion can weather the economy. He told the dealers, “I’ve heard several of you say, ‘We’re not participating in the recession.’ That’s a great rallying cry. Attitude is a choice — a choice you make every day.”

He spoke of the company’s continued support for the Com-fort Specialist program, which requires dealers to qualify on a yearly basis by meeting specific company standards for professionalism and technical expertise.

He acknowledged that, in 2002, the company did not expect to “see a market rebound until the second half at the earliest. But given our track record and the strength of our strategy, programs, and initiatives, we fully intend to continue to grow market share and succeed.”

In terms of business strategy, he said, “We have the need to grow our business to a defensible size, which means we need to increase our market share, so we can continue our investment in products, programs, and people, which will in turn give you the things you need to keep your business current and profitable.”

Among recent developments, he cited the new 2- to 10-ton light commercial products “that are the most application-friendly and efficient packaged products available”; and XL_i residential products “that come with industry-leading manufacturer warranties.”

He spoke in detail of an evolving program with Home Depot, which at the time of the conference was in some of the chain’s retail stores in seven states and involved 400 Comfort Specialists.

He said the goal is to have energy-efficient Trane products available in Home Depots in all states by the end of 2003.

Truman Draper: "Customer satisfaction surveys are an integral part of the Comfort Specialist Program."


Truman Draper, marketing manager, labeled customer satisfaction surveys “as an integral part of the Comfort Specialist Program.” He told contractors that an online dealer scorecard has been introduced to help view customer satisfaction scores and each contractors’ ranking locally and nationally.

He said Trane would continue “to co-op the cost of two NATE test modules for one technician per dealership that passes the test.” And, he said, the company is introducing an online appointment scheduler allowing consumers who go to the company’s dealer locator site to be asked “if they would like to schedule a sales or service call” and be allowed to do so via e-mail. The caveat for contractors: “You must agree to respond to all requests within two hours and you must respond with an appointment date and time.”

Another aspect of the relationship is a second edition of its Comfort Specialist™ operations manual, which will include “a focus on how a dealer can use the customer satisfaction survey results to develop a more ‘customer centric’ dealer organization.”


A team of speakers from Business Development Resources explained how to use the value-added concept as Trane Comfort Specialists (TCS) to better boost profits. As noted by Barry Burnett, “Any dealer has to be netting at least 15% profit to grow, and TCS contractors should shrive to net 20%.”

He summed it up this way: “The finest dealers with the finest products make the highest profits.”

One approach involves combining overhead (described as “business expenses not chargeable to a particular part of the work”) and value (“distinctive quality; worth”) to create “value-based overhead” (“business expenses based on providing distinctive, quality products, and a standard of excellence that guarantees 100% customer satisfaction”).

He told contractors to “identify your existing value, then identify and understand the value of Trane. Next, build a company passion for your deliverable TCS value.”


Speaker Mark Sanborn of Sanborn & Associates took a look at leadership.

He said, “People are not your most important asset — the right people are. We hire too quickly and fire too slowly.”

He caught listeners’ attention when he offered to show them how to hire another person at no additional cost to the company. “If you have 10 people and you make each 10% better on the job, you’ve created, in effect, another employee at no cost.”

He said leaders need to have the following skills:

  • Self-mastery — “You have competence. What you do has substance communicated by style.”
  • Stewardship — “This involves the deployment of your time and energy and the time and energy of people on your team. You need to identify your MVP — your most valuable and profitable activity.”
  • Vision — “You need to know where you want to be and how to get your people there.”
  • Persuasive communication — “It’s a feeling of comfortableness. A genuine concern.”
  • Teamwork — “Teams communicate differently than work groups. Teams share ideas. You’ve got to feed good news into teams, because you cannot control negativity.”
  • Service — “This involves a service ethic. Service is doing something to make a profit. The service ethic is to do it because it is the right thing to do.”

    A trade show for Trane Comfort Specialists covers a range of contractor needs.


    T. Scott Gross of NetTraining Concepts centered his presentation on the term “positively outrageous service (POS).” It involves, he said, random, unexpected,

    and often small things, such as remembering a customer’s birthday or the family dog’s name. “This creates a halo effect for the next time. Little things get you something big.”

    He noted, “POS is from the heart and of the moment. It is not something you do. It’s something you are. POS is usually something small and frequently something personal.”

    He told the contractors to keep customers informed of work to be performed and being performed. “If you do something, you’ve got to tell them what you are doing.”

    When dealing with difficult customers, Gross said, “You can get angry with, but never at, the customer. If you get angry at the same thing that makes the customer angry, it’s almost impossible for the customer to be angry with you.”

    He encouraged his audience members to “ask the customer what it will take to make things right. We’ve discovered that in most cases, the customer will ask for less than you would have settled for.”

    Even though customer satisfaction is an oft-used priority in hvacr work, Gross cautioned that such an objective has limits. “Satisfaction does not necessarily correlate to loyalty. People who switch say they were satisfied with the previous vendor. Loyalty is based on not being able to get this service anywhere else.”


    The closing speaker, Dr. Jack Groppel of LGE Performance Systems Inc., urged audience members to balance their lives among physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual “sources of energy.”

    He noted that “unprecedented demands have overwhelmed people” and reduced “the capacity to adapt effectively.”

    He called the contractors “corporate athletes.” He noted that athletes in sports practice in preparation for a competition and have a number of months off between seasons, while corporate athletes are in competition every day with little time off. He asserted that contractors have to remember that the most important part of the business is dealing with customers. When not dealing with customers, contractors and employees have to “have time to recover.”

    “Think about kids and the family,” he said. “We’ve got to change our chemistry when we walk through the door at night. We don’t know how to change our chemistry if we go, go, go, all day long without recovery. You will have nothing to give your family.”

    Publication date: 03/11/2002