Online shopping is commonplace these days. Thanks to Amazon and retail stores, we don’t think twice about logging onto a website and ordering office supplies, clothing, and gifts. While we may think e-commerce is a trend only for everyday items, it’s knocking on the door of our HVAC industry too.  Last year alone more than $100 million in air conditioning equipment was sold on various websites nationwide, not to mention parts and pieces.

Many of the e-commerce sites selling air conditioner equipment, parts, and pieces are run by third party providers that have no background in our industry. We may not be Silicone Valley techies, but we do know that our business is run on relationship and strong technical advice. So how does HVAC take advantage of the e-commerce market and still keep the contractor in the equation?

Other sites are allowing mismatched systems to be sold and are also selling components like condenser and air handlers with no concern to the unit or situation. They’re luring bargain hunting consumers who may believe they can save money on a part or even do it themselves. But we all know you can’t add a new condenser to a 20-year-old air handler and get the proper system performance. 

Good contractors have stayed away from installing online unit sales to avoid this issue. We don’t want to be caught running warranty call after warranty call because the system was an improper matchup from the start. But by staying out of the purchasing loop, we’re missing out on over $100 million in work that should be ours. We also know that bad customer experiences can have long-lasting effects on all of us and our industry. How can we balance trust and integrity in our service with the value our customers are looking for online?

It’s time for e-commerce and HVAC to evolve beyond selling boxes of product without the knowledge and experience for true customer service.  Some sites are starting to develop relationships with contractors. It’s a great first step, but we must still be cautious.  Some of these outlets are still allowing the customer to pick any equipment they want, ignoring improper AHRI matchups and causing warranty issues for the customer and the contractor. It’s up to us to hold these sites accountable and move toward a standard that both customers and contractors can trust and recommend.

E-commerce is a big segment of our industry and it’s not going away. I’m not willing to let online sales continue to grow and erode the business I worked so hard to build. Let’s keep the contractor in the loop and the work in our industry.

Publication date: 3/15/2017