The first heating contractor was actually an entrepreneurial Neanderthal caveman who didn’t mind getting his furry hands singed when he carried a burning branch back to the cave. Pretty soon, all the cave dwellers were hanging out with Bubba at the hearth in hope that he would share some of his newfound warmth. The next thing you know, Bubba is trading his heating expertise for some blankets, and the cute girl in the cave next door is inviting him over for a few wooly mammoth steaks on the grill. She has an idea. The next day a shingle is hanging out front that says Bubba’s Fire.
From the basic discoveries that led to the creation of the heating and cooling industry, there have been a number of interesting developments. One that still puzzles me is the missing link in many companies - ventilation. The flow of air in or out of a building is the rightful domain of the professional HVAC contractor. However, for many, H_AC is all there is; there isn’t any ventilation. With the responsibility for managing the flow of air comes all the trappings and accoutrements: filtration, air purification, and the very broad spectrum of IAQ.
Yet, ventilation is passing most contractors by as customers are looking for solutions to childhood asthma and allergies while they walk down the aisles of Home Depot and Sears or as they purchase a twice-slammed Sharper Image product from a magazine ad. Why is it they don’t think of asking their HVAC contractor for these solutions? What are they looking for that they can’t get from a contractor?
TECHNICIANS STEP UPThe truth is that many contracting companies can fulfill the needs of Joe Customer. They don’t because their very best representatives - service technicians - often don’t tell customers about all the solutions the company can provide.
The technical aptitude of a service person is very important for the professional success of many businesses. Not many would question the validity of that statement and few would argue that it will continue to be important no matter what changes come the way of the HVAC contracting company. However, I believe there is an evolutionary change coming to a place near you. Sometime in the not too distant future, technicians will be placed in even higher esteem and there will be placed upon them even higher expectations for job performance.
The often debated role of service technician as a salesperson for the company is controversial. Sure, the concept of selling is not something that is embraced by all companies or all techs. However, with the ever-increasing shortage of technical people in the trade, this job profile is positioned to demand more attention and therefore higher wages - regardless of whether they choose to embrace selling or not. Those technicians who not only have a strong mechanical aptitude, but who also have strengths in customer service and communication skills, are destined for greater things.
VENTILATION TECH OF THE FUTUREI believe that techs will continue to be called upon to do what they do best: Fix things and tell customers the honest truth about their options. The difference in the future will be that not just any technician will be good enough to carry out that job requirement. For the typical HVAC company to be able to provide all the services required by their customers, techs will have to learn to identify problem areas that may be outside of simple equipment malfunctions. It takes a trained ear to know the sound of a blower wheel that is out of balance. It will take a trained mind to find airflow problems that may be causing customers discomfort and potential health problems.
An effective air distribution system is dependent upon the ductwork design and the installation - call it the V-spot. If it does not work properly, then an entire system of high-efficiency equipment, ductwork, registers, and grilles is all for naught.
Service techs must understand the operation of the air distribution system and be able to successfully communicate to customers the importance that the V plays in HVAC. Whether techs are asked to sell services to owners or not, they must step up to the plate. They must better represent the services that HVAC contracting companies offer. Customers are looking for ventilation and IAQ services in all the wrong places.