What do HVAC contractors sell? Comfort. It’s their top commodity and something that every customer is searching to find. When it is 90°F outside and the phone rings, that service call isn’t about the HVAC unit, it’s about comfort. Customer comfort is the top sales driver in the HVAC industry, or at least it should be. Efficiency is great, energy savings are desired, and money hits the equation as well, but let’s face it: If your customers really wanted to save money, energy, and the environment, they wouldn’t install an air conditioner at all. That decision comes supremely from the need for comfort. Now that we have that out in the open, let’s talk about comfort and how you can leverage it to improve business and customer satisfaction.
In light of a new customer comfort survey from Emerson, the company has coined the phrase “comfort conversation” in an effort to educate contractors on different selling techniques with homeowners and facility managers.
“Issues like humidity, zoning, and IAQ caused 76 percent of respondents to say they aren’t comfortable in their own homes,” stated a release from Emerson. “Nearly 40 percent admitted to having family disagreements about comfortable temperature. A quarter of respondents say the air in their home causes their allergies to act up.”
Starting a comfort conversation is easier than you think. It starts with an interview of the customer that specifically identifies comfort issues as opposed to equipment issues. Ask customers to consider their environment throughout the day. When is the house at its warmest, when is it at its coolest? How often do they adjust the thermostat? How many times a day are they thinking about their HVAC equipment? The answers to these questions can give contractors a snapshot of the customer’s comfort level. For example, if you asked me these questions, I would tell you that my house is coolest late at night and warmest in the afternoon and evening. I would also tell you that adjusting the two different thermostats that we have is a never-ending battle and that I am constantly wondering if they are correct, seeing as how the units seem to run all the time. With these answers in hand, the technician has learned that even though my air conditioning is running, I am not necessarily comfortable with the temperature on a regular basis, nor do I trust that my HVAC system is functioning properly. Without ever walking through the home or inspecting the equipment, the technician also learned that we have two units in the house and likely some thermostats that need to be replaced. Three simple questions in, and the technician has established a customer connection as well as identified possible revenue-generating opportunities based primarily on comfort. When continuing this interview with the customer, Emerson suggests asking questions regarding health issues, sleep quality, and better air quality as well. This is all detailed in the comfort conversation checklist found at climate.emerson.com/livability.
BALANCING COST AND COMFORT
Comfort conversations are actually rather easy to have until the topic turns to paying for the improvements. Financing helps, but convincing a customer that true comfort and health requires equipment upgrades and system maintenance, as well as addressing ventilation issues and IAQ, can all fall on deaf ears and closed wallets. This is the point where evidence, proof, and a phased design can reopen those deaf ears and closed wallets.
During the National Comfort Institute Inc.’s Summit Week 2019 in Orlando, Florida, contractors gathered to discuss performance-based selling techniques. Speakers Michael Hyde and Rob Falke gave a presentation that detailed a 12-step process to guide customers through a performance-based sales visit from test to proposal. In the interactive, hands-on session, Hyde explained how to conduct high-impact testing and diagnostics, engage customers, and present a winning proposal to the customer.
It is up to the contractor to maximize comfort levels, and that responsibility means taking a whole-home approach to HVAC. Make the case to the customer, back it up with proof, and break the project down into financially manageable chunks that they can swallow. If you can successfully implement one phase of affordable comfort improvements for the customer, they are going to be more likely to buy into the second phase and beyond. Remember, heating and cooling is not all about money, efficiency, and the environment — it’s about comfort.
Publication date: 5/6/2019