You just cannot say enough about it. Nor, as an hvacr contractor, can you overstress its importance.

Go ahead, say it again: service. Now, provide it. Make sure your technicians and employees know exactly what s-e-r-v-i-c-e entails, too. And, as it is encouraged, add a smile with it.

In the eyes of Philip Lempert, providing quality service is one of the main reasons why e-commerce is taking off. Who knows where it will lead? Study it, though, Lempert urged a roomful of members of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) at its recent annual meeting in La Quinta, CA. Plain and simple, e-commerce has a lot to offer for today’s fast-paced world, which is full of just-as-fast-paced consumers.

Lempert, considered one of America’s leading consumer trend watchers, said a mouthful midway into his captivating talk. “Success-ful retailers will do the shopper’s work.”

Amen. Are you listening?

There is plenty to be said regarding this assessment. And, even though Lempert may have said “successful retailers,” you can replace those two words with “any 21st-century businessperson.”

Knowledge Is, Indeed, Power

Simply put, a businessperson (as each contractor is) can no longer do business as usual. S/he cannot just expect clients to select a contractor by thumbing through the Yellow Pages. Yes, this is still a somewhat common practice today, but, as Lempert put it, “People are hungry for information.”

Translation: Today’s consumers, more than ever, are turning to the Internet to collect as much information as possible, to become more knowledgeable on all subjects, including hvacr. And let’s face it, a consumer who can “talk the talk,” so to speak, is a step ahead when it comes time to select, for instance, a contractor to fix his/her furnace.

Contractor 1 and Contractor 2 may each clean and inspect, but Contractor 1 includes in his/her price a one-year service guarantee. Here’s betting Joe Consumer will select Contractor 1 over Contractor 2.

To put it in Lempert’s terms, Contractor 1 is doing all of the shopper’s work. S/he is making Joe Consumer more comfortable by including the one-year offer.

“It’s all about the consumer,” said Lempert. “Those who supply service will earn the business.”

This may sound crazy, but the man known as “The Supermarket Guru” turned his attention to some of today’s large pet stores. If you are an animal lover, you may already know that there are pet havens that allow you to bring your favorite four-legged friend inside. Some go as far as having employees take care of Felix and/or Lassie while Mr. and Mrs. Pet Owner roam the aisles, looking for Gourmet Crunch for Spot and/or Wild and Crazy Catnip for Garfield. (What is even more crazy is the price of some of the products. However…)

“They are offering the consumer service and comfort,” said Lempert. “That’s why they are succeeding. They are making the consumer feel good. And that’s, oh, so important.”

Remember The Four Fs

Have you ever visitedwww. Do. Here’s another example of e-commerce at its best. Lempert termed it as the website “that sells indoor air quality in the marketplace.” It’s all about providing answers to IAQ-related questions — and backing it up with service.

Going back to the retail side of things, Levi’s® now offers its “Original Spin” brand of jeans. Yes, you can go to and order a custom pair of jeans designed to fit you, well, perfectly. Yes, it has a price, but it’s all about service. Order online and a pair is shipped to your home within days.

What can you offer a potential client that another contractor cannot? Figure that out and then act upon it. Do not succumb to lip service.

Lempert insisted that today’s businessperson nail down the four Fs of marketing: Be fast, focused, flexible, and franchised. By the latter, he did not mean you have to branch out and propagate elsewhere, a la McDonald’s. “Have other people carry your brand,” he insisted. “Branding is very, very important.”

In conclusion, to succeed in business, Lempert said keep the following three points in mind:

1. Today’s world is consumer-driven — and don’t you forget it.

2. A business must have substance as a foundation.

3. One must evolve with the consumer.

“If you keep these points in mind and supply that service, you should succeed,” concluded Lempert.

Before leaving the podium, the $1 million question was directed to the speaker: “How will you capture the consumer of tomorrow?”

Lempert’s immediate answer: “It won’t be the same way you do today!”

However, here’s betting service will remain in the winning equation.