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Putting the HVAC Customer in Charge

Posted by Colleen Weston on Jul 31, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Written by: Dennis Laughlin, President, Arzel Zoning

Customer Satisfaction

Like a lot of you my summer guilty pleasure is watching America’s Got Talent.  The train wrecks of wierdo’s and stupid acts, along with the occasional discovery of talent interesting to watch.  It is about the same way I view predicting the coming months in HVAC.   

On one hand we have the Department of Energy, taking the industry to the woodshed for being unruly in the past. On the other hand we have the industry taking dead aim at the higher efficiency equipment they developed with a Dry Charged Scud Missle.  You have increasingly intelligent products being developed for installation by a shrinking population of technicians with no central training or qualifying curriculum accepted as a standard.  The industry is fragmented in terms of interpreting what quality means, how it is measured. Finally, no one knows who will be elected as sheriff.  

You can’t make this stuff up.  No one would really believe that engineers, physicists and business professionals are in running the industry.  Where is Howard Stern with his BUZZER when we need him?

With this backdrop, let me try to break out a couple observations I think will explain how the course of events may play out.  Notice I did not say here is what will happen.  


  • Wait-and-see still rules.   The march to increasingly complex products will remain slow.  No group in the industry has the capital, political or financial influence to lead the charge for real infrastructure improvement at this time.

  • Confidence in technology has never been higher. Confidence in our industry to apply and deliver on the potential of the equipment remains shockingly low.

  • VALUE is always weighed on the customer’s scale.  If you don’t deliver your solution based on the consumers desires, no matter how well engineered the result will not be acceptable.

The market that is being defined as available in the next few years the replacement of obsolete technology.  The age of equipment in the field has created the “bubble” we all assumed would pop and let us return to prosperity.  Who knew that this thing could get this big?   I will refrain from obvious analogies.  

What none of us counted upon is the seemingly total collapse of confidence in real estate and more specifically the improvement of real estate we own to maintain any sense of appreciation in value.  Today, a good investment in real estate, means buying a property cheap or under duress.  Once a property is owned, improvement is largely considered damage control. I think that is a point largely not understood today. Improvements need to be accompanied by a value proposition.  

Here is my prescription for contractors forced to sell in the crazy times we are experiencing.

Sell smart and take time to educate your customer.  Don’t give in to the thrash and dash mentality that is putting contractors increasingly at odds with customers, inspectors and manufacturers. 

Pick your equipment application with flexibility in mind.  Don’t use your criteria to set the table, learn what your customer expects.  He expects you to have multiple answers that fit his needs.  Don’t impeach yourself by forcing a solution on him.

Give the customer more control of his environment.  You would not buy a TV without a remote.  You would not buy a car with only one air vent.  Look at every customer’s phone and it has apps and functions and is flexible beyond their knowledge.  People love options and control.  Additional thermostats, is a no brainer.

Be a leader.  Since no one else is really taking control of the show, half the job of getting control is done.  Control simply means announcing yourself and moving forward, you won’t have as many competitors if you start soon.  If you wait for someone else to lead, then you will add a lot more competition into the mix.


All politics are local, while some national issues can affect the number of people who vote, in the end people vote based on their own circumstance.  All sales are individual.  People buy for their own reasons, not yours.  If you don’t answer their needs you won’t get the business.


Remember the Customer is always in charge.  

Topics: customer service, technology, Department of Energy, Contractor, hvac

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