In response to the gentleman who can’t wait for me to die.

“It will be ironic when the person who wrote this article dies from black mold inhalation because they bought an oversized air conditioner online and had some no name schmuck install it incorrectly.” — Mr. Gordon (responding via Facebook)

Two days ago I explained why I feel that direct-to-consumer internet HVAC sales are a good thing for the HVAC industry. Mr. Gordon took issue with my opinion.  I appreciate his passion.  Not sure I’m ready to die from black mold inhalation just yet but still, I appreciate any man who fights for a just cause.  Mr. Gordon: thank you for your remarks and thank you for indirectly defending your quality and expertise.  An argument is always simpler when your strategy is to highlight the negative rather than promote the positive.  I hope that’s not what you’re doing at the kitchen table.  

The internet is a big, vague, inevitable SkyNet that will eventually re-shape everything we know about doing business in our industry.  In the meantime, however, forward-looking business owners need to be asking a new, challenging set of questions regarding the effectiveness of their identity.  Mr. Gordon, I would appreciate your candid responses to the following:

1.  Why should I buy from you rather than a credible competitor who sells the same product for a cheaper price?

2.  If I eliminated ‘quality’ or ‘customer service’ or ‘the installation is the most important part of the process’ or ‘I’ve always got my cell phone on’ or any other equally broad claims from your answer then what would the remaining answer truthfully be?

3.  If I asked 10 random employees the same question would they provide identical answers?  Would your customers?

4. At the kitchen table are you different by degree or different in scarcity?  Are you the guy saying “We do basically the same things as our competitors but we do it better!” or are you the guy saying “We ALONE can deliver things you can’t find elsewhere in the market!”  

5. Can you share with me 5 things that your company brings to the table that I can’t find anywhere else in your market?

6. Does your “Why Us” statement reflect an understanding of how your customers make a decision to work with your company?

7. If I looked at your entire lead source database, what percentage of your total YTD leads are referrals?  In other words, how regularly are your customers telling their friends “You have to work with Mr. Gordon!”?  

8.  Have you ever relied on cliche to convey your quality?  Have you ever said “family owned and operated” “A+ BBB rating” “Drug tested and background checked employees” or anything along those lines?

9.  If you say “We do great work” then how do you actually prove it?  

10. How does your business accelerate trust?  

Mr. Gordon, there’s an amazing opportunity in front of you.  Be defensive towards my assertions if you’d like, but I’d prefer to see you spend your time devising a market strategy that’s never been seen before.  Customers don’t need you like they think they need you.  It sucks.  It hurts.  I get it.  But it’s reality.  Hanging your hat on product-based sales or talking points that have been imitated to the point of uselessness creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Do something about it.  Fight back with unique, scarce, frictionless service that the internet can ‘t compete with.

 Until then I’ll buy a UV light on-line.  I hear it helps with mod.  I’ll ask my neighbor to show me how to install it.  See, he’s in the business.

6 responses

  1. 1. Why should I buy from you rather than a credible competitor who sells the same product for a cheaper price?

    answer: Every manufacturer of every brand says that a heating and cooling load calculation needs to be performed on a home to select the correct size heating and air conditioning system. ACCA defines a load calculation in Manual J and correct duct sizing in Manual D. In my experience every competitor of mine that sells the same product for a cheaper price is not performing these calculations, and as a result is often undersizing or oversizing the system. An undersized system can result in inadequate heating or cooling for a home. An oversized system can cause a range of issues such as improper moisture removal in cooling resulting in mold growth or overheating of a heat exchanger in heating causing the heat exchanger to crack and dumping carbon monoxide into a home. Obviously these conditions are serious to a homeowner.

    2. If I eliminated ‘quality’ or ‘customer service’ or ‘the installation is the most important part of the process’ or ‘I’ve always got my cell phone on’ or any other equally broad claims from your answer then what would the remaining answer truthfully be?

    answer: I did not make any of these broad claims.

    3. If I asked 10 random employees the same question would they provide identical answers? Would your customers?

    Every one of my employees understands that our company works from engineered Manual J system designs. This is a key selling point in our sales presentation, so I would venture to guess that most of my customers would relate this as well.

    4. At the kitchen table are you different by degree or different in scarcity? Are you the guy saying “We do basically the same things as our competitors but we do it better!” or are you the guy saying “We ALONE can deliver things you can’t find elsewhere in the market!”

    The problem with the HVAC market is that 90% of the contractors across the country do not perform manual J or manual D, they do not perform superheat and subcooling measurements on their refrigerant systems, they do not perform commissioning reports that are required by most manufacturers. I have multiple studies that demonstrate this. A look at the Oregon Energy Trust studies confirms this as well as studies by Energy Star. We simply do the engineering and the testing that the manufacturers require, its only special because my competitors do not do it.

    5. Can you share with me 5 things that your company brings to the table that I can’t find anywhere else in your market?

    My market consists of about 60 hvac contractors, and its similar to the studies referred to above, about 6 of them do it right. Most homeowners will get 3-4 bids. What are the chances that they are going to get those bids from the 6 guys who do it correctly? The 5 things listed below can be found elsewhere in my market, but a homeowner would have to get about 30 bids to see it.
    1) Manual J load calculations
    2) Manual D duct design
    3) superheat and subcooling measurements
    4) manufacturer commissioning
    5) Energy analysis based on Manual J load calculations

    6. Does your “Why Us” statement reflect an understanding of how your customers make a decision to work with your company?

    I believe it does

    7. If I looked at your entire lead source database, what percentage of your total YTD leads are referrals? In other words, how regularly are your customers telling their friends “You have to work with Mr. Gordon!”?

    I track all our leads and sales, my current referral rate for the year is 40.6% another 51.2% are existing or returning clients that we have worked for before.

    8. Have you ever relied on cliche to convey your quality? Have you ever said “family owned and operated” “A+ BBB rating” “Drug tested and background checked employees” or anything along those lines?

    To be honest, I do tell clients that we randomly drug test and do background checks on our people, because it is true.

    9. If you say “We do great work” then how do you actually prove it?

    The quick answer is through commissioning. The installers are followed by a trained technician who fills out 2 pages of information about the heating and air system. It includes electrical readings, refrigerant readings, airflow readings, etc.

    10. How does your business accelerate trust?

    We built this business on the idea of “doing the right thing”. It is construction and sometimes things go wrong. It happens less with my company than with my competitors. However, if we ascertain that we did not do something correctly, we take care of it. I remember several years ago we had a customer that had new white berber carpets installed. We were replacing an air handler in her closet and the installer had a lit torch that got knocked over and burned the carpet. We tried to have a professional carpet company patch the hole, but it was right in the middle of her hallway and the patch just wasn’t acceptable. So we paid to have half of her home re-carpeted. This is what it means to work with my company, so tell me that some internet company selling cheap air conditioners is going to step up and take care of a customer like that?

    In conclusion,
    My company actually does do work for customers that buy their equipment over the internet. My experience so far has been that the customer is always disappointed. They do not get the warranty they should have gotten, they do not get the priority service they should have gotten, the price of install is always higher than they expected. Many times they have ordered the wrong equipment or did not order the accessories needed to install it, such as linesets, control wiring, thermostats, etc. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of customers that buy everything from me are happy. My factory surveys my customers directly, my current satisfaction rate is 97%. So now its your turn to convince me of how a customer can buy a system over the internet and get everything I have listed for you in this reply.
    Regards, your new buddy Bernie 🙂

    • That’s a hell of a reply and I’m grateful for the thoughtful details. It sounds like you are bringing something to the table that your (the) market lacks. And I agree with your feelings about Man J/D. Very few contractors actually do a legit Man J. Lot of folks counting supplies and that’s about it. A good portion of the work/thinking/coaching that I’m working on deals with “accelerating trust” and creating a retail Experience. What do you think about collaborating on the topic?

      Your friend, Matt

  2. “Customer satisfaction is useless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless!” gitamore
    The goal has to always be to create a positive “experience” with every customer.

    It’s not what you say….it’s that your words confirm your actions:)
    every contractor “says” they do the best work, open 24/7, drug free, blah….blah…blah.

    Everyone can get your brand and match your efficiency…..let’s face it, someone is alway willing to beat your price:) so stop selling/talking about that stuff, it’s the least important part of the sale/service call.
    ~Michael

    • Love this reply and I agree all the way around. The Experience is the product. Thanks for sharing your insight on topic. I’d love to learn how you’re executing a better Experience!

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