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Not What It Seems

Jonathan Hinshaw - Sunday, November 20, 2016

It’s On My Heart: not what it looks like!                                                                        Jim Hinshaw

Had a couple of dozen calls this week, someone saw a Goodman unit for sale on Walmart’s web site, so now they are selling A/C units!  Not so fast.  Doing a little research, I found the following units for sale on major retailer sites. 

Amazon has a Rheem unit, with a Trane, Ruud and Comfort Star unit right below it for sale:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G5IJX0S?psc=1

Sears has a series of Bryant units for sale:

http://www.sears.com/search=bryant%203.5%20ton%20105a%20air%20conditioner

Here is an ad from Walmart.com:

https://www.walmart.com/search/?query=goodman%20heat%20pump&typeahead=goodman

In all of these cases, the products are sold by an independent third party, not the manufacturer or the retailer.  So now, we are frustrated by the fact that the customer can find out what our equipment costs.  Really?  Get past that, the equipment cost has no bearing on what the customer actually pays in 85% of the time.  85% of the homeowners did not place price as the most important element.  They ranked a trustworthy company, products that do what was promised, employees that can be trusted, and a company that does what they claimed they would do, all before the cheapest price. 

A theme I have preached for years is this: you must become the trusted advisor.  Until the customer likes, believes and trusts you, business is gonna be hard to do. 

So how do we become the Trusted Advisor?  Several ways.  First, by doing what you said you would do.  If you have an appointment for 9 am, be there at least 10 minutes early.  Second, don’t pre-judge.  Don’t assume what the customer can buy or will buy, keep an open mind.  I have been surprised many times by a customer who bought a high end system for an entry level home, and also surprised by a couple living in a 5000 square home who asked me for a used unit.  Third, ask questions.  When we ask open ended questions, questions that demand more than a yes or no answer (share with me who is affected by allergies, and how they are affected), the trust level is improved.  Similar to your doctor.  If you say your arm hurts, and he says take these pills once a day, not what you expected.  If you say your arm hurts, and he asks: when does it hurt, when did it start hurting, has it ever hurt there before, did you fall, does it hurt when you exercise, when it rains…, you feel better when the physician asks questions to help him diagnose and prescribe the solution. 

Another way to become the trusted advisor, take full responsibility for what happens.  When we are in people’s homes, sometimes things happen we did not plan on, and maybe things that are a real negative.  Falling through the ceiling type things.  When that happens (us Harley riders say when we fall off the bike, not if), take responsibility.  Let the customer know you will do the things necessary to make the problem go away.  Fast.  Not there on time, don’t blame the traffic, a sick day, difficult job, let them know you are truly sorry.  Then do everything to make it right. Remember, you are the trusted advisor with solutions to their problems. 

And while I am in that neighborhood, quit selling units, sell solutions.  Solutions are how you assemble the products available in the marketplace to meet the needs of your customer. 

So how do you respond when someone asks you if you would install a unit they bought online?  Make sure your entire company knows how to answer that question.  It will come.  First of all, let them know you know things the internet sales site does not, you are there, and will be there in the unlikely chance something goes wrong.   Second, we have all purchased something on the internet, and found out to our dismay, it was not what we needed, or even wanted.  Thirdly, the internet is a breeding ground for scams of all kinds.  The units you see for sale may be from an insurance claim and have no warranty at all, in fact they may be sold illegally.  Additionally, the consumer is typically responsible for taxes and shipping, and the unit is legally theirs when it is loaded on the truck, so shipping damage is the homeowners responsibility. 

You must have third party stories like this one: one of my clients was asked to install a ductless mini-split in a garage the homeowner had bought online.  The dealer gave him a price that reflected a typical install, he backed out the equipment cost only.  Lots of squawking, but the homeowner finally agreed.  When the equipment showed up, it was 50 cycle, for the foreign market.  Homeowner had to re-order the correct unit (his mistake, showed on the website, just didn’t know what to look at), pay for shipping and restocking, cost him an additional $1400 when he got through.  These are the kind of things we see all the time, the homeowner just does not know what to look for, or when they are being scammed. 

After the homeowner answers your questions, share your solutions with them.  The Internet will not be able to do that.  And the reality is that we remember the exceptions, not the average customer.  The average customer does not buy cars and diamond rings online, and especially not air conditioning.  The exceptions do.  So work with the customers you can work with, one size does not fit all.  If a homeowner calls you and asks for a breakdown of your equipment and labor, just tell them no and go on to another one who will trust you. 

Back to the original sentences, Goodman, Bryant, Trane, Ruud are just a few of the many brands found on Sears.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com.  These are all Internet marketplaces, the sellers pay a fee to be represented on these sites.  As always, buyer beware, you do not have the full warranty available with most of these brands.  Some of the sites offer a warranty of their own, nothing like the manufacturer warranty.  Just plan on this being a factor in the marketplace from now on, it ain’t going away!

Just some ideas for these turbulent times.  Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.


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