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Educate Your Customer Base

Originally published: 11.01.16 by Pete Grasso

I saw a commercial the other day, which is actually quite rare. In today’s on-demand world where I can stream just about any show or movie commercial-free, or record my favorite shows on the DVR and skip past the commercials, I don’t watch as many commercials as I once did.

The exception, of course, is during sports. Particularly football, which I must watch live for fear of someone ruining the outcome for me through texting or social media. But I digress … my point is, I saw a commercial the other day for the Amazon Echo.

Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker you control with your voice. It connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports ... and a whole lot more. Echo can control lights, switches and, yes, thermostats.

Now, when I recently updated my iPhone to the new IOS 10, I noticed a new app icon on my home screen — Apple HomeKit. If you’re not familiar, HomeKit is Apple’s software platform that relies on its Siri virtual voice assistant to control lights, locks and other smart home devices including, yes, thermostats.

And, just in case Amazon and Apple weren’t enough, Google

is in on the action too. The Google Home device is powered by the Google Assistant. You can ask it questions and tell it to do things, such as control your lighting and, yes, your thermostat.

Welcome to the future!

As I said before, it’s an on-demand world and consumers want to be able to control just about everything with a touchscreen or even their voice — including their comfort.

According to findings released from connected home studies that were fielded by Kelton Global and Research Now in the U.S. earlier this year, 81 percent of Americans either own or are interested in purchasing a connected home product in the next year.

This — the rise of smart homes — is the biggest business opportunity for you, the HVACR contractor. Consumers want this technology and these products and they’re going to buy them, no matter what.

It’s up to you to ensure your customer base knows they can purchase a smart, Internet of Things (IoT) thermostat and, more importantly, have it installed properly by you, rather than purchasing from Amazon or a big box store and doing it themselves.

And therein lies your challenge. You may already offer smart thermostats and other connected home products, but so does everyone else (both inside the industry and out). The burden is on you to educate your customers on why your company is the best option for these purchases.

I recently had the pleasure of attending an event in Chicago where Honeywell introduced its new T Series line of thermostats to local contractors.

The T Series is a portfolio of non-connected and Wi-Fi connected thermostats that streamlines everything from product selection and installation to customer service and support. With a standard footprint and simple interface, the T Series will, according to Honeywell, “enhance the entire thermostat experience for you and your customers alike.”

The contractors I spoke with at the launch event were all impressed with the technology, the design and the thoughtfulness Honeywell put into the ease of installation for this new line of thermostats. But, when it came time to ask questions, the biggest concern was how they, as contractors, were supposed to compete with the big box stores where consumers can simply go purchase a similar device themselves at a cheaper price?

The answer is education (and this goes beyond just thermostats). First, you need to educate your customers on the differences between the equipment you offer and what they can purchase at a retailer. In most cases, it’s not the same product — and what you have is far superior.

If a consumer is interested in connected home products, they want something of quality that they know is going to work properly. They will be open to spending a few more dollars to ensure what they’re getting from you is better than the big box alternative.

Second, while seasoned do-it-yourselfers may have little trouble installing something as seemingly simple as a thermostat, most will not have the first clue where to start. A lot more should be made about the benefits of having an experienced technician install the “brains” of the home comfort system.

Honeywell is not alone among manufacturers in introducing these products to market, and they’re all more than willing to offer you their support. No matter what line you carry, talk to your supplier and learn from them everything you can so that you can pass that knowledge on to your customers.

When it comes to connected homes, you’re not just competing against other contractors. You’re competing against everyone — including some of the biggest tech companies in the world.

The two things you have that they don’t are experience and a relationship. Use this to your advantage.


Pete Grasso is the editor of HVACR Business magazine and the Ahead of the Curve enewsletter, as well as web content editor for www.hvacrbusiness.com and author of the blog Keeping it Simple.


About Pete Grasso

Pete is the editor of HVACR Business magazine. He has spent his career working in and with trade media, both as a public relations practitioner and as an editor. He gained a great deal of expertise in the B2B arena, within large and medium sized advertising agencies. Be sure to follow Pete on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn!


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