Our customers are different creatures that they were a decade ago; and they’re a whole new species than what they were in the 1980s. Some of us old timers remember scribbling a model number and a price on a proposal, pushing it across the table and hearing them mumble, "Well, if you think this is what we need . . .," as they signed the paper.
Today, those we have the opportunity to serve are brighter, more knowledgeable, and eager to make good decisions on their own. If that’s true, our job is to teach them about the decision they're making, and enable them to make a decision on their own, external of pressure and hype from their air conditioning service technician or salesperson.
This places a responsibility on us to offer the best product and service available, and be sure they understand what we offer. Otherwise, all they will be left with is the timeless decision to choose the guy with the lowest price.
We don’t teach them by spouting off technical phrases and slang industry terms that some of us use to make us look intelligent. As a matter of fact, if you have that habit, hang it up. Rather, learn to communicate in stories and examples they can easily understand and comprehend.
Consider speaking a language they can easily understand and become a teacher more than a "techie." Instead of using the term CFM, talk in terms of "You have 34 buckets of air per minute into the living room, but you need 180." Although we may all know what a CFM is, to our customers it’s the initials of a volume and time measurement they can’t begin to wrap their arms around.
Instead of saying, "Your heat pump's total external static pressure reading is .73 inches of water column," you might learn to say, "Your system has high blood pressure. It’s rated for 50, but I measured its pressure at 73. That's almost 50% higher than what it should be. That’s not good."
Service people have to guard their speech the most. Just listen to yourself as you roll along to the next call in your service truck. "Dang, I just can’t figure if that 230 CFM a ton was due to bad windings on the motor, or a goofy static pressure measurement. Maybe there was a little duct liner stuck in my Pitot tube, or did I read the dip switches wrong? I gotta get more familiar with those BDP installation instructions with those variable speed blower motors."
If a psychologist heard us talk like that they'd recommend we be locked up for a long time.
One more suggestion for you — we all know that few systems are operating anywhere near rated capacity due to defects in the duct system, and more of us are beginning to measure and rate the installed performance of a system as part of our service to our customers on a service or sales call. So, when you're with your customers, use phrases like, "We measured and rated your system, we found it's only operating at 68% of capacity." Also, you may assign the system a grade like "D+." Everyone understands a D+ isn't acceptable performance.
Tthe spirit of teaching is different from being technical. Technical is speaking in hard facts. Teaching is a softer speech filled with a desire for the learner to receive and comprehend what you're saying. It may take some practice, but the change will be much appreciated by those you serve.
The best method of addressing a customer is to carefully put yourself in their shoes, and speak so anyone can understand what you're saying. You might choose your words as though you're speaking with a teenager. Never speak down to anyone, just use simple-to-understand language that's appropriate and sets your customer at ease.
Remember, no one is impressed by your endless HVAC industry knowledge unless they can understand you without straining. One last hint — few know what HVAC even stands for.
Rob "Doc" Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. Contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800/633-7058. Go to NCI's website at www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, technical articles, and downloads.