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How We’re Learning to Connect Online

April 16, 2020
As you connect online with your customers, most of them are also living under quarantine conditions. Because of that isolation, they may crave and need a meaningful connection.

(Ed. note: You might eagerly await the days when we can get back to trade shows and travel. But for now, and probably in increasing amounts in the coming days, online communication is more essential than ever before.)
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Conference calls with caller’s faces on video? Not for me…until about a month ago. Almost overnight, faces began to show up on my screen during conference calls. I soon found myself enjoying the added visual connection with those I was isolated from. Let’s take a look at how the HVAC industry is learning to better connect online.

Online Connections Fill a Void
Most of us are social creatures and crave varying degrees of interaction with others. During this time of quarantine, statistics confirm many of us compensate by connecting with others online. We’re using it for personal and business purposes.

Online communication methods lack the benefits of being physically close together. However, you may find you recently increased your ability to communicate, express meaning, and convey feeling during online conversations. 

In the last two months, preliminary Internet traffic data from Google shows approximately a 20% or more increase of online activity. Online shopping is up 25% in the U.S. since March 1st, according to the Chain Store Age magazine website. Here at NCI, we’re seeing a three-fold increase in our online meetings, and exponential growth in our online training. Visitors to the HVACToday.com website are spending more time reading (up 12.5%).

Here at NCI, we’re seeing a three-fold increase in our online meetings, and exponential growth in our online training. 

Naturally, we have increased our time online to compensate for quarantine conditions. Many of us in our industry join this trend to keep in touch with our customers, vendors, and each other online. 

Offer More Than Essential Services
Fortunately, most HVAC work is an essential service and immune from Covid-19 isolation and shutdown orders. If you’re fortunate, you’re still able to keep busy and your doors open for business. However, some states require many in the office and some installers to shelter in place. 

Working from home is a big trigger pulling this increase in online connections. Remember, as you connect online with your customers, most of them are also living under quarantine conditions. Because of that isolation, they may crave and need a meaningful connection.

By recognizing this need you can strengthen the foundation of your business – your customer relationships.

Think about this: when you schedule a service visit, you can also express your concern and share your encouragement with the customer. When you include personal interest about their well-being it multiplies the conversation’s value.

Think back , did people need or want a meaningful connection when scheduling a HVAC repair visit online six months ago? Probably not as much as they do today.

This timeless principle reaches far beyond our current crisis. 

Think back: did people need or want a meaningful connection when scheduling a HVAC repair visit online six months ago? Probably not as much as they do today.

This creates a heightened opportunity for you to serve in a better way. As a result, you will connect more than ever before. Today’s conditions call for it. Both you and the customer can take away much more from the conversation.   

Whichever method of virtual connection you employ, you probably find your online skills increasing at a notable rate. As you improve, you’ll find a growing level of satisfaction as your better connect with others. Please don’t miss this opportunity.

Drawbacks to Connecting Online
Connections require more than just words. Many components of human interaction may be missed online. It’s a drawback when you can’t detect non-verbal communication. Facial expressions and body language disappear during a phone call, website dialog, or in email.

Nuances of humor, sarcasm, and anger are hard to detect online. Your responses to these are based on what you perceive in the conversation. If you’re not careful, you may misinterpret something. Be aware of this challenge.

Companies and people refusing to adapt to changes risk becoming disconnected from this cultural evolution.  

Long-term Effects of Online Connections
We’re all beginning to suspect these changes may have long-term effects on how we do business. There is no doubt that the way we communicate as individuals is also affected. 

During this season, hold tight to your company’s core values and mission. Your daily communications can easily drift and cause your culture to shift in the wrong direction. Keep in mind that as you adapt, it will take effort to keep one eye on long-term values and ensure maintenance of your company culture.

Situations arise that provide opportunities to change how you connect with others. I encourage you to immerse yourself in them and try out new online communication techniques.

My eight-year-old granddaughter lives in Bangkok. She figured out how to call my phone through Facebook, so we could video chat. She was so proud of herself. She told me a story about us working in my garden. It only took a few minutes. Then she taught me about a new online activity; “Let’s hang out, Opa!”

While we chatted, I worked on a deadline and she learned a new homework game on her iPad. We spoke with each other only 15 of the 45 minutes we were online together. Her primary purpose was for us to connect with each other half way around the world.. At first, I thought Milly’s approach was disengaging. Then, I began to see she just wanted a deep connection with Opa.

Since then, I recognize the need others have for a deeper connection during online encounters.  I believe most of us have a need to connect personally and professionally more than in the past.

In 1979 the Bell Telephone company launched an advertising campaign titled “Reach out and Touch Someone”(ncilink.com/BellTel). Forty years ago, this ad signaled a giant change in how we communicate. We’ve arrived at another level of communication today. Consider focusing on how you can improve and strengthen your connections as we enter a new era of online communications.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. You can contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.

About the Author

Rob 'Doc' Falke | President

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician  interested in a building pressure measurement procedure, contact Doc at [email protected]  or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at NationalComfortInstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.