After fielding several calls this week, a contractor noticed a product for sale on Walmart’s web site that’s not a normal product for them to carry. In doing a little research, I found similar competing units for sale on the Sears website and Amazon. the following units for sale on major retailer sites.
In each case, the products are sold by an independent third party, not the manufacturer or the retailer. How often we get frustrated when the customer can find out what our equipment costs. Does it really matter that a few consumers have this information? Get past that, the equipment cost has no bearing on what the customer actually pays in 85% of the time. What value is placed on labor costs? Most homeowners do not place price as the most important element. They rank 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.
Do what you said you would do
If you have an appointment for 9 am, prepare to arrive at least 10 minutes early to your destination in the event of traffic delays.
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 5,000 square home who asked me for a used unit.
When we ask open-ended questions, ones demand more than a yes or no answer, the trust level is improved. It’s similar to your doctor. If you say your arm hurts, and he says “Take these pills once a day”, that’s not the level of service you expected. If you say your arm hurts and he asks “When does it hurt, when did it start hurting, what movements make the pain worse, did you fall, does it hurt when you exercise, when it rains?”, you feel better when the physician asks questions to help him or her diagnose and prescribe the solution.
And while we’re on the subject of trusted advisors, 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, until a proper evaluation is done, you can’t be certain that product will even perform to their desired needs. However, let them know with certainty that you are there for them in the unlikely chance something goes wrong or the product will not meet their needs. After all, we have all purchased something on the internet, and found out to our dismay, it was not what we needed, or even wanted. The internet is a breeding ground for scams of all kinds. Some units you see for sale online 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 becomes the homeowner’s responsibility.
You must have third party stories to share with customers like this one. One of my clients was asked to install a ductless mini-split in a garage the homeowner had bought online. The contractor gave him a price that reflected a typical install and backed out the equipment cost only. After some squawking, the homeowner finally agreed to the install price. When the equipment showed up, it was a model made only for the foreign market. The homeowner had to re-order the correct unit. The information was clear about the product from a contractor’s view on the website, but the homeowner didn’t understand what to look for. So they had to pay for shipping and restocking fees that cost him an additional $1400 by the time he was done. 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. Work with the customers in every way possible to support and help them. However, 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. You are not selling them just a product or just the installation labor, your are selling them the whole package that includes the knowledge you may have over your competition that provides tremendous benefit to your customers.