Contractor Survey Results for HARDI Conference

January 10, 2020
By Michael Copp, Executive Vice President

For several years, PHCC and Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) are both members of the HVACR Alliance , which collaborates on legislative and regulatory efforts, as well as shares industry intelligence and best practices.  I was invited to speak to the attendees of HARDI’s 2019 Annual Conference: Pulse– and share recent survey results that PHCC collected from PHCC HVAC contractors as part of HARDI’s “Voice of the Customer” initiative to better understand the plumbing contractor’s impact on HVACR sales today, and more importantly, in the future.

There are some findings that I think could be applicable to both plumbing and HVAC PHCC contractors:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of HVAC technicians is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the number of jobs back in 2016 at 332,900.
  • The BLS reports that there were 480,600 plumbing jobs back in 2016, with positive growth expected for the next 10 years. “Employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
  • The HVAC industry represented $94 billion in revenue in 2018, with the number of businesses growing by 2.6 percent (112,841).
  • The Plumbing industry represented $107 billion in revenue in 2018, with the number of businesses growing by 1.8 percent (120,333)
  • Over 46 percent of the 3,500 PHCC members (who employ more than 65,000 technicians) offer heating and cooling installation and service and repair services to their customers.
  • HVAC sales as a percentage of total sales over the last 10 years has grown from 35% to 47% amongst PHCC Contractors.
  • 70.3 Percent of HVAC purchases come from Wholesale Distributors
  • What is the one thing you most wished your wholesaler suppliers did better?
    • Net terms
    • Points programs with rewards and trips
    • Faster pick-up at branches
    • Support repair parts
    • Pricing consistency; listing prices
    • Warranty process
    • Have sufficient inventory to be delivered when asked
    • Deliveries by 7 a.m.
    • Responded quicker to our inquiries
    • Training in off-season
    • More free education for staff
    • Do a better job of updating us with current trends, new technology
    • Communicate
    • Partner – think out of the box to better help us rather than just be order takers
    • Stocked more commercial HVAC commodity materials [copper pipe/fittings, duct supplies, etc.)
    • Product Training
    • Check shipping so fewer mistakes are made

Dan Holohan (2019) wrote in his Supply Times article titled “Your customers’ pet peeves” (Retrieved here):

  • Counter people do not know their products.
  • Employees do not know how to offer recommendations.
  • Paying online on some sites can be troublesome, and billing online can be a hassle, too.
  • When calling on the phone, you get an answering machine rather than a living person. You leave a message and they don’t return your call.
  • Orders written and pulled wrong by people who don’t care.
  • The problem that seems to be getting worse is the very lean inventory at their locations.”

PHCC CONNECT conference attendees listed the following topics as important to them:

  • Technology product/demonstrations and business best practices
  • Technology integration
  • Selling subscription-based services
  • Incorporating intelligent equipment – remote diagnostics
  • How to introduce energy-saving products to your customers
  • IT security
  • Internet of Things
  • Adding home performance contracting to your business
  • Changing federal regulations
  • Getting the most out of hydronic heating systems
  • New AC technology, including inverters and variable speed systems
  • Boiler trends

Trending Issues include:

  • Inventory control
  • Fleet management
  • Telematics- collecting of information relating to mobile assets, such as cars, trucks or trailers (GPS Tracking)
  • Refrigerant installation- Technician safety

Some contractors are recognizing ways to compete and/or work in concert with the “Amazon Effect” by offering ways to address the latest lifestyle preferences:

  • A monthly ‘subscription’ for equipment and maintenance programs to its customers
  • Customer financing for equipment
  • Smart technology upgrades and remote monitoring services
  • Improving customer engagement to create excellent customer experiences (Cable TV service approach by leveraging provider app)

I think whether customers shop online or on-ground (or a hybrid of both), they all really want the same things:

  • more personalization (immediate customer service support),
  • more options (“self-service, voice, digital and social means to interact with a company”), and
  • constant contact. “The key is to give them the right amount of information at the right time through the channel they prefer.” (Retrieved from the World Wide Web on September 23, 2019 here)


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