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How Contractors Can Adapt to the New “Low Touch” World

Last updated: 05-25-2020

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How Contractors Can Adapt to the New “Low Touch” World

Have you been daydreaming about what the world may look like, post-COVID-19, and what is going to happen after we put the Zoom Cocktail Hours to the side and resume some normalcy? So have we. However, there is an indication that the idea of “low-touch” will be sticking around for a while, especially for the solar, HVAC, and home performance industries.

As we continue to cover the ways this global shutdown is affecting contractors, here is a summation of what we discussed in our most recent webinar.

A McKinsey & Company Consumer Pulse study that wrapped up last month determined that consumer changes to digital and low touch activities fall into three primary buckets:

Certain aspects of the way we do business have changed now, and will likely stay changed for the foreseeable future. Finding the ways in which your business can use the digital tools available to you now, to maximize the “accelerated shifts” that are happening in the way we use and adopt technology can give you a leg up as we begin to open the doors again around the globe, and even prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

Here is a little marketing exercise in persona development when it comes to sentiment around HVAC, solar, and home performance contractors working in homes. We are hearing, anecdotally, about three generalized types of consumers:

Jim is unconcerned about having a contractor in his home. He might be pulling out old quotes and proposals from before the outbreak, and using this time at home to get some things done around the house. 

Kristina wants to know what your protocols are, and picks up the phone with a list of questions that she needs to be answered before she plans to let you into her home. Kristina is looking to get the work done, but wants to do it as safely as possible using the best contractor available.

Helen is uncompromising when it comes to her refusal to let a stranger or service technician in her home, and she’ll maybe talk to you when this whole thing is over. 

How are these shifts going to affect your sales process? When it comes to digital marketing, the top of your sales funnel is the most vulnerable to these accelerated shifts.

In-person marketing tactics that the HVAC, solar, and home performance industries have depended on are most certainly going away, for the near future. The decline of tactics like:

...are going to require a marketing shift. How dependent you were on those approaches will determine how much you may need to shift. With so many other contractors making the shift at the same time, you can expect an increase in competition, requiring excellence in order to rise above the pack. 

This makes your online presence all the more important. Things like your website, your paid ads like Google and Facebook display placements, online reviews, and other social media channels are looking to become the new ground zero for marketing using the “lowest touch” possible. 

One question that keeps coming back time and time again is how to handle first-visit procedures like quotes, energy audits, and on-site consultations. While we may not have the single solution here for every contractor, we have been hearing of some creative ideas, like the homeowner assisted walkaround: Though customer willingness can vary, the idea of utilizing the homeowner — and their smartphone — to provide pictures of key areas can be used to give you details about a home that require no visits. This tactic can also foster a sense of involvement in the homeowner, making them more invested, responsive, and receptive.

If you have not already adopted a digital contract signing software, now is the time to integrate it into your sales process, and work out the kinks. This further reduces touchpoints, making Cautious Kristina more likely to choose you as the contractor in your area that has this “low touch” thing figured out. 

Teams out in the field are under a microscope, in many cases. Homeowners are paying attention, so it is going to be best practice to get ahead of any safety concerns. Clearly communicate your safety protocols before, during, and after any visits. Consider calling from the driveway whenever you arrive, or even hauling portable toilets to multi-day jobs to eliminate the need to use a customer’s bathroom.

The importance of remote monitoring devices can lessen the burden of replacing service calls. However, with less time in the home, there is less opportunity for cross-sales when it comes to some of the building performance-related upgrades a technician might notice on an air filter replacement call. Speaking of air filters — homeowners are going to be hyper aware of those as well, as indoor air quality concerns continue to rise.

So, what else can you do now to further prepare your sales process and on-the-job protocol in this low-touch world?

Video is the preferred method of learning for internet users. Consider creating an informational webinar or an educational video on the importance of your services while homeowners are staying inside this summer. Schedule virtual appointments, and take this time to make sure your video conferencing looks polished, professional, and trustworthy. 

Because there is less opportunity for your sales team to allow something to come up in a face-to-face conversation, elevating your communication across your digital channels is a must. Are your safety protocols featured prominently on your website? Push your already no- or low-touch services to build trust that your team is taking the necessary precautions. 

Take inventory of your shifting marketing toolbox: What is missing? If you’ve already leaned heavily on your digital marketing efforts, your shift may not be as severe as other contractors in your area. Adopt new tools to fill the in-person gap we are all learning to deal with, and be prepared to make adjustments as you learn what your customers are responding to.

Things are going to be different even as we make our way towards a vaccine, herd immunity, or whatever else eventually makes it safe for us to all get back to work with some sense of normalcy. Now is the time to embrace the pivot, and turn the integration of these low-touch measures into an opportunity for your business to adapt. 

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