This past week, I experienced my first virtual doctor’s visit. First time for everything, right? Before I was permitted to meet with my doctor, I had to first pass a Zoom test with the nursing staff. Quite understandable because, after all, they don’t know if I’m a Baby Boomer Zoomer or computer illiterate!
During “normal” (nothing seems normal these days) office visits, the doctor arrives in the exam room, and checks the computer and vitals the nurse took before glancing my way to talk about my health. The Zoom visit had him making almost constant eye contact and engaging more deeply in conversation than I’ve ever experienced in person, so two thumbs up from my perspective.
As is normal for me, my thoughts turned to our (your) business and thinking about ways to capitalize on a cooped up population hungry for great ways to enhance their safety, comfort and peace-of-mind.
Business tips to consider
1. Hoarding and the toilet paper crisis. We were one of the lucky families because Lois had purchased a 24-pack shortly before the pandemic lockdown started. Panic buying ensued, wiping out shelves. Stores were caught off guard and did not, at first, limit purchases, which contributed to the panic.
Over the decades, I’ve installed more than a few bidets and, later, bidet seats, but they never really caught on like they have in European homes. That is until now. According to multiple sources, interests in and sales of bidets and bidet style toilet seats have soared.
The water source already exists, so the one challenge for a clean and smart-looking installation is the required 115-volt power source. If you’re not permitted to do electrical work, then hire an electrician to handle that part of the job and work with them to establish a set price so you can easily quote the job. Get the word out that you’re the go-to source for the best products (align yourself with high-quality products so you’re not stuck competing on price alone). Study other brands; especially the big box brands and online retailers, so you can highlight details about your product and why it is better (same goes for PHVAC products). Take pictures to build a sales portfolio.
2. IAQ issues are looming large in the fright department and on your customers’ minds. The mass media and government, as well as social media (If it’s on Facebook, it must be real, right?) have scared the crap out of the general population — see No. 1 above! Who better to address their concerns than you? Nobody.
If you’re not selling/installing HEPA filtration and UV sterilization for both airstream and wetted AC coils, get in the game now. And, while you’re doing that, add fresh air makeup to the package. Check with your favorite wholesalers to learn about what’s available in both products and training. According to a study by NASA, HEPA filtration does trap the COVID-19 virus. We do know that HEPA filtration works well for most airborne contaminates and effectively traps particles 0.01-microns or larger, and viruses from 0.004- to 0.1-microns — with covid-19 at approximately 0.125-microns (NASA study: go.nasa.gov/3f2l5oj).
3. Water quality. Water treatment and filtration is a huge market you can easily branch into to boost your bottom line. I’ve seen people spend large sums of money for filtration systems because they want a better hot tea experience.
Be the source of pure “great tasting” water. Don’t just sell RO (Reverse Osmosis) units, add remineralizers to enhance the water quality. There are all manner of water filters on the market — from whole house with automatic backwash, to canister style with toss-away cartridges. There are even cartridge filters for removing lead.
Hardness and pH water treatment systems are a natural addition, especially if your customers have aggressive municipal water or utilize well-water. And don’t forget the UV sterilization too that should be upgraded to one with a solenoid valve so it stops water from passing by in the event of a power failure.
All of these products require maintenance and can be set up or added to your existing preventative maintenance program. Best way to see a PMP is automatic monthly billing so the payments are smaller, which increases appeal.
4. Hands-free plumbing. How many times a day have your customers been washing their hands during the pandemic? It’s a sure bet about a gazillion more times a day than ever before — and that’s likely to remain a set pattern moving forward.
Think of all the wasted water, a good portion of which is full of heat energy (more than 80% during winter when incoming municipal water averages 40° F), heading down the drain. Add in municipal sewer charges if based on water meter readings and you’ve got a great intro for selling these products.
Washing your hands to kill off COVID-19 leaves the user with a dilemma when finished: “Hey, if my hands were contaminated and I had to touch the faucet to turn it on, don’t I stand a chance of re-contaminating my hands when I turn the faucet off?”; “Toilets too?” — you betcha! All the major manufactures have hands-free toilets and retrofit hands-free kits too. There are even hands-free toilet seats that recognize who wants the seat up or down and return the seat down when finished to maintain wedded bliss. Whoever invents a toilet paper holder that automatically recognizes the user and turns the roll for over or under preference will make a fortune!
5. Automatic leak detection. At this past AHR Expo, I saw a virtual explosion in water leak detection equipment suitable for both residential and commercial applications. Most had smart-phone apps to send out alerts and the ability to tie into burglar alarm systems. A number of them also: shut off the water if there is an alarm; are programmable; and learn occupant usage habits, such as excessive flow, long-term flow (warning — may not be compatible with teenagers who get in the shower at 13 and are not seen again until they turn 20), or even as low as a faucet dripping.
We had a customer with a municipal park restroom that was too near a lake for septic and too far away from a municipal sewer, so they had several 10,000-gallon holding tanks installed. Mysteriously, the tanks would fill to capacity far too frequently resulting in expensive pump-outs with corresponding sewage treatment bills for what was essentially treated well water!
We installed a sophisticated automatic leak detector with a tie-in to their burglar alarm, which triggers a cell-call, and responded to several trip-outs. No flow could be detected, so back in service until the next trip-out many weeks later. We spent hours flushing toilets, double checking faucets and wondering if park visitors were deliberately leaving faucets on when, finally, one of the toilets flapper did not seat itself properly. These were new toilets and we replaced the three cheap factory flappers with more robust flappers — end of problem.
6. Be social. Has there ever been a better time to take advantage of social media than while so many folks are stuck at home starved for information? Update your web pages; create a blog; build up a following on Facebook by providing useful and timely information.
Right now, for example, it’s time to change filters in the HVAC systems before those dirty filters cause issues for their air conditioning systems. Explain why there are arrows on the filters and that it is smart to write the date/time on every filter. Educate them about MERV ratings. Zoom with them to help locate their air filters and walk them through that first-ever filter change and then follow up with an email, text or snail-mail note that includes a hook for a service or product, but always include a call to action like an expiration date on the offer.
Be like the politicians and never let a crisis go to waste!