Technology is influencing customer expectations and disrupting business models as never before. The case of the Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry is no different. Here are the top trends impacting the sector in 2018.
Decisions Increasingly Based on Real-Time Data
Today’s business is increasingly becoming data-driven. The twin pressures of having to delight the customers and make accurate decisions in a fast-paced and highly competitive environment makes many HVAC businesses to shed their traditional habit of making decisions based on “gut” instincts and rather rely on quantifiable metrics. The biggest facilitator of such a move is moving key systems to the cloud, which allows instant and real-time access to critical information to all stakeholders. A cloud-based ERP system, for instance, allows connecting technicians on the move, and also provides customers with real-time information on where the technician is, at any time. Likewise, accessing financial information from the cloud enables key decision makers to respond to events proactively, in real-time.
At a macro level, the extensive use of Big Data analytics makes it possible to remove glitches, learn from previous mistakes, and set-up highly efficient HVAC systems, free of defects. While “big data” trends and patterns is obviously a key focus, many HVAC players also increasingly see value in “small data.” Small data, or micro-level data emancipating from a localized area or unit, helps to troubleshoot and improve product performance in a big way.
Greater thrust on efficiency
Overall, the twin forces of competitive pressures and a concern for the environment makes eliminating waste a dominant concern. HVAC enterprises will embrace lean concepts in a big way, with emerging efficiency a central focus of the new gadgets. New technology will be applied in a big way to limit heat loss, reclaim dissipated heat, co-opt renewable energy sources, and more.
New gadgets which leverage the emerging IoT and related technologies, especially products related to indoor air quality, building automation and control and others are likely to see maximum growth in the immediate future. These gadgets leverage the emerging technology to offer new potential and possibilities to customers.
The HVAC Industry is Getting “Smarter”
As it is with the general trend with any business, newer technologies such as IoT are making the HVAC industry very smart. Industry leaders have already automated their critical sales and service processes, and such automation allows them to keep costs low, and remain competitive. The latest building automation systems (BAS) come with microprocessors which track and transfer environmental and data changes to the controllers and adjust allow lighting and indoor air quality to reduce electric costs.
Key players now drive innovation in a big way, through mobile solutions. For instance, more and more customers now look to meet their needs through the use of tablets, smart phones, or tablet PCs. To cater to such needs, smart players now develop and offer smartphone apps, to facilitate building managers control lighting, ventilation, and other processes easily, even when on the move.
At the back end of the business, HVAC contractors now use technology such as mobile apps, widgets, SEO, and other online tools and strategies to connect with local customers better.
People and Technical Skills Become Interdependent
Today’s business is increasingly becoming customer-centric. With competition at an all-time high, businesses have no option but to delight the customer. HVAC professionals, who are front-line staff coming directly in contact with the customer have no option but to develop their communication skills, along with technical skills. Improved communication skills help them establish a rapport with their customers, enabling them to delight the customer, and grow in stature in the company. However, at the same time, good interpersonal skills cannot be a cover-up for not being up-to-date with the latest technology. Those who lack skills would be forced to switch jobs more frequently, as their lack of technical expertise becomes evident. At the same time, the technical competent employee with poor people and communication skills will have a lower earning potential and may find limited opportunities to advance in their careers.
Greater Thrust on Customer Feedbacks
Today’s customers are highly demanding and pampered as well. With competition at an all-time high, businesses go all out to woo customers. Customers too are aware of the power of choice at their hands. They no longer blindly go with the marketing pitch of whoever they happen to stumble by. Most customers invariably seek reviews from multiple companies, and seek genuine feedback from customers, before they decide on a provider. Today’s customers being highly tech-savvy, they check quotes and reviews online with ease.
Enterprises seeking to pamper their customers would do well to take customer reviews. This is more so in the case of HVAC customers, where reviews and customer referrals have a big say in getting en clients. More and more enterprises are now seeking ways to actively seek feedback from their customers, and make sure the positive feedback is easily available to others.
New trends also force a change in business models. For instance, electronic air cleaners are 40x more efficient than a standard filter, forcing a change in maintenance patterns. In a similar way, the types of refrigerant used significantly affect HVAC efficiency. All these have an impact on replacement and maintenance schedules. Smart businesses do not try to fight the trend for short-term benefit. They rather make a change to their business strategy and simultaneously overhaul their systems, to ensure they deliver what is best for the customer.
The demand for HVAC industries is unlikely to go away anytime soon. However, the same cannot be said for players within the industry. Unless the enterprise is willing to change with the times and pamper their customers, they will soon become history. Forwarding-looking HVAC players would need to strike a healthy balance between best practice and innovation. They would also need to prime up their system to achieve hyper-efficiency. A strategic tie-up with a tech partner who understands the business and is competent enough to co-opt thy latest cutting-edge tools into the systems is the mantra for success.