Almost every duct cleaning company has encountered (or will encounter) one of these disreputable competitors at one time or another. They reach the local customers via flyers sent through direct mail, or they spread the word online. They advertise duct cleaning at outrageously inexpensive rates, sometimes as low as $99 for an entire four-bedroom home. It sounds too good to be true because it is-every legitimate duct cleaning company knows this kind of service can’t be done correctly and profitable at that rate. The customer gets ripped off or up-sold on additional services, and the ducts are given a cursory cleaning at best. In short, it’s a rip-off, and it damages the consumer pool for honest duct cleaning companies in the area. In the industry, these fly-by-night companies are often referred to as “blow and go” cleaners and other, less printable names.
Short of catching one of the charlatans in the act and chasing them out of town with pitchforks and torches, how does a legitimate duct cleaner deal with this situation? “Work on educating your marketplace,” says Matt Mongiello, NADCA’s immediate Past President. “Whenever someone calls about an estimate, explain the process in depth-tell them exactly what you are going to do. For example, explain that you cannot clean a typical house system in less than two hours. Explain that you will be cleaning the entire duct system, including the blower, coils and registers, in addition to the ductwork. Explain to the potential customer that you do not spray chemicals into the ductwork and that you use source removal methods. Explain the importance of NADCA certification, and try to explain and show these concepts in your advertising. You may want to say you only clean one or two residents in a day, not five or 10 like the competitors who are in and out of the house in an hour.”
Bill Benito, NADCA’s President, agrees, and has additional advice about keeping potential clients aware of the value to be found in NADCA-certified cleaners.
“I don’t battle the ‘blow and go’ folks,” Benito explains. “We’re looking for the educated consumer. They’re willing to pay for the job done correctly. We, as NADCA members, need to stop worrying about these companies and their ads. We can’t control ads, and we can’t keep people from falling for something cheap-even if it’s ultimately a waste of money. When we get a call from a customer who saw a flyer and has questions about the process or what we do, we tell them to Google “duct cleaning scam” and check out NADCA.com to read about the work they should expect from a certified duct cleaner. After that, they can make an informed decision.”
Indeed, low-ball offers from the “blow and go” companies should set off alarms in the heads of even minimally informed, practical customers. As we know, reputable companies charge $400 to $1,000 to clean the ducts in a typical 2, 000 square foot house.
“Try not to compete with the low-ball companies,” Mongiello says. “Explain to your potential customers that your service and the other company’s service are two entirely different cleanings. If they want the “fast food’ of duct cleaning, they can go with the $100 service.”
Both Benito and Mongiello believe spreading the word about the way a real duct cleaning company does the job is the key to making sure customers will be properly educated and informed to make the right decision about cleaning their systems.
“You’re not going to get every job-that’s just a fact,” Benito says. “But if you educate your customer base, at least they’ll all know there should be a standard for the work they want done in their home. Tell customers to check out NADCA.com and pick the company that makes them feel the most comfortable. More often than not, they’ll call you back because you gave them good advice. If they don’t who better to get the job than another NADCA member?”
Mongiello says sometimes the “blow and go” companies can be a blessing in disguise.
“In some instances, these low-ball companies will help your business because they will advertise a lot and get people to start asking about duct cleaning,” he says. “If you can communicate the value of your service, you will convince a good percentage of the end-users to use your company instead of the ‘fast food’ company.
In the end, both agree that, while disreputable companies can be bad for the image of the duct cleaning industry, the real path to overcoming this sort of adversity is still the same as it ever was-hard, solid, honest work.
“Do a good job-be honest and fair,” Benito says. “You’ll get the work, and the word will spread.”
Article by Erik Caplan from NADCA DucTales Magazine July/August 2013 Issue
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