Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Do you prefer educated customers?

DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,177
Over the years, I've had many homeowners read my books and then write to tell me they knew more about their system that the contractors that came to their house. This was particularly true when it came to steam heating.

That has me thinking about educated- versus not-educated customers. Which is the better customer?


Retired and loving it.
«1

Comments

  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 330

    There's different levels of education - there are those who understand the principles and then there are the youtube Einsteins who don't. They read or watch something that's all wrong then get offended when you tell them something else.

    I'm not in your trade for my living, but I get calls for (I'm in electronics) where someone starts off with "I did some research on line" and I cut them off with a "Honestly, I'm not interested in what you read on-line".
    Most understand my frustration of having to listen to something totally incorrect, but a few are offended.

    To answer your question, I don't think I really care one way or the other, maybe lean a bit more towards education I guess.


    jamplumb
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,876
    edited January 16
    Over the years, I've had many homeowners read my books and then write to tell me they knew more about their system that the contractors that came to their house. This was particularly true when it came to steam heating. That has me thinking about educated- versus not-educated customers. Which is the better customer?
    Do you mean educated in general, or educated on HVAC or the specific job at hand?

    I watched a rheumatologist that even admitted he knew nothing about air conditioning call a contractor out on something.  He told him he doesn't know about air conditioning but he knows that doesn't make sense and if the guy can't fix it just tell him and he'll get someone else.

    The rheumatologist was right.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,177
    I mean a homeowner who has researched systems and products before calling a contractor. We've seen many of them posting here.
    Retired and loving it.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 18,195
    You can learn things from your customers if you just listen.
    With the access to information theses days, perhaps they have more time to search and discover products and concepts.
    It’s not unlike going to an international trade show and discovering never before seen products and inventions.

    Of course all knowingness cuts both ways. A lot of alternative reality being pushed theses daze.
    Old habits die hard. Or never with some folk.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Matt_67
    Matt_67 Member Posts: 245
    I feel like I’m more likely to get the job with the educated customer. Having said that I would say it depends on how they handle their knowledge. If someone wants to micro manage every part of the installation that’s tough to work with.
    GroundUp
  • vhauk
    vhauk Member Posts: 84
    people are people. Some are reasonable and some ain’t. I’ll take reasonable over most other considerations. Reasonable right after honest. 
    Long Beach Ed
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,065
    I would rather have the educated but some fight you every step. Most of my customers are facility directors or engineers and they can be challenging but most come around
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    JohnNY
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,360
    As a homeowner, I find I can make an educated guess on which contractor to use after getting 3-5 bids. And after asking my questions, they know what kind of customer they are getting.

    After I pick one, I let them loose to do the job. I was only disappointed once when I got one bid to build an addition to the house. I was young and dumb. Never go with one bid unles you have experience with the contractor.
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,568
    Educated customers make better decisions, but some are still shopping for a price. I won't do estimates or proposalsfor those seeking more than 3 bids, and I charge for the visit and the work to prepare the bid. Those that will pay for the service are more likely to buy. This work is not a commodity. There are few who can do it without errors and deliver a quality job. I can learn a lot from listening carefully to the initial inquiry.
    DerheatmeisterJohnNY
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,177
    You’ve proven that for many years, Paul. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • Dave Carpentier
    Dave Carpentier Member Posts: 410
    edited January 14
    In my previous career, I had opportunities to interact with customers on subjects like why their internet was "slow" while I was troubleshooting.
    I wouldn't say "it is what it is", or "we'll see what we can do", expecting them just to accept that reasoning.
    As I explained the issue at a basic level, I could determine their level of understanding and it was a pleasure to find someone that had a grasp of the situation. Those "educated" customers just lacked the particular details of the situ, and seemed to be satisfied with my approach or the limitations that the system had for their location. On the other hand, customers with no grasp of the situ probably ended up frustrated or disappointed that I could not perform some magic.
    So I suppose I preferred an educated realist.

    *** oops, that was supposed to be " I wouldnt say it is what it is..." (corrected now)
    30+ yrs in telecom outside plant.
    Currently in building maintenance.
    flat_twin
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,782
    Hi, I far prefer the educated customer. By taking time to educate themselves, it demonstrates that they care. They always have questions for me and I usually have answers, not guesses or opinions. These clients wind up being enthusiastic supporters and refer their neighbors. I like it when they hang around while I do my work, because then they get to see what goes into doing a good job. Also, it's only the people who pay no attention, who have ever argued about my bill. B)

    Yours, Larry
    mattmia2
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 681
    Here is how I educated the customers I dwelt with. Now, my customers were from the commercial/industrial segment such as schools, hospitals, large industrial complexes and etc. I taught their best and most intelligent custodian or stationary engineer how to do simple trouble shooting of the boiler. My territory was all of Pennsylvania plus the edges of the adjoining states. These men could solve simple problems usually with my help over the phone. I did not want to drive to Scranton or Philadelphia on a cold snowy night just to reset a safety device but I would if necessary. I never instructed them to take any chances with safety or do something stupid. This worked out great for the company since any time that building needed any replacement equipment or parts we were the go-to company and price was not considered.
    Larry WeingartenLong Beach Ed
  • gmcinnes
    gmcinnes Member Posts: 97
    Homeowner here. 

    I have a congenital need to go down the rabbit hole and am always amazed at the generosity of experts on here who give their time and knowledge freely to help educate me.

    Having said that, I'm always a bit wary that I might be being a PITA to you guys, and also to contractors that I pepper with questions.  But on the other hand knowing the right questions to ask contractors immediately helps sort the wheat from the chaff.  Those that BS me are voted off my island.

    For example, when replacing my boiler a few years ago I had to fight both my installer and the guy from the supply house who did the manual J.

    I had the measured fuel use for the previous 5 years along with the heating degree days.  With education from you guys and the guys at greenbuildingadvisor.com I was able to convince them to install a boiler 2 sizes smaller.  It's still able to recover 7 degrees in a 30 minute-ish burn, so it's plenty BTUs.

    It's a fascinating trade.  If I was a younger man I'd consider joining it.
    Robert_25
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,332
    I don't like customers, educated or not. They invariable make my job harder. The rocket surgeons are the ones I dislike the most, though.
    gmcinnesEdTheHeaterManCLamb
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,177
    So much better without customers. 😂
    Retired and loving it.
    Robert O'BrienEdTheHeaterManSuperTechIronman
  • Illinoisfarmer
    Illinoisfarmer Member Posts: 37
    I don't really have customers, but I'd have to say that I'd prefer educated. If I could add a caveat though, I'd prefer them to be educated enough to 'know what they don't know'. One of my pet peeves is explaining to something to someone, and getting the 'yup, yup, yup' nod, and realizing they have no clue what I'm talking about. My reaction usually ranges somewhere from indifference to anger - and in the case of employees - generally starts to include phrases like "Metric Crescent Wrench" or "Turn Signal Fluid". I'm by no means a sensitive guy, but acting like you understand my world when you clearly don't is insulting.

    Contractors and service people I deal with know me well enough to give me some leeway when explaining things. A service manager will often give me some advice over the phone to help me self-diagnose. I appreciate this, but never hesitate to tell them when something is above my head - and that I need them to come fix it. As mentioned above, this does promote loyalty - I'm not going to take the job away from the manager or tech that tried to talk me through the problem!
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,876
    ratio said:
    I don't like customers, educated or not. They invariable make my job harder. The rocket surgeons are the ones I dislike the most, though.
    The costumers are who pay you ultimately.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,105
    Dumb ones. Then you can do as you want without any meddling.
    gmcinnes
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,332
    ChrisJ said:


    ratio said:

    I don't like customers, educated or not. They invariable make my job harder. The rocket surgeons are the ones I dislike the most, though.

    The costumers are who pay you ultimately.


    Which is why I make no effort to climb the corporate ladder. I don't have to worry about keeping customers, just getting the job done.
    ChrisJ
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,554
    As one who has been a service tech, and now a teacher I always appreciate any knowledge my customers (Homeowners or students) have already. It usually makes the job easier when they have some knowledge. I do not however appreciate "know it all's" they tend to only make for confusion at the customer level. In the class room I try to use what knowledge they do have to help the other students in the class with out letting them takeover. I have found over the years when I am in the classroom as an attendee I have to behave myself especially when I may know more about the subject than the one presenting. I take an attitude that there is always something new to learn whether from a customer or another trainer.
  • gmcinnes
    gmcinnes Member Posts: 97
    IMO I should be educated enough to ask a contractor why they recommended the design they did and let them know if any assumptions they made about the context that might affect the design might be need to be rethought.

    And to read the I&O and ask questions (not accuse!) about any departure from it as built. And if I'm not convinced about the answer come here and ask you guys :)

    Anyway, this isn't about me. It's about whether you like me :wink:
    dennis53
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,278
    There are some people educated beyond their intelligence and lack common sense.

    One in particular has a Doctor's degree.
    Not only cannot grasp something like a defrost cycle being necessary no matter how many ways you try to explain it, he is a Doctor of Academia and highly educated.
    As is his wife somewhat.

    You get that definite feeling (vibe) that they are degreed "white collar" and I am merely blue collar.

    But I will take their money as necessary.
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,105
    My first job at an oil co when I got out of school the owner was a PE. Good engineer too although he didn't do a lot of that what he designed was good. He spent most of his time running the oil co. I learned a lot from him about a lot of things.

    But he admitted he could barely change a light bulb or know what end of a screwdriver to hold
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,925

    My first job at an oil co when I got out of school the owner was a PE. Good engineer too although he didn't do a lot of that what he designed was good. He spent most of his time running the oil co. I learned a lot from him about a lot of things.

    But he admitted he could barely change a light bulb or know what end of a screwdriver to hold

    WOW... an engineer that knew his limitations
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,885
    Without a doubt...educated.  As long as YOU are on top of your game and can back it up, it becomes a validation session for the homeowner.  Mad 🐕 Dog
    gmcinnes
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 642
    When dealing with homeowners; we have about five or six that visit this site, and about three or four that have read Dan (Erin's) books. Most of these customers are longstanding and will likely call us in the future.

    Over the years there were a few more HH homeowners that we just could not please. Every one of these hard to please customers could not understand that there roughly one hundred year old neglected steam system would not perform as new. In one case the house had two additions since 1918 that were piped piped improperly. We were unable to fix the problem short of removing ceilings and or walls to correct the piping. Customer could not conceptualize that the water laying in the two improperly pitched steam risers was the reason for two cold radiators with panting vents. This customer was a single retired scientist with no hobbies, no family and no friends, just lots of time and lots of notes.

    We actually have two brain surgeons (one retired one still working) as customers. They are some of most unusual people I have met. Both are brilliant in many things that have nothing to do with the human body. One rebuilds old Jaguars in his sixteen car two story garage for fun (retired guy). The other surgeon helped us rebuild his Trane radiator valves last winter.

    We have another customer that has a doctorate in Aeronautical Engineering (rocket scientist). He decided to get out of that field and is now a high ranking banker. Great guy that never questions anything we do or suggest. Actually hung out with him an his son a few years ago listening to a little music. I knew him and his family for about ten years before I realized he was interviewed regularly on television. He is as humble as they get.
    ChrisJMad Dog_2knotgrumpy
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,425
    There are engineers and engineers, folks. My dad, rest his soul, was a highly degreed engineer with a notable list of design achievements to his credit (try googling "K25", or "Wasp Major"). He had little practical experience in actually building and fixing things... but he did try. On the other hand, I know a couple of engineers with advanced degrees who, however, got their PE license the hard way -- starting at the operatur's position of a shovel. So you can't really generalise...

    Seems to me -- thinking more as a building super here -- that what I want to see in a client is someone who may or not be dripping with "education" but who is, in fact, knowledgeable, able to understand what you are saying and doing, and also able to know what he or she doesn't know and either try to learn from you, or stay out of the way. Rare bird. I have some of each..
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    gmcinnesMaxMercy
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 18,195
    Seems to be a pecking order in the engineering discipline. The higher up the order the more intense the personality.
    Nuclear engineers tend to be top of the order. Little room for error in that trade might be keeping them uptight.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • offdutytech
    offdutytech Member Posts: 90
    Educated customer is a plus that has some base knowledge. For those that aren't well versed in their heating or cooling system we make it a point to educate them and explain what we are doing. If someone needs a new boiler, furnace, etc I always tell them i'm not working on commission. If they say " I need a few more bids" no problem make sure to ask the other contractors theses x y x questions so that you get the best possible solution. We have even lost some bids after all of that. We would rather loose a job over price than sacrifice our quality. 
    An educating our customers we find is a better return on investment than spending lots of money on advertising. 
    Larry Weingartengmcinnes
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,925
    edited January 15
    All this engineering talk reminds me of a discussion I overheard at a conference years ago. The next room over were Engineers of several different types discussing what type of engineer would most likely have designer the human body.
    the Electrical Engineer boasted the only he would be able to design the network of electrical impulses the control the central nervous system, The mechanical engineers replied that they would have been the only type of engineer that could do such a complex system of piping and ducts to carry air and fluids so efficiently. This discussion went on for about 30 minutes while each branch of the engineering genre touted they were the best at designing the human body until one man silenced the room by saying.... A Civil Engineer is the only Engineer that would design something so complex and still think that it is just fine to put a waste disposal facility next to an entertainment complex.
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    Larry WeingartenSuperTechrick in Alaska
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,885
    edited January 15
    I too, have also suffered the Occasional, 
    Unreasonable-expectations crowd.  They studied Dan's books and can tell you what' s on what page, but they are ALWAYS highly-educated academics with ZERO hands on,  mechanical experience, but pretty nice people.. most!  You can restore their old steam or gravity hot water heating system 99%, but they will obsess over a slighty annoying clicking in the wall.  NO PROBLEM....get a lead-paint certified abatement contractor to open the walls and ceilings  from here to here and then the ceiling from there to there...then we can repitch or repipe what wrong.   At this point, weighing the ACTUAL options they USUALLY learn to live with it!   Ha ha.  Mad Dog 🐕   
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,876
    edited January 15
    It's always interesting to read and listen as guys who install and fix equipment make a very minor change and then think they're smarter than those who designed equipment from the ground up.

     ;) 



    There are very often times guys in an office designing stuff do not have the hands on experience and do not understand some things are simply impossible or unreasonable.   And often do not need to be and other alternatives will work.

    But I don't think that makes them any less intelligent.

    We all need to work together to get the job done.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • vhauk
    vhauk Member Posts: 84
    Engineers live in a box. 3 dimensional. The higher the advanced degree the more rigid the box. Nuclear engineers don’t even think about getting out of the box because out there it’s die! die! die!  But I find that real imagination and solutions that actually work are found more often outside of the box. Some customers have imagination and some don’t. Some can see in their mind in pictures what you are telling them. Others don’t care. Some contractors are just wanting to get her done. Others are into the relationship of customer/contractor being rewarding. Both are valid. But there’s no point in explaining how latent heat is what actually heats or cools your customers house, if they don’t care. But some, like me, just have to know how things work. A little explanation to them goes a long way. 
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 149
    I have a degree in computer engineering but I was also well brought up by my father and his father. My grandfather was a carpenter who became a builder. My father was a commercial refrigeration tech, a sheet metal worker and then a mechanical engineer. I know that there is much I don't know and that reality doesn't always match theory.
    vhauk
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,495
    edited January 15
    This can go both ways, IMO. I can certainly appreciate a customer who does their due diligence and gets a handle on what they might need prior to inquiring, or who will ask light "what's the reason for this?" type of questions. Someone who wants to understand what they're spending their money on will always get my respect. At the same time, I also appreciate someone who admits upfront that they have no idea what they're talking about and trusts me enough to just let me do my thing.

    What I absolutely can not stand, however, is someone who second guesses everything I say. Whether it's an engineer or someone who quotes their Radiantec estimate verbatim, as if they know everything about it and I'm just a stooge they had to hire because they didn't have time to do it themselves. Or they will say they need a 199,000 BTU boiler for their 600 sq ft garage because (insert online store or calculator here) said so, then insult me when I tell them that their information is incorrect. These are the same people who stand over your shoulder the whole time and offer things like "back when I was a plumber for a week in 1992, we would do it this way". I don't mind people watching anymore, but it does still bother me when they want to talk all day because I have trouble concentrating on 2 things at once and it ultimately takes me twice as long to do.
    vhauk
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 3,885
    Over the years, you learn to ask certain questions on the initial phone call or email, to weed out the know it alls and lookie-loos.
    Mad Dog
    STEVEusaPA
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,876
    Mad Dog_2 said:
    Over the years, you learn to ask certain questions on the initial phone call or email, to weed out the know it alls and lookie-loos.
    Mad Dog


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    ratioCLamb