Sustainably Speaking

Educating your customer

I recently reviewed survey results regarding consumer and homeowner awareness of green products, systems, etc. for the home.

According to a survey by ServiceMagic, a website that connects consumers with customer-rated service professionals, convenience, lifestyle needs and modest spending levels are driving demand for green products. The survey is part of the company’s Q2 2010 Home Remodeling and Repair Index, compiled from 1.6 million service requests received via ServiceMagic’s online marketplace, plus, results from a survey of more than 1,200 homeowners and 500 service professionals.

The good news from this survey is that 59% of Americans consider green alternatives for home improvement projects (window energy efficiency is the leading green home improvement project). The bad news is that beyond window projects, going green is not in much demand. According to the survey, respondents that had no interest in greening their homes were not aware of green options (50%), did not like the green choices (27%), and found the costs of a green product outweighed its benefit (16%).

It’s great that 59% of Americans consider green options when doing home improvement projects, but what about the other 41%? Plus, knowing that 50% of the homeowners with no interest in sustainable products had no idea what green options were even available leads me to believe that no one told them what products were available and/or explained to them the benefits of the green products.

Of course, consumers can research almost anything online these days, but sales reps, manufactures, contractors and other industry professionals need to educate their customers about the green options available. For example, a contractor should not assume their customer knows about water-conserving plumbing fixtures and toilets, instead they need to show the customer what their options are and explain the products’ benefits. Then the customer can decide what they want. Even if they do not pick the water-efficient product, at least they learned about the product and it was offered to them as a choice.

Besides consumers not being aware of their green options, another problem could be that green products are associated with higher upfront costs than traditional products, scaring consumers away from water- and energy- efficient products.

The stagnant economy and the struggling housing market are most certainly affecting consumers' and homeowners' decisions these days too. According to the article “Survey: Consumer Interest in Green Homes Declines: Struggling Housing Market is Affecting Eco-minded Buyers” by Jennifer Goodman of EcoHome, a new national poll has found that consumer interest in owning a sustainable or energy-efficient home has declined.

The Green Living Pulse survey was conducted by Knoxville, Tenn.-based ad agency Shelton Group. The survey found that 64% of respondents were interested in owning or renting an energy-efficient home (down from 72% last year), and interest in green homes also decreased, from 47% last year to 43% this year.

So, what’s a contractor to do to get homeowners interested in green products, systems and technologies? Of course contractors can’t do anything about the economy or housing market, but they can suggest an energy- or water-conserving product in lieu of a traditional product when renovating a home, bathroom, kitchen, etc. Besides suggesting products, the contractor needs to explain the benefits of the green upgrade. If contractors suggest green products with an explanation of the benefits, costs, and payback of the products, the contractor is educating the customer, so they can make an educated decision.

TAGS: Remodeling