Observations from an Energy Audit Mystery Shopper

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The auditor immediately caught the t-shirt stuffed leak.

The auditor immediately caught the t-shirt stuffed leak.

Last week I had the chance to mystery shop what was supposed to be an “energy audit”. Alas, it mirrored a lot of what I’ve seen too many times. Here’s quick summary.

The good.  The auditor had the basic blower door diagnostic competency. He was able to spot the major problems in the attic and propose good attic air-sealing and insulation solutions, extending to venting of bath fans which currently terminate in the attic. Taken in isolation, the attic recommendations were pretty good.

And he turned around the proposal quickly–it was received by email within two hours (as opposed to two days, two weeks, or two months as sometimes happens).

The not-as-good…

He also pointed up the exhausting deficiencies.

He also pointed up the exhausting deficiencies.

Disconnect between customer call and visit. The customer called looking for an audit, suggesting possible problems with the insulation and the ducts. She had a good conversation with the owner of the company who talked a good game, they agreed an energy audit made sense. However, when the auditor showed up, he was squared focused on the attic, and didn’t offer to do any diagnostics. There a disconnect on the scheduled start time, 9am v. 10am, despite the fact that the homeowner took the somewhat of unusual of confirming the time by phone and email. I suspect they’re not using a good CRM system.

Sales is everything you do.  I’m a fan of wearing “booties” to protect the customer’s floors. This didn’t happen, and I was able to discern a bit of dirt tracked in. Not a lot, but why not take care of the customer’s house? Similarly, a bit of fiberglass wound up on the shelf and floor of the closet where the attic hatch was. Why not throw a tarp down before the ladder?

“I’m here to give you an estimate for insulating your attic.” The rep really limited the focus from the beginning. The homeowner asked “aren’t you going to use the blower door”. He said he could, but he was clearly surprised by the request. And he remained squarely focused on the attic for the entire visit.

The auditor didn't look at the mechanicals, and didn't know what to say about obvious design and installation issues, including trying to cram flex duct through a too-small hole.

The auditor didn’t look at the mechanicals, and didn’t know what to say about obvious design and installation issues, including trying to cram flex duct through a too-small hole.

Questions? I don’t need no stinkin’ questions. I don’t have to ask you any questions. And he didn’t really. This was a huge missed opportunity to learn more about what the customer valued—what they’re willing to pay for—and to help educate and build buy-in at the same time.

Ducts? Well not just ducts, but the whole HVAC system. He mentioned insulating the ducts, but not sealing them, even with a few leading questions. He also had no intelligible response when asked about the ducts as part of the comfort problem, even when questions where about obvious deficiencies—deficiencies that one would want to correct BEFORE air-sealing and reinsulating the attic. (I often hear complaints from auditor and air-sealers about the HVAC industry. Well, it cuts both ways.)

Walls? Windows (especially leakage around the windows)? Incandescent lights?  Nary a mention.

Presenting the proposal. Kudos to the auditor for turning the proposal around quickly. He probably could have taken a few minutes and presented it in person, allowing time for questions.

So much was was on the table with missed opportunities to better serve the customer–and to generate more revenue, too! Whew, we’ve still got a long way to go…


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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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