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Renata Morgan Podcast

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Renata (Kingsbury) Morgan

General Manager at Century A/C Supply

Renata Morgan  is a 13 year HVAC professional and General Manager at Century A/C Supply. She is the former Chairperson of the HARDI Marketing Committee.

Renata possesses a unique blend of marketing and technology skills. As such, she is a true visionary and pioneer in the HVAC industry. In this podcast, Renata discusses the benefits of mobile technology to support technicians and why she decided to partner rather than build their own solution in-house.

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Renata Morgan Podcast Transcript

David English:

Hi, welcome back to the Mobile Matters Podcast. My name is David English, your host. Just a quick reminder, this is a 12 part podcast series highlighting a variety of organizations who are leveraging all that mobile technology can do for them. Today, I wanted to bring you a really fun guest. It’s a conversation we get to have with someone who’s very forward thinking. She’s got a mind that understands both IT and marketing, which is a really great skill set to have that very few people do. Renata Morgan is her name and she’s the general manager of Century AC Supply down in Houston. I’m going to let her jump in real quick. How are you doing? What’s going on?

Renata Morgan:

Hey David, thanks for having me today. Doing well.

David English:

I really appreciate you taking the time. So real quick, before we dive into everything you’re doing here with Moblico, can you give us your background, where you’re from down in Houston? Tell us a little bit about you.

Renata Morgan:

Sure. So I’m actually an east coast native, born in West Virginia, moved up and down the east coast until I landed in Houston in 1996. Moved here with my family because I was still living with my parents back then and I’ve called Houston home ever since. I had a stint in Austin for college. And right now, I’m actually in the master’s of industrial distribution program at Texas A&M so I have definitely put all of my eggs in the industrial distribution basket with this master’s program I’m going through right now. So I look forward to using that and applying it to the HVAC industry.

David English:

How far into grad school are you?

Renata Morgan:

I’m in my second semester out of four. And I’ve been with my company for 13 years now. So I have certainly seen the evolution of HVAC from people not even having, some of our contractors didn’t even have email. If they did, they didn’t check it back when I first started with the company to now we’re talking about AI and IOT and all kinds of advanced technologies that 13 years ago, weren’t even on anyone’s plate as far as thinking about how it could impact their business.

David English:

Didn’t even exist. I mean, it wasn’t even a thought. You’re exactly right. I appreciate your hustle doing grad school and work at the same time at the level you’re at. I finished up grad school a while back and the juggling family and grad school and work was something else. So I’ve been there, I get it. And it’s difficult to say the least.

Renata Morgan:

Well, kudos to you. I’m envious that you have it behind you already.

David English:

So in addition to your day job, you’re also really involved with HARDI as well. Is that correct?

Renata Morgan:

That is correct, yes.

David English:

What all do they do for their members? Just so people who are listening who maybe aren’t familiar with the organization.

Renata Morgan:

So HARDI does a number of things. It’s the heating, air conditioning, refrigeration distributors international so basically the distribution group. There are several different industry groups that do lobbying and advocacy on behalf of their members. So they’re at the distribution level and they do a number of things for their members. Primarily I’d say there’s three or four different areas that they focus on in terms of the benefits they bring. One is the network. HVAC is a small industry even though it’s a very large industry. There’s a lot of friendly competition, people that know each other. So building that network and having resources to lean on is an advantage of just being a HARDI member. Another thing they do is of course education and conferences. So they have the focus conference every year, which brings together people from marketing, HR, sales, operations, even business analysts and they present different topics in a three day educational seminar with different tracks that you can choose from.

Renata Morgan:

That conference is focused more on the doers and not so much the strategists even though you do find a good mix of positions there at that conference. And of course they also do the annual conference, which is normally at the beginning of December. It’s the larger of the two and they bring in all kinds of industrial distribution experts, wholesale experts, various different speakers on myriad topics, so it’s a really good opportunity once again to go back to the networking and then also to get up to speed on the trends, economic forecast and a lot of really good information that helps all of us run our businesses better. The third thing that they do is lobbying. They do a lot of congressional fly-ins for example, that’s coming up. So they’ll bring in key members from the organization and allow them to meet with various senators on topics and pending legislation that is important to our industry.

Renata Morgan:

Talbot G, who’s the executive director, even got to testify in front of Congress last year about the importance of trade schools and funding for trade schools and getting some of these high school students into the trades. And then they also do other things such as they bring together different suppliers and service vendors and then negotiate discounts for their members. So if you’re looking for say a mobile app with a company like Moblico, being a HARDI member has its advantages to working with them.

David English:

That’s awesome. That’s a huge industry and they do some really great work for the industry as a whole. I’m just, I’m blown away at all that they can accomplish.

Renata Morgan:

Absolutely. It’s fantastic.

David English:

So how did you initially find Moblico? Because I know you’ve worked with us for a while. How’d you find us?

Renata Morgan:

So I was on the HARDI marketing council and at the time, the illustrious Lauren Roberts, who is now the CEO of CFM Distributors, I believe she was the chair of the council at that time. She actually introduced the whole council to Moblico. We made them part of the proven vendor program and then I hooked up with Kelly and Pierre a few years ago actually at a HARDI annual conference and we finally got to talking and a few weeks later, the ink was drying on the paper. We were ready to move forward with just the mobile app and the texting service that Moblico provides.

David English:

Yeah, that was actually my next question. What all you’re doing. You have the app and the texting service. How’s everything going with the app?

Renata Morgan:

It’s going well. At first, I was a little hesitant to be honest because I view mobile apps as a way to create competitive advantage and I was dead set that we needed to build our own app from the ground up to really do that. And then when I got to talking with Kelly and Pierre, that’s when I realized that you guys can provide a shell for us and then you’ve got some existing functionality we can take advantage of if we want. And then we also have the ability to create our own tiles and our own functionality. We own the code, it lives on our servers. And you guys just basically have a container for it.

Renata Morgan:

So once I got that information, it made sense because as we all know, the time it takes to develop something from the ground up, it tends to have scope creep so you think something’s going to take six months and 18 months later, it’s not where you want it to be. So Moblico provided a quick to market solution for us that still allowed us to continue to develop some of those features that we knew we wanted to introduce to create competitive advantage. So it was a really quick and easy set up process for the mobile app side. Luckily our ERP offers API for just about everything. So connecting our eCommerce site and our ERP to Moblico’s app was fairly easy in the grand scheme of things in terms of how development projects normally go.

David English:

Was there a learning curve that you experienced trying to get people used to using the app and changing their philosophy and their mindset? Was that difficult?

Renata Morgan:

Yes and no. For the younger contractors and for our younger employees, I mean they were already texting, they were already using apps in their day-to-day personal lives. So really it was just a natural step forward for them. Now, we also in the HVAC industry are, let’s just say we have a graying contractor base. It’s one of those initiatives where we’re trying to bring new blood into the industry. So for some contractors, they’re not interested in it. Or once they’ve seen a demo from their sales rep, they realize the advantages that it brings. I mean everybody’s walking around with a mobile phone in their pocket these days and I want to say 80 to 90% of them are smart phones. So it’s just kind of a natural progression of what people are already doing in their personal lives. They just need to realize the benefit it can bring to their business and how much easier it can be to get information when you’re able to just pull out your phone and go to an app instead of having to place a phone call or log into a website from a desktop computer.

David English:

Would it be fair to say once you’re used to using the app, it does make life so much easier opposed to resisting, holding out and doing it the old school kind of way? Once you learn how to use an app like that, it just makes life easier, right?

Renata Morgan:

Absolutely. And a lot of that is on us too. We have to make the app easier than whatever methods they’re currently doing. So, we’re all creatures of habit, right? If it’s easier to pick up the phone and call someone and get an answer, that’s what we’re going to do. So if we can create features and user experiences in the app that makes it easier and faster for our customers to just pull the phone out of their pocket and log into the app, then it’s going to just only continue to increase the adoption rate and the number of active users we’re seeing in there.

David English:

I love that. When did you realize that you needed to maybe approach the situation differently and look more forward with your approach?

Renata Morgan:

So I would actually credit some of our sales managers for kind of beating me over the head and saying look, we need to do this now. I realized that people were starting to text me. Whereas business was traditionally conducted either via phone calls or emails, I started getting text messages from customers and text messages from sales reps. And even though I was personally conducting business this way, I honestly didn’t think our customers wanted it or were ready for it. And then when we were doing a strategic planning meeting, a couple of our sales managers just really said no, this is something we need to do. So at that point, I had the conversation with Pierre and Kelly and just a couple months later, we had all of our texting [inaudible 00:10:28] and our customers can text any of our branches or our customer service center and ask questions, place orders, identify parts just by texting a picture. It’s really revolutionized the way our customers can communicate with us.

David English:

Yeah. So that’s curious. I was going to follow up with that and you kind of hinted at it. How has it changed that communication? How has it revolutionized everything?

Renata Morgan:

So not only does it create a database of all the incoming messages we’ve received, right? So we can now easily share pictures back with our customers if they need a wiring diagram, for example, rather than having to clog up our tech support line with people calling in, asking how to wire up a certain thermostat. They can just text it out. Additionally, we have all of our staff able to respond from a computer so no one is having to use their individual mobile phone anymore. It’s going into a centralized pool where the first person available is able to respond to the customer. So now we’ve moved it from these one-on-one conversations that required somebody having that image available on their phone for example, and then the customer having that person’s cell phone number to now they can just text any of our branches or our customer service center and we can get the information they need to them faster without those limitations that cell phones would have put on us if that was the only way we had to respond.

David English:

That’s remarkable. I mean think about how quickly that or how much that changes the response time to an issue. If a tech is in a bad spot. That changes everything as far as the expediency that someone can respond.

Renata Morgan:

Not only that, I mean now we have all this information coming into a dashboard. We can aggregate that data because the next step is going to be for us building a repository of information, eventually using chat bots or automated responses to where we have a data poll now that we can put everything together, see what the most common questions are, see what people are texting us to find out. And now we can start automating some of that. So, we’re talking about human response times, now we’re talking about instantaneous AI generated response times.

David English:

That’s remarkable. And part of me wonders if that doesn’t in a roundabout way assist with training and assist with knowledge from the people texting in where they can expect a response back. They know the answer before it’s being sent. I mean it’s really insightful, I mean in a clever way to do business.

Renata Morgan:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, the whole example with wiring diagrams was just one out of 100 different examples I could have gone from. So, it’s definitely a first step in the direction where, I think five to 10 years from now, we’re just going to have so much AI and machine learning algorithms involved in our businesses that this is just kind of the first step in building some of that information and the databases. We’re going to need to be able to really jump head first into all that AI has to offer.

David English:

So do you think the technology here is to stay then? It’s not going anywhere, is it?

Renata Morgan:

Oh no, it’s definitely not going anywhere.

David English:

That’s fantastic. I mean, what do you think’s next? What’s coming down the… What’s the next thing we’re doing?

Renata Morgan:

Well, I already mentioned AI, artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to revolutionize business, not just for us, but for all industries. Additionally IOT, the internet of things, having our air conditioning system that can automatically place a call to a contractor when there’s an error code for example and the contractor can reach out to the homeowner and get that scheduled before the system has even maybe broken down. That’s kind of what I see as the next step. And then in terms of mobile technology and even our app, augmented reality. I mean that’s going to be huge for us, especially because we are an industry with applied products, right? People are talking about competition from Amazon and what Amazon’s going to do to distribution. Well we have the benefit of being an applied product that is, its application is unique in every different situation. Two homes with the same floor plan might have different variations in the directions their windows face. So there’s a whole lot of human elements that can’t necessarily be disrupted.

Renata Morgan:

But you have people out working on two different air conditioners that are exactly the same. You could run into myriad different technical difficulties, right? So now where we rely on those people calling into our tech support hotline or if it’s a more complex problem, one of our tech support people actually going out to the home. Now you think about using augmented reality, you’ve got a guy who’s sitting there onsite who is coming up with an issue. We don’t have eyes on the scene. Well he can just pull out his mobile phone, show us exactly what he’s looking at and then our person sitting back in the office can go and look up all of the different manuals, all the information that’s online and even circle on the screen here’s where you need to look. This thing right here is what you need to do X, Y, Z to. So I really think that augmented reality is going to hugely impact our business if we can harness it and use it the right way, once again to make our customer’s lives easier.

David English:

That’s amazing because you think of now the common person not familiar with the industry. You think of it as a very low tech industry. I mean breaking it down to the very bones, you’ve got a, I think most homeowners, you’ve got the outside unit, you’ve got the inside unit. I like to be hot in the winter and cold in the summer and that’s all I know and you think of it as a very low tech industry, but it’s the exact opposite. It can be and I think will be in the future, a high tech industry, one of the more higher tech industries around. Would you agree?

Renata Morgan:

Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s funny that you said homeowners know about the outside unit and inside unit. A lot of them don’t even see the inside unit or know about it because it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. Right? Everyone sees the big condenser pump sitting in their backyard but I think with the smart thermostat, that is kind of opening their eyes to just the technology that is involved in air conditioning. And of course, some people are doing these total smart home enabled systems. So the ability for thermostats to be able to work with those smart home systems is going to be very important in the future. I hope that all of them eventually end up open source so that regardless of the control that works with your particular HVAC system, your smart thermostat will be able to plug into whichever overriding smart home system you’ve selected.

David English:

Sure. Yeah, that’s really great. And I don’t want to keep you all day. I could talk about the technology within the household all day long. I think it’s incredibly interesting, but if anyone wants to reach out to you or anything else, if that’s okay, what’s the best way to find you out there?

Renata Morgan:

Sure. They can look at me on LinkedIn if they’d like. It’s R-E-N-A-T-A. Last name Morgan with Century AC Supply. They can also go to centuryac.com, fill out a contact form and I am on the email loop that goes to. Or if they want, they can email me directly at rmorgan@centuryac.com and I’d love to chat about marketing, technology, HVAC, really anything.

David English:

Well, I’ve really appreciated. It’s a fantastic topic and the way that you’re utilizing the app and the texting, I think it’s just the start of what’s coming for the industry and everything else. So, again, thanks so much. I really appreciate the time. Without a doubt, we’ll talk to you soon.

Renata Morgan:

All right. Thanks David. Thanks for having me today.

David English:

Thank you.

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