Exploring Career Options for Service Technicians

May 10, 2001
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Reaching peak efficiency in service and sales, generating high profits for the company, and maxing out on your commissions are all worthy goals, but are there other goals service techs can strive for and are there any reasons to go for them? Do we need career options?

The answer is yes. You’re probably not going to be able to run service for the rest of your working career. How can I say that? Unfortunately, service techs in all industries are plagued by injuries. Some injuries are minor, some are serious. You can continue to work with some injuries, while others are going to knock you completely out of the workforce. There are also traffic accidents to worry about.

What are you going to do if you hurt your neck, back, arms, shoulders or knees and can’t continue running service? The odds of that happening are fairly high, so why not prepare for it?



SHOULD YOU BECOME A MANAGER?

Whether or not you should become a manager depends on what kind of manager you’re going to be.

There are two types of service managers. One type thinks the job is just to show up and put out fires. The other type understands the profit side of the business and gets involved with it. That’s the kind of manager to be. Then you can get set up with a bonus plan based on increased profits, become a real contributor to the company, and make some pretty decent money for yourself.

One thing to remember about being a manager: It’s not really a promotion. Some people get into management as an ego trip, and those are the ones who don’t really make it in management.

A lot of managers are not aware of this, but their job is to help their coworkers be successful. It’s not a popularity contest, and you usually don’t get the same feeling of accomplishment as a manager that you do as a service tech. As a service tech, you run calls, you fix things, and even after a tough day with some particularly difficult calls, at the end of the day you can look back on your work and see what you’ve done and usually at least one customer is grateful for your efforts.

Not so as a manager. As a manager, the work never ends, you get more complaints than you do thanks, and it’s very difficult to see the fruits of your labor, especially on a daily basis.

Additionally, unless you set yourself up as the type of service or installation manager that is almost a sales manager who focuses on profits and is paid a bonus on increased profits, you might not make as much money as a good “sales tech.”



THE ROLE OF THE DISPATCHER

You personally, your dispatcher, your company, and this entire industry would benefit if every tech would spend at least three consecutive days dispatching during the busy season and every dispatcher would spend a few days in the truck, running service calls with someone.

You could become a dispatcher, and ex-service techs often make good dispatchers. Again, dispatcher is not an easy job, it’s not a popularity contest, you take a lot of complaints, and there’s not a lot of money in it.

BECOMING A FACTORY SERVICE REP

Lots of techs working for small companies feel they might like to become a factory technician or troubleshooter. Sometimes the pay and benefits are better than you can find working for a small company, but it’s a difficult job.

Here’s the thing, you’re only going to be called out when other techs can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then, when you do show up and fix the problem, the local tech often gets defensive because he couldn’t figure it out for himself and blamed it on the equipment. Basically, instead of getting thanked for helping out, you end up with a dissatisfied customer on your hands and you get blamed for that.

It’s a very frustrating job, and the turnover for factory service reps is very high. It’s no easier than working in the private sector.

You can’t become a factory service rep overnight and you can’t become a factory service rep for just any manufacturer. You’ve got to be very familiar with their product and its “bugs” before even thinking about applying for a the job.

You’re also going to need more people skills than you might think the job would call for.

If being a factory service rep is your goal, your best bet is to get to know the local factory sales rep in your area and let that person know you’re interested in becoming one when a vacancy opens up (which, due to the high turnover in that job, will probably be soon).

Of course, if you’re already working for one of that factory rep’s customers (which you certainly will be) going to work for them could cause a conflict between your boss and his supplier, so they’ll be very reluctant to take you on.



BECOMING A SALESMAN

Lots of techs feel that eventually they might become a salesman. Now, there’s a good job, but it’s not as easy as some think it is. Most non-sales professionals think being a salesman is easy — the phone rings and you make money. It doesn’t work that way. Being a salesman can be very frustrating, but it can also be very rewarding, if you’re good.

If becoming a salesman or a sales manager is your goal, but you never sell anything and then one day, maybe you become injured or you just decide to take a job as a salesman somewhere, are you going to be a good salesman? No.

Sales can be a good job. It’s usually not physically demanding or particularly dangerous. But you do have to produce. You do have to make sales.

Everyone thinks s/he could be a good salesperson, but in reality, the failure rate in sales is 95%. That is, 95% of the people who get into sales get out of sales. But don’t let that scare you. The 95% that wash out do so because of the attitude that sales is easy and all you need to make it in sales is the gift of gab. What they forget is that they’re competing against someone else who is trying to sell the same client and also has the gift of gab.

Actually, you don’t make sales by talking. You make sales by listening. Good salespeople are good listeners and all career salespeople are constantly studying sales technique and practicing to make them better. So, setting a goal of eventually moving out of service and into sales is a good idea, but if you never sell out of a service truck, you won’t sell elsewhere.



TECHNICAL TRAINER

Some techs see being a technical trainer as a career option. This is another job that you’re not going to get injured one day and get a job as a technical trainer or instructor on the next. If you want to become an instructor, you’re going to have to start planning for it now by getting all the certifications you’re going to need and by establishing contacts at the schools. Get to know all the other instructors and heads of the schools in your area.

CONSULTANT/SEMINAR PRESENTER

When I ask what are your career options during my live seminars, someone inevitably shouts out that they want to conduct seminars, like I do. Is that a viable goal? Absolutely yes.

There is a large demand for people who are willing to travel and can do seminars on sales skills, communication skills, and other “soft skills.”

Again, I have to ask, if you’ve done nothing in your career as a service tech to distinguish yourself, are you going to be asked to do seminars? No. But if you think it’s something you’d like to try, it can be done. But you’re going to have to prepare for it. You’re going to have to become an “expert” at something.

You know what the definition of an expert is? Someone who comes from more than 100 miles out of town.

Greer travels the country running calls with hvacr service technicians, demonstrating his methods in the field. He’s the instructor for the “HVAC Closers Academy” held in Ft. Myers, FL. For information call HVAC Profit Boosters, Inc. at 1-800-963-HVAC (4822) or visit his website at www.hvacprofitboosters.com.

Publication date: 05/14/2001

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