Survey Addresses Technician Appearance

September 29, 2008
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How important is your tech’s appearance? For that matter, how important is any appearance to how your company is perceived? And are your competitors concerned about appearance, too? These are some of the questions we asked visitors to our recent “Survey Says” online survey at www.achrnews.com.

The title of the unscientific survey was “How Important is Appearance?” A total of 65 people responded to the question and some answers were predictable and others were pretty evenly divided in their answers. Below is a summary of the questions and answers, including some comments by respondents.



DOES YOUR COMPANY HAVE A POLICY REGARDING FACIAL HAIR? IF SO, WHAT IS IT?

The results (Figure 1) were very even, with 54 percent having a policy and 46 percent without a policy. “We do not restrict facial hair, but we do mandate a professional look and proper grooming,” said Rocco Pace of Oliver Heating & Cooling, Morton, Pa. “Hair must be combed and beards trimmed.”

One respondent said his installers could have neatly trimmed facial hair but the service technicians could have no facial hair at all; while Dennis Morgan of Modern Aire Inc., Havre, Mont., said, “For out of town plan-and-spec work, daily trim and shaving is not required.”

Many of the people who answered yes responded that facial hair was allowed as long as it was neatly trimmed. Some allowed mustaches but no beards.

Barry Kindt of SECCO Home Services, Camp Hill, Pa., said employees could look the same as when they were hired because they looked good enough to get the job. “How you are hired is how you shall look unless permission is granted to change your appearance,” he said.



DOES YOUR COMPANY HAVE A POLICY ABOUT JEWELRY AND TATTOOS? IF SO, WHAT IS IT?

The results (Figure 2) were slightly more definitive, with 57 percent having a policy and 43 percent without a policy.

For many of the respondents who answered yes, the issue is safety and not necessarily appearance. “Tattoos must be covered and no jewelry is allowed other than a wedding ring,” said Carla Crafton of Aire Serv of Wabash Valley, Brazil, Ind. “We don’t allow body piercing jewelry, either. There should be nothing that would interfere with safety on the job.”

One respondent wrote that he didn’t care what employees wore when off the clock and added, “All jewelry, rings, and necklaces must not be worn during working hours for safety reasons. Tattoos must be covered as best as possible to minimize exposure during working hours.”

Bill Bradley of Airtronic Heating & Cooling, Redford, Mich., said he doesn’t have a policy “because it hasn’t been a problem yet.”

For other respondents with a policy, they simply do not want to offend their customers. “Very little of the tattoo should be exposed and if it is, it should not be offensive or obscene,” said Tony Hilliard of Hilliard Heating & Cooling, Wellsville, N.Y.



DO YOU REQUIRE YOUR SERVICE TECHS TO WEAR COMPANY SHIRTS AND HATS? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

The results (Figure 3) were overwhelmingly yes with 82 percent.

One yes respondent said he requires techs only to wear company shirts and encourages them to wear hats with the brand name of the equipment the company sells. John McCarthy of McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Omaha, Neb., said he wants his techs to wear company-branded hats and not those of the equipment he sells. “We have complete company uniforms,” he added.

Dave Mason of Climatech LLC, Marlette, Mich., also does not require his techs to wear hats. “Hats we don’t worry about,” he said. “Most of our guys that wear hats wear company hats. Shirts are important. Shirts let customers know that we know we are professionals.”

“Until competency can be demonstrated, the only thing one can be judged on is appearance,” said Ken Secor of KPS Heating & Consulting, Enosburg, Vt. “It’s sad, but true.”

Richard Krohn of Krohn Refrigeration Inc., Manalapan, N.J., is one of the few who said he does not require company shirts and hats, but noted, “I think anything worn that is neat, clean, no tears, and has no silk screening is fine.”



DO YOU BELIEVE A PERSON SHOULD BE JUDGED BY THEIR APPEARANCE? PLEASE EXPLAIN.

The results were fairly even (Figure 4) with 55 percent believing that yes, a person should be judged by appearance and 45 percent saying no. One respondent who replied yes, said bluntly, “If techs look like crap, that is what customers think they are getting.”

Gary Marowske of Flame Furnace, Warren, Mich., said yes because he believes that customers will judge work habits by appearances. “If the techs can’t clean themselves up, what makes you think they will clean up or care about anything else?” he asked.

Pace believes it is all about professionalism. “We know the customers will feel more assured that we have a professional entering their house,” he said. “We advertise this look. We also require the use of protective boot coverings, drop cloths, and floor runners.”

Michael Flesher of Arctic Air Inc., Royal Oak, Mich., also answered yes and strongly believes in a first impression. “In the service business, appearance is very important,” he said. “A messy, unkempt appearance, as well as a messy truck interior, might give the impression that the service tech is less than qualified to work on the equipment. Or, if the tech doesn’t care about his or her personal appearance, he or she may show the same disdain for the customer’s home or business property.”

It’s all about the money, and how much can be made by an impressionable tech. That’s the thinking of Patrick Follo of R. Follo & Sons Plumbing, LLC, Newington, Conn. “To receive professional revenues, my technicians must look and act professional,” he said.

A respondent who answered no said, “I don’t think we should be judged by our appearance, but we are. And we are judged by the people that put food on our table. So we must address it.”

Krohn also answered no to this question, too. “We have a very steady customer base,” he said. “They know our people and are like friends. So appearance is not as important for the relationship.”



DO YOUR COMPETITORS HAVE SIMILAR POLICIES? (ANSWER YES IF YOU BELIEVE MOST DO.)

This question did not require a follow-up answer. Figure 5 shows that 55 percent of respondents felt their competitors had similar policies and 45 percent didn’t think so.

The overall survey showed that contractors split along the lines of whether it is necessary to have a policy regarding how to groom and what to wear. In the end, according to Dave Hutchins of Bar Area Air Conditioning, Crystal River, Fla., it’s the tech who has to sell himself. “It’s the tech’s job to overcome any objection to beard, tattoos, etc.,” he said. “If he does, you’ll never hear about it, if he doesn’t you will - and that’s the one to deal with.”

If you would like to participate in regular online surveys, visit www.achrnews.com and click on “Survey Says” or e-mail Business Editor John R. Hall and request to be added to the survey list.

Publication date: 09/29/2008

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