We’re Not Service Techs, We’re Service Consultants

June 26, 2000
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The service technician is usually the first person that service customers ever meet, and the one they are likely to see most frequently.

Many service techs do not realize the many responsibilities that are automatically riding on their shoulders the moment they are dispatched to the service customer’s site, regardless of whether it is commercial, industrial, or residential.

For example, the manner with which you drive your service vehicle (a large mobile billboard) is normally not recognized by the public. However, if a service vehicle should cut someone off in traffic, that person does not refer to the arrogant driver, but rather recognizes and remembers the company’s big, bold-letter name printed on the vehicle and may decide never to call that company in the future.

And you can bet they will remember your company name when discussing an hvacr problem with a friend, relative, or business associate, and it will be your company that is not recommended.

How many of you recognize a dark brown, clean delivery vehicle with gold lettering and a driver with a clean, color-matching uniform, plus a very polite voice that says, “Please sign here” while handing you a pen, confirming your name, and saying “Thank you.” You’re right, that is the trademark of UPS.

Do you do anything at all that sticks out in such a way that, when one of your customers sees something similar, they may remember you or your company? Maybe you should; it can only help you to be remembered like UPS.

How many hvacr contractors have trained and educated their employees, especially their service techs, on the importance of customer relations, customer communications, and company policies when dealing with the customer?

I am sure that there are many that do, but I have met, heard of, and read about very many who do not. There are some service techs out there that my mother would not open the door for after taking a look through the peephole at their appearance.

Image Is Critical

Some people may say, “It is my constitutional right to dress and groom myself the way I want.” But let’s not forget that every employee communicates the company’s image to the service customer. Is it in a manner that is approved by the employer?

Remember that it is also the customer’s constitutional right to select and call whomever they desire, and they may turn you away at any time, for any reason. You don’t want it to be because of your appearance.

Regardless of the way you act, your appearance may make all the difference in whether or not your company gets and keeps the customer you are visiting.

The last thing a contractor wants is a bad reputation. One unhappy customer will hurt you 10 times over.

At any given time of the day, every service tech essentially has their employer in one hand and the customer in the other, and they can disappoint one or both any time they desire. This will happen long before their employer learns what happened.

Customer Care

Communication with the customer is very important. Service techs must learn to discipline themselves in this area, and remind themselves of it every so often.

They must learn to be pleasant, calm, collected, and level headed at all times, even when the customer is calling them a #$@^%! idiot because you asked them a simple question like, “What did or did not happen when your unit stopped?”

A good service tech will not only listen to the customer about their problem and then fix it, but will also explain to the customer their opinion of the unit.

While they are explaining this to the customer, they will be able to get the information they need about that particular unit.

Listen and Learn

Most good techs will say they get most of their information on the equipment by listening to the customer.

They ask very direct questions that only require very simple answers, like:

  • How old is the unit?

  • What is the general operating cost of this unit?

  • Has there been excessive or expensive service done on the unit in the last two operating seasons?

  • Have you considered upgrading to a more efficient system?

    Some customers will tell you “Oh no, this is the first big problem we have ever had.” I say, “Ah, the beginning of the end.” When the problem in an old unit is going to be costly, it is a good practice for the service tech to offer replacing the entire unit and explain to the customer the benefits in doing so.

    Now, a lot of larger hvacr contractors will say that service techs are not salespeople, and in their business they may be correct. But most small contractors do not have three or four sales personnel on top of their three or four service techs and helpers. There are a lot more small hvacr contractors out there than large, and their techs wear at least two hats (see sidebar at end of page).

    Techs Take Note

    Service techs: You never have a second chance to make a first impression for yourself or your company. Appear clean, neat, and on time. If you foresee a problem of not meeting your next customer’s appointment, then keep that customer informed of your delay.

    Be prepared for emergencies by having the proper equipment and tools on your service vehicle. (To the customer, his/her problem is an emergency every time.)

    Be courteous and understanding with upset (and sometimes incoherent) customers. Be alert to every opportunity to consult with the customer about adding their name to your company’s preseason cleaning and preventive maintenance list. Possibly the customer would consider replacing or updating their present old, inefficient equipment to reduce the operating cost and increase their own comfort.

    Always remember, you project your company’s image every time you move your eyes, lips, hands, or feet. Your company has trust in you to do the job right; the customer is expecting you to do the job right. Don’t let either party down.

    Complete all the necessary paperwork neatly before leaving the job. Make sure the customer understands the work performed and the end result.

    Before leaving, be sure the customer is fully satisfied, give him/her several of your company business cards to hand out for referrals, and always put your business sticker on the unit you just serviced.

    Make every service call to a new customer a new beginning for both the customer and your company.

    Williams, CM, is a controls technician for Bradley/Sciocchetti Inc., Merchantville, NJ.

    Sidebar: Profile of a Tech

    To a small contractor, the service tech is:

    • The greatest personal relations representative a service company could possibly have – if they are trained.
    • Able to fix the problem – if they are trained. Service techs today are not only there to fix the problem on the unit, but they must become service consultants.

      Only one-third of their task is servicing units. Technicians must learn how to service the customer in the manner the customer desires to be serviced and at the time the customer desires to be serviced.

      Their efforts must be within the parameters of 50% responsibility for the customer and 50% for the employer.

      — John Williams, Jr.

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