Success is a locked door, and strong customer relationships shape the key that opens it. Happy customers can carry businesses across the threshold that divides the companies that fail from the companies that thrive, and all it takes is communication.

Steve Coscia, president of Coscia Communications Inc., a customer service consultancy firm, has 25 years of experience as a service manager and, as a result, has come to realize the importance of soft skills in the business world. Soft skills can be defined as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. While this may seem like a quality people either possess or they don’t, Coscia has created a curriculum based on teaching both business owners and employees the importance of soft skills and how to develop them.

Coscia started his consulting firm roughly 18 years ago.

“I did my first HVAC assignment in 2003, so, after about  three years of general work, I narrowed my focus to the mechanical trades,” he said.

That was almost 15 years ago. And while the times and the industry have changed in countless ways since his first HVAC consulting job, one thing always seems to remain the same — there is a positive correlation between a company’s success and the soft skills of its employees.

“I help companies to maximize their employees’ first impression to customers,” said Coscia. “I also help companies get more referrals and add-on sales by improving employees’ listening skills and teaching them to ask the correct questions.”

Coscia provided an example concerning customers who call and ask for a price.

“The tactic  I teach my clients that enables them to be more successful is  never answer the price question with the price,” he said. “Answer with an explanation of what you’re going to be able to do to help them — the more questions you start to ask, the more you start to build rapport because the customer is going to elaborate. It becomes a phone call with more emphasis on the relationship side and less emphasis on the transaction side.”

Jeff Chapman, president, Chapman Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, hired Coscia to provide on-site training multiple times over the course of the last couple years.

“As an owner, I figured out a long time ago that success is about a commitment to growth and a commitment to improving,” he said.

So far, Chapman has invited Coscia out three times, but he plans to have him back in the spring after opening a new training facility.

“About 35 percent of my clients are ongoing clients, so it’s every year or twice a year,” said Coscia about site visits. “They keep having me back because they get results, and the results are positive.”

Coscia has several different programs designed to meet the needs of the customers. Both on-site and online training programs are available and can be scheduled to meet any frequency requests. However, Chapman feels the on-site training provides the best bang for your buck.

“I can sing and preach to the choir, but Steve has a really engaging format, and his style adds a lot to the presentation,” he said.

Coscia is a certified speaking professional — a designation he earned through the National Speakers Association.

“I have earned an excellent reputation as a public speaker and as someone who conveys a curriculum in a fun, informative, and lively delivery,” Coscia noted.

Chapman agreed, pointing out that the greatest attribute of his presentation is the  audience’s engagement.

“He gets people up out of their seats, and it empowers the employees when they’re the ones giving the answers,” said Chapman.

The training material  Coscia provides is designed for any company that wants to improve its customer service.

“At Chapman, we’ve got a philosophy that the real differentiator is the customer experience — that really brings value to the table and separates us from the competitors,” Chapman explained.

According to Coscia, good companies want to get better 100 percent of the time.

“[My clients are] companies that are already successful in their marketplace and are looking for that additional edge, they are looking to sharpen their skills,” he said.

Most of the time, Coscia visits distributor locations, and the distributor posts the presentations for its dealers to view for their own advantage.

“Distributors and contractors are my strongest audiences,” he said.

In addition to on-site training, Coscia has written four books on communication and soft skills,  spoken at numerous industry conferences, maintains an informative blog, and  his firm offers several forms of educational content on  its website, which gets updated in real time as industry needs dictate.

“On our website, we have a very extensive product line of curriculum materials — we don’t just sell books — we have complete lesson plans,  PowerPoint [presentations], and exams,” Coscia said. “It enables every type of company to teach customer service in house.”

Some people  think that just because they’ve done something one way in the past, they should continue to do it that way in the future, Chapman noted.

“You have to go out into the marketplace to understand there are other ways to do things and ways to do things better,” he added. “I don’t know how you could not want to go out into the world and want to be a better contractor and provide better customer service. I can’t speak to other owners’ aspirations or goals, but we want to be the best in our market.”

The one thing Coscia hears most often from customers who achieve success through his program is how important the relationship side of what they do is,  and when they slow down on being aggressive in their sales, put their personality first, and personalize what they’re doing, customers are more likely to say,  “Yes.”

“They [business owners and employees] misunderstand the importance of relationships, and that’s one thing our curriculum reinforces and emphasizes.”

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Publication date: 11/01/2017