Al Levi
Editor's note:Consultant Al Levi helps HVAC and plumbing contractors run their businesses with "less stress and more success." He has agreed to let us share with readers ofThe NEWSsome of the questions he gets and the answers he provides. The focus is strictly on problem solving and handling the day-to-day operations of a successful contracting business.

To send Levi your own questions, which if selected will run anonymously, send him an e-mail at or fax him at 212-202-6275.

This column is meant to be a resource only. Please check with your own trusted business advisers, including your own attorney, to make certain that the advice here complies with all relevant laws, customs, and regulations in your area.


Dear Al,

I've got three people in my office who are responsible for answering the phone and booking the calls.

They all answer the phone differently. Sometimes they don't get vital information and this causes our techs to arrive at a client's home unprepared to do the work.

What can be done?

Hung up

Dear Hung Up,

This is a common complaint about multiple employees answering the phones. They are individuals and not robots, but they should still have a basic approach that gets all the information needed.

The only way I know to do that is to create phone scripts and practice them while being in different rooms and talking on a phone. Why do we need to do simulated calls like this? It's easy to read the script with no pressure. How well does it work when the phones ring off the hook or the client doesn't follow the script? The time to practice how to respond as a group is in these role-playing sessions with phone scripts in hand. If they can't do it then, trust me when I say they'll never do it when answering the phone.

They should have a complete Customer Service Representative [CSR] Manual to guide them through this vital job at your company. Their ability to properly answer the phone and book the call directly affects the profitability of your entire company.

Think it's worth the training investment? It will improve many other aspects of your sales.

Al Levi


Dear Al,

I've got two people who take calls and one dispatcher. We have eight techs. What's frustrating is that they don't seem to know what each other is supposed to be doing. This creates misunderstandings and hassles for the customer when we drop the ball.

What can I do to stop this from happening?

Communication Gap

Dear Communication Gap,

The problem is common. The reason is simple. No one ever defined in writing what each position at the company does, what they are obligated to do for other positions at the company, and what they can expect others to do that will make all these separate jobs work seamlessly.

The answer is to write it all out. For the first time, let the dispatcher know what exact information the technician requires, let the technician know what exact information he can expect from the dispatcher, and define in writing how each position needs to work with each other to fully communicate and orchestrate the actions needed to best serve the customer.

The person answering the call needs to know in writing what they must provide the dispatcher. The dispatcher need to know in writing what they can expect the person answering the call will provide them to stay in sync.

This process is the forerunner to creating detailed manuals for each position at your company that in even greater detail explain what their job responsibility is, what help can be expected from others, and who they should go to for help.

It's the best way I know to fill in the communication gap.

Al Levi

Al Levi of Appleseed Business specializes, as his Web site says, in "Making Contractors' Lives Less Stressful and More Successful." Through private workshops, on-site assessments, customized operating manuals, and staff training programs, Levi delivers the benefit of the experience he gained from years of operating a large family-run HVAC and plumbing business. Learn more by visiting You may also contact Levi by e-mail at or by fax at 212-202-6275.

Publication date: 02/06/2006