For the past two years, The Unified Group has been providing an important training opportunity to its contractor members. The program is called Technician Boot Camp. The name may sound threatening, but the program has nothing to do with rigorous training. In fact, the program is all about soft skills.

According to Julie Bishop, executive director of The Unified Group, the Technician Boot Camp got its name because the goal of the program is to provide technicians with the basic training and fundamental skills needed to succeed in the field. But this training has nothing to do with technical expertise, but everyday survival skills such as communication, business practices, teamwork, and much more.

The Unified Group spoke recently with The News to share some secrets from the Technician Boot Camp, along with some tips that every contractor and technician can put to use.

Any member company of The Unified Group can request that a Technician Boot Camp session be held at its facility. There are 10 training modules that can be presented, and the company can choose as many subjects as they would like to cover. Topics include “Attitude,” “First Impressions,” “Building Rapport,” “Dealing With Difficult People,” “Technicians And Sales 101,” “Business 101,” “How to Attract and Retain Customers,” “10 Little Tips That Make A Big Difference In Your Service,” “Managing Information,” and “Building Your Team.”

Mark Matteson, president of Pinnacle Service Group, facilitates each boot camp and says that the most requested modules have to do with attitude, people skills, motivation, teamwork, and paperwork.

He explains that companies are beginning to realize that technical expertise only goes so far. A technician’s ability to communicate well with customers and build rapport has become a vital part of a successful business. Here is a taste of what Matteson shares with these companies.


“Attitude seems to come up every time,” said Matteson about the seminars. “Attitudes are contagious. You have to ask if yours is worth catching.”

Matteson explains that when technicians go on a service call, they must be aware of their mood and demeanor. He says that the customer can immediately pick up on how the technician is feeling and this can affect the customer’s attitude.

“It is a choice every single day,” Matteson says about a person’s attitude and behavior.

If a technician is friendly and understanding, more than likely the customer will reciprocate this attitude. The same goes for negativity and a pessimistic attitude. Technicians will have a more difficult time building a relationship with a customer if they reflect a bad personal image.

During the program, Matteson also tries to get the technicians to create a shift in their thinking. This means looking outside of themselves and seeing how other people view them. When technicians see the way others see them, it gives them a clear picture on what they may need to change.


Matteson not only instructs technicians on the image they convey with their attitude, but with their physical impression.

According to Matteson, individuals are judged within the first four seconds of being introduced for the first time. The same goes for the first time a customer meets the technician that will be working on their hvac system.

Matteson says that to make a good first impression in such a short time comes down to very simple procedures. He suggests that a technician look presentable. This means making sure your shirt is clean and tucked in. Make sure you’re well groomed and your hands are clean. It even means making sure that the truck you take on the service call looks clean.

Most importantly, Matteson says that to make a good first impression, simply smile.

Matteson also makes suggestions on how to sustain this positive first impression. He says to perform little extra tasks during the service call that the customer may not be expecting. For example, clean the smudge marks off the thermostat or pick up any trash that may be lying around as you walk back to the service truck.


In any service profession, the irate customer is bound to pop up sooner or later. Matteson reinforces how important customers are. He says that it costs $1 to keep a customer and $7 to get a new one to replace the one you may have lost.

“You’re much better investing money in the customers you have,” says Matteson. “Once a customer is on board, it doesn’t take much to keep them happy. Once you drop the ball, it’s difficult to get them to come back.”

With this in mind, Matteson instructs technicians on how to handle customers, even if they are angry, upset, and difficult to deal with.

One step in doing this is to have empathy for the customer. Matteson says that during the seminar he teaches the difference between sympathy and empathy. He explains that in order to understand customers, you must have empathy for their situations and any problems they may be having. This gives the technician the opportunity to step back and see why a customer feels the way they do.

Listening and understanding the customer is also very valuable to a technician, especially when dealing with irate customers. Matteson says that at one of his sessions, the group came up with an acronym called LESTER. LESTER stands for “Listening, Echo or repeat, Sympathy or empathy, Thanking the customer, Evaluating the options, and Respond and follow through.”

This formula should be used when a customer has had a problem with their service.

Matteson says to listen thoroughly to the complaint. Then repeat back to the customer exactly what they are trying to express. Next, put yourself in the customer’s situation. Try to understand where the customer is coming from by sympathizing or empathizing with the customer. Then thank the customer for the feedback and evaluate what you can do to make that customer feel better.

“Evaluate what you can do,” says Matteson. “Ask the customer what it will take to make them happy.”

Once something is settled on, follow through with the solution in a timely manner.

Matteson says that you can take a great deal of steam off of the customer by identifying with them and by telling them that they are right for feeling the way they do.


Back in February of this year, Bubeck Service, Inc., held a two-day session for its employees. The company decided to cover a number of the above-mentioned topics, including the “Business 101” and “Building Your Team” sessions.

Brett Holscher, operations manager for the company, says that the boot camp was successful and definitely instilled some new values to some doubtful employees.

“A lot of people were skeptical and thought it would be a waste,” said Holscher about the program. “But they all walked out of the session and honestly felt it was a good day spent.”

Holscher has also seen a bit of an improvement in his employees from a professional and personal standpoint. He explains that, on the business side, many of the employees are more aware of the costs and efforts that go into a company. Holscher also says that many of the topics that were covered during the boot camp were good for people in general. He explains that the teamwork and attitude sessions gave his employees the opportunity to communicate better and see things from another perspective.

Some of the employees at Bubeck Service told Holscher that the seminars not only enlightened them professionally, but also gave them an added insight into their everyday interactions with friends and family.

This, according to Matteson, is what the boot camp is all about. He says that the lessons to be learned through the seminars can benefit anyone in any profession.

He also says that the boot camp is “a testament to the commitment of The Unified Group to education and to providing the best training available.

“This is also a testament to the commitment of the participating companies to stay close to their people and their customers,” said Matteson.

For more information on The Unified Group, visit (website). For further information on Mark Matteson, go to (website).

Publication date: 05/13/2002