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 think I'm doing a good job of hiring new people. When they arrive, I give them a bulleted job description.

After they've been here awhile, they get a chip on their shoulder whenever I ask them to do anything new or something that doesn't appear on their original job description bullets.

What am I missing here?

Shot Down By Bullets

Dear Shot Down By Bullets,

It's good that you have something in writing to give them to act as a guideline. But when you hand someone a bulleted list for their job description, they feel imposed upon every time you add something to that bulleted list. They feel as though they should get some extra compensation for the extra burden you placed on them.

I realize, as you do, that the nature of business requires us to be flexible and accept that things change. Unfortunately, job bullets as a job description don't easily accommodate the need to change.

That's why I recommend you create a manual for the individual job position and let the new staff members as well as the old staff members know that when the manual changes so does your job description. The manual is your living job description.

I've successfully used this technique of manuals to replace bulleted job descriptions at many shops and, if you do the same, you won't be shot down by those bullets again.

Al Levi


Dear Al,

I took the time and effort to create really good phone scripts but it seems those who answer the phone don't take the time or put in the effort to use them. That means the quality of our phone response depends on whom the customer gets on the phone. They like to "wing it."

Is there a method to get a more consistent approach to answering the phones?

Not Following The Script

Dear Not Following The Script,

I commend you for taking the time and effort to create really good phone scripts, but that's only part of the process of getting really good at answering the phone professionally and consistently.

The people answering the phone need to know why it's important to follow the scripts. Have you asked them to switch places with the customer and remember what it feels like to call someone for service and get an unsatisfactory or inconsistent response?

Do they know that if they follow the scripts they give your company the greatest chance of getting in front of the right customer with the necessary information the techs need? Do they know how much they affect the company's profitability? It's your job to let them know this.

Everything that happens either good or bad begins with the way your people answer the phones. And that demands not skipping any steps and providing a consistent approach which can only be achieved by following the phone scripts.

As to accountability, you can have a "mystery caller" use your phone script to make sure when they call the person answering the phone follows the script. You can record phone calls if you disclose you're recording the call. I'm sure you've heard, "This call may be recorded to ensure quality service."

A good thing is to do a phone role-play. That's where you go into another room and call the call-taker and act like a customer to see if they can follow the script and how good they are at the process.

Do these things and they'll be following the script that will guarantee their success and yours.

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: 05/01/2006