Have you encountered any billboards or other ads in your area that read “Wanted: HVAC Service Technicians — No Experience Necessary”? We have some here in the St. Louis area, and I encourage our people to take a picture with their phone of these boards to show them to potential clients they think might be receiving a bid from this particular company. The question that follows to the consumer is: “Is this the type of person you would like working on your heating or air conditioning system?”

I hear from contractors around the country that finding qualified technicians is one of their hardest jobs. I believe a contractor who has trouble attracting and keeping good people needs to take a look at his operation before just complaining that there are no technicians available on the market. You may have noticed that the contractors featured in The NEWS as “The Best Contractors to Work For” seldom mention the availability of qualified people as a problem. The reason is, they treat their people right. That means they are paid fair wages, given appropriate benefits, and treated with gratitude. Many studies have shown that receiving praise for a job well done is more important to a worker than just wages and benefits. Wages and benefits are a given. Do you make them feel like they are part of a team working together or just out there working for a paycheck? You need to examine all facets of your operation to determine what you are doing right and what you could do better.

There is another trend that we’re increasingly seeing — the practice of paying technicians strictly on a commission basis. While on paper this might sound like a good idea, there is a basic flaw in the practice. I’m not a psychologist (even had to use spellcheck to spell it), but something I have learned through the years is that the mindset of a service tech and a salesperson is completely different. A tech wants to fix things. He or she gets excited by doing the research and coming up with the solution to a problem. Therefore, expecting that technician to have to worry about selling something in order for him to make a decent living is directly opposed to the way he thinks. Additionally, from a company standpoint, this opens the door for something being sold to customers that they don’t need. In the long run, this practice can ruin a reputation.

The technology in the business is changing so rapidly that a good service technician must be constantly trained on the new and more technical pieces of equipment. Good techs are happy finding the solution to the problem, regardless of the size of the invoice they can produce.

If techs know a company provides continuous training, then they are more apt to want to work there.

One additional caveat here is that, sometimes, a technically minded service technician may need some training on people skills in addition to technical training. Not sales training, but soft skills and communication — so they can treat your customers the way you want them to be treated.

With these thoughts in mind, it becomes obvious why some contractors have trouble finding qualified technicians. They really don’t want technicians, they want people with a technical background who want to sell. There is a very small part of the population that fits into this category. Technicians want to fix/repair; salespeople are turned on by making a sale, and many of them, even good ones, are not that interested in the inner workings of a variable-speed motor or any other aspect of the equipment.

If you are having trouble finding good technicians, I recommend looking at your entire system. How you treat your employees, how you train them, and what you expect of them. Some flaws in your system may be keeping the good technicians away.

Publication date: 7/16/2018

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