Customer conversations

During one of my recent continuing education classes, I took time to discuss “customer conversations.” I have found that, in the course of a service call, the customer appreciates the opportunity to express their opinion on the present situation. Many technicians have become accustomed to dismissing this as a “waste of time.” However, it can be of great value on more than one level.

Take a minute and think about the situation that brought you to this customer’s home. Obviously, the customer noticed something that wasn’t acceptable with the performance of their system, or something was different about its operation. What should this mean to a technician? In the few moments we connect with the customer, it might be possible to get valuable information that they don’t even realize they are providing. This customer has most likely lived in this home long enough to know a few basic things that can aid the service technician with the speed and efficiency of the call:

  • The customer called for a reason, so have them explain what the problem is as they see it;
  • During the time the current system has been installed, the customer has noticed its normal operation (noises, run time, comfort level related to thermostat setting);
  • Long-time residents know the service history of the unit and past issues.

All the points above can speed up diagnosis time and provide valuable information that may relate to the current issue. Everything from “The fan on the outdoor unit isn’t spinning” to “The unit seems to be turning on and off a lot, and it’s not getting cool” can change where you might start to look for the problem and help you identify the root cause. The customer might also inform you that they have had refrigerant added in the past (possibly every spring).

As you can see, even the smallest detail that might not mean anything to the customer can be beneficial to you as a technician. In fact, I bet after reading this, you might be remembering a call where you heard the exact things mentioned. If so, did you dismiss the customer’s comments and “do your thing?” Did you think to give the customer credit for the “assist”?

Taking the time to listen to the customer should be one of your company’s keys to success. Most customers are just like the people we work with every day. They are someone’s mother, father, sister, or brother and want to be validated. They want to express their thoughts, and they want to receive information about their situation and gain understanding. This is not only a time to gain useful information about the problem, but it is also a time to build a relationship. Every conversation is an opportunity to add a lifelong customer for your company, and that is never a “waste of time.”

John Christiansen
Assistant professor of a/c technology
Bluegrass Comm. and Technical College
Lexington, Kentucky


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