Customers Come First

I read with interest and dumbstruck fascination the insights of Mr. Greer regarding paying technicians straight commissions on repairs and service ["Paying Techs Straight Commission," Nov. 10]. Equally disturbing to me was his own job description indicating he teaches technicians how to sell. In fact, he states that getting technicians to want to "sell more" is the real struggle.

The philosophy by which our company operates is decidedly different from Mr. Greer's advocacy. We even advertise that we pay no commissions on repairs made to systems. Any commissions paid on replacement units are based on a set formula and strict adherence to the company price book is required. No one is allowed to charge more than book price. Therefore, we never split money (overage) with technicians, as it cannot occur.

Too many other companies in our area pay as Mr. Greer likes to see it done. We hear the resulting outrage from customers we get after their bad experience and "being taken." Our entire industry suffers because of the temptations and thievery that can easily be "justified" by individuals from technicians to management.

The larger problem rests in the idea of "selling more." We strive to provide the customer with what is necessary and the proper application of parts and equipment. This is based on a needs assessment, not a sales mentality. Philosophically, this is a big difference and one that I feel very comfortable and confident in defending. Having to answer, "Yes, our technicians are paid commissions on parts," when asked by a customer, is simply not defensible when measured against the conflict of interest rule.

Along with the Golden Rule, this is the rule we should all follow and enforce. Straight or add-on commission-based sales incentives violate this rule. Furthermore, anyone who is subject to a commissionable position (pure sales) should be overseen with strict scrutiny. It must be top-down driven.

Our success for these past 41 years has been our commitment to do the right thing for each of our customers. When we make a mistake, we fix it in the customer's favor, even if the mistake is only in the customer's perception of how we dealt with a problem. There are enough challenges in our industry without self-inflicting a major problem arising from a conflict of interest with the very people we call our customers. Customers come first, which leaves no room for repair commissions.

W. Theodore Etzel III
Conditioned Air Corporation of Naples Inc.
Naples, Fla.

Exactly Right

Just wanted to say that Charlie Greer's guest column ["Paying Techs Straight Commission," Nov. 10] is a great article. It hits the nail on the head. I have been paying techs on production pay for several years now. Anytime we see a new guy start to abuse the system, we make a change before he gets to see customers. Our techs are making a better living, the customers are getting better service, and they are being offered more options to improve their living conditions and/or health.

Great job!

Ben Stark
DFW Comfort Experts Inc.
Euless, Texas

Commission Plan

I read Charlie Greer's guest column ["Paying Techs Straight Commission," Nov. 10] inThe Newswith great interest. I am a service manager in a company that is, as a whole, about 90 percent commercial and institutional work. I have eight technicians and about 1,000 service contracts. Although most of the work our company does is in the commercial area, it seems that we still have a lot of residential service customers. About 700 of those service contracts are residential. We are not doing any residential advertising and all of our growth efforts are in the commercial area.

I am very interested in how the straight commission plan would work for what we do. If I were a tech, I think that's the only way I would want to work, but I know it must worry a lot of people who don't see the potential.

I have been doing this for 31 years. I love the service side of the business and I'm very good at the service business part of it. My service department does about $2 million in sales yearly with the company doing from $7 to $9 million total.

Name withheld by request

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Publication date: 12/15/2003