An Oct. 31 column made me think of Halloween, costumes, and trick-or-treaters. First, I want to assure you I never liked Halloween, didn't like costumes or trick or treating. (Although my kids tell me my everyday dress would be a great costume for a '50s party.)

But there is a costume "connection" to the HVAC business. Each time one of our service technicians approaches a home on a service call it's almost like trick or treat. Our goal is for the experience to be a treat for the homeowner so they don't feel like they were tricked. We just printed some information in our company newsletter for our service techs, which I believe, is appropriate.

Outside Tricks

When parking at a home, be cautious in where and how you park. Some contractors have restrictions on how they want their technicians to park, e.g., not in the driveway, etc. For us, we can't have firm rules because of the driveway lengths, drive relation to house, etc. We just make sure we aren't blocking the driveway or are someplace inappropriate.

When approaching the home, it's good to stay back a few feet from the door so that the person doesn't feel their territory is being encroached upon. This is an important issue for many homeowners, especially in today's world. Hopefully your technician is attired in a nice, tidy uniform - not to be confused with a costume. Remember that first impressions are lasting impressions, whether we like it or not, so looking right in the company uniform is a must for making that good first impression.

After introducing himself (I'm Joe from XYZ Heating and Cooling), the technician should inquire as to the specific problem or explain that he is there for a maintenance call. He should show confidence in his approach without being overly pushy.

Inside Tricks

This is not Halloween so we don't want the customer to feel there are any tricks involved. If he enters the home, he should either remove his shoes or put on the readily available booties to protect the owner's home from any outdoor dirt, etc.

When working on the equipment, if the homeowner is one that wants to watch every move, then it is appropriate for the tech to explain in simple terms the steps he is taking. This explanation should be in lay terms and should be short and to the point.

Whether you are on flat-rate pricing or time and material, the customer is anticipating paying for time the technician is talking, therefore overexplaining is not a good idea. Again, the main thing is for the tech to instill confidence in the customer that he is approaching the problem in an organized, systematic manner.

After completing the call, the tech should fill out his paperwork as expeditiously as possible, preferably legible. I'm sure we all have technicians whose handwriting wouldn't pass the second grade. If anyone has a solution for this, I'd like to hear about it.

Once the paperwork is completed, a brief explanation should be given to the customer and collection should be requested. Collecting immediately on service calls is essential. The process can be helped immensely if, when arranging the call, the office will advise the homeowner that payment is expected upon completion of service and the forms of payment accepted (cash, checks, credit cards).

It is then appropriate for the tech to ask if there are any other questions that he can answer. He should thank the customer for contacting his company and ask them to call the company again should they have any needs in the future.

The end result is that when your service technician leaves the customer's home, the customer should feel that the entire experience was a real treat for him/her and that there were no tricks in the process.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 10/31/2005