Tom Merriott
Tom Merriott

If you have a hard time relating to people in your HVAC company, maybe it’s not what they’re saying, or even how they are saying it, but actually how you are listening. This is especially true with feedback on you or your team. If anyone in your company has negative feedback or a complaint about an employee on your team, and you listen from the heart or worse yet, from the ego, then you are bound to have an emotional reaction.

In addition, what if the feedback is presented to you in an emotional manner? Do you automatically shut down? Just because others don’t speak your language doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them. Too often we dismiss information because we don’t like how it was presented.

Example: One of your dispatchers comes to you completely frustrated and says, “None of your techs will run a call after 3 p.m., and you need to fix it!”

As owners and managers we immediately dismiss this complaint as irrational hysteria because we know our technicians work later than 3 p.m. We see them come back in the evenings. Besides, if this were true, we would already know about it…right? Well, the long answer to that question is an entirely different blog, but the short answer is probably not. Which leads us back to the topic at hand: listening.

Instead of ignoring the original complaint, I challenge you to dig a little deeper. Resist the urge to placate them with “I’ll look in to it,” while you roll your eyes and walk away. Remember, in anatomy, we are taught we hear with two ears, but in business, we need to learn we listen with what’s between them — our brain. Here are a few examples of how to listen with your brain in these situations:

• Ask for more specifics:

This deflates the hysteria, and promotes honest feedback, because you are willing to listen. Your response and follow up actions depend on knowing the important details.

• Ask who refuses to run calls after 3 p.m.:

You can identify whether you have personality conflicts, an issue with a single technician, or an epidemic on a particular shift.

• Ask if it occurs every day or specific days:

Isolating frequency can pinpoint customer call patterns, dispatch errors, or a more systematic problem in your business.

• Ask for ongoing feedback, like a log of concrete examples when 3 p.m. calls are refused:

You empower the person giving the feedback to be part of the solution, and also demonstrate your willingness to take action when needed.

Remember, employees may deliver bad news in a more irrational way, because all too often it takes a long time for them to work up the courage to tell us. If you respond by listening with your brain you can tackle these complaints in a manner that generates solutions.

So, the next time someone comes barreling into your office with a problem, put away the ego, get down to the facts, and really listen.