Not too long ago, the HVAC Service Technician took great pride in representing the company he or she worked for. They would arrive to work early, enthusiastic for the day ahead; helping the elderly without heat first after the big snow storm. They would answer their emergency calls within minutes following the noise of the dreadful beeper, and later cell phone. It only took about five minutes, but shining their boots before heading out the door felt like an eternity. Removing them when entering the front door of a home was a nuisance, but leaving a house almost cleaner than when they showed up was rewarding in itself.
To a large percentage of today's HVAC service personnel, this all sounds old fashioned and likely comical. Believe it or not, this is how I was taught by most of the old timers when I first started in the industry - fresh out of trade school. I know of very few companies that worry about their perception when it comes to their service department. The service technician is the face of your business! They provide the first taste of your company, and perception by the homeowner is everything. They are the expert, the trusted professional that was invited into a home to fix the comfort problem. Because of this trust, the service technician can provide the highest quantity of leads, sales, and even growth of the company. If you want to succeed as a service technician, there is more to it than just knowing the equipment...
1. Clean your Van, inside and out!
There is nothing more embarrassing than opening the door and having your most recent coffee cup or dirty air filter fall out into the customer's driveway. You may not care too much, but your company does! Make it a habit to clean out your trash daily, and restock your van at the same time. You likely do not have to wash your vehicle as often, but create a schedule and just be mindful - would you want an expert showing up to your house in that vehicle?
2. Dress like it's a uniform.
Not to be taken to the extreme, but have some pride in the way you dress. Of course, nothing matches the pride I had when wearing the uniform for the greatest fighting force in the world. Clean, unwrinkled shirts, pants, and even shorts (if applicable) go a long way for the perception of a quality product. I do not care how much a technician knows, if they look like they just woke up, wearing the same old, stained "boiler pants" their credibility goes out the window!
Keep a spare shirt, pants, and if possible shoes in your van. You may only use these once a month, but it will ensure you can keep the perception of quality at all times. For those really bad attic crawls, through a foot of cellulose, consider investing in a good pair of coveralls...
3. Organize your tools
Very few technicians use tool belts anymore. In fact, when I did, I just carried it on my shoulder. I did not do this for any other reason than a homeowners perception. By carrying the few common tools always required, it kept my hands free to shake, hold/open the door, and even wave to neighbors. I never left tools at a job site because in just a glance I could see if I was missing anything. Many times I have met technicians at a job, asked for a tool, and they dump their five gallon bucket of goodies on the basement floor. Why do they carry every tool from their van in such a rusty pile? To avoid a walk back to the van for a tool not used every day? This walk could present another opportunity to talk with your customer, a good thing!
4. Use the right tools for the job
Just because I am talking about the "good old days" does not mean you should be using tools circa then. Long gone are the sets of manifold gauges, Fyrite combustion kits, and incline manometers. Yes, I have some of the mentioned as back-ups in case my Digital Refrigeration Analyzer, Combustion Analyzer, and digital manometer are out for repairs. I would not want a doctor or dentist not using the most up to date tools, think about it!
5. Ask questions and listen to the homeowner
By the time I made it to the basement, I would likely know what was wrong with the furnace, boiler, heat pump, etc. This is because I asked the homeowner some key questions. For instance, what does the equipment seem to be doing now? Have you heard any noises out of the ordinary? Talk with the homeowner, they are paying your bill and expect it. After all, they invited you into their home, to not do so would just be rude. Speaking of rude, recognize cultural differences in the area you are working (i.e. wearing of shoes indoors, looking the woman of the house in the eyes, shaking hands, etc.). Just merely asking if it is ok to wear your boots for safety will break down this tension.
6. Complete your paperwork, legibly!
One of the largest downfalls of technicians, the dreaded paperwork. Complete it on site, always capturing a signature after completion. This will force you to write them legibly as a customer will probably not sign something they cannot read. Also, asking for a signature is another opportunity to talk, recap work completed, and any recommendations.
7. Treat everyone with the same respect
Yes, the Service Technician is a valued commodity for any HVAC company. This does not mean you can be a rude, narcissistic person that argues and puts down others in your company. Many technicians think they are "holier than now" and everything revolves around them. You are wrong, and probably should not be representing your company! When things are busy, have some patience and treat your coworkers with at least the same respect you would like to receive. They are doing a job that they are good at, just like you. If they do not, you will not have any work scheduled, pay checks completed, or even a vehicle to drive. You all bring money into the company, not just the technician collecting the check.
Take a look at your company and think about how you would feel if any of them showed up at your door, demanding the highest rate for the highest quality. Will your customer's perception match said rate? If so, congratulations! Just remember, this is something we need to constantly work on. Perception can change in the blink of an eye!