David Holt

According to most customers, technicians are your most credible team members. As a result, technician recommendations are trusted more often than even those of the company owner. I clearly remember the day that this lesson hit me square in the face while working in my family’s HVAC business. Let me explain.

I was contacted on my two-way radio (it was 1992 so no cell phones were in the trucks yet) by one of our best service techs, Herbert. He said, “Mrs. Smith needs a new furnace and she wants you to come out and write it up.” I told him to let her know I’d be there at 2:00 pm.

When I arrived at Mrs. Smith’s house, she promptly greeted me with “Herbert said I need a new furnace and it would cost around $1,800.” Remember, this was in 1992! I thanked Mrs. Smith for her business and the opportunity to discuss various options with her.

She firmly said, “Herbert said all I need is an $1,800 furnace and that is all I want.” The more I tried to explain that other options might be a better solution for her, the more committed she became to Herbert’s recommendation. “I just want the $1,800 furnace – period.”

That was the day I realized that technician recommendations were viewed as “the gospel.” Even though my last name was the same as the company name, my technician’s recommendation had greater weight than mine. What a lesson! That’s when I started thinking about how important my technicians were to the company’s sales lead generation strategy.

Excellent Customer Service is Key

You can learn a lot about excellent customer service by watching your truly great technicians. Herbert’s recommendations were taken seriously because he provided great service to our customers. He took time to listen to their concerns, and always went the extra mile to make sure they were more than satisfied.

That’s how he earned the right to make recommendations that were taken so seriously.

In the heating and air conditioning service business, there are two types of technicians — good ones and great ones. There are also those “not so good” techs, but they don’t typically stick around very long. The great technicians are popular, busy, and valued members of the team. They’re personally successful and make great contributions to their customers and the company.

I’ve worked around many great technicians over the past four decades. I’ve learned many important lessons from each of them. When I consider the characteristics of the great techs I’ve encountered, they typically:

  • Are excellent communicators
  • Take time to look at situations through the customer’s eyes
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Make proactive recommendations whenever possible.

Excellent Communicators Use More Than Just Words

Great technicians are great communicators. They speak with customers before they “get to work” to check in and inquire about any issues that affect customer safety, health, comfort, and efficiency. They also check in at the end of the call to explain their work, provide helpful advice, and to see if there is anything else that needs attention.

Great technicians typically go beyond these important niceties. They also communicate through what they do, how they do it and how they present themselves.
They realize that the condition of their van or the organized way in which they go about their work speaks volumes about their attention to detail and thoroughness. Great technicians know customers depend upon their personal presentation to help assess work quality.

These techs understand the work order description is more than just a necessary administrative task at the end of the call. They realize their written words communicate the value delivered to the customer. They see this as an opportunity to reassure the customer of a job well done.

Looking Through Customer’s Eyes Because They Care

Technician looking over a gas furnace with a flashlight before cleaning it.

Great technicians have taught me the importance of seeing things the way the customer sees things. They know the customer isn’t “always right,” but they are always the customer. Great technicians naturally care about customers and about the quality of the work they deliver to them.

Care is what makes these technicians so resourceful and motivates them to be life-long learners. They feel a responsibility to serve customer needs and take the initiative to find a solution when others give up or pass the problem to someone else. Great technicians never give up. They’re first in line to attend classes and constantly read trade magazines/websites to keep up with emerging trends.

Care is also what drives great technicians to pick up the phone or send a brief email to follow up on previous work or recommendations. They ask customers if there is anything else they can help with. They do small favors like changing a light bulb, bringing in a trash can, or other simple tasks. Doing the small, seemingly insignificant things spotlights that they really do care.

Great technicians think from the customer’s perspective. They are sensitive on how their presence and work might impact the customer and take steps to minimize disruptions. They know that time is important, so they show up when promised and are efficient on the job.

They know that a complaining customer isn’t always being unreasonable. They try to understand customers’ underlying concerns without judging outward behavior. They treat others the way they would like to be treated.

Positive Attitudes Create High-Performance Results

Great technicians have also proved to me that positive attitudes can really move emotionally-charged situations to a positive resolution. Great technicians recognize that the service business is a high stress business where conflict often arises because of uncomfortable customers, demanding dispatchers, unexpected failures, long working hours, and sheer frustration. Great technicians understand that their approach to highly emotional situations will largely determine its outcome. This is positive attitude.

As a result, great technicians don’t take things personally and avoid becoming defensive. Many seem to instinctually follow the fifth habit from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” (I highly recommend all technicians read this book) — seek first to understand, then be understood. They remain calm, using their body language to show that they are fully engaged and share the urgency of the moment with the customer.

They verbally acknowledge the customer’s concern and let them know that they understand. They avoid emotion-laden language that might increase the tension. They need to fully hear the customer out and allow them to express their concerns. Only then can they move to address the problem itself.

HVAC service tech at work on a home’s air conditioner unit outdoors.

Whenever possible, they take a collaborative approach, involve the customer in the solution, and provide multiple options from which to choose.

Great technicians don’t look forward to conflict. They know that, despite their best efforts, it’s going to happen. They recognize this reality and, like a good Boy Scout, know they must “be prepared.” They take steps to reduce the emotional temperature, so they can work together with the customer to address the issue.

Make Proactive Recommendations

Finally, great technicians taught me one valuable customer service which is to make recommendations. They can do this because great technicians always look for ways to do things better. They see this as a critical part of the service. They are true craftsmen (and women) who stay focused on improving their own skills regularly.

This often means they take pride in their knowledge of technology and its application, and constantly add to their expertise. They make it their business to know the complete range of products and services their company offers.

Great technicians are very familiar with their customers’ needs and wants because they ask. They also have strong relationships with their customers and a natural interest in understanding their future goals and objectives.

Their empathetic nature causes them to see their job as not only keeping the existing equipment running well, but also helping the customer recognize opportunities for improvements they would never see on their own. After all, customers don’t study heating and air conditioning technology – that’s why they need a professional to look after it for them. This is where great technicians’ efforts create an ongoing flow of new business opportunities.

Great technicians are a bonus to any service organization and the customers they serve. They do not have to be the best “technically” and they don’t have to act much differently from good techs. The small difference in their actions, however, contribute tremendously to their personal success and to the delight of their customers.

There’s a lesson in this for all of us. The next time you see a great technician at work, watch him or her very closely. They have a lot to teach us about how communication, empathy, positivity, and proactivity can lead to more delighted customers. With more delighted customers, more high-performance sales leads are the natural result.