“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”
I’d like to tell you all a little about myself. I’m 43 years old. I have a beautiful wife of 9 years, and twin 7 year old daughters. I’ve been in this industry for just under 20 years, starting out as a lowly apprentice. I was nervous, intimidated, anxious, but most of all, I was excited. I’m an HVAC brat. My father was in this industry. My grandfather as well.
I was 25 years old when I started in this field. Prior to this, I was a corporate Produce buyer for a major supermarket chain here in the northeast. I loved that job. I loved having my own office. I loved having steady hours, and free weekends. My father would always ask me to join him in the company he worked for. He was a District Manager and needless to say, I could have had a pretty cushy gig working for him. But I was young, and had the world at my feet, until one day when my father said four words that changed my life.
“Steven, I have Cancer”. That sentence broke my heart, made me a man, and changed my path in life. The next day, I handed in my two week resignation and never looked back. When I started in this field, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t even know what a pilot light was. I studied my ass off as an apprentice, I kept a journal of all the jobs I went on, things like what the complaint was, the symptoms, how we troubleshot it and the parts we replaced. I used that journal all throughout my apprenticeship. It’s saved my bacon numerous times. We never really stop learning in this field, I don’t care if you’re a day one rookie, or someone who just handed in his or her retirement papers.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of my father’s dream (working side by side with his son) for a year before Cancer took him away from my family and I. In that time, he taught me the in’s and out’s of the trade, he taught me the right way to communicate with our customers, and a work ethic that I now teach to my own children.
As HVAC technicians, we’re the face of our company whether we like it or not. We’re the customer service call taker that messed up the order. We’re the parts delivery team that sent the wrong part to the wrong address. We’re the accountant that sets the prices for the work we perform at the rate we quote. The customer sees us as all of these things, but they don’t get to see the real us. They don’t get to see the fourteen hour days we put in seven days a week, sometimes for weeks on end. They don’t get to feel our heartache when we miss out on things like our children’s first words, dance recitals, family functions, etc. They don’t feel the pressure we face when we’re under the gun with five more jobs to go before we can go home for the day. All they see is the comfort that we provide by making their world better. They see a happy family because we fixed their heat on Christmas morning before their entire family came over to celebrate.
If you’ve been in the industry as long as I have, or maybe even longer for that matter, most of the above is relatable to you. For you newcomers, please read on and take from this what you need to become a better tech. We never stop learning, no matter how old you become. The day we stop learning is the day we go under ground.
Lesson One: SHUT UP AND LISTEN. You may have some background information about the job you’re going to. The customer may have told the call taker that their steam boiler sounds like someone’s smashing it with a hammer. Keep that info in the back of your mind, but ask the customer to walk you through their complaint and repeat it back to them so that you’re on the same page. When the customer feels that you know their complaints, you instill confidence in them, and that goes a long way. Remember, you’re a guest in their home, so act like one and respect their concerns.
Lesson Two: BE A DELIVERYMAN. Once you and the customer are on the same page, it’s time to deliver that great customer service your company is known for. Remember, YOU are the face of the company. Explain what’s wrong with their system, what caused it to fail, and how you’re going to fix it. Don’t just fix it and hand them a bill. Here’s an example: If I told you that your dryer belt broke, replaced it and gave you a bill for say, $150.00 + tax, you would be pretty pissed, and with good reason. $150.00 is a lot of money! However, if I told you that the belt broke because there was evidence of overloading the dryer, or dry rot and cracking in the ribs due to age, you would understand and the damage would be less severe. Communication is key here. Don’t be afraid to give your customer too much information. A lot of call backs occur because customers don’t feel they know much about what happened while you were in their home. Time is money, let’s make it and not waste it.
Lesson Three: BE OF SERVICE. This one is important, so pay attention. Don’t be a snake oil salesman. I’m paid an hourly rate, whether I sell a new install, or replace a circulator pump. Do not force things down your customer’s throat. Your company offers some pretty efficient equipment. Let’s say you sell a new forced hot air furnace. Don’t tell them that they need a humidifier to go with it. Explain to them what the benefits of adding steam humidification, or UV Lights are to their overall air quality. Let the product sell itself. Let’s be honest: Sales can be intimidating! When I first started giving customers estimates on new equipment, I was nervous that I would come across as someone who just wanted to make a buck, rather than someone who generally cared for their customers. The truth is, I have a really good relationship with a lot of my customers because I take the time to know them while I’m in their home. I observe things, I ask questions to start conversations and I gain their trust and confidence because I really do care about them. I have a few customers that have gone on to become lifelong friends of mine. When it’s time to suggest some pricey add-ons, don’t make the mistake of telling them that they need it, let them understand how it would benefit their family in the long run. We all want the best for our family, but some of us don’t know how to get it. That’s where you come in. BE OF SERVICE!!!
I’d like to close out this article the same way I was on my first day in this field. I’m nervous that you won’t like the read, I’m anxious to read the reviews, and I’m excited to write future articles. We work in a great trade, even though there are times that we all just feel like leaving our tools on the job and walking away. Thank you Gary for allowing me to contribute to your vision, you started a great group, and I think everyone agrees. Most of all, thanks Dad, I wish you were still here with me on this journey. God bless…