First Impressions

We are all familiar with the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is you will in fact be judged within your first seven seconds of an encounter. A first impression is formulated by at least three of the five senses: sight, sound and smell, as opposed to command of the language, I.Q.. or even technical ability. Body language, facial expressions, clothing and hygiene are some of the factors used by our brains to create an instantaneous assessment of each other within as little as half of a second. 

The truth is that non-verbal queues account for 93% of all communication. Try this experiment: Watch the 2008 presidential campaign on YouTube with the sound off and pay attention to the body language. This is a great example of how successful candidates use non-verbal communication to display confidence, trustworthiness and ability. In the first televised presidential debate, Richard Nixon refused to have make-up applied resulting in a sweaty and unkept appearance on camera. Kennedy, wearing makeup, maintained the appearance of composure and confidence, thereby winning the debate. 

Author Joe Navarro trains executives (as well as the Texas Hold’em guys!) on image and body language.  Allow me to recommend two of his books: “Louder Than Words” and “What Every [Body] Is Saying.” Dr. Paul Ekman, ( an expert on facial expressions and “micro expressions” is another valuable resource. Facial recognition software was made possible by his research. The TV show, “Lie To Me,” in which a team employed facial expressions and body language with which to solve crimes, was directly inspired by Ekman’s training program.

As consumers we have all experienced the apathetic greeting at a retail establishment, restaurant or front desk of an office. In the HVACR industry, our first encounter with a customer usually begins with a phone call. What we say and how we say it plays a key role in the outcome of that call and possibly the future business of that customer. In addition to our words, voice inflections relay messages to customers. If it sounds like helping them is a task, they will likely never call back again. As service techs, first impressions are established the moment our trucks become visible at the job site. A dirty, messy truck indicates that the technician does not take pride in his work. Trust, respect and professionalism will be assessed at the doorstep. If we show up at the front door with a clean, pressed uniform and shoe covers we are creating a positive impression on the customer. This should be the first goal of any technician.

Companies spend millions on branding and media exposure to create an impactful image by appealing to the senses with subliminal messages. Grocery and department stores are experts in the art of image, right down to the music and aesthetics within the store. Don’t be fooled into thinking these tactics don’t apply in our field. The media’s portrayal of the HVACR industry is less than stellar. We have all seen sting operation type shows in which some kind of minimal failure is set up in a house. Cameras are then placed in different locations to capture the unsuspecting tech as he presents his diagnosis of the problem. The presenter then pounces on this alleged charlatan to expose his incompetence and dishonesty to the world.  Only one out of five technicians are portrayed as honest and professional, thereby non-verbally communicating that only 20% of us are competent. The truth is however, that the crook is the exception. Most of us are serving our customers with integrity and making an honest living. 

We are being watched! Our competition, customers and potential customers are observing and assessing us constantly. Does our appearance exude confidence, honesty, experience and ability or do we look like we should be on some type of offender list? I was in a sales training class with Carrier several years ago. The instructor shared that he would observe his customer’s window blinds moving as his truck approached the block. I thought he was exaggerating, but sure enough, I started noticing the same thing! I had one customer comment on how loud my (then 2 year old) Chevy Cargo 2500 van was. It was a new and spotless van, and my music was off as I was listening to my GPS. He was so intently watching that he was actually listening as well! 

Look in the mirror before hitting the field. Check your appearance and your attitude before approaching your customer’s location.  If someone says something like, “Wow dude! Don’t you have a rag in your truck?!,” pay attention to that. An offhand comment like that may be a clue to your image. Clean your truck! It’s your office.

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About Our Blog

HVAC Know It All was created by Gary McCreadie, a licensed refrigeration and gas technician, with three goals in mind:
Learn. Teach. Entertain.
All within a positive environment.

Happy HVACing…



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