Many good trainers and instructors have done a tremendous job in the past ten to twelve years educating service technicians about how they can bring a higher level of communication and salesmanship to their work. There is no doubt in my mind that today’s service technician is infinitely better prepared to handle more of the non-technical issues they face every day because of the excellent training that has been made available across the industry.

Despite this success, the current economy demands that contractors do business in a way that mirrors how their customers make decisions. In this economy (many experts are calling it the “reset economy”), customers have raised their expectations of what constitutes good service, and the trend will continue. This has made the industry extremely competitive and forced all of the forward-thinking contractors to ponder their next steps. Based on what I’m observing as I work with leading contractors across the country, what’s clear to me is that new approaches and new methods are necessary to maximize the success of the technician.

Here are answers to two of the most recent questions I’ve received:

Q: Over the last 18 months, I had to shrink the number of full-time service technicians on staff. Now, things are picking up and I need to hire a few techs for winter. How can I make sure to hire people who are good technicians, and who also have superior customer service and sales skills?

A: Some of the more progressive HVAC contractors are doing personality profile assessments as part of their recruiting and hiring process. They are actively looking for and utilizing proven screening techniques to find techs who have appropriate levels of customer service savvy and salesmanship potential. Those companies are also recognizing that technical skills can be taught, so it’s more important to hire someone with the right personality traits for in-home service and sales. These personality profiles and sales skills assessments are available at a reasonable price now with quick turnaround on the evaluation scorecard/report, so it’s very easy to integrate this into your recruiting, hiring, and screening process. I’d recommend checking out discprofile.com and mcquaig.com as good examples.

Q: My technicians were doing pretty well with sales and leads for years, but in the last year, leads have dried up and the techs seem unmotivated. How do I correct that?

A: This is a big challenge, but there are ways to improve, even in this economy. Focus on these four points and you’ll see improvements.

1.
First, go back to the source because your techs are the “point of the spear.” Listen carefully to them and sift through their issues and concerns to determine the essence of your customers’ resistance. Once buying objections have been established, use your regular service meetings to address these objections and coach your techs on Defining, Deflating and Deflecting. Role-playing is an effective way to improve. If your team is resistant, break them up into small groups and have them practice with other service techs.

2. Get your technicians up to speed on energy-saving programs and rebates available in your area. This is the most compelling reason for customers to upgrade to a new system right now. Help your technicians understand this and use it to their advantage.

3. Make sure your incentive plan is up-to-date and aligns with the company’s sales initiatives. Focus your team on what you want and need them to be selling so when they do come through, it fits your overall goals. Hold occasional sales lead and service agreement contests with grand prizes to keep competitive juices flowing.

4. Give your techs the support they need to be better at their jobs. Provide them with top-notch marketing pieces as leave-behinds, compelling, current offers and specials, and regular and consistent training – to reinforce what they already know and to expand their customer service and sales skills.

I’ll be dedicating the next two columns to answering other questions on your mind. If you’ve got something you’d like me to tackle, email your question to bfox@warmthoughts.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and will be presenting at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at bfox@warmthoughts.com.