Ah, the temperatures are dropping as we head into the fall (full disclaimer: it’s still hot where I live in Phoenix). Kids are headed back to school. You might be drifting into thoughts of watching the leaves change color depending on where you live. And maybe you have thoughts of going apple picking, drinking cider or indulging in one of the 1 million pumpkin concoctions there are these days.
The change of the season also means it’s time for you to get back to school too. As contractors, we can never stop learning. There’s always more to know about the technology that’s changing at breakneck speed all around. You’ve got to stay up or you’ll be left in the dust. This also applies to sharpening your business skills all the time by relentlessly pursuing more education and then getting down to the most important thing…getting things implemented.
The type of back to school I’m referring to is committing to having super effective in-house training — the type of training that separates you from your competition. This training focuses on honing three types of skills a Service Tech must have, which means you’re always working to get better. This is what increases their mastery and ultimately puts more profit on your balance sheet:
- Sales Skills
- Operational Skills
- Technical Skills
Number 1: Sales skills are really about having a systematic approach to running calls that maximizes every service call opportunity the right way. The right way is all about what I call Ethical Selling. Ethical Selling is making great recommendations to Customers that save them money, improve comfort, improve healthy living, safety and a whole lot more. This type of selling is always in the Customer’s best interest first and foremost and not the company or the Service Tech’s interest especially if the Tech is getting a spiff (aka bonus) for selling.
Selling skills are all about teaching Service Techs how to communicate the right way and that again takes a selling system so they don’t skip steps. A sales process is no different than running a no heat call, a no cooling call or no hot water call in that it demands we ask the right questions and confirm we’re listening. Only then can a Tech go ahead and take off their blinders and see the whole system, not just the place where the Customer is saying the problem is. A good Tech knows that all too often where the Customer perceives the problem is really more a symptom rather than the cause.
Number 2: Operational skills are the ability to show up clean and neat and to run a call by doing things like protecting the area they’re working in. It’s following the paperwork procedures or tablet procedures on how to arrive at a job with all the required information and to open the call and look around. This takes a documented process and that means you need Operating Manuals for what a Tech does from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep, other than the turning of the wrenches or screwdrivers.
If your Tech runs the call successfully but didn’t cover the floor and now it’s full of mud, that’s a problem. If they ran the call successfully but broke the screen door on their way out because they weren’t watching where they were going, that’s an operations problem. If their truck is a mess and the customer followed them to the truck and saw that pigsty, that’s a problem. Even if they did all this but they didn’t turn over all the information to the Dispatcher the right way for things like the follow-up work required, it’s bound to end up with a Customer who feels forgotten and that’s a problem too.
Number 3: Technical skills are the ability to actually diagnose and fix the problem and all the other related problems…the reason they were there in the first place. Customers have this awful habit of expecting their plumbing, heating, cooling or electrical stuff to actually work when we’re done. Go figure!
The funny thing is I’ve found that many times a technical issue is a result of not doing a good enough job in all three of these skill sets. If you don’t ask the right questions and pay attention to the answers you can actually diagnose the job but not the customer, and that’s a bad thing. Perception is reality.
These three skills demand you invest in having ongoing in-house classroom training and hands-on training. It’s the best way to excel when it comes to being a great Tech. Which brings us again back to why everyone needs to go back to school.
To achieve all this, you need to commit to building and maintaining a training center. Otherwise, you’re ONLY doing “OTJ” training, aka On The Job training, which penalizes your customers because they’re paying you while you learn (or attempt to learn). Staff needs to be trained before they arrive at a call. On The Job Training is spotty at best, and fraught with dangers. You need a training center! And know that any training center you build beats the one you don’t.
What would you put in your training center?
Great question! You’d put in there what you sell and more of what you’d like to sell. I say that because whatever a Tech touches and gets comfortable with is what they’ll sell.
As good as a training center can be, it’s only as good as having Operating Manuals for how you do your plumbing, heating, cooling and/or electrical work.
Actually, my clients know not to get ahead of me by build a training center until we finish their Operating Manuals. That’s because the manuals tell you what to put in there and they also contain the what and how of what you’d be training them on.
No space or money to build a training center? You can use your home or your office. You can volunteer work to the community.
Your training center provides the venue needed to train your staff on your time instead of the customer’s dime. Operating Manuals, on the other hand, provide the road map for exactly what staff needs training on. Both are critical if you want to get ahead when it comes to getting back to school and improving the “big three” — sales, operational, and technical skills.