You can learn a lot about excellent customer service by watching your truly great technicians.
In the HVACR service business, there are two types of technicians — good technicians and great technicians (there are also not so good techs, but they don’t tend to last very long). The great technicians are popular, busy and valued members of the team. They’re personally successful and they make a great contribution to their customers and to the firms they work for.
I owe a lot to these great technicians for the four career changing lessons that they have taught me about customer service. I would like to share these lessons with you here.
Communication More Than Words
Great technicians have taught me the role of communication in service. Great technicians are great communicators. They stop by the customer’s office before the service to check in and to inquire on any changes to the facility.
They revisit with the customer at the end of the service to explain their work, provide helpful advice and to check to see if there is anything else that needs attention.
But they go beyond these important niceties. Great technicians understand that they communicate with more than the spoken word. They communicate through what they do, how they do it and how they present themselves for example.
They realize that the condition of the van or the organized way in which they go about their work at the customer’s site, speaks volumes about their attention to detail and their thoroughness. They know that their customers depend upon their personal presentation to help them assess the quality of the work that they cannot assess directly.
They are aware that the work order description is more than just a necessary administrative task at the end of the call. They realize that they can use their written words to communicate the value that they have delivered to the customer. They see this as an opportunity to reassure the customer of a job well done.
Great technicians have taught me the importance of empathy in the service business. Great technicians are naturally empathetic. They truly care about their customers and about the quality of their work.
Empathy is what makes them so resourceful. They feel a responsibility to serve the needs of the customer and will take the initiative to find a solution when others would give up or pass the problem over to someone else.
Empathy is also what drives great technicians to pick up the phone to follow up on previous work, ask if there is anything else that they can help them with, do small favors beyond the scope of the immediate work at hand. It causes them to do the small, seemingly insignificant things that shout out that they care.
Great technicians think from the customer’s perspective. They are sensitive on how their presence and their work might impact on the customer and take steps to minimize disruptions.
They understand that a complaining customer isn’t always being unreasonable and try to understand their underlying concerns without judging outward behavior. They treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Positively Influence Negative Situations
Great technicians have taught me that how our actions can influence emotional situations to a positive result. Great technicians recognize that the service business is a high stress business where conflict often arises because of competing demands, unexpected failures and sheer frustration.
They know that they have more control over the outcome of emotional situations that appear out of control than might seem possible. Great technicians understand that the way they approach a highly emotional situation will largely determine its outcome.
As a result, great technicians tend not to take things personally and avoid becoming defensive. Instead, they focus on the customer and their immediate need to be heard and understood. They use 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. It is not until they have fully heard the customer out and allowed them to express their concerns that they move to addressing the problem itself.
And, whenever possible, they take a collaborative approach, involving the customer in the solution and often giving them options from which to choose from.
Great technicians don’t look forward to conflict but they know that, despite their best efforts, it’s going to happen and they must be prepared. They take steps to reduce the emotional charge in the situation so they can work collaboratively with the customer to address the issue.
Make Proactive Recommendations
Great technicians taught me that one of the most valuable services that we can provide our customers is to make recommendations that will help them to be better off. Great technicians are always looking for ways to do things better. They see this as a critical part of the service.
Great technicians take pride in their knowledge of the technology and its application and are constantly adding to this expertise. They make it their business to know the complete range of products and capabilities offered by their organizations.
They are intimately familiar with their customers’ processes and systems and what they are trying to achieve with them. They also have strong relationships with their customers and a natural interest in understanding their 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 that they would never be able to recognize on their own.
They engage in conversations with the customer about these opportunities for improvement because they see it as an important part of the service — as important as their ability to keep the systems operating smoothly. Their customers recognize the value of their efforts and reward them with their loyalty.
Great technicians are a bonus to any service organization and to the customers they serve. They are not necessarily the best technically and they don’t act that much differently from good techs.
The small difference in their actions, however, contribute disproportionately to their success and to the success of their customers and their own organizations. There is a lesson for us all in this. Next time you see a great tech watch him or her closely. They have a lot to teach us.