When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, it provided the trades with a hidden gift on how our industry will manage training and recruiting in the future.
Because we had to conduct business in isolation, we were forced to use digital and virtual reality technology exactly how it was intended: to conduct meetings, train, and recruit from a distance.
World Changes Forced Home Service to Adapt
This meant that we were using Zoom to conduct our team huddles each morning, and we held ongoing technician training as they stood in their front yards, worked from their trucks, or connected from their phones. This put us in a position to be more innovative and forced us to learn to use the technology we had hidden in apps on our phones or computers.
While we often associate Virtual Reality (VR) with gaming, the pandemic proved that it could successfully be used for training and recruiting in the digital space. And its implementation during trying times has allowed us to improve how we provide our customers with an interactive experience.
VR can be used anywhere in the world, and it affords technicians and customers the ability to see the finished product before the work even begins. But VR and digital communication also can be used by innovative home service industry leaders to restructure their entire business.
Pragmatic Training & the Benefits
One of the most innovative experiences that any home service company can offer is to embed their virtual reality training into their existing training program.
1. Integrating Company Flavor into the Training
Companies like Interplay Learning allow HVACR and plumbing companies, for example, to combine the flavor of their own company culture with built-in VR models that can provide affordable, online training.
You no longer need to provide large spaces for in-house training, and you can offer weekly or monthly training modules that keep your technicians’ skill sets sharp. They don’t have to take time off to drive into the office and can schedule their training when they have the time. It’s a pragmatic and efficient solution for the technicians who primarily work in the field.
2. Virtual 3D Capability for Technician Learning
With VR, your team’s instructors and more seasoned personnel can establish ongoing training programs inside a 3D virtual space. Your trainees can use their headsets and goggles to complete programs in real time by using their controllers to perform simulated tasks.
This not only energizes your people but allows them to learn at their own pace. It’s only limited by their time constraints.
It’s also a fantastic solution for those techs who want to complete certification programs so that they can build on their existing skills and earn certificates. This not only helps them earn more money but also deepens your team’s bench of qualified personnel.
3. Learning On the Go – True Field Service Training
VR is also useful in the field as our industry continues to face the loss of experienced technicians.
The home service industry is changing the way we staff our teams. Because Baby Boomers are retiring in record numbers, the only way to replace these seasoned employees is to hire younger technicians who may have the right mindset but not all the training.
While these younger technicians may have the basic knowledge, there will always be times when they will go to a job site and be presented with situations that are unfamiliar to them. With VR and digital communication, they can be instantly connected with another more experienced technician or supervisor who can walk them through the situation and show them what they need to do.
4. Scaling Up Your Company Training
VR provides home service companies with the instantaneous ability to scale up their on-the-job training. There will soon be a time when there are highly skilled managers and supervisors sitting at desks back at the office observing their technicians out in the field through virtual reality programs or other digital communications.
If a technician has a question or needs instant training on an issue, the supervisor is there to show them the ropes. The technician just needs to put on his Oculus glasses and he’s instantly transported into a learning situation.
VR Needs to be an Integrated Part of Training
The key to successful VR training is to make it a part of your company’s culture. You can’t just assume your techs are completing their training modules. You have to follow up with them by reviewing their progress and encouraging them to learn more. Make accelerating their abilities a part of your business model.
Virtual Reality Helps in Recruiting
Right now, many HVAC and plumbing companies are using digital communication to recruit. They have dedicated meet and greets where they hold open Zoom calls and schedule candidates to meet with them throughout the day.
Once the candidate is invited to proceed to the next level of the interview process, managers can use VR to run these candidates through a skills assessment test to see exactly where they are in their professional development.
This not only allows managers to determine how much more training a good candidate needs, but they can also schedule more training for their employees. This way, the employee is not left to do redundant work they’ll eventually get bored with. Studies have shown that employees want to be challenged and they want opportunities to improve their skills so they can make more money or be promoted within their company. VR helps them do that. This is an advantage when you are recruiting young people. These 20-somethings have grown up in the internet age and they are comfortable with VR and digital communications. They know how it works and will use it to their advantage.
Not only will your commitment to progressive training solutions lead to a stronger recruitment program, but it also shows potential employees that your business is committed to their success in a fun and exciting way.
If your company offers VR to recruit and train its employees, you’ll attract a younger staff that will be with you or will grow within the industry for years to come.
The Future is Now
Virtual Reality doesn’t have to be confined to the training and hiring of the tech staff. I foresee a day when VR can be used within the sales process to provide potential customers with a seamless interactive experience to help them understand their home and its issues. (This isn’t too far away. Certain companies are already creating VR simulations for HVAC systems at their flagship stores.)
Imagine your sales teams and customer service representatives with the ability to explain to a customer exactly what it means to consider the repair of a system versus the replacement.
As home service experts, it’s our job to provide clients with information about their home’s comfort systems and “train” them on why they need to consider all options. With a VR option, we can put the client in the position of a technician, so they know exactly what those options mean. This kind of simulated reality can be invaluable in sales and business growth.
Not only can your techs plan out and execute installations of complex duct systems or repiping jobs, but they can also show your clients the reasoning behind their decisions. This not only makes these installations less expensive for the customer, but it provides crucial information to both the tech and the customer.
Technology is here to stay and it will continue to evolve. It’s up to home service owners, managers, and leadership to embrace its use in our industry and develop new ways to apply it to meet the challenges of labor shortages, complex installations, and customer resistance.
Julie Vena is Director of Advisement and Engagement at CEO Warrior, where she leads their dedicated and experienced Master Advisor team. Julie has over 20 years of management experience as a coach, mentor and subject matter expert in the home service industry and has operated two home service businesses resulting in millions of dollars in growth. Prior to joining the CEO Warrior Team, she co-founded and still owns, a successful and thriving non-profit dedicated to helping individuals in recovery from substance abuse disorder. CEO Warrior is a business consulting, training, and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid- sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success.