Have you ever walked from your van to the front door of a service call with a heavy tool bag in one hand and found it hard to walk because the weight is distributed so unevenly compared to the hand that is carrying little or nothing? The inequity in weight throws us off balance and makes walking to the front door harder than if we had an even amount of weight in each arm.
The same can be said for the skills of a technician. When a technician is too focused on only their technical skills without the soft skills training to balance out their performance, they end up struggling to please themselves, their clients, their supervisors and their company.
It is imperative to place an equal amount of emphasis on the skills that create a happy client experience; opposed to only having technical proficiency. Most clients assume (often incorrectly) that every restorer has the same technical skills and can dry out their home or office equally well. We all know that may or may not be the case, but that is not the point. What it does mean is they are judging us on our ability to serve them well and not so much on our ability to do the actual work. This is a problem for many technicians.
Our industry is very heavy on technical training, but we tend to be weak on training soft skills. If you really think about it, soft skills are what will separate your company from the competition and should be heavily invested in to compete and thrive in the marketplace. If everyone in your local market has the same air movers, dehumidifiers and technical training for their technicians, how do you separate your company from your competition? You do it by training your technicians how to “wow” clients, have great communication skills, show empathy and be practiced in the art of creating an amazing customer service experience.
It is not unfair to say many of the technicians employed by your company may not currently have the greatest life skills, communication abilities or experience. Many of your entry-level workforce did not love school, may have come from homes and communities where life skills were not taught, and often lack the training to understand how to please higher-end or more-educated clients. Just like teaching them how to cut drywall, take readings and place equipment, we need to teach them how to “win” in the house with the client. This is where evening out the balance in skills becomes so important. We need to provide our technicians with an “invisible tool bag” to even the load when they go to their service calls. So what is in this “invisible tool bag”?
Over my many years of running field technicians, I have identified four main “tools” in the invisible tool bag.
- First, basic life management. How well your life is managed outside of work affects how well you do at work. So, it is within our purview to help people live their life to be effective. Consistently talking to technicians about going to bed at a reasonable hour, exercising, not drinking too much alcohol on a work night, eating breakfast, and bringing food and water to fuel their performance during the day. Items such as these seem so common sense, but how many times have you had your techs show up for a day of hard work with nothing to fuel them but Marlboro Reds and Monster Energy drinks?
- Second, proper in-home behavior. It is often assumed that everyone knows how to behave in the home on a service call, but in all my years of doing home service, I know that is not the case. Many of our younger and less-experienced technicians have no idea how to properly manage the in-home client experience. They need to be taught about how to behave when ringing the doorbell, where to stand, how to interact with all types of clients with regard to gender, age, culture and sexual orientation. They need to understand we are guests in the home and how to make clients feel safe and secure while they work.
- Third, how to sell. I know that many techs never actually sell the jobs, but they still have to sell themselves and create a service experience that ensures clients feel good about the job that is being done. Selling does not come naturally to many technicians, and the more training and roleplaying that is done at the shop, the better they will be in the field making sure your clients are having an excellent service experience.
- Fourth, empathy. Empathy is so crucial to creating a comfortable, happy and satisfied client in their time of distress. Many team members come from backgrounds where empathy is not part of their family or neighborhood culture. Therefore, it is crucial to train the team members on the why, what and how of showing great empathy for the clients. Just like any other skill, showing empathy needs to be taught, discussed and worked on by the team to make sure it is happening in the field when it is needed.
So, back to walking to the front door on a service call. To make work enjoyable for the technician, prosperous for the company and satisfactory for the client, we need our technicians walking to the front door with two equally weighted tool bags: One full of moisture meters, hammers and drills, and the “invisible tool bag” stuffed with empathy, self-awareness, conflict resolution, personal development and communication skills.Once we even out the load, the technicians will thrive, allowing you to spend your time focusing on building your business and not putting out brush fires in the field all day.