On its surface, restoration doesn’t seem synonymous with soft. It’s a hard industry that operates in physically and emotionally tough working environments. Restoring a property to pre-loss condition requires a particular set of hard (job-specific) skills and tools. And the industry is on a promising path of advancement when it comes to the hard side.
From a skills perspective, the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) continue to deepen and widen the availability of training and certifications. The Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) continues to bridge the gap between research and practice.
From a tools perspective, equipment is simultaneously becoming more powerful and compact. Disinfection and cleaning products are concurrently growing more effective and safe. And the market for digital solutions tailored to restoration businesses continues to grow more competitive.
The growth and reputation of restoration will always depend heavily on the hard side. But there is a soft side that, I’d like to argue, carries more weight. This soft side and its significance seem to have risen in prominence recently; it comes up often in conversations I have and content I edit. I attribute this, in large part, to the tough labor market that is top of mind for business owners within restoration and beyond – a landscape reminding us that people are the true table stakes to success.
By “soft,” I’m referring to the human elements – those being humans themselves, in addition to soft skills / intangible tools they possess. Examples of soft skills – particularly those McKinsey reports a shortage of – include:
- Problem solving, critical thinking, innovation and creativity
- Ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity
But don’t just take my word on the significance of the soft side. Consider what restoration peers have to say. Here are a few instances in which the intangible tools of restoration have come up in R&R lately.
When I set about sourcing perspectives for this roundtable, I anticipated coming away with a curation of favorite software and equipment brands for catastrophe restoration, cleaning and disinfection, contents restoration, fire and smoke damage restoration, forensic restoration, mold remediation, and water damage restoration. While we did get specific tool recommendations, the soft side was a common thread across specialty areas. Here are a few examples:
- “People are absolutely the most important tools.” – Graham Dick, Principal and President, Genesis Restoration
- “Today our personnel are the most important resource we have.” – Jeremy Reets, Owner and Instructor, Reets Drying Academy
- “Many tools are important on a CAT response, but the most important tool cannot be purchased from your local supplier. It is the ability to think critically and adapt.” - Howard Wolf, Principal, HW3 Group
- “The two most important tools in Forensic Restoration® are the mind and the heart. Too many times I have seen an obsession over the latest gizmo or electronic device, and while there have been many advancements in tools, disinfectants and delivery systems in both forensic cleaning and professional disinfecting, in the end, it will always come down to the Forensic Operator® who is boots on the ground in that potentially hostile microbial micro environment and whose responsibility it is to render it safe for human habitation.” – Jeff Jones, Master Trainer, Artemis Biorisk Training Academy’s Microbial Warrior Experience
In this column, Eric Sprague writes about the intangible tools required to delight customers and help your business stand out.
“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. “
Sprague elaborates on the four tools he considers key to what he calls ‘the invisible tool bag’: Basic life management, proper in-home behavior, knowledge of how to sell and empathy.
As Laura Nelson points out in this Ask the Expert interview, there is a soft side to ensuring the digital marketing tools your business invests in go to work for you.
When I asked her to share the most common misstep she sees contractors make in their attempt to attract more leads, she responded, “I see a lot of people spending a ton of money on programs like Yelp and HomeAdvisor to generate leads, but they’re kind of falling down on process. They’re not connecting the dots on that next step. In other words, if they don’t have an auto responder and they don’t have a human who can make a call very quickly after that lead comes in, then they’re losing out on the race to another provider.”
My Bottom Line
This all points to people as paramount; without them, as the saying goes, there is no business. And once you have the people, technical training only goes so far, as do the software and hardware you equip them with. Invest in their soft skills too, because:
- Customers value interactions with businesses. According to the Salesforce “State of the Connected Customer” second edition report, 67% of all customers say their standard for good customer experience is higher than ever. And 59% of consumers feel that brands have lost touch with the human element of customer experience according to PwC’s report “Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right.”
- Soft skills are future-proof. As artificial intelligence and automation advance, research by Dale Carnegie points to soft skills as the most important skills for staying competitive. However, while 69% of senior leaders say communication skills are vital, only 40% of respondents report receiving communication skills training recently.
If your restoration business is finding success embracing the soft side, please reach out. We’d love to share your story. If you’re seeking specific insights related to soft skills, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can pursue appropriate coverage.
Until next time,