It was working when I left!” 

This was the sickening, sarcastic response I’d typically get from some of my techs when I would confront them the next day following their service call that was now a callback. 

Remember, I came from a New York City shop and sarcasm reigned supreme. But it was not always the customer who was the problem, as my techs would like to think, saying that the customer is “crazy.”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has dealt with this — am I right? 

I’m betting you have experienced the very same thing at your shop. Maybe without the sarcasm, but still just as bad. And you’ve probably experienced this firsthand when you’re in your own home when you were subjected to inferior service from the gas company, the cable company or any of the many trades you don’t do yourself.

It’s not that as techs we don’t make mistakes — we all do. We’re people, not robots!

The trick is to make mistakes happen less often. The goal is to have a high batting average of calls run versus calls that became callbacks. The best measurement I teach clients to track and use is their callback ratio.

The callback ratio I share with contractors just starting to track this vital statistic is if a tech runs 100 service calls and four of them ended up as callbacks, the callback ratio would be 4%. That’s not bad. It’s been my experience at my own business years ago and the companies I’ve worked with through the years. Now, that can get better and we’ll cover how in a minute. The key thing is you need to measure. And once you’re tracking this, if the number is higher than 4%, it should be a red flag.



Here’s the tricky part. In the old days, it was only a callback if you ran a call and that customer called back because they were having the same issue again. Today with the stakes much higher when it comes to customer satisfaction, we have to take callbacks much more seriously. I say that because they’re only a click away with their mouse in hand or smartphone at the ready. If they go online to complain about you to the world, callbacks can be very costly beyond money lost because a diminished reputation has a much greater impact on your future revenues. 

Anyway, you might be thinking, 4% is a really high number. Not so if you use my new definition of a callback. A callback is if a customer calls you within 30-days of your visit to complain for any reason.

This new definition includes a customer not being happy with the price, which is a sales callback; the tech broke something or left a mess, which would be an operational callback; or whatever was fixed is still not working, and that would be a technical callback.

After applying this new definition of callbacks, I bet your callback ratio is higher than you thought it was. And that’s okay as long as you are prepared to do something about it.



The key is to supply training in all three areas that lead to callbacks [sales, operational and technical]. Of the three I just mentioned, the big surprise is that the number one biggest generator of callbacks is poor sales training. That’s because sales are really all about good communication skills. Anytime there is short cutting of the sales process, there is bound to be an inability to manage the customer’s unrealistic expectations. You will leave them in the dark. You need to be explaining what you’re doing and what they must do, or the value of what you did for them is lost.

Sometimes, the callback is not the tech’s fault. It’s faulty equipment that is generating the problem. You’ll always be guessing unless you measure.

With all this said, the reality is many callbacks could be avoided in the first place if you just created an Exit Checklist that the techs must use on each and every call with each and every customer. It makes them review what they did and how things work with a customer before moving on to their next call.

It also helps the techs avoid the type of silly callbacks like leaving a pair of jumpers on a control, an emergency switch off, or a thermostat turned all the way up or all the way down. Any way you mess up, you’ll be back fixing it and that’s a big drain on customer satisfaction and profitability.

The simple Exit Checklist helps them take the time to avoid the really silly callbacks. The nice thing about running through an Exit Checklist with a customer is it builds value. And if there’s a problem that was missed, now is the time for the tech to address it.

Make sure to keep it to one page, and put a small line in front of each item they’re checking and have the techs initial it in front of the customer and then have the customer sign off at the bottom of the form. Today, my clients have this form loaded up on the tech’s tablet for ready access.
Do this and watch your callback ratio tumble while your profits soar!