All the customer cares about is that there’s no hot water or no heat — problems they want fixed in as professional a manner as possible.

Whoever answers your phone ... whoever shows up at the door — that’s your company. At that point in time, the consumer doesn’t care if you’re a third-generation plumber or that you love your wife and kids. All they care about is that there’s no hot water or no heat — problems they want fixed in as professional a manner as possible.

How your company can put its best foot forward was detailed in the first of a two-day training series currently making its way around the country. “What It Takes To Provide Professional Service,” presented by the Quality Service Contractors, made its debut in Providence, RI, before approximately 40 contractors.

“Most complaints come from problems regarding a tech’s appearance, consideration level or timeliness — not from any technical snafu,” said discussion leader Kevin Dougherty. “We are already good at the technical stuff; people skills are where we can make a difference.”

Dougherty, of Proof Management Consultants, emphasized what techs and customer service reps can do to influence a customer’s perception of their companies. Dougherty spent one day lecturing the group, and then spent the following morning putting attendees on the spot in video-taped, role-playing exercises. Overcoming objections seemed to be a perennial topic throughout the two days. Objections aren’t necessarily bad, Dougherty said. The consumer, despite a mask of skepticism, is showing an interest and needs more information before buying.

“While everybody thinks objections are major obstacles,” he told us afterward, “each concern represents an opportunity.” He added there are two types of objections: true ones and false ones. Initial objections are usually false. By asking questions, contractors can routinely overcome these and hone in on the true objection.

Dougherty told attendees to use the A.C.T. Principle in dealing with objections, particularly when they’re coming from a frustrated customer. The principle breaks down like this: Acknowledge that the person is right to feel as they do; show Concern about the objection raised; but at the same time get on to what you see as the Task at hand.

In other words, when a customer asks: “How long is this going to take?” Instead of saying: “Man, who knows! I’ve never seen a boiler this filthy. You should have called back when Ronald Reagan was president.”

Dougherty advised starting off by asking such questions as: “Is the time it takes a particular concern to you?” Or ... “Do you have other commitments that make it necessary for you to have this work down at a certain time?”

Afterward, Dougherty said to follow up with a statement such as: “I can appreciate your concern over this inconvenience. Let me look at the unit and I can give you a better idea of how long it will take?” “I know your time is valuable. We will try to get the job done as quickly as possible. Of course, I have not seen the unit and I assume there will be no special parts or other unique issues.”

The customer relations seminar was held earlier this month in Dallas, but additional dates are to be scheduled later this year on the West Coast, Midwest and Southeast. Call the QSC at 800/533-7694 for more details.