The best technical skills don't always get the business, says Maurice Maio.

Many have heard the old saying, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." In the service and repair business, the company with the most skillful technicians is superior, taking large chunks of business away from companies whose technicians are not as technically skillful. You might say the business goes to the best.

I disagree.

Good technicians are valuable, but it's not technical skill that makes the difference. Quality work alone can't keep and generate customers.

The Right Cheese

It's interesting that a 20-year veteran service technician can complete a service and repair job competently and yet a customer can be unhappy and decide to not call your company again.

On the other hand, a diligent technician with only three years of experience and adequate technical training can meet the customer, do the work and leave the customer smiling and happy. What's the difference between them?

It's highly probable that the less-experienced technician has more practical skills to build your business and its reputation for quality work. Those skills include:

  • Effectively greeting the customer,
  • Exhibiting a professional appearance,
  • Diagnosing the job,
  • Involving the customer in looking up the price,
  • Showing the customer respect for their property, inside and outside the home,
  • o Combining add-on jobs to save the customer money, and
  • Treating the customer like a king.
There are many more customer-related skills, but these give you an idea of the kinds of skills that leave a positive impression on the customer.

Since the customer only sees how the technician deals with her and not how precisely he completes the work, this is what we have to focus on. As long as our technicians have the technical skills, it's time to take them to the next level.

These days, the term "customer service" has become a cliché. If I hear a company boast of better service and better value one more time, I will become ill.

Talking about service and value is not enough. Customers today are more discerning. They have more choices - home warehouse centers and utility companies so you have to offer what they want or lose to the competition.

Customers want a professional to arrive in a clean, well-maintained truck. In addition, they insist on protecting their home from greasy uniforms, muddy boots and grimy toolboxes. They want a skilled person who can explain in plain English the cause of the problem and what it will take to fix it. And you can bet they want a price up front, before any work is begun.

Those standards are just the minimum to compete with other service and repair companies out there. To excel, you have to do more. They expect quality assurance follow-up calls and special offers from time to time. Extended guarantees make customers feel special and convince them of the true value they received from their previous service and repair problem.

Set Your Trap

Technicians need to be trained in real customer skills, and you can't do it alone. Fortunately, some alternatives are out there. Today, you can purchase CDs, videotapes, audiotapes and training courses for just about any topic.

Better yet, send your technicians to a live training program, where they can see and hear exactly how customer service techniques are applied. However you get your people trained, start planning the process today. Keeping ahead of customer expectations is the only way to stay ahead of the competition.

Training your technicians will produce some other benefits. For one thing, it will allow them to earn more money because they will close more jobs and generate more business from each call. And they'll be more comfortable dealing with customers while they do it.

You also will notice you have solved one of the most challenging aspects of the service and repair business today: recruiting and retaining good technicians. Technicians will gravitate to a business known for providing a professional atmosphere, where they are trained, treated with respect and prepared to do their best. Who wouldn't want to work where the working conditions are rewarding?

One of the lessons consolidators learned early on was to have the best-trained people with an untarnished reputation. These large operators knew they would have to standardize procedures for all their technicians. Predictable results come from consistent practices. So, it only makes sense to uniformly prepare your people to consistently deliver the best customer service. The rewards are yours if you do. You know the competitors are going to prepare their people, so you have to meet the standards set by the big guys in the business.

We can't forget the reason we are in business: to profit by serving our customers. By offering trained and professional technicians to all our valuable customers, we give them the best service. I think they deserve it, and they will remember you for it.