I am amazed by how many of my fellow contractors are in a constant state of complaining about their technicians: “I can’t get them to do this. They won’t do that. Why don’t they understand? They don’t focus on the company enough.” I repeatedly hear complaints like these, and today my message is about the fact that these criticisms are simply not applicable to the majority of technicians!
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to do my onsite training and ride-along program for a great HVAC, plumbing and electrical company. I had never been to Montana prior to this trip and fortunately I had the chance to spend some productive time in the truck coaching ride-alongs with some of the finest technicians out there. These guys are “salt-of-the-earth”-type people.
Salt-of-the-earth technicians like these are open to change. They want to improve. They represent the company well. They appreciate their ownership. They appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given. Are you beginning to get the point? Good, enough about that.
I’m not saying that technicians will never resist change or object to certain business modifications they don’t fully understand. However, they are not intentionally attempting to make our lives miserable, contrary to the beliefs of many owners and managers in our great industry.
When owners and managers complain incessantly about the frontline people who bring the money through the door, a little alarm goes off for me. (Actually, it’s a big alarm). If the very people who most closely represent our brand are at odds with us, what type of consistent, positive experience can we expect to deliver to our clients? What type of a company culture do you think we foster when half the words that come out of our mouths are negative remarks regarding our frontline representatives?
Let’s gain clarity about something right now. If you don’t believe in the people who put on your uniform every day, you’ve got bigger problems than a casual read of this column will solve. You are the one who sets the standard for your team. You decide what the qualifications are, how much experience is necessary and what the minimum standards will be. You’re in control, but some of us forgot this fact long ago. I believe strongly in our frontline team members. The following are three things that I know to be true about technicians and should be emphasized:
They are honest. Are there bad apples in the bucket sometimes? Sure there are! Show me any profession, any industry, any religion or any group of people that doesn’t have a few bad ones mixed in with all the good. You’d probably have a hard time locating such a group. We are in the people business and our frontline team members are the backbone of our companies. This is true of both the technicians and the CSR/DSRs.
That being said, I see companies completely change policy and procedure manuals, and shift company culture based on the actions of only a few instead of the majority.
They want to do the right thing. I can picture some of you cringing as you read that statement. I know it seems like you always have certain people who are looking for ways to undermine you and tell you why “your way” won’t work. In this situation, keep in mind that sometimes technicians haven’t been trained effectively to understand why specific strategies and actions are the most effective. So, they make a bad judgment call or do something based on past conditioning and immediately a manager is badgering them about what they did wrong and how bad they are at their jobs.
We need to avoid this type of leadership in our companies and instead help our technicians understand how they can be more successful.
They have the ability to connect with our customers. Combined with an open mind and heart, we can help our frontline team represent our companies extremely well. They want to connect with customers. They want to build the trustworthy relationships that we’re asking them to develop. They have so much on their plates and so many things they are focused on that sometimes they fall short and we take it personally.
They certainly don’t want to pressure a customer into purchasing something he doesn’t want or need. Good! We don’t ever want that to happen. However, based on how our training (or lack thereof) might come across, they misunderstand us and things get taken out of context. Strategic communication is of utmost importance when it comes to effectively relating with our frontline team.
Training and Coaching
As company leaders, all we want is for our team members to offer a quality presentation based on a customer’s wants, needs and desires. What is our role in making this happen? Training! Every month I receive appreciative emails and phone calls from our Blue Collar Monthly Training members expressing gratitude for the videos we supply them with to train their technicians. And yet, other contractors rave about the videos and then cancel their membership because “they don’t have time” to utilize the videos.
Wow! If you don’t have time to train your people, then you better not have time to be in business. The service business has changed and the word “service” has an entirely new level of meaning and significance. I hope you’re getting on board with the changes or you’ll become a casualty of past thinking.
This is not about fear, this is about reality. Train your technicians. Coach your technicians. Work through challenges and the mistakes they make to find out what they were thinking when they made a specific decision.
Technicians are salt-of-the-earth-type people, as an overall group. I’m very proud that I get to spend a large part of my life working with them and helping them improve. What are you doing to help your technicians improve? When you ask yourself this question and focus on the growth of your people, the growth of your company is sure to follow.