Service Roundtable members learned how to avoid traps that reduce a manager’s productivity and strategies to inject innovation into the service experience April 7-8 during the Atlanta International Roundtable. The meeting also featured an idea-sharing session, small-group meetings with industry consultants, and a Preferred Partner Showcase with manufacturers and service providers.

Managers and owners frequently find themselves trapped in productivity prisons of their own making, said Terry Barrett, general manager of AirNow Cooling and Heating in Millbrook, Ala. Barrett also is director of technician training at Service Excellence Training. Traps occur when:

• A manager decides to be the superhero.

• He turns his people into mindless zombies.

• He decides to be a finance expert, marketing guru or whatever is needed at the time.

• He doesn’t realize the freedom of automation and delegation.

While it requires effort, Barrett said, the manager can free himself of these traps by following these steps:

• Transform employees into the superhero.

• Teach employees how to think and react.

• Understand the purpose of a leader is to grow the people.

• Take control of his time.

Contractors need to embrace automation because it never gets tired, sleeps or calls in sick, Barrett said.

“Use technology for the good,” he said. “Utilize templates whenever possible. Document your training with video and audio recordings. The time invested when you automate something always pays huge returns.”


Five levels of authority

A manager should do the work that only he can do and delegate the rest, Barrett said. A manager should delegate projects to vendors and outside sources whenever possible. A manager can wisely choose employees to whom to delegate authority and then empower them with responsibility.

Barrett outlined the five levels of authority:

Level 1: The employee does exactly what he is told to do.

Level 2: The employee is instructed to research the topic and report back to the manager.

Level 3: The employee researches the topic, outlines the options and makes a recommendation.

Level 4: The employee makes a decision, and then tells the manager what he did.

Level 5: The employee makes whatever decision he thinks is best with the manager’s full support.

“When you start to follow these steps, you can see employees’ confidence growing,” Barrett said.


Innovative service experience for customers

Consultant Chip Bell focused on strategies to provide an innovative service experience for customers. These include:

Surprise Strategy: “Ask yourself what can I do to leave a sense of surprise with my customers?” Bell said. “Pick your favorite service provider such as Starbucks or Zappos. If they were in charge of the experience you create in your operation, how would it change?”

Mentoring Strategy: Find ways to help your customers to learn and grow.

Effortless Strategy: Create an experience to make it easy for the customer to do business with you.

Monogrammed Strategy: Create an experience that is personalized for the customer.

Partnering Strategy: Look for ways to involve your customers in the service experience. Sometimes it’s as easy as telling them you need their help.

Contractors must answer one more important question: “Just focusing on the experience, how can you demonstrate to your customers that they are clearly getting the best value?” Bell said.

Service Roundtable will produce the new Service World Expo industry event Oct. 26-27 in Las Vegas, co-sponsored by Plumbing & Mechanical, as well as BNP Media sister publications Reeves Journal and the ACHR News. For more details and to register, visit