I recently had an interesting experience. I was visiting with the technicians at one of the contracting companies I work with. We were reviewing what is necessary to do things that are always in the best interest of the customer. One of those things, in my opinion, is to write everything down that they see right and wrong with a system. A lot of them weren't doing that.

We got into a discussion about why. One of the techs said that he sees people waiting to do things rather than going ahead and getting everything done - the beginning stages of the "recession mentality." The owner of the company, who was sitting in the meeting with us, asked us how many times that happened. As it turned out, only twice.

One time the daughter had to get permission from her mother (or father). The other time, someone said that they would wait and see what happened. In more than 150 service tickets, only once was the work deferred until later. This proves my point: Most of the time when technician recommend additional work, it gets done as long as the customer trusts the technician. So I reminded them that it is important to write everything down and review their recommendations and observations with customers.

I started thinking about why this might be happening. From what I've observed, technicians have a tendency to remember the "no's" and forget about the "yes's." Most are so fearful about getting a "no" that they don't ask the right questions, don't write things down and don't explain the facts to the customer. This is a disservice to the customer. It's the technician's responsibility to ask questions and explain to the customer; it's the customer's right to say yes or no. Customers should be making informed decisions, not decisions out of fear or surprise.

A numbers game

I see the same technician fear with residential service agreement sales. My research has shown that only about 30% of the homeowners will purchase a service agreement. That means a technician gets at least two "no's" for every "yes" he gets. Once you explain this to a technician he becomes less fearful about getting a "no" because he realizes that will get more "no's" than "yes's." Selling service agreements is a numbers game. Whether it's residential or commercial agreements, the more you ask, the more contracts you'll generate.

I don't expect anyone, technician or commercial sales person, to use high pressure tactics. Simply present why this is a good deal for the customer and let the customer make an informed decision.

Technicians' fear might revolve around their assumption that a customer can or cannot pay. Sometimes they will do work, use a part, but not write down what down what they used. If you have a loose inventory system, this can easily slip through the cracks and you'll never know. I've seen many customers who look like paupers turn out to be worth millions and vice versa. The technician's job is to report the findings as he sees them in his professional opinion. Then the customer determines what he or she is going to do, based on the facts the technician reports.

From what I've observed, these are a lot of the technicians' fears. Once you talk then through with technicians, have them role-play some scenarios. Have them get some success out in the field and they will truly begin doing things that are in the best interest of the customer. Of course, even if everyone is doing things right, there will be one who refuses to change his ways. But that's another topic for another Contractor Cents.

Copyright 2001, Ruth King. All rights reserved. Ruth King's American Contractor Exchange http://www.acecontractor.com 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405 Norcross, GA 30093 800-511-6844 770-729-8028 (fax)