I recently had the opportunity to work with a company whose service department, shall we say, is out of control.

In the first meeting with the technicians it was obvious that morale was low and there were no consequences for not abiding by the rules. Perhaps the most important thing I have to help change is the fact that the technicians didn’t have any pride in their work or their company. There was an us-versus-them attitude in the department - among the technicians. It wasn’t technicians vs. management; it was technicians vs. technicians.

Before any changes can be made, first examine your attitude - or your service manager’s attitude. Is it positive and upbeat or negative? Do you always talk about successes or problems in meetings? Do you say thank you and praise workers in public? Do you punish only in private?

If you or your service manager doesn’t take pride in the company’s work, how can you expect your technicians to? After all, they will follow your lead

Assuming that you take pride in your work and are positive most of the time, here are five ways to tell whether technicians have pride in themselves and consequently, their work:

Dress. Are the technicians sloppy? Are their shirt tails not tucked in? Do they have wrinkled shirts? Are they unshaven? Are they neat and clean without your having to remind them to do the above?

Trucks. What do they look like? Are they sloppy in both the back of the truck and in the front? OK, there are times that technicians get really busy and may not have time to clean their trucks. However, a dirty truck should bother your technicians. If customers see a dirty truck, what are they likely to think about your work?

Body language during meetings. Are the technicians slumped over or attentive? Do they complain about everything or are there positive things to talk about? Does the room feel negative or positive? Use your inner sense to not only look at the body language but how the technicians react to each other as well as the leaders of the meeting. Pay attention to these little things.

Paperwork. Do they care about writing recommendations? Educating customers? Being the “doctor” and helping your customer make an informed choice about the system?

Positive attitude. This is probably the most important attribute of pride. Do they feel good about themselves and their work? Are they there just to collect a paycheck or do they enjoy what they do? Do they feel beaten down or are they really turned on about your customers and their career?

Happy technicians whom take pride in their work are one of the best assets you have. Making them tuck in their shirts and clean their trucks won’t make them happy. However, they are the start of the things that are the keys to ensuring you have productive technicians.

Ask each technician individually: What makes you happy? You might be surprised at the answer. If a person is not happy in this career, find a way to help him or her get into a career that he or she will enjoy.

Attitude is everything

Make sure that you don’t have a “them vs. us” situation. Look and see whether favorites are actually being played by lead technicians. If so, then you need to have a discussion and say that favoritism is over. If not, then sometimes the lead technician needs to go.

I’ve seen this many times over the years. Many of you are afraid to let technically competent technicians go. For some reason they leave and the whole demeanor of the department changes. Others fill in and take charge to cover the departure of the “rotten apple.” You wonder why you didn’t do it yourself.

The reality is that no one, even you, is irreplaceable. You could get hit by a truck tomorrow and be incapacitated as well as any person working for you. The company will survive as long as you have a good customer base and a good maintenance agreement base. It may be difficult at first, but it will survive.

Your technicians’ positive attitudes will make a positive impression on your customer base, which helps create a good customer experience and referrals. Positivity increases revenues and profits - in good times and harder economic times.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (877) 520-4321; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.