Don’t Touch the Oscar: Going Beyond Technical Training for Technicians

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In  the restoration industry, we work in people’s homes and offices. Our companies are in the most intimate and private portions of people’s lives during a time when stress is very high. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

To add to this equation, who are we sending out to spend the most time on the jobsite? Field technicians. 

Most restorers struggle with attracting and retaining technicians. The job is hard and often thankless, and it is left to those who have minimal job skills, often come from tough backgrounds, and may be lacking in areas like communication and life skills. Still, we send these technicians into the homes of our clients everyday. We are entrusting them to maintain the reputation of our company, to collect 5-star reviews online, and to keep our stressed out clients 100% happy with us no matter what.

Is this fair? I don’t think so.

Can we really expect our technicians to successfully navigate complex human interactions with clients from all walks of life without the proper training to do so? No way.

Training is key to closing the technician-client disconnect. Too often, restorers try to fix human problems with technical solutions. When callbacks occur or client feedback is poor, many companies will send the offending tech to yet another IICRC class or technical training to “fix” the problem. IICRC classes are great, but they won’t fix the kinds of problems discussed below. To bridge this gap, we need to take a moment and put on our “customer glasses”. What does the client see and expect as we begin to do work for them?

Communication Expectations

Our clients have a different reference point than our technicians when it comes to what they consider to be proper communication to be. Our clients seek professionalism in language. Wealthier clients may have high expectations for professionalism and clarity in communication. Young technicians, especially if inexperienced, might struggle with this if they’re not well-versed in tailoring their communication style to match the client’s expectations. Technicians often will also use overly technical explanations vs. using layman’s terms which clients might prefer over technical jargon. Technicians must learn how to gauge a client’s familiarity with the subject and adjust their explanations accordingly. This requires training, role playing, and practice to properly prepare them for real world experiences.

Service Expectations

Many younger and newer field technicians struggle to fully understand the quality of work that is expected of them by your clients. They figure it looks good enough for them, so it must be good for everyone. However, many clients have high standards for the quality and thoroughness of the work performed. Any perceived shortcuts or lack of attention to detail can lead to dissatisfaction. It is imperative to train the team on what the expectations are for quality, do the proper training, and hold team members accountable for getting the work done in the manner that each client desires.

Responsiveness and Timeliness

Most clients, especially when stressed out, have high expectations for promptness and responsiveness. Young technicians might underestimate the importance of punctuality and quick communication. We need to make sure everyone on the team understands how the clients feel about this, and how the urgency of getting their lives back in order is of the utmost importance. Just one team member showing a lack of urgency can send a client into a tailspin. We have all lived this before. We need to make sure our people in the field fully understand how our clients feel, how we can best help them, and create a sense of urgency for our team to get them back to normal.

Cultural and Social Differences

There can be a gap in understanding the lifestyle and priorities of wealthier clients. This might affect how technicians approach service tasks, scheduling, or even how they navigate the client’s property. There is also the issue of jealousy. I have witnessed my technicians exhibiting jealousy and vitriol at my clients because they desired to have what my clients possessed. This is a dangerous scenario and needs to be consistently addressed in team meetings to ward off problems.

Privacy, Respect, and Discretion

Clients may expect a high level of privacy, respect, and discretion due to their social status or the value of their property. Young technicians might not fully appreciate these nuances. We need to make sure they are not taking pictures of themselves with our client’s luxury automobiles or handling valuable items and posting them on social media. I once discovered one of my techs attempting to pick up my client’s Academy Award (Oscar) statue to take a photo with while doing a job. Luckily, I was there to thwart his attempt, but imagine the phone call to me if he had posted that online and my client found out!

Handling Complaints

There needs to be a commitment to fixing the root cause of the complaints. The root cause is usually a lack of life skill. We need life skills training to fix the human problems that often make jobs go sideways. 

So dust off the John Maxwell Leadership books, the Zig Ziglar videos, and the communication training materials, and start training your techs on the actual things your clients care about. The more you invest in these soft skills for your team, the happier your clients will be and the more your company will grow.

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Eric Sprague

Eric Sprague is a long time cleaning and restoration business owner. Having sold his service business in 2018, Eric is now Director of Education at Super Tech University and Co-Host of the Blue Collar Nation Podcast. Eric’s passion is help­ing service business owners and their field technicians be the best they can be and grow as people and service business professionals.

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