Tech Soft Skills Part 1

November 22, 2004

Simple Steps to Improve Technician Soft Skills

By: Matt Michel

Good technical skills are an inherent requirement for a service technician. Yet often, technicians fail not for the lack of an ability to turn a wrench, but because their soft skills are weak.

Every service company owner can cite cases where he or she hired the world’s greatest mechanic, who was also the world’s gruffest mechanic. He could fix just about anything, but left a trail of incensed customers in his wake.

Conversely, there’s the All-American technician. Mechanically, he’s not a klutz, but he’s far from the supertech he envisions himself. Oh, he’s confident. He misdiagnoses with confidence. He makes the wrong repair with confidence. He swaps parts with confidence.

Yet, his very confidence combined with his All-American appearance and good natured attitude endear him to the customer. When there’s a callback, the homeowner may even appear hesitant so as to avoid getting her favorite tech in trouble.

Yet, eventually the technical problem must be fixed or the homeowner will still get mad. But the homeowner doesn’t get mad at the tech, she gets mad at you.

The complete technician has both technical skills and soft skills. Unfortunately, he’s a rarity. Usually, they’re strong on one and weak on the other. In most technical industries, they’re weak on soft skills.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do as an owner to improve the soft skills and presentation of the repairs. Let’s start with grooming.

Start The Day Clean
Your technician may not be the best looking guy in the world, but he can still look his best. When technicians engage the customer on your behalf, they should start the day with a shower and shave and a clean uniform.

Each truck should carry handiwipes. Before a technician walks to the door, he should clean his hands. After he’s finished the work and before he starts on the paperwork, he should clean his hands. Don’t present the homeowner with a dirty, smudged invoice or work order.

I mentioned the shower. Deodorant is also a must, especially in the summer. Some people are more sensitive to smell than others. If your technicians work in an attic, crawlspace, or outside, they will sweat. No one can do anything about that, but you can try to keep it to a minimum.

No Aftershave
Because some people are more sensitive to odors, after shave (or perfume for women technicians) should be kept for after work. While some like the smell, others are bothered by it, especially if applied excessively.

Breath Spray
Breath spray should be in every truck. This is especially true if the technician smokes.

Grooming, of course, includes neat haircuts. The standards vary throughout the country. What’s acceptable in California won’t cut it in Iowa. You need to set your own policy and live it yourself. However, as a rule, shorter is better. It’s easier to keep clean and looks better after a long day in the field. If you are going to accept longer hair, at least insist that it’s clean, well groomed, and tied into a tight pony tail when on the job.

Jewelry is often a problem. Earrings especially have become popular these days. While the acceptability of jewelry varies regionally, safety standards do not. If jewelry, whether rings or necklaces, is likely to get entangled in machinery, do not allow it.

Beyond safety, it again comes down to the policies you choose for your company. As a rule, less jewelry is better. Also, jewelry rules must apply equally to males and females.

A recent phenomenon is piercing. While many people might grudgingly accept an earring in some parts of the country, piercings still make them uncomfortable. If the piercing is visible, it should go.

Next: How to enforce appearance policies with techs.

Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2003 Matt Michel

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