Service jobs demand training, different skill sets

BY BOB MIODONSKI OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF VANCOUVER, B.C. Contractors who operate nonresidential service companies must hire and train employees to fulfill their distinct roles within the business, consultant Kevin Dougherty told members of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America during their annual education conference Sept. 18-21 here. "Being a good dispatcher, service tech, salesperson or service

BY BOB MIODONSKI
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Contractors who operate nonresidential service companies must hire and train employees to fulfill their distinct roles within the business, consultant Kevin Dougherty told members of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America during their annual education conference Sept. 18-21 here.

"Being a good dispatcher, service tech, salesperson or service manager requires a different set of skills than just being a good worker," he said during his "Enhancing Sales from the Top Down" workshop. "Being a good worker does not ensure success."

Using sales reps as an example, Dougherty said that they do not have to be the most technically skilled employees in the company. They should have sufficient understanding of the technical aspects of an installation or service call so that they can perform their sales function.

"Hiring or promoting a technically skilled salesperson often is the path of least resistance for service contractors," Dougherty said. "Sometimes it's better to bring in new blood."

The qualities that he listed for an effective sales rep are:

  • Proper image;
  • Personable, likeable and community oriented;
  • Consistent with high integrity, goal oriented and highly organized as well as willing to put quality time into the position;
  • Strong listener, persuader, writer and communicator;
  • Strong follow-up skills;
  • Understands the sales process; and
  • A sales school graduate.

Service techs, on the other hand, must be hired and trained for their technical expertise to perform the job, he said. Even so, service techs also have be trained to answer frequently asked questions and to overcome standard objections from customers.

Customers often trust service techs more than they do sales reps, and that is why techs must understand how to price a job and give a quote to the customer, Dougherty said. The alternative is for the tech to interrupt his work so that he can call in a sales rep to price the job and give a quote. This usually gives the customer a chance to change his mind or obtain other quotes.

Techs must be capable of following standard company procedures when they arrive on the job, during the job and when they depart, he said. Arrival or check-in procedures include: parking the truck in a high-visibility area; making sure their appearance is presentable; knowing specifically why the customer called; having a contact name and other information needed to perform the service; turning on a positive attitude and smiling; and having a business card handy.

Departure or check-out procedures for service techs include: leaving the job cleaner then the way they found it; thanking the customer; leaving the customer a way to get in touch with them in the future; checking for tools left behind; making recommendations and bringing service issues to the customer's attention; offering add-ons as a customer value; and giving options to let the customer decide.

Dispatchers and customer service reps must combine some of the qualities of both sales reps and service techs.

"You're dispatcher is a forgotten resource," Dougherty said, adding a good dispatcher or CSR will:

  • Be personable with a nice voice;
  • Communicate effectively with customers and techs;
  • Understand the service process, including current service software;
  • Quote jobs and close sales;
  • Follow up on unclosed proposals;
  • Be technically competent; and
  • Be a team player.

The role of service and sales managers is to provide mentorship, training and coaching for employees as well as to review accounts, manage the gross profits, and take responsibility for company growth and profitability.

"Service development won't just happen," he told MSCA members. "Managers must act as leaders to develop long-term goals. Our salespeople fail because we do not manage them."

Mechanical contractors enter the service business for a variety of reasons, he noted. Some do it reluctantly to satisfy their construction customers while others may do it to generate more profits or to even out the seasonal nature of the construction business.

"Service companies can be particularly difficult to change as they are driven by many small jobs, intense operations and a shortage of skilled workers," Dougherty said. "However, these same pitfalls also help to make service more profitable and less competitive than open-bid market work."