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Your people are your product

Dec. 9, 2014
People are your product Your first human touch point is your call taker/dispatcher The second human touch pointis your plumber Start by hiring well; identify the traits you want for each position Regardless of how well you hire, constant reinforcement is needed If people were tools or trucks, contractors would treat them better As leaders we should strive to treat people like unpaid volunteers

Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How do your customers feel after interacting with your front line personnel?

You provide a service. People deliver the service. Thus, people are your product. The repairs your company makes, the lines that are cleared, and the brass and porcelain installed are all necessary, but do not make you stand out. How people feel after doing business with you, does make you stand out. And that depends on people.

You have two main human touch points with your customers. The first is your call taker/dispatcher. The second is your plumber. Both should be warm, friendly, confident, reassuring, and empathetic all at the same time. It’s a tall order. So how do you bring it about?

Start by hiring well. Identify the traits you want for each position. Write them down. These are not part of the job description, but traits about the person. For example, you might identify, “Smiles a lot.”

Once you identify the traits, create a three to five point scale for each trait, such as “Not at All” to “Yes, Definitely.” Rate your current team to test the traits you’ve identified. Do your best performers rate well? If not, re-evaluate the desired traits you identified.

When hiring, rate each job candidate on your list of desired traits. Hire the right people to get the right results. Of course, that’s a lot easier to say than to put into practice, especially given how hard it is to find skilled tradespeople. In fact, it might be easier to hire unskilled people with the right traits and teach them how to do the work.

Regardless of how well you hire, constant reinforcement is needed. This starts with the way you treat your people. It’s a service truth that your people cannot treat your customers better than you treat them.

Treating people well is more than good pay and benefits, though that’s part of it. It’s doing your best to accommodate their personal and family obligations. It’s coaching people up instead of putting people down. It’s showing warmth, care, and concern to your people so they can reflect it to your customers. It is training, motivation and even fun.

Because most plumbing contractors are task oriented, they have trouble with the soft part of management and leadership. Their instinct is to be directive, but unless they attend to the soft side of leadership, their effectiveness as directors wanes.

If people were tools or trucks, contractors would treat them better. Tools and trucks need maintenance and care or they will not function when needed. People are the same. We need maintenance in the form of kind words, the occasional pat on the back, and continual encouragement. 

As leaders we should strive to treat people like unpaid volunteers. You manage volunteers different. You show them appreciation. You help them understand how important the work they are providing is to the organization and constituencies you serve. You do not sweat the small stuff that’s not critical to your image and quality.

Like it or not, this is increasingly the way we will need to treat people going forward. Gen Y and Millennials have different attitudes and needs than their older predecessors. They got participation trophies growing up and expect participation accolades going to work. They have more of a European outlook where they do not live for their work, but work just enough to live like they want. Sure, there are exceptions, but this is largely the attitudes of the work force coming up. We can fight it or we can ride the tide and show them how fulfilling it is to help people by taking care of their plumbing emergencies, doing things for them that they cannot do for themselves.

We want people with a servant’s heart. They need leaders who are servant leaders.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. To learn more about servant leadership, join the Service Roundtable. Visit or call 877/262.3341 and ask for a Success Consultant to show you the many marketing, management, operational tools, and cash rebates available to you for just $50 per money.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization.

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