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Customer Education With Soft Skills

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During the 1980s, anyone providing one-word career advice probably would have said “computers,” reasoning that high-tech’s pervasive growth into every facet of life would offer stable career opportunities. Parents steered their children away from blue-collar jobs. Becoming a plumber or refrigeration technician just didn’t have the appeal of high tech.

Did computer career opportunities flourish back then? You bet. But like the Trojan horse, high tech brought with it an unseen problem. The internet enabled both portability and the growth of a remote workforce. Computer workers could be overseas rather than down the hallway, and overseas workers did decent work for less money. As more and more companies outsourced computer-related work to overseas operations, the “computer” career path appeared less and less attractive.

Economic factors have resulted in a shift back to blue-collar jobs. Installing a new hot water heater or new kitchen faucet requires a person to show up at your home or office—this is a task you can’t send overseas.

An HVAC technician must be on-site and in person. This reality has resulted in a new trend of going back to school to learn electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and air conditioning, and other trade-related careers.

Career stability is the priority, and the trades offer one of the best employment options. But higher trade school enrollment does not necessarily translate into more employment opportunities. Most service company owners have a difficult time finding and hiring qualified technicians. I learned this firsthand during my extensive seminar travel schedule and by speaking with company owners from coast to coast. Service company owners cite a soft skill deficiency (attitude, appearance, personal accountability, teamwork, and communication skills) as one of the top two factors that diminish a person’s employability; the other factor is a lack of field experience. Between these two factors, soft skills disproportionately affect the potential employer’s first impression of a job candidate. Most service company owners would risk hiring a job candidate who lacks field experience, providing his or her soft skills have created a positive first impression.

First impressions most often result in a final decision. People with positive attitudes learn that each problem they overcome today prepares them for the obstacles lying ahead. The cumulative result of resolving daily problems eventually translates into a lifetime of field experience. Technical skills can be taught, and a person with a positive attitude is more resilient, adaptable, and open to new ideas.

Some customers have unreasonable expectations, and their motive is usually not malice or disdain. Instead, unreasonable expectations result from being uninformed. Therefore, today’s technicians must remain calm, resourceful, and—most important—educate customers.

Service companies rely on advertising and word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers to grow their business. From a sales and marketing perspective, a technician’s positive attitude helps drive these referrals.

A technician’s positive attitude has greater alignment to a customer’s positive expectation, and this situation easily results in greater customer retention.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Customer Service

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