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DIY Customers and Blame Implication

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Customers who are low on cash are attempting to repair and install equipment that is best handled by a professional. During the last few months, I have heard numerous horror stories about Do-It-Yourself (DIY) customers who, in an attempt to save a few bucks, try to fix things themselves. The access to DIY instructions abounds on the internet, in magazines and newspapers.

One recent newspaper article advised readers to brush up on basic electronics rather than call a licensed electrician. While the advice appears benign, it could lead to a catastrophe.

Taking it one-step further, Lowe’s and Home Depot continually promote the idea that “You can Do It Yourself” and so this concept becomes cemented in the mind of customers. While some home repair projects can be handled by a novice, there ought to be a threshold for knowing when to call a pro. Mechanics and technicians are seeing all sorts of mistakes as customers look to trim repair expenses.

DIY Doesn’t Always Work
A friend of mine hoped to avoid the repair shop when the tail light on his six year old car stopped working. He struggled to remove the plastic casing, and when he used a screwdriver to pry it off, it cracked. His mistake resulted in a new plastic casing plus labor charges. The replacement and repair was much more money than a simple bulb replacement. My friend learned that it doesn’t pay to do it yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Simple Can Become Complicated
An HVAC contractor client recently handled a call from a customer complaining about an air conditioner malfunction. When the technician arrived at the customer’s home and diagnosed the unit he found evidence of tampering, which resulted in damage. When the technician inquired about the damage the customer played coy and spoke vaguely about what had happened. It took about 15 minutes of qualification before the customer admitted that he had attempted to fix the unit himself.

My HVAC client said that the easiest way for customers to save money is to be upfront about their home repairs. The customer will end up paying more if they mislead a technician due to the time wasted in extra diagnostic work.

Minimize Blame
When trade professionals encounter the DIY customer, they should minimize blame implication. This means that once a technician has ascertained that the customer screwed things up – it’s best not to make things worse by implying blame. Customers feel bad enough when their good intentions spiral downward to defeat. By leveraging these mishaps to his or her advantage, a talented trade professional knows how to make the customer feel better and enhance rapport for future opportunities.
One way to make a customer feel better is to pay them a compliment. The compliment doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. One example of a compliment might be, “You’re light years ahead of and smarter than most customers who have tackled a project like this. Unfortunately, most customers don’t contact me until they have damaged items beyond repair. Contacting me was definitely the wise thing to do.”

Regarding compliments, only two types of people like to hear a compliment: men and women. A compliment needn’t be too gushy or pretentious, be subtle, concise, and straightforward. Then, get on with the business of adding value.

HVAC technicians who master the art of minimizing blame implication stand a better chance of explaining the benefits of scheduled maintenance by a professional to avert future equipment failure.

Customers who hear and sense a technician’s empathy are more likely to invest in a long-term business relationship. In these challenging economic times, minimize blame implication – even when customers screw up. Remember that the customer is always right.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Customer Service

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