The Real Fix

Written on: February 1, 2013 by Wayne Lawrence

Hello again! I want to start with a
note of thanks for the feedback I’ve
received from past articles, and moreover to this publication for the opportunity to express some thoughts that have been rolling around my mind for the many years I’ve been a member of this craft.
I recently have been charged with a welcome task; to train a new addition to our service team. He is a recent graduate from a local HVAC training center, having decided on a career redirection at age 46, after being unemployed for many months. With all the hours we work, it’s easy to overlook what the world is like outside our industry in this still very depressed economy.
This task I’ve been given is so very different from classroom instruction, where we demonstrate, quiz, and test on the mechanics of this craft. Having a trainee on the job is a real opportunity to demonstrate what superior service is all about. While it says a lot about me for being chosen to do this, it’s also a huge responsibility, as training someone is very costly, and I strive for a return on this investment. As we near the end of our first week together, due to his great attitude, I feel good about him being given this opportunity, and his understanding of my submittal for this month’s article;
As a service technician here on Long Island, I have noticed a trend on the road while logging the many miles in my service van, and while driving during my “rare” off hours in my Jeep or on one of my many cycles.
I have noticed that we “oil burner men” wave to each other as we pass, the same as we ” Jeep Wrangler” owners and we ”Harley” owners seem to do. I happen to fall into these three aforementioned groups and— as I am now just realizing this—will give myself even more self-analysis, all the while dealing with all the job security that Hurricane Sandy has provided!
Anyhow, when I ride my Honda, Yamaha, or KTM motorcycles, none of the Harley riders I pass ever wave, but as soon as I ride my Road King, I’m readopted into the biker brotherhood. It’s the same in my Jeep Wrangler, I notice other Jeep Wrangler drivers will wave as they pass, and of course, I do the same. I will wave at all my fellow HVAC technician brothers in their company van or tank truck, but I will, of course, ignore appliance vans or gas utility vehicles. In reality, we are all appliance technicians no matter the fuel source (It’s just that we specialize in arguing over oil prices and contract coverage on every service call!).
When I’m on two wheels, driven by
a combustion engine, I’m a mo-
torcycle enthusiast. I feel that in some way, we seem to adopt each other into a sort of brotherhood bound by a commonality. That is my rationale for expressing my thoughts here. This industry, over the years has changed, and unfortunately, it is shrinking. I was given the opportunity to become a part time Instructor several years back and am very saddened to see a student finish the course, pass the NORA certification exam, only to then find such a tough time breaking into this trade. I remember all the different company names and lettering styles on the trucks I used to pass on the roads, and seeing the familiar company stickers pasted on the heating units. So many now are no longer in business. With that loss of a business is a loss of recession proof jobs! We, as technicians, are hardwired to fix things, as we are trained and expected to do. Speaking for myself, I think I’ve become pretty good at it over these many years, but not without the help of many others in this business who have thankfully shared their experiences. It’s now my responsibility to share that experience as well. Try as I may, I have never been able to fix 100% of the calls I’ve attempted on the first try. I think I’m pretty good, but every now and then there’s that head scratcher, that once-solved challenge that added to my future troubleshooting skills, and shared experience in the classroom.

As a result, I many years ago hard
wired myself to approach each ser-
vice call in a different way. I have changed my primary focus to keeping the customer a member of our company first and foremost, making this customer a fan of superior customer service, and let the repair of the appliance be my secondary focus.
Let me explain; it’s like in sports playing to win, verses playing not to lose. It’s attempting to accomplish the same result, but both have a different mindset approach. What if you could get 100% satisfaction from the customer even if the call wasn’t repaired on the first try? That would be great wouldn’t it? I already mentioned I’ve never been able to have no repeat calls—I try to keep that to a minimum, but it’s my belief that the attitude and communication skills one brings while on the call are what convinces the customer that they have made the best decision in choosing our company to do business with. It’s actually easy. Harley riders know this first hand! Ask any “Harley” guy what the best motorcycle is? You already know the answer, and why:“Because it’s the best!” (They also happen to be the most expensive!) Ask a “Jeep Wrangler” owner about his vehicle, and you will get a similar response! It’s all attitude!
It’s my feeling, and hope that all in this business understand this obligation to keep this industry alive; to demonstrate our knowledge and professionalism to the customer at every contact, and communicate the fact that we have the most diversified skill set out there, compared to all other trades. We need to demonstrate this at every opportunity! Lastly, but also so very important is the necessity to provide a secure career for the next generation of technical professionals.

Let’s think for a moment about all the experience, training, and knowledge we bring to work each day: Physics, Henry’s law, Boyle’s law, gravity, pressure, vacuum, friction, compression, expansion, contraction, change of state, heat transfer, sensible and latent heat value, humidity, density, vapor, liquid, solids, fluid dynamics, hydraulics, combustion, air changes, make up air, venting, wiring, electrical theory, sizing equipment, piping and duct configurations, friction losses, installations, troubleshooting, documentation, sales, building codes, safety—and in addition to all that, there’s how to communicate with all the different personality types we encounter. And we do all this with minimal sleep for sometimes many days in a row with no time off. I feel more than ever it’s time to make the customer aware at every contact the knowledge we possess when we arrive at their home, and the value they’re getting for their money. When they fully understand this, we win their confidence, and in the event the call isn’t cleared the first time, they will feel secure in giving us another chance.
I’d like to modify the older postal service mission statement to apply to our trade: “Nor rain, Nor snow, Nor gloom of night…will stop us from getting to those in need of a temperature controlled living space with adequate hot water, no odors, minimal noise, no water or fuel leaks, all while adjusting their appliance to provide the lowest possible operating cost, even for those aggravating customers with no numbers on their home and the front light off at night! “
See you on the road, and don’t forget to wave!
Stay safe,