Cracking the Code Podcast
Author: Thomas Christian | Digital Marketing Coordinator at EGIA & OPTIMUS | March 29th, 2024

Technician Communication pt. 2

When technicians are invited into the home, customers expect a respectful and solutions-focused experience. This means technicians educating the customer on upgrades or extra features should be delivered as a value-added part of the buying experience, not as a way of upselling for extra profit.

This week on Cracking the Code, Russ Horrocks offers strategies for helping your technicians become more comfortable with offering superior service to homeowners, increasing your sales and upgrading the customer experience at the same time.

Audio Transcription (in beta)

On today’s show all about technician communication. Today we have the one and only Mr. Russell and the studio to discuss technician communication. Take it away, Russ.

What I see so often is technicians go into the home and they’ll introduce a concept, let’s say a maintenance agreement or maintenance program. And the customer doesn’t value, it doesn’t respond well to it. And the technician gets a little bit frustrated and discouraged. I also see them go into the home and convey information about what they found. They go out and they look at the system. They diagnose, they evaluate. They come back into the home to share their findings, and it often falls upon deaf ears and the information has no impact. So this is kind of the problem I see. And I see it every day. If you’re out there and you’re a technician, you experience it. And we all have, but it’s also our opportunity. What can we do differently to try to get a different outcome?

I find so often that we’re we’re told what to do, but not why. And so as I go throughout the country and travel technicians, they’re doing things because they were told to do them, but without an understanding of why they’re doing them. They struggle. They get into circumstance or situation where what they were told to do doesn’t produce the right result. And they start to lose confidence in what they were told to do. I’ve been in some, companies where, you know, I’m the fifth or sixth consultant they’ve brought in or, fifth or sixth process they’re considering. They can’t find one that sticks because there’s, a lack of execution or a lack of skill and ability. And so they just keep digging for that next, you know, magic pill, that next magic process that’s going to make everyone happy and everyone’s successful. So I really don’t want to spend time wasting your time going through so much of the what’s to do in the home of these next two days. I really want to go into the. No matter what your process is, how can you be successful with it? What are the skills that allow you to be successful? Anybody in any process, in any home? What are the whys behind how to connect with a consumer? How to build trust in the home, how to connect and how to truly serve the customer. So that’s really my goal and what I’m going to be looking to do and kind of walk you through some of the, understandings and information that are going to help you do that. So, we have an option. I like this kind of this cartoon here.

It says, what if we don’t change at all and something just magically happens? That’s not going to work. We’re an incredible, industry right now. We’re we’re constantly experiencing change. Change in the market, change in how consumers, get information, technology that’s bringing us into the home. So there’s constant change going on, and we can either elevate and we can adapt and we can learn and grow, or we can mourn the past and die a slow death. So it’s up to us. So nothing’s going to magically happen. So if we continue to do the same thing, obviously we’re going to continue to get the same results. But if we become intentional in our efforts and we learn and grow and every day we’re committed to that, then something special can happen.

We can become better at our craft, more capable in today’s market conditions. So even though things are happening at such an incredible pace, we also have to be aware some things haven’t changed and haven’t changed at all. And that’s how people are wired, how people think, how people trust, how people process information, how people decide if what you’re telling them, excuse me, is in their best interest or not. So those things have not changed. And that’s kind of what I want to focus on with our time together today. So what would a, just about every, tech say to this if you said to to them, we want to create a selling technician and you, we want you to sell more stuff. What would probably most technicians say in response to that? I know you’re out there, probably some of you cringing when you hear that, because most technicians I found don’t like that at all. They got into, the world of technical, whether their maintenance or service, they got into that world because they don’t want to be salespeople. They were good with their hands. They do have a sincere desire to serve the customer and to help the the people that they come in contact every day. So the idea of a selling technician for, for a lot of technicians is a really repulsive idea. And now I know there’s exceptions out there. There’s some of you really, you know, intensely strong individuals that just love the idea of what you do. And you you’re a go getters and that’s awesome. But I think the average technician doesn’t fit that description, at least not my experience.

So my experience is pretty extensive. 27 years, and thousands of contractors all over the world. So my experience has been most technicians, the last thing they want to do is sound like a salesperson, yet they’re paid by their performance. They’re evaluated by what they sell. We keep KPIs on their revenue per lead. They have bonuses in place. They have service in place. So we have all this, language surrounding that.

The job of a technician, we have all these incentives that focus on the results, the outcome of what a technician does. And they’re constantly their costs are being told to sell more stuff. So here’s what happens. When you look at this, I want to define the term paradox. I’m sure you’ve all heard this term before, but a paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition. Another definition would be a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities. So I think based on what we just threw out, there is a definition and an understanding of who. Technicians generally tend to be and how technicians are generally told to act. I think we we create a paradox, and I see that everywhere I go. Technicians might say to their management team, yes, I’ll do that. Yes. Okay, I’ll do that. And then I get in the truck with them and they look at me and say, I’m not going to do that. I’m never going to do that. It doesn’t feel right in the home. It doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t think customers react to it and I don’t want to behave that way. So it’s this paradox, I think, that creates so many problems in our industry and so many problems for our personnel. I’ve seen companies where they’ve had a mass exodus from the entire technical department because of how they’re being managed in this way. Some guys have been there for over 15 years. Ten techs walked out the door the same day and said to the organization, no thank you. This is not what we want to be part of. So in that particular organization, the paradox got so great that the people, a lot of very skilled and experienced people said, no thank you. This is not how I want to live my life. It doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to persist to be that way. So if we look at the basic tenets of what attracted most technicians to the profession, you know, they get compromised when they’re told to go out there and sell. And the problem is, this is rarely addressed. Companies bounce around from process to process, trying to find one that will make their technicians more successful and happy. So that’s kind of the premise by which I want to share information with you today. How can we train our technicians in such a way that they can go into the home with tremendous confidence and support, that they’re there to do the right things? Now, I’m also not going to apologize for technicians that won’t open their mouth and won’t share with the customer about your products and services, and that make decisions for the customer and fix an 18 year old system with pride when they don’t realize they just cost that customer thousands of dollars in waste because they didn’t inform them they had other choices and other options. So it definitely works on both ends of the spectrum. We have to make sure that we redefine success in such a way that we’re getting the best possible outcome on every single call. So for a lot of the contractors I work with, we call that BPO, the acronym BPO. What’s the best possible outcome? And that’s what’s constantly being taught and shared and encouraged. When the texts leave their meeting in the morning, it’s go out and get the BPO and they’re supported in that. And it supports the psychology that we’ve got your back. Go in there and be an outstanding human being. Go in there. Give that customer an amazing experience. Go in there, communicate and educate and the outcome will be what it should be. Go get that best possible outcome. And what we find when we do that, the outcomes start to become pretty incredible. Customer start to invest more. We start to see people break through limitations and their performance, ceilings that they’ve been bouncing against for years. We start to see something pretty awesome. So I kind of want to break that down. How can we do that? So interesting thing about how we work is passion always produces better results. I don’t think anyone out there could argue that passion produces better results. But here’s the problem. A lot of people think that passion is something that you pursue, and I don’t agree with that. I didn’t find this industry because of my passion. I don’t didn’t do a single thing in this industry because I followed my passion. I bet the vast majority out there, if I said to you, who’s sitting here today watching this because you followed your passion, probably very, very few of you. And so passion, it’s important in what we do, in the way we do it. But we have to be careful that we understand what passion really is. So it’s not producing or following something. Passion is more about being something. So instead of finding your passion, find what you do and do it passionately. And it’s a choice. And in that way, we can all be passionate about what we do. I think that’s one of the unique things about me. I don’t know where I got this from, probably a little bit nurture, a little bit of nature, but from the time I was 12, you know, slinging papers on my bike to picking up rocks in the empty lots for a contractor when I was 13 and 14 to, you know, being a bagger at a grocery store to everything I’ve ever done, framing homes, landscape work, welding, you know, concrete work, everything I ever did, I.

It’s just some, for some reason did it with passion. I just enjoyed it and I just love to be the best I could be at it, whatever it was. And the cool thing about that is it always opened doors. People notice that. I think back to when I was younger and I didn’t realize that was what was happening, but people noticed that passion and then the reward for it. I’m 17 and I was promoted as a as a field supervisor for landscape construction team in Sacramento, California. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just recognized the passion and the hard work that it put in the reward me for. So I get asked all the time by young people in this industry, how do I progress? How do I get more? What is my career path? What is the thing that I’m working for? And the best advice I can ever give anyone is do what you’re doing today with the greatest passion that you can possibly muster up, because that’s going to create habits of success, not habits of failure. And if you can do that, that’s how you open doors in your life. That’s how you create opportunity for yourself.

So I bring this up because passion is something that we bring to the table and that’s something we pursue. We find passion for what we do, and passion is loving not just what you do, but more importantly, the way that you do it. It’s hard to be passionate about going into a home and behaving in a way that you’re not proud of. So much of the training or industry has survived based on telling you to ignore your instincts.

Hey, look, here’s what you do. And you get somebody up there telling you about what they did years or decades ago. And they were taught that. And it produces mediocre results, and you’re being told to do it. But the underlying thing that you feel is they’re telling you to ignore your instincts. I remember sitting in a lot of training classes early in my career going, that doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to do that in the home. I can’t imagine that produces better results. So I promise you, over the next two days, I’m not going to ask you to do anything that would offend your intuition and what you know about people. Every one of you, I believe, are experts in human behavior. You had to be. You learned it. When you’re a kid in the playground. You learned it growing up. Who can I trust? Who can’t I trust, who should I trust? Who should I not trust? You’ve been reading people your entire life.

Every one of you out there, whether you’re an introvert or not, whether you don’t think you’re good with people or not, you are. You’ve had to be. It’s a skill every one of us learn as we grow. So I bring this up because passion is so critical to what we do. We bring the passion by choice, and then we find that passion by not just loving what we do, but more importantly, the way that we do it. So we kind of got a problem here. We’ve got this definition of what kind of companies and courage technicians to do, but we also have this reality of what technicians mostly are. And that’s that paradox that we need to solve. So I want to maybe suggest a way to change this a little bit. So instead of defining what technicians do as selling, let’s just talk about what technicians do in terms of finding success in the home. Because if you come into the home thinking about selling your outcome focused and it’s obvious to your customer, every homeowner out there wants to collaborate, solve problems, make their life better, and would love to invest in products and services to do so. But none of them want to be sold. So if you come into that home with the selling mindset, you’re going to be way behind the eight ball as far as how to be successful. It puts you out of alignment with your consumer, with your customer.

And once you’re out of alignment, it gets really difficult to be effective and good at what you do. And so selling contaminates your information. I see so often where technicians embellish something or build something up. This is our better filter. I know that sounds so simple and unassuming to say this is a better filter. But when you label, there’s a better a lot of people out there who have a low capacity to trust instantly feel like you’re selling it to me. You benefit from it, it costs more money, and they now feel like I can’t trust you. I know a lot of you probably are going, wow, that is so simple and benign, but it actually has a big impact on the home. So I love to take a different approach when it comes to things like that. And the customer says to me, I need a better filter. They might even say that to me. Knowing what I know about human nature and psychology, I respond with, filters aren’t really better or worse. They’re just different. In which way did you want the filter to be different? It’s kind of like trying to say cars are better or worse. No, it depends on your definition. Entirely. A Chevy Corvette is not better than a Chevy Cruze.

If my definition of the vehicle I need is to have a very small vehicle that fits in a small garage with a very low monthly insurance and enough room to haul my kids to school, then the Chevy Cruze is way better than the Chevy Corvette. So really better is all about. And it’s all in the eyes of the beholder and the objectives and the value that they possess. So I wouldn’t say this is a better filter. I’d say this filter is different. You don’t have to replace it monthly. You can replace it once or twice a year. And for a lot of our customers, they love the convenience of it. Is that something that you’d like to explore? You see how safe that feels to the customer? They said, I’d like a better filter, and you took the opportunity to build trust rather than sell something. And the more you can build trust, the more people will believe what you say, and the more they’ll be compelled to act on the information that you provide. So kind of give you a little insight into that, but we’re going to break that down and go a lot deeper into it. So it makes sense.

So selling places pressure on you and your customer. How many of you out there. If I could see you all and you could raise your hands. How many of you out there have gone to home before and felt pressure because of what you’re told to tell the customer? I bet every single one of you would say yes, I felt it. I’m sure you all have. And that means you’re doing it wrong. If you ever feel an ounce of pressure in the home, you’re doing it wrong. You’re working from the wrong mindset, you’re coming from the wrong place, and that will always limit your effectiveness in the home. That will always limit what you’re able to do with that customer. If your customer ever feels an ounce of pressure, you’re doing it wrong. They should never feel pressure from us. That’s not our job. That’s not what we’re there to do. We’re there to collaborate and to help and to serve. We do it by being experts in our craft through education, information, observation, sharing ideas that they could consider and explore. But we’re not there to put pressure on them.

They should never feel. Announcer. Pressure. If you went back and talked to my customers that have sold tens of hundreds of millions of dollars over my career as recently as last week, they would tell you I didn’t feel an ounce of pressure from us. That is so fundamental to being great at this. It’s so important. And as we kind of move through this, you’re going to see why. So the environment of success cannot come from the selling mindset. Can a selling mindset give you some success? Of course it can. Some people just don’t have the time. They don’t care. They deal with your crap because they’re times too valuable, and they get something to solve their resolve because you’re there and they move on. But a lot of people, they won’t respond that way. You’re selling mindset is such a turnoff for them. They have no problem calling somebody else out to get their opinion. They’ll keep looking until they find that person that makes them feel safe. So selling can produce some results, but it will not produce dynamic results.

The top producers don’t think that way. Everyone that I’ve ever seen transcend their transcend their positional expectations and performance. They did it by doing the things we’re going to talk about today. They didn’t do it by going to the home and believing they had the power to sell people. So if we redefine selling, what should we call? Let’s just call it success in the home. Just keep it that simple. Did I get the best possible outcome and did I have success in the home? Are there metrics and KPIs in which we look at that? Of course there are revenue per lead. That’s fine. I’m fine with that. Metrics. You know, revenue per sale. I’m fine with that. Metrics. I’m fine with. Some incentives. I think this perfectly fine, those aligned people’s interest.

If there’s a spiff for a technician to become better at communicating in the home and the customer benefits from that better communication, and that they now have access to better products and services, and they’re educated, everybody wins. I have no problem with any of those things. The problem is with how they’re often executed and how they’re often led and businesses out there in our industry. The leadership just does it wrong. And I see every day the carnage from that, I see, you know, I almost I teased about I see technicians in the fetal position in the corner of the of the office not knowing what to do anymore. They’re so frustrated. So let’s talk about what your brand is and what your responsibility is as a technician, your brand. There’s lots of things that contribute to your brand, but the one answer that sums it up best for me is the customer experience.

That’s really what it’s all about. We could say performance. We could say solutions, comfort, efficient. We could list a lot of things. But it all comes down to this. The customer experience is your brand. That’s the reason people would continue to invest in your other products and services. That’s the reasons they would tell friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. So if that’s your brand, what’s the job of a technician is to provide an amazing experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations? That’s really your job. Yes, there’s lots of, you know, other parts to your job, but that is your primary job. Go into each and every home. Have a really great, great client up in the northwest. Just some outstanding human beings and people build an amazing company, and they’re so big into training and building of their people that this is what they teach. First and foremost, they have their own institute. And now, I think, 5 or 6 graduating classes and produced over 31 incredible technicians in the last year and a half. And I was with one of their technicians, one of their new technicians. They had such an amazing attitude. He was fearless.

He was focused. He was there to serve the customer, not super experienced. And we had a particular call where he couldn’t figure out what was going on. And right when we got there, I suggested the GFI. He messed with it. It didn’t change anything. He spent the next two hours diagnosing, came back, and he just simply click, you know, didn’t push the GFI correctly and it was a GFI. So by any matrix, two hours to identify a GFI was was tripped is not good. But the customer so appreciative to the thoroughness and so happy they gave the company a great review, took the time to call in and thank the the advisor. And so the ownership said, you know what? Obviously we want him to become better, more skilled at what he does, but we’re so glad that he understands the importance of the consumer experience. That’s what we want.

We’ll get him up to speed on the technical side of things, but we’d love that his focus was where it should be. So, you know, ownership has to support this, has to understand the critical nature of this, because that’s an investment in that individual. And as he gets more experience and becomes better and better at what he does now, they have someone that’s going to be pretty awesome. So the key here is the customers. They are the key to everything okay. Why exceed the expectations? Why not just meet them? It’s important question to ask isn’t it too many customers and I mean too many contractors. Think about bare minimums. I’ve had plumbers in my home the last year. Terrible experience showed me right from the get go. They had multiple calls stacked up. They didn’t want to be there. Horrible attitude.

Never going to call them back, never going to recommend them. So why do we need to exceed expert expectations? That plumber eventually met the bare minimum of why I called them out, but I would never recommend them. Never call them again. So by meeting my by meeting my bare minimum expectations, it got them absolutely nothing. Had they exceeded them? What it got them everything. Exceeding expectations is what creates loyalty. It’s what makes me want to call them back next time and never call somebody else.

Exceeding expectations is the key to growth. Because now I tell all my friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, if you need this plumbing done or if you need Hvac done or whatever it is you call this company, don’t call anybody else. That’s what it takes for me to tell the people that, trust me about you, I’m not going to put my relationships on the line for you if you didn’t completely blow away my expectations. I’ve been in homes where I’ve painted door jambs. I fixed drapes before. I’ve gone down to Lowe’s and bought parts for something we just didn’t have, you know? You know, whatever it may be, I’m always looking for ways to exceed expectations. I’m always looking for an opportunity to just do something a little bit extra. And in doing that, it produces incredible results with customers that love you. Customers that want to use you. So it takes a, you know, the proper mindset to do this. You’ve got to support and build the proper service mindset. I find that most technicians have this down pretty good. They’ve got a great mindset to serve. They really do. It’s part of why they’re technicians.

They enjoy and they take fulfillment and joy from, you know, getting people in a tough situation out of that situation. But I think where a lot of them do feel is the proper operational mindset. So the service mindsets there, but how they choose to operate is not often they think my job is to fix things. That’s not your job. Fixing is a part of what you do, but it’s not what your job primarily is. Your job is to educate, to inform, to diagnose and let people know all their options, not come in with strong opinions about what they should do, what you would do, denying them the benefit of information because you think that helping them not have to buy a new system now is serving them. That’s not serving them. When you look at the cost to keep a system over ten years old running versus replacing one, especially in today’s world with the inflation you take into account. Overpay utility company, today’s repair, tomorrow’s repair, you take into account inflation and money for today’s buyers.

It’s impossible to justify fixing the system over ten years old economically. I know there’s an emotional reason people want to keep something that’s working, running, but there’s no economical reason to do it. And if you’re if you guys aren’t skilled at doing that and educating that, you’re denying people valuable and important information. So a service mindset is really important. But the operational mindset is just as important to complement that. You can talk about anything in the home if you have the right mindset. That’s the cool thing. I can bring up any product, any service, any time to anyone, anywhere, because I’m never trying to sell them anything. It’s an incredible, freeing experience when you operate from that mindset. I don’t bring things up to sell them. I bring things up to let someone know it exist, explore it. If they want to give them additional information of the value it, and that compels them to act. If they choose not to act on the information. I’m fine with that.

My intent was never to sell it to begin with. It protects me in so many ways and it protects my homeowner. I don’t get discouraged. I don’t get frustrated. I don’t stop bringing up products and services because the last person didn’t value it. I continue to go to the next person, give them the benefit of the information and professional skill that I have. And make sure I never feel an ounce of pressure. Make sure my customer never feels an ounce of pressure and aligns me with my customers and makes them feel safe and healthy, and helps me build an environment of success. They’ll appreciate it and appreciate it so much that will reward you with something really special and really important, and that is their trust. So this operational mindset is a really important thing to get right. So hopefully all of you out there will think hard about how you go into the home and what you really are there to do. To sum up, we’ve talked about so far, you’re there to give them an amazing experience to exceed expectations. You’re there to serve them with complete and accurate information of all the things that they could do, should those things be important to them? You’re not there to bring in your opinion, your bias, the what would you do?

How different are your customers than you? Vastly. There’s so many variables what people value, how people make decisions, how people communicate, how people, think about, you know, their situation. You can have so many different situations that you’re in. There is an infinite degree of variables in a home. And for you to go into home and to think that someone thinks exactly like you. That’s a big mistake. I often say to the classes that I teach. You know, there’s the golden rule that’s often used in religious contexts. Do unto others as you’ve had them do unto you. But in our world. Horrible advice. I never, ever treat somebody how I want to be treated. I always look to treat them exactly the way they want to be treated. And that’s how you get it, right? That’s how you connect with people. That’s how you get the best possible outcome on every call. Stop being what you think people want to be and start being what people need you to be.

Awesome content right there, as always. Now listen. If you like this content, please share it with your friends via Facebook. If you’re not a member, go ahead and click the button below to get a free 30 day trial of our entire contract university platform. There’s an awful lot there, and you’ll get it for free. We’ll see you next time, folks. Until then, bye bye for now.

Subscribe to the “Cracking the Code” Podcast