Over the course of doing their job, HVAC technicians, like other professionals in the home service industry, have the unfortunate task of dealing with difficult customers. While that isn’t unusual for professionals in other fields of work, there are a few reasons why it can happen so frequently for home service professionals.
Perhaps the most relevant reason why is that HVAC technicians rarely interact with a customer when they are having a wonderful day. The entire reason you are there is that they are in a difficult situation, either something is wrong with their heating or cooling system and they are super hot, cold, or uncomfortable making them agitated or unhappy before you even arrive.
In addition, because of your service, they are likely looking at a somewhat sizable bill. While HVAC technicians provide an important service, they aren’t always the bearers of great news. Unhappy customers may feel more inclined to voice their displeasure because they are in their own home as well, especially if they’ve had a poor experience in the past.
Combine all the factors that can make a customer unhappy along with any feeling they may get that they received poor service or the job wasn’t performed to their liking and you’ll likely find yourself with a difficult customer.
While you may or may not be at fault, dealing with a difficult customer isn’t fun. But if you do, use these helpful tips to help defuse the situation and find the best resolution possible.
If an unhappy customer gets nasty with you, especially if you are in a hot and humid house, it can be easy to lose your temper and get nasty right back. This is the absolute worst-case scenario. If you lose your cool with a customer, it is only going to get uglier, there isn’t likely to be any positive resolution, and the customer is likely to take the complaint up the chain of command and get you in even deeper trouble.
But, if you manage to keep your cool and keep your emotions out of it you will be able to focus on how to deal with the problem and not simply get emotional about the situation. If you are able to speak clearly and calmly, the customer may be encouraged to calm down and follow your lead. Then, once both parties are calm you can focus on finding a solution.
Hear them out
While the service industry saying goes “the customer is always right,” sometimes they simply aren’t. They may indeed have the situation all wrong, be upset and directing their anger about something outside of your power at you, or simply just being altogether difficult. No matter how wrong they may be or how nasty they are about the situation, at least hear them out.
By listening to the customer instead of trying to correct them, talk over them, or argue with them, you can start building rapport with them. It demonstrates to them that you are paying attention to their concerns and listening to them are actively trying to understand and get to the root of the problem. By actively listening and repeating and acknowledging their concerns, your level of care about your job and the situation becomes apparent.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
While it is important to take the concerns of a difficult customer seriously and to do everything in your power to resolve the situation to their satisfaction, it is also important to realize that the issue may be something outside of your control or something you simply can’t resolve right then and there. For that reason, tell them you will do everything you can to fix the problem but never make a promise you know you can’t keep.
Making and breaking a promise to a customer is a bad road you don’t want to go down. When you break a promise with an already angry customer they feel betrayed and will only flare tempers even more. It also puts you in the unfortunate position of having to backtrack and most likely need to apologize.
It’s OK to fire a customer
Sometimes there’s just no winning with a customer. If a customer is getting downright unpleasant and it is obvious that there is no pleasing them. In the end, you are just going to sink excessive time and energy into them and not see a dime. We call these kinds of clients “tire kickers” and sometimes it is OK to simply fire them.
You hear it all the time from the other perspective, a customer firing their service provider, but it can work the other way too. If you reach a point where the unpleasantness of a customer is too great to handle, refusing to offer your services is a viable, albeit fairly drastic, option.
Don’t take the argument online
If a situation isn’t 100% resolved by the time you leave or you are put in a position where you have to fire a customer, it is a good possibility that they may try and take their complaints to the internet, leaving a negative review or comment. How a home service professional handles themselves online is just as important as how they handle themselves in person, so it is important that you handle negative reviews carefully.
First of all, treat every review respectfully and don’t continue whatever disagreement you may have had in-person online. When you argue with a customer online, you air your dirty laundry in front of anyone who cares to look and can only serve to drive away potential customers. But, if your response is cordial, calm, and inviting for them to contact you directly to once more try and resolve the issue, potential customers will see that as well and see your positive reaction to difficult situations.
Customer service skills are one of the most important skills HVAC technicians need to have in their toolbox, along with the knowledge and skills to repair and install heating and cooling systems of course. Having a thorough understanding of how to provide customer service and deal with difficult customers can help any technician succeed.
Communication and customer service are two areas we focus deeply on during our course here at the Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating as we prepare up and coming Houston HVAC technicians dealing with difficult customers. Contact us to learn more about our classes and enrollment.
Being an HVAC technician involves a lot of very technical and precise work, particularly when it comes to AC installation. This is why a proper education and training is so important for a long and successful career in the industry.
Unfortunately, not all technicians get things right during AC installations. In fact, there are a few practices that HVAC technicians actually get wrong more often than not. Why is that? It could be many things from displacency to simply not receiving proper education.
So, why is it important to talk about the shortcomings of AC technicians? In such a precise field that so many people rely on for their important service, these shortcomings are unacceptable. For those that are considering pursuing a career as a certified HVAC technician it is just as important to know the wrong way as the right way.
As an HVAC professional, you want to strive to provide the best care and service to your customers that depend on you to stay safe and cool. Knowing where others in the industry fall short can help you know where you can avoid the same pitfalls and become a more successful AC technician.
Keep in mind these common mistakes that HVAC technicians make during AC installation. You’ll notice the biggest pattern that emerges from these improper installation missteps is that they each can have serious negative impacts on the performance, efficiency, and lifespan of the air conditioning unit.
70% of technicians don’t follow proper vacuum procedures
One of the most important things technicians ignore not following proper AC vacuum procedures during installation. Vacuuming is important because it helps remove any excess moisture left within the system. Over time, moisture build up can cause long term damage from poor performance, corrosion, and even freezing with the AC system. Never skip this important step in the post-installation process.
70% of technicians don’t adjust for proper air flow
Ensuring an air conditioner has been adjusted for proper air flow ensures that it can efficiently and easily keep in-home air cool and comfortable for the customer. Proper air flow lets air more easily reach all the nooks and crannies, ensuring no random hot spots. When not adjusted properly, the system has a harder time performing and has to put in extra effort to keep the home cool, which not only can shoot up a customer’s utility bill but also causes AC’s to burn out faster than they should.
70% of technicians don’t charge unit per manufacturer recommendations
Correctly charging your customer’s AC system will ensure there is proper refrigeration to pull out hot air and keep their home cool. However, despite the fact that most manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions and offer their best practice recommendations, this correctly charging units often gets overlooked. The result is either an undercharged unit that can’t keep up with the heat and overwork itself or an overcharged unit that is loud and draws far more energy than it needs to.
90% of air conditioning installations are incorrect
Since these three steps during AC installations are so important, it may not be surprising to hear that more installations are done incorrectly than not. But, for an industry that prides itself on hard workers and providing a necessary service to its customers, this is a number that simply cannot continue to last.
Here at the Training Center for Air Conditioning and Heating, we are attempting to lower the statistics through a comprehensive training and education program for the next generation of HVAC technicians. The course is designed to teach students the skills and techniques required for entry-level employment into the residential and light commercial heating ventilating and air conditioning so that they can not just install and repair heating and cooling systems, but do it the right way to better serve their customers and help make them a more successful professional.
Interested in enrolling in an upcoming class? Learn more about how to join here.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry is expected to grow 14% before 2024 – double the typical growth for most industries. Becoming an HVAC technician is a great way to ensure your skills will always be in demand. Besides the technical skills, in this field, technicians also use practical skills that lead them to success.
For those looking to step foot into the HVAC industry, it is important that you know how to communicate calmly and effectively with those you encounter. When working with many clients, it is important to understand that these clients may be stressed since things are not working the way they are supposed to.
You will need to be able to effectively explain what you are doing in order to help solve the problem at hand. A majority of your customers will not know the technical terms of the industry. Because of this, you will need to be able to explain what you are doing in a way that your customers will be able to understand.
Clients already have high standards for anyone they choose to hire for HVAC work. By explaining the procedures, they will be much more comfortable and confident in your abilities as a technician.
Problem Solving Skills
Troubleshooting is one of the most important skills someone can possess in the HVAC industry. A majority of the time, technicians will receive a call about a system before they have a chance to diagnose the problem. Being able to effectively identify an issue is just one skill necessary to be successful at problem-solving. However, a job may not always be as straightforward as it seems.
When the problem is different than what you originally thought, some quick, creative thinking will help you get the job done. This requires asking the client some questions and working with the system to see what may have failed. The faster you can figure out the problem and design a solution to fix it, the more effective you will be as a technician.
Many technicians deal with multiple calls a day and they have to be able to efficiently finish each task in order to move on to the next call without delay. Staying organized is a large part of being successful as a technician. You must be able to maintain accurate records of each visit, the work that was performed, and any equipment that was used.
Customer Service Skills
Any job where you will be interacting with clients regularly requires excellent customer service skills. Interacting with homeowners, property managers, and building superintendents takes a certain level of finesse that a great technician should have.
Clients often expect a professional attitude and general regard for the customer. As an HVAC technician, demonstrating excellent customer service to your clients will leave an excellent impression on them and encourage them to call you again the next time their air conditioning breaks down.
Developing Your Skills
There are many skills necessary for you to succeed in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry. There will always be HVAC systems which means there will always be people that need repairs and replacements. To be successful in this industry, you need to have an exceptional list of skills and strengths. This may sound difficult, but for the right kind of person, it’s a fun, rewarding, and challenging career.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can succeed in the HVAC industry, contact us today.
Troubleshooting is one of the most important skills you can possess in the HVAC industry. Learning how to apply these problem-solving methods that point you to the issue quickly will not only save you time, but also leave you with happy customers who are sure to call you next time the HVAC system stops working. What do you know about the process of HVAC troubleshooting?
Troubleshooting Common HVAC Problems
All good troubleshooters have a few natural traits in common. In order to exhibit excellent troubleshooting skills yourself, you’ll need to build on your existing knowledge of how an HVAC system should work, narrow down the problem, and communicate with your clients about what you need to do and why. This process is crucial to providing quality services. Let’s break down each component of an HVAC troubleshooting strategy:
- Know the normal
- Eliminate unnecessary work
- Discuss with the customer
1) Know the Normal
Do you know the normal of the system you’re working on? Good troubleshooters learn this first since you can’t identify a problem without knowing what a normal situation is supposed to look like.
For example, imagine you are working on a condenser unit and the unit is running but the compressor is very hot to the touch, far hotter than anything you’re familiar with. So now you are trying to see what is happening to cause this compressor to be operating at this elevated temperature. If you don’t know the normal of the HVAC unit, you’ll end up spending hours testing each potential problem as your customer gets impatient. Train yourself to look for the cause behind abnormal condition so you don’t end up chasing your tail.
In addition to understanding normal functions of an HVAC unit, you should also be familiar with what mechanical parts should be used and why. It’s unfortunately very common for inexperienced technicians to install the wrong parts in a client’s air conditioning system. If you can’t find anything wrong with the system’s functionality, speed, or temperature, yet the client is experiencing problems, check the components. More than likely, at least one is incorrectly installed or the wrong piece altogether.
Pro Tip: During an HVAC service call, if you notice an installed part that didn’t come from the original manufacturer, double-check it. It’s probably the wrong part for the unit in question.
2) Eliminate Unnecessary Work
What can you do to eliminate time-consuming tests as you search for the problem? For example, if a customer tells you their attic HVAC unit isn’t powering on, don’t immediately start disassembling it and hunting for faulty wiring or other problems. Check that the power switch is turned on. While this may seem silly, it’s surprisingly common for stored Christmas decorations or a distracted family member to accidentally flip the switch. This simple solution definitely saves you time!
Additionally, keep yourself informed on the situation before you even arrive on the scene. Talk with your client to get the big picture. Which technician or service company did their HVAC maintenance work in the past? What exactly did they do? If you can, drive past the worksite and observe the unit from the street. Has it been tampered with? Have bushes or weeds grown around it?
Before you begin the job, sit down with the client and discuss any complaints they may have about how their HVAC system works. Additionally, ask them about their home’s work history and any variables that may have contributed to the problem. For instance, if they noticed the AC beginning to falter after they hired someone to mow their lawn, it’s possible that one of the mowers accidentally severed a cord with their machine. This gives you an excellent idea of where to look for the problem.
For an easy reference for both you and the customer, create a flowchart of common HVAC problems and their possible causes. While this isn’t a foolproof method, having the information easily accessible in a chart can help you narrow down the problem quickly. A chart will also give the customer a better idea of what you need to do and why.
3) Discuss with the Customer
Finally, remember that your first priority is customer satisfaction. Once you believe you know what the problem is, discuss your findings with the customer and explain what you need to do, why, and how much it will cost. Don’t save this part till the end! Make sure the customer knows exactly what they’re getting and what they’re paying you to do. This also gives them the option to refuse a certain service if they don’t want it.
This step not only builds trust with the customer, but it also establishes you as an expert on their HVAC system and as an honest contractor. Rather than trying to upsell them on expensive work or equipment they don’t need, you’re trying to restore their comfort level in their home. A satisfied customer will recognize this and happily refer you to their friends!
Your HVAC Troubleshooting Strategy
In the end, remember that operating with an effective HVAC troubleshooting strategy benefits both you and your client. Your client, of course, will be happy with a job that’s both well done and finished quickly. Meanwhile, you’ll have extra time to apply toward other jobs, as well as a satisfied customer who will recommend you to friends and almost certainly call you back for further work. Don’t sell yourself short by neglecting problem-solving knowledge! Practice troubleshooting in an HVAC setting to ensure your future successes.
Join the conversation for more insights into the troubleshooting process and how to better your skills.
Professional conduct and ethics sound at first like something we all know and don’t need to be told. In regards to the way we treat ourselves and fellow HVAC contractors, this is probably true. However, the definition of professional conduct and ethics needs to expand to include our treatment of customers, employers, and employees as well.
Ethical standards of treatment should apply to everyone in the HVAC industry. Potential customers and employers particularly deserve a professional contractor. While there are no established ethics and code of conduct for HVAC contractors, there are a few universal ethical principles that most people will appreciate seeing. Let’s take a closer look at what those principles are.
Helping Customers vs. Upselling
Any time money is involved, the greed factor comes to play, and with greed comes deception and dirty tricks. This is in no way exclusive to any one group.
For example, let’s say you go to work for a company that pays you a fair wage and you give them a fair day’s work for that wage. There is no reason for you to earn anything except the amount you agreed to work for. At the end of the week, you’re happy with your paycheck, your boss is happy with your work, and the customer is happy with the services you provided. This type of win-win-win situation is fairly common with many business models. However, if the business owner is only interested in sales and offers a high commission only if you sell new systems, customers are at your mercy because they truly have no idea of their options. Unfortunately, businesses focused more on selling new systems than helping people pay about triple what a truly honest business would. This is when greed sets in and businesses forget how to help customers and just sell HVAC systems. This dishonest business practice is far too common.
Pro Tip: Customers just want to make an informed decision without pressure and upselling from you as the contractor. Answer their questions honestly and help them find the best choice for their homes.
Ethical Behavior for an HVAC Contractor
Be honest with the customers and give them all the options. It’s not our job to decide what is best for them, and it’s certainly not ethical to hide options from them.
The same thing comes to being professional in our dealings with one another in the trade. HVAC techs should never feel above performing an installation, for instance. It’s all part of the job.
Red Flags to Watch For
If you notice these red flags after leaving an HVAC training program, take them as a sign of which companies to avoid:
- No recovery or vacuum pumps and equipment on the trucks
- No brazing with nitrogen flushing
- Selling used refrigerant
Practices like these are why it’s so important for us as HVAC contractors to self-police our trade. These shoddy companies either need to get in compliance or out of business.
Maintaining a High Standard
Professional conduct for an HVAC contractor goes beyond simple customer service and courtesy. You must also understand exactly what your client wants and provide it, rather than trying to create more work and thus more profit for yourself. After all, a happy customer can easily become a repeat customer through ethical treatment.
Join the conversation to learn more about professional conduct and ethics for HVAC contractors.
From time to time, a business or independent contractor find themselves in the unusual position of firing a customer. This is a relatively uncommon occurrence and is usually seen as something of a strange role reversal. However, the ability to cut ties with a customer is a crucial ability to have, particularly for contractors or small business owners.
Yes, you can fire a customer and your business prosperity can depend on it. If a customer is unbearably difficult or clearly trying to take advantage of you, there’s no shame in refusing to provide services to them anymore. Ultimately, this decision will protect your sanity and your business.
How to Know When a Customer Needs to Be Fired
Many customers are finicky, and some are just downright hard to work with. However, it’s not impossible to work with finicky or difficult customers. After all, they still pay you just like the good customers do.
However, there are some customers who are past finicky and difficult and are impossible to work for. This customer will seek you out just to take as much as they can from you in time and expertise, but will never pay you a dime. They generally start the process by telling you how many projects they might have for you once they get this one resolved. This only thing they want is to somehow get you to fix their system for free. In the business world, these kinds of customers are known as “tire kickers”, after people who waste a car salesman’s time by kicking the tires of every car in the lot without actually buying one.
Pro Tip: Anyone who hires you for HVAC work with the promise of dozens of future jobs is just as dishonest as someone who offers to pay an artist in “exposure”. They just want free labor from you–don’t give it to them!
Firing a Customer
Learn how to identify these bad customers sooner rather than later and fire them. Usually, this is done by giving them a price and refuse to work until a check is in your hands. Other times it requires telling them you will not work for them. In extreme cases, it might just mean blocking their number and forgetting about them.
Don’t Be Fooled
Some of the persistent, impossible customers just don’t understand the concept of being fired. Train yourself to not get caught in a tire kicker’s web of promised future work. If you suspect a customer may be a tire kicker, ask for payment or a deposit upfront and see how they react. If your instincts are correct and they’re just wasting your time, fire the customer immediately. Don’t give them time to fool you anymore.
Terminating the Relationship with a Customer
As an HVAC technician, train yourself to distinguish between a difficult customer, a client having a bad day, and a tire kicker. Additionally, remember there’s no shame in refusing to offer services to a particular client because of their behavior. Just make sure you know when to cut ties with a bad customer and how to handle the situation professionally.
Connect with us to learn more about customer relations in the HVAC field.