HVAC is an incredibly technical field. Becoming a licensed technician or installer takes extensive training and hands on experience, making the “know-how” of the job and every little in and out of the equipment you work on crucial. You cannot understate the value of technical skills in the HVAC field.
That being said, success in the industry is not entirely dependent on how skilled you are at navigating HVAC equipment. A successful HVAC technician or installer must also be adept at soft skills as well.
Soft skills are skills such as creative thinking, conflict resolution, time management, teamwork, networking, and other social skills that can help you succeed in your career. Basically, the opposite of the technical skills you learn throughout your training at The Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating.
But, for a technical career like this one, why are these soft skills so important. In short, technical skills will help you do your job; soft skills help you do your job better and open avenues and opportunities for you to excel within your career.
Here are just a few ways that developing soft skills can help your HVAC career.
Represent you and your company proudly
For employers, soft skills are important for one major reason: how you conduct yourself, interact with customers, and what kind of impression you make. See, when you arrive at a customer’s home to perform your inspection, maintenance, or repairs you aren’t just there as yourself, you are there as a representation of your company, who wants you to perform your job effectively, make the customer happy, and leave a good impression.
A technician that lacks desirable soft skills or social skills isn’t likely to meet those expectations. Say a technician shows up to a customer’s home late, smelling like cigarettes, grumbles a curt greeting before demanding to see the system, before stomping their dirty boots through the customer’s home. This isn’t just a bad impression on yourself, but the company they are there representing.
A technician who has developed their soft skills will be self-aware enough to realize just how important their professionalism and conduct is as their company’s reputation is on the line with every interaction. Your poor performance can have a serious impact on your company.
Become a more desirable technician
An HVAC technician who is well-spoken, communicates well, and exhibits traits like good work ethic, creative thinking, and strong teamwork is going to be much more desirable than the alternative in several different ways.
The first, and most useful for someone currently going through career training or preparing to begin their training, is obviously landing a job. The technical skills on your resume will obviously be important for getting you an interview, but displaying your soft skills during the interview will help you make the best impression possible and stand out among other candidates.
Once you are on the job, however, being a desirable technician also has its perks. A technician who is charming, well-spoken, and always leaves their customers happy and satisfied can develop a loyal customer base who prefers your services, keeping you busy and well compensated.
Exhibiting a strong work ethic, initiative, leadership, and teamwork skills can also help put you at the front of the pack for promotions and other advancement opportunities.
Better communicate with customers
Communication is a big deal for those working in the HVAC industry. When you have to have conversations with your customer about what is wrong with their system, what it will take to fix it, and, most painfully, how much it is going to cost, tempers are likely to flare.
Soft skills in communication, conflict resolution, and empathy play a big role in customer relations. The ability to not lose your head, remain calm, and truly understand their perspective when someone is upset will help you be able to diffuse any high-tempered situations and calm customers.
The issues you encounter will also likely be very technical and beyond the knowledge of the average customer. Communication skills can help you better breakdown and explain the problem in a way that doesn’t make you sound superior or condescending, while being reassuring and comforting to customers.
How to develop your HVAC soft skills
Learning technical skills is easy enough. They can be learned through classes and hands-on learning, like the one here at The Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating. Soft skills, however, aren’t so straightforward.
While learning soft skills is an important aspect of the HVAC industry, they aren’t always taught in the classroom. Instead, they are developed in the world outside the classroom. If you want to strive to be a better professional, getting real-world experience interacting with employers, customers, and coworkers is the best resource. Always open yourself up to feedback from others, actively listen to what they have to say, and think of how their feedback can be applied to your work habits. You can also research different courses, classes, or reading material outside of your HVAC classroom that can help you solidify these skills as well.
Looking for a place in the Houston area to hone the technical HVAC skills you will need alongside the HVAC soft skills you require? Classes are in session at The Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating. Call 281.580.4239 to learn more or reserve your spot online today.
Here at the Training Center of Air Conditioning and Heating, our students come from all walks of life, different backgrounds, and have different personalities. But, they all come with one single goal: they want to begin a rewarding HVAC career.
While everyone has the same goal when they first begin to pursue their interest in a career in our industry, not everyone has the same expectations or understanding of the career that lies ahead of them.
If you are beginning, or considering, a new career in HVAC, here are five important things you need to know before you start.
Training is required
One of the biggest appeals of a career in HVAC is its availability. You don’t need to go to graduate school. You don’t need a college degree. You don’t need any particular prerequisites skills outside of a hard-working attitude and a willingness to apply yourself. However, just because the level of entry for an HVAC career is low doesn’t mean anyone can just step in and do the job. Training is a requirement if you want to succeed in the industry.
While training for an HVAC career does not involve a four-year program as you’ll find at most universities, training courses offered by programs like ours at The Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning will prepare you with the technical and professional skills needed to be successful in your new career. Graduating from a training course will also award you with various certifications that are necessary to practice in some states and will always help give you a leg up in the hiring process.
You will often work in harsh conditions
Life as an HVAC technician or installer isn’t always the most glamorous. You will be spending your days outdoors, usually on a roof for commercial service calls, in the elements. Here in Texas, the days you are busiest are usually the hottest days of the year. You’ll often be sweaty, hot, and tired.
What this means is that if you are looking for a career where you spend your time indoors all day cooped up in a cubicle or staring at a computer screen all day, HVAC isn’t it. The day-to-day of a technician requires hard work and endurance. While this isn’t meant to try and weed anyone out or scare people off from a rewarding career in this industry, it is important for anyone looking to pursue this kind of career to know what they are getting into.
People skills are just as important as technical skills
The HVAC world isn’t all about fixing air conditioners and tuning up furnaces. While the technical skills you’ll learn during training and apply every day during your work are obviously important and a big part of the job, there are other equally important skills to possess to be successful, such as customer service.
The reason a customer calls you is that they are having a bad day. Their air conditioner may have just busted on the hottest day of the year and they are looking at a large bill for a replacement or repair. Not everyone you deal with is going to be necessarily happy to see you. Being able to relate, communicate, and interact with your customers respectfully, fairly, and honestly is important for keeping tempers down, keeping customers happy, and building a positive reputation within your community.
The details are important
Just like any other career working on something intricate like rebuilding car engines in an auto shop, HVAC installations and repairs require finesse, focus, and an emphasis on attention to detail. Repairs and installations in the HVAC industry require dealing with often hazardous materials like electricity, fire, and refrigerant. A lack of care or attention can result in serious injury to yourself or those around you.
HVAC technicians also are responsible for very complex tasks like electrical wiring, brazing, and working with very small components of the units they service. One misstep, whether you skip a step in the process or are not thorough in your work can lead to not completing your job properly. This leaves your customers unsatisfied, unhappy, and you look unprofessional. Focus and attention to detail to do your job the right way the first time is a must.
There is a sea of opportunity waiting
The job can be difficult, but that shouldn’t deter anyone away interested in pursuing an HVAC career. Why? Well, the most important thing to know about the HVAC industry is it is an industry filled with opportunities. Right now, the world is facing a decline in available workers in many skilled trade industries including HVAC. That means for those who are willing to get their certification, there is almost a guarantee that you will be able to find a great job and pave your own way for professional growth, like starting your own company.
Not only are there plenty of available jobs in the industry, but there is also an especially large need and opportunity for women to succeed in the industry as well. Regardless of gender, in the wake of the coronavirus as well, the world needs hardworking and knowledgeable HVAC technicians now more than ever.
Ready to start? The Training Center for Heating and Air Conditioning has classes running throughout the year! Check out our schedule and find the next session that works best for you.
As an HVAC technician, you will be expected to become proficient with a manner of different tools and pieces of equipment in order to obtain your certification. While some things like screwdrivers and pliers are obviously elementary, you’ll also need to learn more complex and even dangerous pieces of equipment such as acetylene torches.
Useful for a wide array of applications such as brazing copper connections, your acetylene torch is a best friend for HVAC technicians and a necessary piece of equipment for completing many installations and repairs for your customers’ heating and cooling systems.
However, as you may expect, acetylene torches are not a tool to be used lightly. Used carelessly, your handy torch can prove to be extremely dangerous. Painful burns and hazardous explosions can easily occur if you don’t treat your torch with the care and respect it deserves.
Acetylene torch safety is a topic we cover with our students in extreme depth as part of the HVAC training program here at the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning in Houston, Texas. However, for incoming students or those interested in pursuing a career as an HVAC technician, coming in with an established mindset of safety and respect for this essential yet dangerous tool is a great way to give yourself an edge.
As you begin to educate yourself on what it takes to be an effective and safe HVAC technician, here are some acetylene torch safety tips you need to know and follow.
Always survey the area
Before you light your torch, it is essential that you check your surroundings and make sure it is a suitable area to do so. Make sure there are no flammable objects and that the area is properly ventilated. In many instances, it is a good idea to have a fire watch with you to have your back in case of trouble, or at the very least a fire extinguisher is present. If anyone in the present area isn’t qualified to do so, make sure they have vacated to a safe distance before beginning.
Always light with an approved striker
There is most certainly a right and wrong way to light your torch. Never use matches or a lighter to do so. These methods will put your hand too close to the flame and you will very likely burn your hands. Not to mention, the design of a common light essentially turns them into little pipe bombs when exposed to flame. Take any lighters off your person before you light your torch as well. When exposed to open flames or extreme heat they can combust.
Protective gear isn’t optional
It isn’t just encouraged to wear protection, it is an absolute must! Personal protective gear such as glasses and gloves are the absolute minimum. Consider the circumstances you are working around. If you grab a red hot, just brazed piece of copper, it will be extremely painful. Imagine unpleasant the feeling of melting skin is, and bad burns on the hands make tomorrow’s jobs much harder. Goggles will help prevent hot liquid silver from making its way into your eyes and causing serious, irreversible damage to your vision.
Follow OSHA rules
OSHA has particular rules that all acetylene torch operators need to adhere too. Such rules include the use of protective caps on torch bottles during transportation, storing oxygen separately from the fuel, storing bottles upright, never opening the fuel gas more than one turn, and if you are using a wrench-type valve, the wrench must stay in place for fast shut off if needed.
Oxygen is extremely flammable
Oxygen is the most dangerous of the gasses in the torch set. When fire is exposed to pure oxygen it accelerates at an amazing rate and the risk of an explosion is greatly increased. People often think oxygen and air are the same thing, which leads to a misunderstanding of the explosive relationship between fire and oxygen. However, oxygen and air is not the same thing. Air is only a little over 21% oxygen, but the oxygen in your torch is almost 100% pure oxygen.
Never use without approved flame arrestors and valves
Flame arrestors, check valves, and flashback arrestors are safety measures that help keep your acetylene torch’s flame under control. Using these safety measures greatly reduces any chance of fire traveling back into the hoses and regulators and resulting in exposure to large quantities of oxygen.
Acetylene torch safety and care is so important for the well-being and effectiveness of an HVAC technician, which is why safety is a topic we cover in depth in our program. Learn more about our upcoming schedule of classes here.
While some careers simply require one degree in order to become an eligible candidate in the eyes of potential employers, HVAC isn’t quite as simple. While all it takes to succeed as an HVAC technician is an aptitude and a desire to learn a rewarding and skilled trade, there are certain, and usually multiple boxes, that employers and the state will need to see before you are likely to land a job as a heating and cooling tech.
The world of HVAC is filled with all sorts of different HVAC certifications. Some are required, some are not but can provide a tremendous boost to your skillset and appeal as a job candidate. It can all become a little confusing and disorienting to know where to start.
Let’s simplify things a little bit for you! Yes, there is a whole world of different accreditations you can get, but today let’s just focus on four of the most important HVAC certifications that everyone pursuing a career in the industry needs to have, or at the very least know the importance of.
Every HVAC technician needs to start somewhere, and that somewhere is graduating from an HVAC training program. In some states HVAC technicians are not required to have certification, but here in Texas technicians are required to have one of either a Class A license or a Class B license in the field of heating and air conditioning.
Even if you are considering a career in HVAC in a state that doesn’t require certification, it is strongly recommended that you get this level of certification. Not only will it better prepare you for working in the field, but it will give you an enormous advantage during your job application process. Although not always required, most heating and cooling companies won’t employ you without certification.
EPA 608 Certification
EPA 608 Certification is a required certification for HVAC technicians as part of the Clean Air Act because of the position’s requirements of dealing with equipment that has the potential to release refrigerant into the atmosphere. Refrigerants have been shown to contribute to buildup of Greenhouse gases and can have negative impacts on the environment. Not to mention, refrigerants can have adverse effects on human health too.
Depending on the equipment you will be handling, there are four different levels of certification you will need to obtain. As an HVAC technician, passing these tests and obtaining these levels of certification shows that you are proficient in safely and responsibly working with equipment that contains this potentially harmful substance.
NATE Certification is one of the most highly-recognized and respected certifications in the HVAC industry. While not required to begin work in the HVAC industry, those who take the time to obtain NATE certification can further separate themselves from the crowd and are more likely to have a longer and more successful career.
There are four levels of NATE Certification one can achieve at different stages throughout the course of their HVAC career, from the entry-level Ready-To-Work Certificate to Senior Level Efficiency Analyst Certification that requires multiple years experience and multiple previous NATE Certifications. Each certification covers different levels of fundamental and specialty skills within the HVAC industry.
HVAC Excellence Certification
HVAC Excellence Certification is a level of certification that is of use to HVAC technicians who may potentially be moving to different states and are unsure of the necessary qualification levels to practice in their new home state. This certification provides national recognition of one’s HVAC technical skills.
However, this doesn’t replace state certification for those that require it. HVAC Excellence can simply help give you a leg up when dealing with potential employers as you round out your necessary certification.
Graduation from the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning guarantees you your HVAC certification as well as certification for EPA 608. Our program will also help prepare you for other important HVAC certifications. Like NATE and HVAC Excellence, and give you advice and guidance on how to obtain them.
Begin a rewarding and fulfilling career as an HVAC technician in Houston, Texas by learning more about our program and our upcoming schedule of HVAC classes today.
Being an HVAC technician isn’t all just about working on heating and air conditioning systems. Sure, that is a big part of the job and it requires a lot of in-classroom training and education to become a master of that trade. However, often overlooked as another important aspect of life for an HVAC technician – almost equally important as working on equipment – is working with people.
Talking with customers before and after your inspections or repairs is integral to the process of helping your customers fully understand the situation they are experiencing. Chances are, the people you’ll interact with on a daily basis as an HVAC technician won’t be very happy to see you. They are likely going to be uncomfortable, given the condition of their comfort system, and also looking down the barrel of a hefty bill.
The circumstances in which you’ll find your customers necessitates the need for HVAC to know exactly how to talk to customers. Much like the art of knowing how to fix an air conditioner, correctly dealing with customers who are going to be emotional or even disgruntled is equally an art that takes time and practice.
How to talk to customers is an aspect we cover in-depth here at the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning, so let’s cover some of the basic principles here now.
Be respectful at all times… no matter what
You’ve just broken the news to a customer that they are going to have to spend a couple of thousand dollars on repairing or installing a new air conditioner in the middle of summer: tempers are going to be high. Customers may get mad, they may even get downright nasty with you.
What is important in this situation is no matter what happens, it is the responsibility of the HVAC technician to remain calm, cool, and collected at all times and be respectful to the customer. Always keep your voice down, always address your customer as “sir” or “ma’am,” and never ever stoop to any nastiness, even if they start it first.
Always keep in mind that your behavior and how you conduct yourself doesn’t just affect you. When you are on a call and interacting with a customer, you aren’t just representing yourself, but you are also representing the company you work for.
Leave the technical jargon at the office
Heating and cooling technicians possess a skill set and knowledge that few do. The training you go through that gives you the ability to look at, understand, and repair an HVAC system requires an understanding of a certain set of words, terms, equipment, and lots of technical jargon to go along with it.
While commonplace to you, the terms you use during the course of your job are completely foreign to your customers. Using words and terminology that your customers are likely not going to be familiar with puts them at a disadvantage in the conversation and can make them feel like you outsmart them in the conversation by talking circles around them.
While you of course do have a better understanding of the situation than your customer does, you never want your customer to feel talked down to. So, keep all the technical jargon back at the office when you are talking to your coworkers. Always keep any technical talk with customers in a manner or presentation that they can easily understand so they don’t feel out of the loop. It is their system after all.
Give it to them straight
A lot of times as a technician you have to give customers bad news. Something is broken, it needs to be fixed or replaced, and it may not be cheap. Think about how you would want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot. Would you want your service tech to dance around the facts, throw around a lot of hypotheticals, relying on technical jargon, and wait to dump any information on you until after you have received the estimate?
Or, would you prefer your tech to give you the news straight and upfront so that you know exactly what the issue is and how you can fix it? We imagine, like us, you prefer option two. Bad news is always going to be bad news. But, if the person delivering the news is honest and upfront, it always tends to soften the blow a bit.
Dealing with customers the right way is just as important as fixing their heating and cooling systems. That is why at the Training Center of Heating and Air Conditioning this is a subject that we spend a lot of time on. If you are interested in beginning your career as an HVAC technician, learn more about our available and upcoming classes by calling us at 281.580.4239.
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.