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How HVAC Pros Should Deal with Difficult Customers

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.

Stay cool

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.