Being a Better Tech

Dec. 12, 2014
This is for technicians who want to perform better, who want to excel. Here’s how you can be better technicians.

Technical Skills are Not Enough

It’s natural for technicians to value technical skills above everything else.  Technical ability is a given.  It is necessary, but insufficient. 

As a technician, you are the public face of your company.  You are the primary point of customer contact.  Thus, your human relations skills are far more important than you suspect.  In a 2004 Harris Interactive research study of over 2,000 adults for the Wall Street Journal, the following physician attributes ranked ahead of “good medical judgment.”

  • What people want from their doctor and what they get
  • Treats you with dignity and respect
  • Listens carefully to your healthcare concerns and questions
  • Is easy to talk to
  • Takes your concerns seriously
  • Is willing to spend enough time with you
  • Truly cares about you and your health

If interpersonal skills are more important than technical skills for doctors, could they be more important for you as well?

You will succeed for fail, based more on your ability to relate to people than your ability to turn a wrench.  In an interview for Forbes Magazine, "Hiring For Attitude” author, Mark Murphy revealed findings from his research of 20 thousand new hires, noting, “When new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill.”

Getting Better

Every technician I’ve ever met wants to do a good job.  Even those who present a gruff exterior care deeply, deep down, even though they will not reveal it.  Here’s 11 ways to become a better tech that do not involve your technical skills:

  1. Be an Ambassador

One definition of ambassador is “a representative or promoter.”  Start thinking of yourself as an ambassador for your company.  How does an ambassador act?  How does an ambassador look?  Make sure you act and look your best with your customers.

  1. Stand Up Straight, Smile, & Look People in the Eye

UCLA psychology professor, Albert Mehrabian conducted widely cited research that found our communication includes the words we use, the tone of voice when speaking them, and our body language.  According to this research, the actual words used accounts for 7% of communication.  Tone is 38%.  Non-verbal communication, or body language, is a stunning 55% of communication.

Standing up straight, smiling, and looking customers in the eye is non-verbal communication.  It screams care and concern.  It shows that you believe what you’re saying.  It tells customers they are important.

  1. Listen

A joke circulating the Internet states, “My wife can tell me all of her secrets without fear that I will tell anyone else… because I’m not listening anyway.”  It’s funny because men do seem to have problems listening. 

Listening is hard.  It’s not passive.  It’s active.  It requires concentration.  Ask questions.  Restate what the customer said to ensure you got it right.

  1. Give the Boss the Benefit of the Doubt

When I worked for a manufacturer, I didn’t understand a particular decision.  It didn’t make sense to me.  I said something about it to Vicki La Plant, who told me, “I don’t understand it either, but I figure I’m not on a high enough rock.”

“Huh,” I said.

“Well, when you sit on a higher rock, you get a better view.  Maybe they can see things we can’t.”

“Huh,” I said.

Vicki sighed, “Maybe the decision would make sense if you knew more, if you knew what the guys upstairs knew.  You’ve got to trust management.  Otherwise, it will drive you crazy.  If you can’t trust the people you work for, maybe you should work for someone else.”

“Oh,” I said quietly.  Okay, maybe the conversation didn’t go exactly like that, but Vicki did mention the higher rock and she was right. 

  1. Tune Out Negative Influence

Negativity is infectious.  Negative people pull you down.  Before you know it, you will be negative too.  If other technicians are negative about the company, co-workers, or customers, tune them out.  Ignore them like they carry the Ebola virus.

  1. Practice Humility

When the boss goes off to a new seminar and comes back all excited about a new approach, don’t resist.  Give it a try.  Be humble enough to consider that a new approach might work.  It might even be better.

  1. Offer Choices

The opposite of humility is arrogance.  It is arrogant to withhold critical information from a customer.  Avoid arrogance by offering people choices instead of proceeding directly to repairs.  Some might prefer replacing old equipment to repairing it.  How can you know?  You can’t.

  1. Make Suggestions from a Position of Care

Just because the boss is managing in a certain manner doesn’t mean it’s thought out.  Ours is an industry where people learn how to turn a wrench, not how to turn a profit.  A positive suggestion from you, in private, might be the nudge the boss needs.  However, the suggestion must come with humility, from a position of care.  If you approach people with a caring heart, your message has a much greater chance of getting through and your motives are far less likely to be questioned.

  1. Learn Good Personal Finance

If you find yourself struggling from paycheck to paycheck, switching to a company paying a dollar or two more an hour will not change things.  More money will not change your financial position.  Better personal finance will. 

It’s likely that you never learned personal finance in high school or trade school.  Find a local class or take one of the following online classes:

If you live paycheck to paycheck, this will change your life.

  1. Set Goals

Just as schools do not teach people personal finance, they also do not teach goal setting.  There’s magic in written goals, in written goals.  A study at Dominican University found that people who write goals down achieve 50% more than people who do not write goals down.  So write down your short and long range goals.  Frame them positively and in the present tense.  Look at them daily.  Imagine yourself achieving them.  Your subconscious will begin directing you towards your goals.

  1. Listen to Podcasts

How much time do you spend in your truck?  One hour?  More?  If you spend one hour a day in your truck, that’s the equivalent of six weeks.  How do you spend it?  Listening to sports talk?  Music?  Political talk?

What if you spent six weeks a year learning?  Could that make a difference in your life?  Absolutely!  Moreover, there’s a wealth of learning available for free in the form of podcasts you can download at night and listen to through your phone.

If you would like a complimentary copy of Matt Michel’s guide to personal goal setting, “Life Design,” contact the Service Roundtable Success Team at 877.262.3341 and ask for a copy to be emailed to you.  To learn more about the Service Roundtable, visit

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.