David Richardson/NCI
Interior Hvac Diagram
David Richardson/NCI
If you know what to look for, a visual inspection provides clues to unsafe operation. It's never good for one package unit to exhaust into the economizer of an adjacent unit.
National Comfort Institute
Before you jump on the heat pump bashing bandwagon, look at your duct installation practices first.

Hard Facts about Soft Skills

April 1, 2010
Don’t forget that you’re in a people business. The customer’s experience needs to rise above and beyond the turning of a wrench. The best customer is an informed customer.

Technicians need to understand that they're basically guests in customers' homes, and act accordingly. You must respect the individuals' property and time, be gracious and empathetic, always tell the truth, and never cut corners.

Realize that customers understand their equipment better than you do. They understand the noises the system makes in the middle of the night that we would probably discount. So when customers tell you something, even when it's contrary to what your findings are, believe them. Let them do most of the talking and listen, listen, listen.

On a service call, ask your customers pointed questions, and write down their responses. Review this with them at the end of the call, so you can know while you're still there that you have covered every single concern that they have. You can also use those questions to determine the different options available to solve customers' concerns or needs. You can then make a final presentation in a very friendly, neutral way, and the customer can make an educated decision. The best customer is an informed customer.

Ask for a Complaint!
I encourage technicians to "ask for a complaint" at the end of each service call. You can use whatever verbiage you want to use, but you need to ask, "Have I taken care of all your concerns, do you have any questions, and if you’re not happy please let me know right now." When you know the customer is happy, give them some extra business cards ask them to give them to their friends and family. Say, "Let me see if we can help them, too." Asking for a complaint is actually a way of asking for referrals.

Like any other service, you’re there to make a memory. If you go to a restaurant and can't remember anything about your visit, how likely are you to go there again? You must stand out and exceed customers' expectations. It sounds like a cliché, but it's very true.

That's why soft skills are important, and are only going to become more so with the R-410A refrigerant mandate. Customers are going to have to make some pretty expensive repair-vs.-replace decisions. If those decisions are about price, you're out of business.

It’s up to you to provide the memorable service experience that will stand out in customers' minds and set you and your company apart.


The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has published The Customer Service Handbook for HVACR Technicians. The introduction to the book issues a call to service excellence:

"Customers are the lifeblood of any HVACR contracting company. Our customers depend on us to ensure their comfort and air quality at home and at the office. We depend on our customers to get paid. The moral: Always look for "win-win" situations when dealing with customers."

Among the tips found in this publication:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Seek education and training in all aspects of the job (technical and "soft skills")
  • Respect co-workers', suppliers' and customers' time.
  • Deliver accurate billing information for invoicing
  • Listen carefully and respond to customers, co-workers and suppliers.
  • Assure customers that all problems will be handled efficiently.
  • Ask pertinent questions when unclear about a job or issue.
  • Make a concerted effort to help junior technicians succeed.
  • Attempt to find solutions to customers' problems, not just sell them service and equipment.
  • Give customers a good first impression and follow up with an even better one.
  • Deliver accurate explanations of customers' options and the associated costs.
  • Use appropriate telephone etiquette.

The book is available by visiting ACCA's online store — http://bit.ly/ACCAONSERVICE — or by calling 888/290-2220.