What skills do you think matter most for the trade you’re learning (or considering learning)?
Like most people, you’re probably thinking about technical knowledge and hands-on skills. The ability to quickly diagnose and solve problems. Proficiency with power tools.
Would it surprise you to learn that communication and customer service skills either out-rank, or closely compete with all of those abilities, on most job postings and “top trades skills” lists?
For many tradespeople, good product knowledge and mechanical skills simply aren’t enough to grow a successful career.
If you’re going to be working with clients face-to-face, in their homes, you’ll need to develop truly superior customer service skills.
What does that mean for trades professionals?
It’s all about building trust. When the client trusts you, they will have confidence in your work, believe your price quotes and recommendations, want to buy your company’s products, and ask for you by name the next time they need help with plumbing, electrical, HVAC, cabling, appliance repair, etc.
Building trust can be as simple as following a few golden rules of etiquette while conducting home service calls. These 5 rules are a great place to start.
Make a great first impression
You may have 5 more calls to make that day, and already running behind schedule, but you should still take a few moments to connect with your client on a personal level.
Remember that they’re welcoming you into their home. This is a private, personal space—not a workshop or construction site. The client needs to feel comfortable with you being there, particularly if they’re going to be out while you’re working.
Make a reassuring, professional, friendly first impression by:
- greeting the homeowner warmly and introducing yourself clearly (provide your name, the company you work for, and the purpose of your visit)
- smiling, shaking hands, and asking how your client is doing
- taking off your work boots or shoes at the front door (unless the client says it’s OK to keep them on)
Explain your plan & give updates on your progress
Instead of just rushing into your work, take a moment to let the client know what approach you’ll be taking: what are your goals for today’s visit? What troubleshooting steps will you take? What do you suspect the problem is?
There’s no need to go into great technical detail—just let the client know what basic steps you’ll be working through.
Uncover a bigger problem than expected? Is the repair taking longer than you anticipated? Need to access another part of the house to address a related issue?
Update your client on your progress; keep them in the loop. They’ll probably give you space to work, and won’t want to interrupt you—but will be wondering how things are going, what you’re up to, and when you’ll be finished.
Explain the options, don’t push for the sale
Is maintenance not enough, and it’s time for your client to purchase a new air conditioner or kitchen appliance? Have you discovered that serious plumbing or electrical work will be needed to resolve an issue?
It’s crucial to sit down with the customer and carefully explain all of their options. Review the pros and cons. Lay out different pricing options. Don’t skip straight to the sales pitch.
An unexpected big expense can be very stressful for the homeowner. And if you want them to contract your company/employer for the additional work or purchase, they’ll need to trust that your recommendations are honest, thorough, and objective.
Always clean up your work area
Nothing’s worse than coming home after a long day’s work to discover boot prints, grease, debris, and things out of place where the service technician was working.
Whether your client is at home, or away, during your service call, absolutely make sure to clean up your work area when finished. Take a few extra moments to wipe down surfaces and the floor, replace items you had to move, and put everything back as it was.
This is a small, but very important gesture. It proves you can be trusted to treat your client’s home like you would your own. It tells your client they can feel comfortable leaving you alone while they’re at work, out running errands, etc.
Never leave without saying goodbye
It’s surprising how often service technicians finish up their work, and simply head out, without even telling the homeowner goodbye!
This usually happens when they’re working alone in the house while the family is out. But no matter what, it’s really important to check in, and check out, when doing home service calls.
Make a quick call, or send a text, to let the client know you’re leaving, that you’ve resolved the issue, or if further work is needed.
And if the customer is still at home? Find them, shake their hand, explain any next steps, and make sure they’re totally satisfied with the work you’ve done.
Leave your card, and always emphasize you’re available for follow-up questions.
And there you have it! Follow these 5 simple rules on service calls, and you’ll attract the kind of customer loyalty (and referrals!) the trades business is built on.
Consider the Pre-apprenticeship Training (PAT) Institute in Toronto and Cambridge. PAT offers a wide range of pre-apprenticeship training programs, and is Ontario’s most trusted provider of quality trades training.
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