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Technician Training: Do We Want to Do This, or Not?

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Over the weekend, I had the humidifier on the furnace in my house “fixed”.

I put that in quotation marks because the day after the technician worked on the leaky humidifier, the furnace itself stopped working – though it was working fine before he arrived. It turns out a small hose in a part of the furnace the tech swore he didn’t touch had come loose, so the company sent out another tech, who fixed it at no charge after I raised a bit of a ruckus.

Now, I have no idea the kind of training this technician has, but I use this incident as an example of how customer service in general and having expensive repairs done by competent, qualified workers and done right the first time can make a huge difference.

No doubt, the people reading this blog know the importance of a satisfied customer. And they know the importance of having well-trained technicians, as well as the difficulty in finding and keeping those employees.

But hear me out, and remember that the consumer’s perception – right or wrong – is the only one that really matters in today’s world of instant online gratification, or revenge.

I’m not the kind to go on Facebook and trash this company for seemingly breaking something while fixing it, but I’m also not likely to call the same company first next time I have a furnace problem. The $281 I paid for the initial repair, though probably a reasonable fee, seems like a lot of money to me, so I expect the work to be done right. Maybe it was a complete coincidence that hose came loose right after the tech worked on my furnace, but I grew up in a penny-pinching farm family with two parents who lived through the Great Depression, so I’m not terribly trusting when it comes to money.

By the same token, repairs to RVs – though priced at a level that covers the cost and allows the dealer and tech to have some profit – cost a lot of money in the eyes of the consumer. The RV lifestyle has been described to me as taking your house and putting it through an earthquake every few weeks. So, although repairs are expected, the consumer expects them to be done right the first time.

I think it’s fair to say that in the vast majority of reputable dealerships and service shops, those repairs happen just as expected.

But what if they don’t?

As a dealer, have you done everything to protect your business by making sure your service techs, who are a big part of the public perception of your business, know how to do their jobs?

As a tech, are you up to date on the latest equipment on the market? Did you follow established procedures to get the job done?

The RV industry makes a great show of training. At least once a week if not more, we at RV PRO get news releases touting training webinars or supplier training sessions or even a new slate of training sessions available at a state or national RV association gathering.

But are people really taking advantage of these?

As often as we hear about the opportunities, we hear the excuses.

We can’t afford to send them. We’re too busy to send them. If we send them, they’ll just use that certification to get a job somewhere else.

So here’s my question: How serious are we as an industry about having the kind of good image we like to talk about?

Those excuses I mentioned are absolutely legitimate thanks to the tight job market that has resulted from the Recession. There are way more jobs out there than there are qualified people.

But are we willing to deal with the consequences if our technicians aren’t able to keep up with the workload or have to cut corners to get everybody’s unit fixed quickly? We’re either behind this movement for service excellence or we aren’t.

More training may not be the answer to every problem, but the technician shortage is a problem that the industry needs to face down and figure out a solution that allows the dealers to make a profit and the techs to make a good wage while keeping up to date on technology.

After all, I can’t tell you the name of the guy who sold me my furnace several years ago, but I definitely remember the name of the company that caused me to wake up to a cold house on a Sunday morning and inconvenienced me by making me sit around all afternoon waiting for another tech to arrive.

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