“No, you don’t have to pay me. I should have caught this problem earlier.”
The service tech said when he saw me reach for my checkbook. “I am a businessman and have been doing this for a long time. You don’t pay till the job’s done.” The service tech, whom I will call Sam, had to order a new part and did not want my money until the part was installed.
Sam is more than a businessman. He’s a professional at what he does: fix things. He was recommended to me by the manager of a store that sells exercise equipment. It is not easy to find handyman types who can fix electro-mechanical equipment. But, without the service of people like him products like mine – a 20+-year-old treadmill – would end up in a landfill. Now the treadmill has a second life.
Demand is rising
Sam exemplifies professionalism, a term too often applied to people who do more brainwork than handiwork. Too often we regard people who work with their hands as less critical than knowledge workers. The truth is that professionals like Sam can diagnose a problem with a machine or a piece of electronics by using a tacit knowledge and hands on experience.
Once the service repair industry was expected to decline. The pandemic turned that projection upside down. And with it increasing income for service technicians, averaging between $60,000 and $70,000 annually. Experienced techs can make over $100,000.
“There aren’t enough appliance service technicians because there are very few formal training schools available. The majority have learned on the job,” Corrine C. Caruso, president of the United Appliance Servicers Association, told the Washington Post.
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“Generally, if you’ve trained a technician from the ground up, a business owner has made quite an investment into this technician, so will pay well to keep the technician, and will offer good benefits so that it is a career, not just a job.”
Lessons to learn
What Sam and his fellow service repair techs teach us are two things.
Own the problem. Sam’s first diagnosis was correct. The motor needed new brushes (contact points). A second visit revealed that there was a problem with the belt, something Sam admitted.
Know your limits. Some machines, in fact, most modern appliances, cannot be repaired cost-effectively. Planned obsolescence is not an artifact from the Fifties; it’s the way many goods are constructed these days. To be used for a given period and then disposed of. The cost of repair outweighs the price of a newer and better model.
Respect your customer. Courtesy goes a long way in the service business. It creates a foundation upon which to build a healthy relationship between service tech and buyer. We want to do business with people who treat us right, and likewise, they want to do an excellent job for us.
These three action steps are fundamental to customer service. And that applies to those of us who don’t know a pipe wrench from a weed wrench. So much of what we do, we do in service to others. And there’s one more thing that service techs teach us. Pride in their work. When you take pride in what you do, you do your best, even if you are the only one who understands the work you do.