Who’s In Charge? – Passing the Money Passes the Responsibility

Years ago, when my sweet husband and I were first married, our first home was a charming little bungalow tucked into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the north side of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Over time, my commute to The New Flat Rate down in Dalton, Georgia became too strenuous, and we uprooted to move. 

We kept the bungalow and turned it into a southern charm, luxury Airbnb vacation rental. 

Fast forward a few years to last month. Our renters began complaining about the broken fireplace. 

My husband started calling contractors and quickly realized the winter demand for fireplaces was a real issue as we were placed on a two-week waitlist (by the sixth company we had tried to schedule with).

Last Friday, our day had arrived. The glory day where my husband left early to commute north and meet the technician between 8 am-12 pm. And it was in this time block that the company made a courtesy call that went like this: “Hello, Mr. Putnam. I just wanted to let you know we have you scheduled and your technician, Dave, will be out there today. Dave is an older gentleman, and he will call you before he comes, but if you don’t answer, he will not leave a message and you will lose your spot. He will move on to the next call.” “WHAT?” “Well, we started letting the customers know that Dave does this because we were receiving a lot of complaints from customers when they missed their scheduled slot. So now we simply let the customer know what to expect from Dave.”

Who’s in charge?

Isn’t it easy to point fingers and cast a judgment? What kind of a company would allow a technician to treat customers like that? Why would the company not expect the technician to learn technology and follow a new protocol? But in hindsight, how many of us manage our teams with a blind spot, allowing a few players to be the Dennis Rodman of the team, getting away with things because “oh, that’s just Dave.” Who’s in charge? Dave…or you? 

As service providers, our natural tendency is to fix things because we are good at it, and we are programmed to anticipate the oxytocin. That’s the feel-good chemical that rushes through our veins when we fix something and help a person at the same time. Wow, sigh of relief, isn’t that why we do what we do? We like to help people!

But in our helping, are we focusing on our desire for more oxytocin, or are we focusing on our customers? 

Three misses, too often forgotten in service:


Are you solving the problem or treating the symptoms?

At $1,200, our original ceramic logs were middle of the road – nice, but not over the top. Technician Dave offered to replace them for $400. Josh, my husband, calls me for my opinion…and I was all too eager to share it: “Uhm no, we’re not going to swap out our $1,200 logs for $400 logs! What other solutions does he have to fix the problem?”

A few options were discussed, and then Dave packed up his gear and said, “Well, I’m not going to charge anything for today. I’ll just mark it as an estimate.”

We expected to pay for a service charge. Not only that, we WANTED and would have BEGGED for someone to take our money! WHY?

This is the golden ticket…this is the question we must understand.

The minute the money passes hands is the minute the buck is passed. My problem, which I am grossly inconvenienced about, now becomes your problem once the money has been passed. 

So, when your technicians leave a job, don’t charge/collect the diagnosis, don’t present suitable repair options, and don’t provide an opportunity for payment, the problem remains the customer’s problem and NOW the inconvenience level has not decreased; it has increased. That is why the likelihood of a callback is rare. That is why our closing rates are not where they should be. And that is why we are too often living in feast or famine. We feel like we’re helping people by not charging what we are worth when in reality, we’re making the problem worse for ourselves…and our customers.  

But wait…they may not even be your customer anymore.

Written by Danielle Putnam, President of The New Flat Rate and Immediate Past President of Women in HVACR

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

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