Cherry Pick Til You Make It

If you want to start an appliance repair business on your own, there is really no way around the hands-on experience learning curve.

I armed myself with good training to start with from Uncle Harry and relied heavily on his support system, but at the end of the day I still had to do the repairs myself, alone, in real time, and there was no way around it.

I had to find a way to ease myself into the water, especially on the tougher calls, and get them on the job training I needed, but still satisfy my customers and get their appliances fixed.

What I finally developed was a “cherry-pick ‘til you make it” strategy using alternative referrals.  Let me explain how it worked.


First, I had a friend who sounded like they actually might be a customer call around to my competitors. I had my friend ask about a repair job that could be a lot of things, and how much it would cost to get it repaired.

My friend took lots of notes about which competitor was the nicest, which was the most knowledgeable, and which was the best value.

Now, I obviously used the pricing information to make sure my pricing was in line with my market, but the key point of this exercise was to find my “escape hatch” tech.

I picked the nicest, most knowledgeable and reasonably priced guy to refer jobs to when I didn’t feel comfortable doing them yet.

For example, I got a call from a property manager who wanted me to fix a coin-op dryer in an apartment complex.  With everything else I had to study, I hadn’t gotten around to coin-op yet.

In order to get to the call in a decent timeframe, it would have taken me a few hours of study, and I was booked solid for a couple of days with calls that I already knew how to do.  Sure I wanted to learn coin-op at some point, but this wasn’t destined to be the time.

So I pulled out my trusty “escape hatch” tech’s phone number, and told the property manager, “I know of a guy who might be more familiar with your unit, and I have his phone number right here if you would like it.”  The property manager was delighted, took the phone number and went on his way.

Now everybody’s happy.  I pass a good lead on to the “escape hatch” tech, the customer has a knowledgeable resource, and I look like a real nice guy.

You may never need your “escape hatch” tech, but with his number handy, you just feel more prepared for anything when you pick up the phone.


It’s your worst nightmare.  You’re out on a service call and you’ve tried everything.  You’ve exhausted all of your resources.  You can’t solve the problem, and nobody else can either!

The customer is getting antsy.  You are beginning to sweat.  How in the heck do you handle this one?

You’ll need a strategy to deal with this situation ahead of time, because after one of these, you might become a little gun-shy going out on service calls, and that’s death to your appliance repair business.

Here’s what I do.

I carry the factory authorized tech contact information for all of the major brands with me out on service calls.

If I get in a dead-end situation, I tell the customer, “I have exhausted all of my resources, and at this point, I recommend a factory authorized technician who is particularly familiar with this unit to take a look at it.”  I give the customer the contact information, they are delighted, and I go on my way.

Now everybody’s happy.  I pass a good lead on to a factory authorized tech, the customer has a knowledgeable resource, and I look like a real nice guy.

Once again, you may never need your factory authorized tech contact information, but with the number handy, you just feel more prepared for anything when you go out on a call.

2 Replies to “Cherry Pick Til You Make It”

    1. Hi Bob – Usually, I don’t charge them anything! I know a lot of repairmen will try to get the most money out of a customer, but that’s not the way I operate. My most precious commodity is my reputation, so I make sure the customer feels like I’ve been fair. I never charge a customer for parts they don’t need, and if I end up having to refer them to a factory authorized technician, for instance, I usually waive the service charge, especially if I haven’t produced an accurate diagnosis. I just chalk it up to a learning experience because I know that’s part of the business. Just remember, those calls will get fewer and fewer as you go along, and it doesn’t happen to me very often anymore. Keep up the good work!

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