Paid Leads – Chasing the Dragon

I was nervous when I first moved my business to the big city.  How was I going to compete with all the other appliance repair service companies here?

I got some of my customers to write reviews for me and worked my way up to the first page of Google, but my website still hadn’t seasoned yet as far as search engines were concerned, and the phone was still quieter than I was happy with.

In my eagerness to get the phone ringing more, and fast, I decided to try a high-end paid lead generation service.

The way they work is this: they advertise all over the internet, capture a bunch of customers from my area, then refer them to me.

And because they didn’t have anyone else listed in my area, I was exclusive!  This was the break I had been looking for!

Well, the phone rang off the hook day and night.  It was like drinking from a fire hose.  My schedule was so full, I was running 6 calls a day 6 days a week, booking out into the following week, and barely had time to pick up my parts, let alone eat or sleep.

At first, I was really happy the phone was finally ringing too much, which was a good thing, and excited that I was going to make a ton of money.  And I did…in gross receipts.  After a month of working my butt off, I sat down and analyzed what I was really paying per lead, and what I was netting per week.

The per lead charge was tolerable if I raised my rates to cover it on the calls that converted into repairs.  I also figured out with current gas prices, I was just about breaking even on my diagnostic calls where they opted not to repair.

But the real hidden cost was in the junk leads and the drop-offs.

I would get calls from “tire-kickers” researching price and trying to pick my brain for solutions they could do themselves.  And I still got charged.

Because I was so slammed, I would book a call two days out with someone who I could tell was barely committed, then call them the day of the appointment to say I was on my way and be told they already got it fixed by someone else.  And I still got charged.

Sure some of this had to do with city clientele, who demand same day service and can often get it by calling around until they find someone.  Back in the country, I got spoiled because I was the only appliance repair service within 30 miles, and I converted nearly every lead I got, even though there were fewer, to begin with.

But between paying for leads whether they converted or not, and maxing out the margin my market would bear, I realized after only a month that I was working for the lead generation service, and they were paying me a relatively small salary considering how hard I was going at it all day.

Even though they were responsible for the bulk of my business, somehow it drove me crazy that they were taking so much of my hard earned cash.  I had to choose between a quiet phone and having an unintentional business partner.  I decided to turn the service down to a trickle and see if I missed it.

So far, it has been a relief.  I had become so aggravated by the cost of the leads, I was not my old self on service calls.  I started getting less satisfaction from my customers because I was turning into that grizzled technician that has to charge high markup so he can make a profit despite his overhead.

I found a less expensive lead generation service, started working for home warranty companies, got more good reviews and some large commercial clients started calling.  Pretty soon I was able to drop paid lead generation entirely, but I’ll never forget those days – nothing is worse than the sound of a quiet phone.

The Customer is Always Wrong

A typical customer these days thinks they know a lot more than they do, but you can’t tell them that!  They have access to the internet just like you do, which means DIY forums, manufacturer’s websites, and online parts, suppliers.

They honestly start out thinking they don’t need an appliance repairman at all, and that they can fix their appliance themselves.  Sometimes this is true, but more often it is not.

By the time I get a phone call, the customer has usually tried the obvious things, replacing a few snap-in parts, cleaning out the dryer vent, etc.  It hasn’t worked, so they have called someone who knows what they are doing.  That’s the best case scenario.

In the worst case scenario, the customer imagines themselves to be far more mechanically and electrically inclined, and dismantles the entire appliance, or worse, busts it to pieces trying to get to the part they think is broken.

I’m sure in the back of their head they are thinking, “It’s worth a try, and if I screw it up, I can always call a service technician!”

By the time I get that call, the appliance is a mangle of bent metal and scrambled parts that take me an extra half hour to put back together.

But the fact that the customer has finally broken down and called me to ride to the rescue doesn’t mean they have been humbled.  Oh no.  They are still going to help me do my job.

They know all the things that aren’t wrong with the appliance, because they’ve tried all of those, and they definitely know what is wrong with it because they’ve narrowed it down with troubleshooting tips from fix-it answer sites.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in appliance repair, the customer is always wrong.

In fact, their misleading “help” can actually cause delays in the repair by requiring extra proof that the problem isn’t the issue they think it is.

You can also spend extra time explaining the operating theory to these junior repair technicians in order to give good customer service, which also slows down the repair process.

Also, their misdiagnosis can cause them to omit important information that would help you with what the appliance is really doing wrong because they have “eliminated” it as a possibility.

And finally, their inquisitive interference can ultimately distract you from your standard troubleshooting routine.

But, it’s all part of the job.  Appliance repair is not necessarily conducted in a clean, well lit, whisper quiet environment where you have all the time in the world to get your work done.

I consider it a challenge of my skill to go in after a do-it-yourselfer.  I don’t prefer it, of course, but I am always a little prouder when I get those jobs done.

And smart customers keep me on my toes with my technical knowledge.  If I can explain it to them, I have to know it myself first.

Of course, they are more impressed with my expertise if they have tried to do it themselves, which makes for a lasting impression and often repeat business.

So if your customer knows it’s the motor, or the belt, or the pump, remember they are calling you because you are the real expert.  Just be sure to take what they say with a grain of salt.

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.

PART I:  THE “ESCAPE HATCH” TECH REFERRAL

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.

PART II:  THE FACTORY AUTHORIZED TECH REFERRAL

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.

Indian Head Gasket Shellac Changed My Life

Sometimes I do a repair precisely by the book, leaving absolutely no possibility for error.  Then, at the moment of truth (i.e. testing the machine after reassembly), my heart sinks straight into my belly as I stare in disbelief when the appliance behaves just as if I never touched it.

This recently happened to me on a rather complex washer repair – replacing a tub seal – that requires extreme teardown and reassembly.  You sure don’t want to have to do it twice, but you need to put it all back together it before you can test the newly installed seal.  When I did, ouch!  The thing still had a slow, constant leak like I never knocked myself outputting in the new seal in the first place.

I was so bummed that I was grateful the washer was located in a separate room outside of the main house so I had some privacy to work through my “frustration.”  There I was in that dreaded situation where I had done everything right, and it just wasn’t clear to me what else I could do.

I decided to call GE technical support for any possible clue they could provide.  As the tech walked me through step-by-step everything I had already done, I nodded continually on the other end of the phone.  At the tail end of the call, though, he mentioned a special industrial adhesive, made by 3M and sold by GE, that is often used to reinforce the new tub seal after you install it, especially if it is not a particularly snug fit.

Although mine was a snug fit, it still leaked, so I contacted my parts house to try to get hold of some of the adhesive.  They didn’t have it in stock and said they would need a couple of days to get it in.  Did I mention they said it was $29 a tube?!

As I continued to research the problem, I stumbled on the best tip of the day!  Another technician said he uses Indian Head Gasket Shellac every time he puts in a tub seal.  The best part is, Indian Head Gasket Shellac is available at any AutoZone and costs $3.99 for what is apparently a lifetime supply.

There was an AutoZone just minutes from my service call, and I was back with a spanner wrench in my hand within an hour.  Now, while this didn’t relieve me from a second teardown of the washer, I know I felt I was not just shooting in the dark.  And, of course, the second disassembly is always faster because you’ve already freed up all the corroded connections.

I got the new tub seal back out, applied the gasket shellac to the edges and reinstalled it, then I had to have to give it time to dry before I could retest the washer for leaks.  I went on another quick service call, then returned to check the results.

Bingo!  Wow, live and learn!  Earlier that day, I had no idea that the stuff even existed, and it turned out to be a lifesaver.  It is fair to say that Indian Head Gasket Shellac has changed my life.  If you don’t think so, see if I ever go out again without it!

Country to City – Moving My Appliance Repair Business

Just as things were building up a head of steam in the remote rural town of 18,000 people where I successfully started my appliance repair business, my wife landed a job in a city with a metro area of 1.3 million people.  So, I moved my business.

Here I am in a completely new business situation, cashing in on the upside, and dealing with the downside.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison so far:

Parts Houses vs. the Internet:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  Where I lived before, it was an 80 mile round trip to the parts house, so I had to stock a sizeable inventory, and everything had to be ordered online.  Fortunately, my customers were used to living in a remote area, and so were patient with a two or three-day wait for the parts to fix their appliances.
  • IN THE CITY:  Here in the city, they expect same day repairs, but the parts houses are close by and even cheaper on some items than the internet, which means I  don’t have to stock as much inventory.

Competition:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  There was almost no competition out in the boondocks – customers were so grateful I even serviced their area, they asked for fistfuls of business cards to tell their family and friends about me.  I got tons of referrals and repeat business.  I was one of three companies that came up in a Google search on appliance repair for my town, one of the other guys was out of business, and I developed a partnership with the other one.
  • IN THE CITY:  For the first couple of weeks, I was on Page 7 of Google for appliance repair in my city.  This was one of the scariest feelings I had about starting up here, and I seriously thought I would have to start paying for internet advertising.  But first, I thought I would try the free approach and see how far it got me.  In order to get better page rank, I added content to my appliance repair website, which was mainly tips and tricks for customers on how to get the most out of their appliances.  I also was forced to do SEO for my site by adding keywords, metadata, and tags.  Most importantly though, I started asking my customers to give me honest reviews on directory sites.  Before long, I was on the first search page again, so it can be done for free with a little hard work.  So far I haven’t paid for any advertising – I’m still waiting to see how it far the free approach gets me.

Opportunity:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  The worst thing about the tiny population I was dealing with was, I would get 6 or 7 calls a day some weeks, and then it would slow way down other weeks.  It was like there was only so much business to go around, and I already had most of it.
  • IN THE CITY:   Once I get fully up to speed and the phone keeps ringing here, looks like I can do steady business every week.

Rates:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  There was only so much I could charge in my remote, depressed economy, so there didn’t seem to be much room for increasing my rates.
  • IN THE CITY:  It’s a little early to tell, but if I undercut the competition I could be selective, and if I want to charge more, I could do less work for more money.  Or, I could work harder and make more money than ever, which sounds good to me!

Driving:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  The calls were 30 miles apart, and return trips were to be avoided if at all possible, although that was often not the case because I couldn’t warehouse every part, and had to order online and come back later to install.  The GPS also sent me on a bunch of time and gas wasting goose chases.
  • IN THE CITY:  I have the luxury of being 15 minutes away from my calls, and the parts house.  I can do more calls in a day with less wear and tear on my vehicle and myself.  And the GPS works here – no more printing out Google maps!

Toll-Free Number:

  • IN THE COUNTRY:  When I first started up, I decided to go with a toll-free number, mostly because I was in a remote rural area where everyone who called me would be charged for a toll call.  I thought they might not hesitate to call if it didn’t cost them anything.
  • IN THE CITY:  It also occurred to me that if I ever moved, I wouldn’t have to reorder business cards, invoices, signage, etc.  Boy, is this paying off now!

It’s a challenge moving a business, and with the entirely new environment in some ways, it’s like starting all over again, but I’m going to work hard to be even more successful here than I was in my old location.

Holiday Recipe for Emergency Service Calls: Self-Cleaning Ovens!

Self-Cleaning Ovens Can Create Appliance Repair Service CallsSimply put, a customer deciding to self-clean their oven just before the holiday is an invitation for a last minute disaster and an emergency service call.

Most customers don’t know that self-cleaning mode runs an oven at a temperature over 900 degrees for a long and potentially harmful period of time.

If you think about it, the process naturally stresses the heating elements, sensors, thermostats, and thermal cutoffs beyond their normal operating temperatures.

That additional stress may be all it takes for a weakened component that is ready to fail to tip over the edge and leave the customer begging you, the repair technician, to come out on Christmas Eve to get them back to happy holiday cooking.  That is if you are willing to go out on that call!

I have been telling my customers to spare themselves the gamble, but if they feel they must clean that oven before aunt Jenny comes out for her holiday visit to do it well in advance.  That way if there is a problem, they have plenty of time to schedule a service call and save their stress for more important things.

Happy Holidays from Appliance Repair Startup!

My Ten Problem Call from Hell

Most of my posts are positive examples of overcoming challenges with victorious endings.

I wish every call could go that way, but sometimes I get that call where nothing goes right, and in the interest of keeping it real, that’s just as important to write about as all the cool victories.

The two-part customer complaint seemed simple enough: the fresh food cabinet was too warm (55 degrees), and the icemaker wouldn’t dispense ice cubes at the door.

PROBLEM #1:  THE DISTANCE  The location was 45 miles away (a 90-mile round trip). That’s 180 miles if I had to return (which I did).

PROBLEM #2:  THE DOGS  When I arrived I was greeted at the door by two hyperactive wiener dogs that would not give me an inch of privacy anytime I got on my hands and knees to inspect things.

The customer told me she had to leave but I was welcome to stay and complete the repairs.  All she asked is that I lock the front door when I go, and DON’T LET THE DOGS OUT  (More on this later.)

PROBLEM #3:  THE LOADED FREEZER  The refrigerator was warm and the freezer had the classic signs of a defrost system failure with frost built up on the back wall of the freezer.

The freezer was stuffed to the hilt with food, and I had informed the customer that I needed to take everything out of the freezer section to access the evaporator coil.

She had no ice chests so everything had to just get scattered about the kitchen.

PROBLEM #4:  THE MASSIVE ICE BLOCK  With everything out I removed the back panel of the freezer and saw the biggest block of solid ice encasing the top half of the evaporator coil I had ever seen.

I’ve seen lots of frosted-up evaporators, but I wasn’t sure why this one was had solid ice as opposed to the typical snowy frost.

The relevance of this is that a solid block of ice is 10 times slower to defrost than the snowy type, and manual defrosting took me and my steamer almost 1 hour.  The ice cream on the countertop was now just chocolate soup.  (More on this later.)

PROBLEM #5: THE PREVIOUS TECH  After studying the situation, I noticed that the defrost heating element was undersized, and only covered the bottom half of the evaporator coil.

It appeared to be working OK because the bottom half of the coil had no frost built up on it. That explained why the top half had solid ice.  When the unit went into defrost, it only partially melted the frost on the top half, and then that refroze into ice once the defrost cycle ended.

I investigated further and saw that the previous repairman rigged a non-conforming defrost element in place and figured it would work good enough (he probably didn’t have the right part with him).  I did have the right defrost heating element with me, but now I had to go in behind him and clean up his technical mess.

The first complication was that when he installed the element, he cut away 20 inches of extra wire he didn’t need.  Now I needed all that wire to make my factory authorized part mount where it was designed to.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that type of wire with me, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that connection.

After some frustration and head scratching, I remembered that part of this service call was to haul off an old dryer and electric range they no longer wanted. I could just take some wire from the old dryer and replace it later.

With that good idea, the heating element install was done quickly.

PROBLEM #6:  NO ICEMAKER PART   Now I moved on to the non-distributing icemaker. Everything was working fine except the motor was not turning. I diagnosed it may be bad but I didn’t have that part with me.

At that point, I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was going to be driving 45 miles back again to complete this call.

PROBLEM #7:  THE ICE CREAM EXPLOSION  I started to put all the stuff back in the freezer, beginning at the bottom and working my way up to the top.  As I was finally finishing up the top shelf, the last thing left was the melted chocolate ice cream.

Normally I would have asked the customer if they wanted to keep it, but since she was gone I didn’t want to make that assumption, so I figured I’d put it back in and they could decide later to throw it out.

Looking for somewhere in the overwhelmed top shelf to put it, I see a small space toward the back and start to slide it into place. Like some bad scene from a sitcom episode, the bottom lip of the container snagged on something.

My forward momentum tipped and dumped the entire half gallon of sticky chocolate soup, which ran from shelf to shelf covering as much as it possibly could before pooling up on the bottom shelf.

Everything now had to be re-emptied from the freezer and hand washed INCLUDING the wire shelving and mounting brackets.

PROBLEM #2 CONTINUED:  THE DOGS  After what felt like a lifetime cleaning up the ice cream mess, I took the faulty icemaker out to the truck.  The dogs bolted out from under my legs into the yard.

Since this was a very open and rural location no fences to contain the freedom intoxicated dogs, they played “run from the stranger” for 45 minutes.

I finally caught them and got them locked back inside the house.

PROBLEM #8:  THE RAIN  Just to make things even more fun it started to rain.  I now had to load the dryer and stove onto the truck on the slick, steep driveway, so I proceed cautiously.

PROBLEM #9:  THE TRANSMISSION FAILURE  With the appliances secured in the back of the truck, I was ready to get the heck out of there.  It was then that the truck transmission completely failed, and I could only move in reverse.

PROBLEM #10:  NO CELL RECEPTION  Did I mention this call was in a remote rural area with no cell phone reception?  With the customer’s house securely locked, I ended up going to a neighbor’s house and asking to use their landline.  These nice folks helped me out, and I called for help.  Now I only had to wait an hour until my ride showed up.

But it gave me some spare time to think and review all that had just happened.  I ultimately decided this was truly an exceptional string of misfortune.

I realized just how good I have had it on other calls, and I went from feeling a bit sour about things to a little more grateful…hmmm…I guess it’s just a taste of the real world.

Looking Back at My Appliance Business Startup

First Call (Almost)Business has been very good for me.  In fact, it is growing much faster than I originally predicted it would be at this time in my first year. I have gotten so busy that I really haven’t had time to blog, and that’s the simple answer as to where I’ve been.

I have been astonished to see how many people have inquired about new content on my blog site, and I’m flattered and pleased that so many readers are actually following my journey and have expressed interest in hearing more.

I am not a professional writer (maybe that’s obvious once you start reading this stuff), but I started this blog with the specific intent of simply documenting the process of starting an appliance repair business from scratch with no previous training or skill in the industry.

I have been self-employed for most my adult life, and I know how difficult things can be to get started in a new business.  I felt like there were others out there with the same concerns, and that my real world chronicle might help them weigh the pros and cons of taking on such a venture.

Starting an appliance repair business felt like a huge challenge to me, and I was battling the fear of not being able to learn enough fast enough to earn a decent income within a realistic timeframe.  I actually succeeded much more quickly than I ever thought I would.

Originally I thought I would just share my first six months of experiences so others could have some perspective on the startup process for themselves.

It turns out the story of my ongoing business is becoming of so much interest to everyone, I am going to continue blogging about my repair business experiences.

So far this blog has been very successful in telling my story, and I believe it can help many others trying to make the decision whether to pursue this field or not.  I will continue adding as much useful information as I can, and I hope it continues to help.

2017 Note –
Looking back now to 2011, it seems like forever ago, but boy have I grown in my knowledge and ability to make a great income while still maintaining my goals of having family time and freedom.  Like every startup guy, I had my difficulties but persevered.  You can review my many other posts to see how I have changed my approach and gotten better at this great business.

Six Month Review

Appliance Repair Startup Six Month ReviewI can’t believe it’s been six months since I successfully started my appliance repair business!

I am surprised at some of the things I have learned along the way.  Many things have been easier than I thought, and a few harder.

Here are a few things I have observed so far:

  • Overall I have surprised myself at how well I have been able to perform at the customer’s home. The first few calls were absolutely nerve-wracking, but I still got a very good response and compliments from those customers when finished.  They really had no idea that I was brand new at this.
  • I can raise my rates. I started out with the thought of keeping my rates a bit lower than my competition to attract new customers.  I found out that people don’t comparison shop the service.  They certainly want to know what you will charge them, but as long as you are you aren’t well above all the others, it works.
  • Calls are very diverse. I originally thought that there would be a pattern of typical repairs and failures peppered with the occasional esoteric problem.  Nope, things are all across the board and that forces me to learn as much as I can about everything.
  • I hit the flashpoint. This is when I started to see the commonality between all appliances.  This was a helpful turning point because when I first started out I was daunted by the diversity of makes and models.  It felt like it was going to take forever to learn all the quirks and features of all this stuff.  Soon, though, the commonality of things became more apparent.
  • Other technicians aren’t supermen. Because I was so new, I entered this business with some insecurity about my abilities.  I imagined all other service technicians were fast, single-visit repairmen that never made an incorrect diagnosis.  Turns out that’s not entirely accurate.
  • Customers love communication! I tell people as much as I can about what I am doing and what to expect from the process.  I tell them as much as I can about my diagnostic approach and how I got there.  I think people are a bit suspicious of the tight-lipped technician, and that sets them up for unfavorable scrutiny.
  • This is an efficient, low cost, high paying career choice. I can’t believe I was able to start running service calls after 40 days of initial studying.  I still study, and I’m still learning (and always will be), but most of my experience is out in the field now.  I just needed that startup level of training to get me out into the real world.

Getting Past the Fear of Running My First Service Calls

Getting Past the Fear of Appliance Repair Service CallsWith a few service calls under my belt, I am finally starting to get past my initial fear of going into other people’s homes and fixing some appliance that I have never seen before.

Honestly, I have a long way to go before I feel totally comfortable, but I was surprised at just how nervous I felt on those first few calls.

Confidence can’t be learned in the classroom, and there is no substitute for the real world.  But being prepared by scheduling calls for the next day and doing my research ahead of time was actually my best defense for those first call yips.

I service appliances in a rural area and people around here never have a problem with me scheduling their repair for the next day as long as it isn’t an emergency like a non-cooling refrigerator or freezer.  In fact, they consider that very good service.

I think keeping the calls within a 24-hour turn around will be acceptable in most service environments.  It actually projects a busy repairman.  People want a technician who is busy but not too busy for them, so I go ahead and play that hand.  That then gives me time to research the customer’s problem.

I start by getting the service manual for that particular machine.  Fortunately, Uncle Harry has a library of 5,000 manuals online that I have access to which came along with buying his course.

Once I get the manual, I review Uncle Harry’s videos on that particular repair.

I will then search for various online repair forums to see if they have anything on that subject.

When I arrive on site, I have a clear idea of where I’m going to start troubleshooting.

When you first ring that doorbell, although the customer assumes you are going to be a competent and experienced technician, they then spend the next ten minutes scrutinizing that assumption until they feel confident that they have made the right choice hiring you as a repairman.

Having a fresh review of that particular appliance and its problem gives me something intelligent to say to the customer when I enter the house and keeps me ready for their questions.  I think that makes me look like an experienced technician to the customer.

I always try to have my meter out and working on something as quickly as possible.  People are watching you the moment you walk in the door even when they are in the other room in front of the television or a computer.

The lesson is simple to me.  Always be prepared, and that will defuse the nerves and fear.  Get that new customer confident in you early and it will pay off big in a smooth running service call.

 

The Random Nature of Service Calls

The Random Nature of Appliance Repair Service CallsOK, I admit it, I’m a bit of a control freak.  I spend my life organizing and planning the events of my day.

When studying appliance repair, I found myself choosing to study the appliances that I thought would be most in demand for repair FIRST and the least likely to get service calls LAST.

One problem – I didn’t know enough about the business to make that call accurately.

Once I hung my shingle, I was no longer in control of that variable.  People would call for stuff I thought I would hardly ever be servicing.

For example, I concluded that I didn’t need to study microwave repair early on because, heck, people just replace a $100 microwave when it breaks.  Well, that part is true, but I never accounted for the high-end appliance or the oven/microwave combination unit.  That’s much more costly to replace if the microwave dies, and that was one of my early service calls.

I found the random nature of service calls to be an eye-opening experience.  It reminds me there is a lot yet to learn in this business and this is no time let my guard down.  It’s a reality check that keeps me from slipping into a distorted view of what I think I need to know.

I have learned to embrace the random nature of calls.  It gives me diversity in my studies and keeps the learning process energized.  Each call is a new lesson and an exercise in the theatre of customers.  Right now that’s just as important as the paycheck from the completed job.

Now I look forward to the random nature of service calls, and I know I’m gathering valuable experience to be that service technician I’m meant to be.

The Customer So Nice, I Got Called Twice

Repeat Appliance Repair CustomersNot only did I get my first repeat customer call, but it came from my first ever customer

It was for the same appliance that I serviced just a few weeks earlier – the good news is the problem was unrelated to my first
repair.

After the first call, this guy thought I was a genius, and I wanted to reinforce his opinion.  He said his Maytag Duet was severely out of balance and sounded like it was falling apart when you ran it.  I told him it seemed like he had a suspension problem and I would be happy to take a look at it.

Once in front of the machine, I was not sure exactly what I was looking for.  Wow, it made a huge racket when I tried to run it!

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is a mechanical failure, and so the problem should be physically identifiable. Sometimes I struggle with tracing electronic circuitry, but this should be very different to diagnose.

I opened up the bottom panel to look around. Bingo!  Right off the bat, I noticed a shock absorber dislodged and just hanging off the suspension.  It just clipped back into place and looked perfectly good and undamaged.  That was easy!

I continued to look around and hey, another one was dislodged and hanging off in the back.  Wow – two of three dislodged from their connectors.  No wonder this thing sounded like a couple of buses in a demolition derby!

I told the customer that they indeed had a suspension problem, but it was immediately repairable and wouldn’t need any expensive parts.  A suspension problem must have sounded bad because he was so relieved I could tell that he had been sweating it.

I went back and finished reassembling the washer.  I also cleaned out the filter basket in the pump, which had an assortment of coins, paperclips, and stuff.  I asked him where I could throw out the items just so he was aware that I had even done this extra step.

With everything assembled, I ran a test load and voila, running smoothly as a Swiss watch!  Now all that was left was to write up my invoice and enjoy feeling like that appliance genius that this customer thinks I am.