Richard Kohberger, operations manager at Comfort Control, Inc., in Buford, Ga., and YouTube’s Blue Collar Nerd, says life is harder when we don’t understand each other.
And misunderstanding is a problem he has set out to fix.
Kohberger’s father, Tom, founded Comfort Control in 1992, the year Kohberger was born, then watched his son develop more interest in theatre than thermostats.
Kohberger always had a passion for acting, but when he needed a role with a steady paycheck, he did the practical thing and learned to be an HVAC technician for his father’s company. He just wasn’t very good at it.
He learned to leverage the things he was good at, though—computers, work processes and performing.
With Comfort Control, that meant becoming one of the most obsessed users of ServiceTitan software. But it also meant finding ways to build a bridge between the office personnel and the technicians.
And Kohberger always wanted to make a bigger impact. He took his penchant for examining issues from all sides, his knowledge of software for the trades—particularly ServiceTitan—and his ability as a performer, and rolled them together.
The Blue Collar Nerd, Kohberger’s YouTube channel inspired by the communication gap between an old-school industry and the startup kids of Silicon Valley, was born.
“I felt like I had a lot to say and I wanted a platform to say it,” Kohberger says. “These two worlds were colliding and did not understand each other super well. They're being pushed together because they need each other.”
Just like the technicians and office staff at Comfort Control need each other.
In each case, Kohberger has a plan, and the same advice:
Don’t make a big move until you understand.
Home services company office staff vs. technicians: A lesson
Working in the field, Kohberger saw first-hand the tension between technicians and office workers in the trades. He says they “almost never get along,” at any company.
“The office staff thinks the technicians are a bunch of babies,” Kohberger says. “The technicians think the office staff is just an incompetent group of animals who make their life difficult on purpose.
“The reality is that both jobs are extremely challenging.”
Kohberger says companies can build better understanding by sending office staff, for a week, on ride-alongs with the technicians.
After all, that’s the only way they can find themselves in a 102-degree attic with a broken air conditioner.
“There's an angry customer downstairs who's giving you a hard time even though you're giving it your all,” Kohberger says. “This is your fifth call of the day. You're tired. (And) you've got a cut on your finger. It's bleeding, it hurts, but you're too busy to deal with it right now.”
All that is hard to understand without having felt it, Kohberger says. But it’s equally hard to understand what the office staff goes through.
“People are blaming them for their problems,” he says “Most people are nice, but people get irate sometimes, especially when they're uncomfortable and they're having to spend money that they didn't expect to spend.”
The office staff has to rely on the technicians to solve the customer’s problem.
“And you give them pushback,” Kohberger says. “‘Why can't Tim do it? Isn't so-and-so closer?"
It might not be 120 degrees, but it can get hot in the office, too.
“It goes both ways,” Kohberger says, “and I think both pieces of the puzzle need to experience each other's roles.”
He applies the same strategy to his YouTube channel. He views it as a way for the trades and software companies to experience each other’s roles.
And to understand.
Bridging the trades and service industry software, one video at a time
Kohberger is obsessed with ServiceTitan. His company has used the software since 2015, after trying other platforms and finding them not the right fit.
With the YouTube channel, Kohberger says he wants to influence the software—and the trades—in a positive way. To do that, and to feed the theatre kid’s need to perform, he created Blue Collar Nerd.
“Just telling the chat support what I want, it's better than nothing,” he says. “But it's not what I really felt like I wanted to do.”
Instead, he used the Nerd to build a bridge between the trades and the software giant.
He tells his audience ServiceTitan is the best of the all-in-one software solutions for the trades.
He points out the “cool things ServiceTitan can do,” but he doesn’t gloss over the challenges. He wants the company to be better at everything from communicating updates to interacting with customers. And he does it all with equal parts humor and brutal honesty.
“That's something I take a lot of pride in,” he says. “I think my videos are fair to both sides.”
They also strive to increase understanding.
“ServiceTitan takes a lot of heat, (as does) software in general,” he says. “Something goes wrong, you want to point a finger somewhere. And it's like, ‘Hey, let's pause. Everybody let's talk about this and really see it from each other's point of view.’
“So that’s what I did.”
Kohberger might understand ServiceTitan better than anyone. Comfort Control transitioned to ServiceTitan almost five years ago, and as the Blue Collar Nerd he digs into the software deeply.
And if you’re not so nerdy, Kohberger says, help is available from ServiceTitan.
“Once everything's electronic and on a computer and on the internet it opens up so many doors,” Kohberger says. “That information, you can do whatever you want with it.”
Advice for companies looking for software to run a home services company
What would Kohberger tell a company looking to switch to ServiceTitan, or to get into software in general? He’d start with this: It’s a great move, but it’s not easy.
“I don't want to make it sound like it's not hard to get onto a software, switch softwares, go from paper to software,” Kohberger says. “It's a challenge.”
He’d also say there’s a big investment of time, especially to start.
“It's not something that you sign up for and you cleaned the dust off your hands and you're done, everything's good,” he says. “There's work behind it. You're changing the structure of your company, which is a challenge even with the assistance that you get through ServiceTitan onboarders or whoever's onboarders.
“But it's worth it. The insights that it gives you into your numbers, the information that you're able to see from anywhere, the live information—it opens up so many opportunities for you.”
Those opportunities, Kohberger says, include a better customer experience, a more efficient process, insight into your marketing spend, more profit and efficiency. And the data is at your fingertips from anywhere with ServiceTitan.
But there are steps to take first. They include:
1. Evaluate the software fully before you leap.
“It's important to come at it from all angles,” he says. “You're going to hear a lot of noise and you're going to be getting pulled in a lot of different directions.”
On social media, that noise is loudest—and often the most negative, in the same way reviews of a restaurant or a service company can be.
“If you were to just go to a Facebook group with a bunch of owners and say, ‘What's the best software?’ You'll hear every possible answer. It's important to do that and hear that feedback, but also ask people that you know who are going to give you all the positives, all of the things that are fine and all of the negatives.”
Part of that process will be getting more than one company to do a demo.
“Make sure you're actually seeing for yourself the differences between these things,” he says.
2. Set aside time to take advantage of all the software can do.
“Focus on this, because your business runs on it, and it can do a lot of stuff,” Kohberger says. “You're paying for this thing. Make sure you're getting your money's worth because it can do so much.”
That effort must continue after the initial setup.
“Don't set this as something that you're going to dedicate a couple hours to and then leave it alone because you won't,” Kohberger says. “You and your team need to really set out a lot of time to understand it.”
3. Occasionally go back to basics, and look again at the software’s capabilities.
“You'll find something that's changed since you last looked at it,” Kohberger says. “You'll see new things every time because it's a very deep piece of software.
“As you know, I'm probably the most obsessed with the software of anybody and I'm still learning new things about it every day.”
Blue Collar Nerd’s videos aid ServiceTitan’s understanding of customers, too
Kohberger’s curiosity, and the Blue Collar Nerd videos, have helped ServiceTitan customers understand the software giant. And maybe they have helped the company understand its customers better, too.
That benefits everyone.
“I think a lot of the challenge comes from misunderstanding,” he says. “(There is) some stuff ServiceTitan is still working on and it's just not here yet. But a lot of (misunderstanding comes from) stuff that ServiceTitan can do and you're just not aware.”
Both sides have to communicate better and understand the problem from each other’s perspective, Kohberger says.
Before it gets to 120 degrees.
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