Starting a new career is always nerve-wracking, but new home service technicians, in particular, face a myriad of challenges that would require anyone to be quick on their feet. But fear not because we’ve assembled the top eight HVAC tech tips you need to know before heading out into the field—all the things they might not have taught you in HVAC school.
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1. Keep your eye on the details.
Just like with any new job, attention to detail is paramount—not just to impress your boss but to make your life as a tech a whole lot easier. Between customer information, HVAC maintenance job details, pricebooks, and so much more, there is a lot to keep track of. Your best bet: Start focusing on customer service before you even hit the road.
Take the time to remember your next customer’s name and do your best to gather any previous system service history your HVAC company may have on the customer. That way, you can demonstrate that you have come well-prepared. Plus, job histories and customer profiles help inform the work you’re about to perform.
If your company does not have a central database for this type of information, there are comprehensive software solutions—like ServiceTitan—that make it easy for every member of the team to access important information at the touch of a screen.
2. Ensure your safety.
Work in the trades is physically demanding and, frankly, dangerous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 National Census Of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, some of the occupations with the highest risk of fatal injuries include:
General maintenance and repair workers
First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
Helpers in the construction trades
Unfortunately, many of those fatalities are caused by everyday occurrences like driving, falls, slips, and trips. Some practical things you can do to keep yourself safe is to drive mindfully, wear appropriate industrial-grade footwear, and always exercise caution. For more HVAC technician safety tips, speak to your supervisor to make sure you have all of the suggested safety gear for your particular role. You can also check out our Technician’s Guide to HVAC Safety.
“If we make a mistake on a job, we can apologize. We can give the customer all their money back. But when it comes to things like a homeowner getting hurt or a technician getting hurt, those are the kind of things that you can't undo.”
— Bill Brown, Owner of Paramount Heating & Air
3. Diagnose with confidence.
There’s nothing more unnerving for homeowners than a technician servicing their HVAC unit who doesn’t look like they know what they are doing. You may know that you have all of the technical training that qualifies you to perform the work but you also need to make sure the customer has a positive experience.
Is the issue with the thermostat? The outside AC unit or heat pump? A lack of refrigerant, or a leak? Familiarize yourself with exactly what work you may need to perform on the customer's cooling or heating systems before you do the HVAC service call. That way you can do some basic problem-solving ahead of time.
When the time comes to deliver your diagnosis to the customer, provide clear and direct information. Avoid using jargon or technical language as much as possible. By letting them know what exactly is wrong—in layman's terms—it will help instill customer confidence and avoid any confusion on the part of the homeowners.
“Some customers, I send photos of repairs that we've done before, so that helps them visualize what I'm trying to describe over the phone. Other times, we've had to draw diagrams to help them understand. It just depends on the situation and what works best for that customer.”
— Zelena Brown, Britton WaterWorks Plumbing
If you support your explanation with visual evidence—such as photographs, diagrams, or even video content—customers are more likely to trust your recommendation and less likely to seek out a second opinion. For in-the-field photos that automatically sync up to the cloud for company-wide accessibility, check out ServiceTitan Mobile.
And if this doesn’t work and you’ve gone through the whole air conditioner troubleshooting guide, it might be time to…
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4. Ask for help.
You’ve gone through all of the basic air conditioning system troubleshooting and even double-checked your work, but you’re still coming up short. While this can be embarrassing, especially for new technicians who want to prove themselves, never give a homeowner a false diagnosis just to avoid an awkward conversation. If you're not sure whether the problem is with the compressor, the condenser, the blower, or just a refrigerant leak, don't guess.
Reassure the customer that you have taken every step you could to identify the problem. Let them know that you are committed to resolving their issue and that your next step is to contact the HVAC contractor.
Speak to your supervisor openly and honestly about the work you’ve already done and ask what their professional recommendation is. This way, you know you are following proper HVAC servicing procedures as defined by company protocol.
From there, you can plan out your next steps for repairing the heating and cooling systems and inform the customer about what will need to be done either immediately or in a future appointment where you can come back with any additional equipment, knowledge, or support you may need to confidently diagnose the problem.
“Honestly though, homeowners forgive you for [something] not working (the first time). They don't forgive you for shitty customer service.”
— Bill Brown, Owner of Paramount Heating & Air
5. Be a tech. Not a salesperson.
There’s actually an easier way to sell customers than simply charming your way to bigger tickets. You’ve probably got every tool you need to perform just about any routine job in the back of your van, but do you have the right tools to make a sale? Selling is a huge part of the job but many don’t get any training or coaching when it comes down to it.
Having the right selling tools is just as important as having the right HVAC tools. ServiceTitan’s digital, multi-option estimate builder simplifies the entire process. It provides customers a good, better, best option right from a tablet, so customers get the convenience and peace of mind they want at a price that makes sense for them.
This takes out all of the hard upselling that can make anyone a little uncomfortable. When customers feel like they have the freedom to make their own choice, average ticket sizes and customer satisfaction go up! That way you can focus on just being a friendly, helpful tech.
6. Communicate with the customer.
When it comes to communicating with customers, don't forget to listen. Not only do they want to be heard, but what they have to say can help you figure out a solution faster.
Is the problem with the blower? Does the homeowner think the issue is with the ductwork? Do they seem particularly concerned about the Covid pandemic? The customer might not know the difference between an evaporator and a heat exchanger, but they want to be heard, regardless.
Ask the customer what their account of the problem is. How long has it been going on? What do they think is wrong? What have they already tried to do to fix it, if at all?
These questions can narrow down what steps you take next. Answer all of their questions before you dive in. If customers feel heard, they are more likely to trust what you have to say. Even for little things like having to leave the site to go buy a part, inform the customer before you leave and let them know when they can expect you to come back.
If you find yourself in a situation with an upset customer, avoid any escalation. Keep a neutral tone and try to address their concerns directly. Be sympathetic as a contractor and never criticize or belittle a customer by skirting the problem at hand. It can be easy to want to cut in or become defensive, but interrupting the customer can make matters worse.
“The thing is… it boils all down to verbal communication because there are certain trigger words that people will get offended by or they'll just take it the wrong way, so it's important to stay away from negative words that they can misinterpret [like ‘unfortunately’].”
—Zelena Brown, Britton WaterWorks Plumbing
A few steps to quickly diffuse the situation: apologize, take responsibility, and reassure the customer you are willing to fix the problem. Remain professional and just know that it can happen to anyone.
7. Communicate with your team.
Yes, communication made it on the list twice. How you communicate with both the customer and your team can make or break your success as a new HVAC technician. The company you work for could already have established processes and preferred methods of communication or they may be in need of updating their communication tools to keep all team members on the same page.
Do you call the dispatcher if you’ve lost a customer’s address? Who do you call if a customer isn’t home? Right off the bat, you should make sure you get clear direction on how your entire team expects you to communicate with them. And if it’s still unclear, you can begin to build a routine for yourself.
Establish preferred methods of communication with all of the people who contribute to your day-to-day work and maintain that consistency, so nothing slips through the cracks.
But at the end of the day, it's really up to the owner or general manager to implement the appropriate policies and a high-quality, high-efficiency structure that will encourage transparent and consistent communication.
One great solution for streamlining all communication is ServiceTitan, which enables SMS texting between office staff and techs and syncs all communication to its cloud-based software.
8. Clean up.
And we are not talking about just the money. But seriously, no one wants to deal with a technician who is sifting through a disorganized truck, leaving mud tracks on the carpet, or looks like they haven’t showered in a while.
How you care for yourself is representative of how customers expect you to take care of the job. Keep yourself well-groomed and presentable, even if that means keeping a spare, clean uniform neatly folded in the back of your truck. Always take measures to prevent any mess that may occur—whether that means wearing boot covers or using a tarp in your work area. Before leaving a job site, take extra measures to make sure everything is cleaned and put back to where it was before you arrived.
Lastly, never get caught with a messy truck or van. Some companies have such a hard time getting technicians to clean up their vans that they have created competitions or incentives out of it. It’ll be a sure-fire way to impress the boss.
Good luck, and congratulations!
With these trusty tips in tow, you’ll be sure to make quite an impression on your team. As much as being a technician can be demanding, it is a rewarding profession. Haven’t started your career path as a technician yet? Now is the best time to get into the trades.
ServiceTitan HVAC Software
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive HVAC business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.