All Industries, Industry Insights

Why do technicians churn at trade companies? ServiceTitan data reveals top factors

Pat McManamon
April 13th, 2022
5 Min Read

It used to simply be wise to pay attention to what is happening with a company’s technicians.

Nowadays, it’s vital.

In a time when companies are having a harder time finding qualified candidates to fill positions, it’s not wise to operate in a way that creates job openings.

Making technicians drive too much, asking them to do too much or too little, and overloading their weekends can lead to dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction can lead to looking elsewhere, which leads to churn, which can affect the business’s bottom line.

“He who holds the labor wins in this game, right?” said Chris Hunter, ServiceTitan’s Director of Customer Relations and founder and co-owner of the GoTime Success Group. “It’s our most important asset. It’s important to manage these technicians and the relationships with them.”

ServiceTitan recently completed a study that showed clear cause and effect for churn. According to the data, which skewed toward HVAC and plumbing, technicians are more likely to churn if he or she … 

  • Is overbooked or underbooked

  • Drives 50 or more minutes for about one-fourth of their time

  • Has more than 15% of jobs on the weekend

“As a leader of my company, I want to know, what are these risks? And then, how do I mitigate them? How do I reduce them?” Hunter said. “I can't do it if I'm not aware. So that's why I'm so thankful to see this data because it's like finally some proof in the pudding.

“We might have thought it, but here's the evidence. Now let's act on it.”

A new environment post-pandemic

A lot of the actions to address the factors that lead to churn revolve around common sense and fall under the heading: Treat people the way you want to be treated. The data matters because the hiring environment has changed post-pandemic.

In December, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported 91% of contractors reported either moderate or high levels of difficulty in finding skilled labor – an increase of three points from the summer.

Even more telling, the Chamber also found that 62% of contractors reported high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, up seven points from the previous quarter and up 20 points from a year earlier.

Of those who said they had trouble finding workers, almost half had to turn down work because of it. That means not properly managing technicians can lead to lost business.

“Let's be real,” Hunter said. “In today's job world, techs can have their pick of the litter. They can knock on any door, I guarantee you, and find a job. So when things hit a little rough spot, or maybe one of these other factors come in, then all of a sudden it just makes it way too easy for them to be tempted to leave.”

Early in 2022, ServiceTitan reported on a ThriveAnalytics survey from the previous summer that showed 92% of businesses had hired in the previous 12 months; three-fourths of them said they could not find enough applicants for open jobs.

The Chamber found that almost three-quarters of businesses who answered the poll found it challenging to meet project schedule requirements, and said they are asking skilled workers to do more.

Go in-depth on field tech hiring demand

What’s really behind tech churn?

The causes of the situation are many, and varied.

Negative perceptions of the trades linger, even with the efforts to educate the public about the benefits of the trades from organizations such as DeskFree Nation. Some companies have opened training centers in their workplace, while the U.S. Congress is working on ways to increase apprenticeships.

The solutions stressed by ServiceTitan revolve around one factor: Pay attention.

Strike a balance when booking. Manage the drive time. Notice who is being asked to work weekends. Be open to ideas for community involvement. Build and maintain a positive culture that fosters growth, respect and development.

Also, pay competitively. 

Of those surveyed in the Tech Shortage Survey, higher wages was quoted as a top reason to change jobs for 20% of participants. 

The ThriveAnalytics study showed that health and retirement benefits as well as signing bonuses made a significant difference in recruiting workers. The flip side: Lower wages and lack of training were significant factors in people leaving. 

“Culture turns into actions, which turns into results,” said Keith Mercurio, ServiceTitan’s Director of Executive Success and the CEO of his company, Ethical Influence, which advises and consults with companies about driving top performance in part by using company culture in the best of ways. 

“Being valued, earning competitive pay with the chance to grow, having a job that you love, being respected. These things have never gone out of style, and never will.”

It’s time to adapt

Staying ahead of the curve allows a company to stay ahead of the churn. Now more than ever, it is essential to retain talent and mitigate churn. Changing perceptions of the trades starts with each business, in the way it hires, pays and treats employees. Success can depend on those human factors.

There’s no reason to do things the way they’ve always been done if that is the only reason you are doing them.

“It’s turn or lose,” Mercurio said. “If you don’t, your employees are about to go work at other businesses that are turning.”

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