Steve Coscia talks about customer service (SOFT SKILLS) for HVACR businesses.

Steve Coscia talks about customer service (SOFT SKILLS) for HVACR businesses.

Video of this Episode

On the Road?
Listen to AUDIO ONLY
version of the Podcast

Follow the Process Chiller Pro podcast on these platforms.

Listening on your phone or mobile device? These great podcast platforms may require apps to be installed to access the podcast on your mobile devices. 

Get an email alert when new episodes are posted.

Show notes

This week I sit down with Steve Coscia of Coscia Communications, Inc.

This in-depth interview gets into what soft skills are and just how important these skills are to the success of any business.

Steve has decades of success helping HVACR businesses figure out where their current customer service (soft skills) practices are, what needs improvement and how to deploy updated processes within the business.

We also get into the skilled trade industry trending as he travels around the USA on book tours and keynote speaking events.

Episode That Support This Topic.

Episode Transcript

So Steve, how are you doing today? How’s, how’s everything over in Pennsylvania? Things are going well, I am in the midst of writing another online course and submitting some new articles and getting ready for another trek across the country. Yeah. So you’re out of? Is it Hazleton PA? Yes, it’s in southeastern Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Havre town. They call it town. That’s right. You know, I used to my factory was was in Telford Pennsylvania. And, you know, we’re Telford is that very, very close to you. It’s only 45 minutes away. Okay. I have a good client there. Oh, cool. Yeah. So I used to be in Telford all the time. And I’m a West Coast person, right. So when I was driving through there, I was always amazed. Like, they’re really. Pennsylvania really likes the the term to use town in their cities or Township. It’s like every single community. It’s either called a town or a township.

What’s that all about? The very old. It’s a very old fashioned state. Yeah, yeah, that’s true. Yeah. A lot of people love history here. Yeah, a lot of people lose perspective that the United States was first populated in the east and then moved west. So that I guess that explains that right? It does. It does. So you like to travel and understand. I was checking out some of your videos. You got a very cool

little camper setup. And that looks like we’ll go anywhere. What’s that all about? I guess you’re an outdoor an outdoorsman. Hmm.

Yeah, that’s that started about 10 years ago, I’ve always been an outdoors enthusiast. Very, very athletic my whole life. And I bought a kayak about 10 years ago, I started doing that and really enjoyed that. And then I started to see videos on on camping gear. And I saw this new technology emerging. Whereas you could put a little cabin on the bed of a midsize pickup truck. Yeah, I saw that. Yeah. Uh huh. So I started investing in that I’ve developed it. And I’ve driven across the United States, about a dozen times now. I serve our clients on the way. And then I also do extended camping in the Arizona desert in Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, all through there. So there’s lots of colleges and trade schools, where I could teach classes, because that’s where that’s where they use my textbooks. And then there’s contractors supply houses that I visit along the way. Yeah, you know, what, a lot of ways when I get grown up, I’m going to do what you’re doing. That sounds like a lot of fun.

It’s it started out as a marketing experiment, right? In about 2014. I was working with, with an each vac contractor in Indianapolis, which is a city to which I would usually fly. And there’s one time I decided I was going to drive and I told my marketing guy, do something with the website. So people are going to understand I’m going to be driving to Indianapolis. So he put calendar and he put a put a map on there, Steve is going to be driving to Indianapolis. And I get a phone call from a contractor in Dayton, Ohio, saying, Hey, I see you’re going to be on i 70. Could you stop here? Sure. And then someone else calls me from Western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Hey, I see you’re going to be on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Can you stop here? I said sure. Yeah, these are these were two contractors I read usually fly over, right, never even get to see them. So the marketing experiment started to develop about 2014. And then as we as we improved, the website, my calendar, the the maps, it really started to turn into a lot of fun. Yeah, I really started to combine the work and the leisure side of my life. So that’s, that’s how the whole thing happened. Well, you know what they say if you can figure out a way to do something you love and by the way people are willing to pay you at the same time. That’s a that’s a match made in heaven, right? Absolutely. Yeah. Hey, so I’m not sure if you saw my email but I’ve got the

Zach same eBUY exact same color as you. Yeah.

I love that one. That’s my second one. You know, I did. Yeah, I bought one just over a year ago, but 1100 miles on it. crap out of it. I loved it. And then they came out with a 2.0 version. Yep. So that’s why I sold the first one. I bought the second one. And I’m beating the crap out of this one, too. I’m doing all kinds of off roading. Yeah, I really enjoy. Yes, it’s that’s awesome that yeah, I become a big fan. We we have two of them, we strap it on the back of our RV and have a great time that thing. It’s a lot of fun.

Hey, so you use in your material quite a bit. An old term I remember called soft skills. So my demographic on the show here is, you know, HVAC business owners guys have been around a long time guys that are just started. Technicians out there. There’s a lot of younger ones out there. So I want to revisit this real quick. Explain to everybody what soft skills what that term actually means. Because I think a lot of people don’t connect with that anymore, unfortunately. Sure. So Soft skills are the behavioral skills that include attitude,

how you speak, how well you listen, how well you can convey empathy, but that it also extends to showing up on time, cleaning up a job afterwards, tucking in your shirt, having good personal hygiene, cleaning your truck or your van, parking the truck or van in the appropriate place, making a pre arrival call before you get there, respecting your commercial clients

building and their security protocols. And making sure you’re giving the facilities manager or maintenance engineer all the information they need to keep the tenants happy in their buildings. So that’s not everything. But that’s that’s a good part of what soft skills are. It’s mostly behavioral skills. And I was made aware of the term soft skills, maybe around 12 or 13 years ago, because I was always a customer service manager. Right? I always call it customer service. And then when I started to get into academia, and writing textbooks for the trade schools,

Jeremy Weiss from the ESCO group in Chicago, learned about me and he said, Oh, soft skills. And I said, What’s that? And he explained it to me. So that’s it. That’s everything I was already doing. But I was I was calling a customer service. Okay, like soft skills are more common common term in the mechanical trades. That’s, that’s so good. I got a tear running down my cheek right now. That was, that was almost one of the things like when I was in the contracting world, I had a pretty big shot out of California. And that was the stuff that I said this over and over and over, you could be the most talented, gifted genius when it comes to fixing mechanical equipment. But it just takes, you know, one big old, nasty footprint on somebody’s office floor, or, like you said, parking your truck in the boss’s parking spot, that stuff just takes one of those incidents to pretty much erase all that genius that you just put into fixing their equipment, right?

That’s it. And there are lots of really, really talented and gifted technicians out there who are really good at troubleshooting and diagnosing problems. And

many, many commercial and residential customers are often looking out their window when they call a mechanical company, because they’re anxious, the building was either too cold or too hot. So they’re the waiting for the truck. And what they see out the window, tells them everything they need to know about the company. What you look like, what are you having a good day, if they see empty coffee cups and food wrappers on the dashboard of your of your man? They’re thinking, Well, what’s he going to be like when he comes in here? You know, so before you even get to meet the customer. They’ve already seen you and they’ve made some assumptions about you. Right? Well, that’s the first impression, right? But it’s a matter of it’s it doesn’t matter what environment you’re in. It’s that first impression that that matters. And yeah, that’s

That’s good. So

what how did you get into this? I mean, so you mentioned that your customer service guy, um, you know, explain to the audience here like the Reader’s Digest kind of, of your journey on how you got into academia and you started doing what you’re doing.

I was a customer service manager starting in the early 1980s. And I started at a really good time. Because if you remember,

integrated circuits, were finding their way into just about every market segment, in manufacturing, from kitchen appliances, to, to computers, to automobiles, to musical instruments, to radios to into everything. And I got I got on board around then, and I seem to have a digital mind. And I became a customer service manager for a consumer electronics company back then. And the other thing that was that was happening in the early 1980s were

Ken Ken Blanchard wrote The One Minute Manager,

Tom Peters, co wrote In Search of Excellence, W Edwards Deming wrote out of the crisis, it seemed like within about two years, new business thinking emerged. And I was this young guy in my early 30s, just soaking it up. So I came in at just the right time got this really good education or self education, by reading this books, and I really developed a continual improvement model for everything i i was the managing terms of how we hired, how we trained, how we staffed how we serve, customers. And I did that for about 20 years or so. And

after that, I decided that I wanted to consult, and I started consulting as a customer service, generalist.

And then I got introduced to the mechanical trades.

I did a speech for a whole room full of refrigeration and air conditioning contractors. One of them hired me and got a job, he had amazing results right away. He told he told all the other contractors in that association about me, so I got other work. And then a local supply house hired me and then manufacturers. And so it started that way. As you know,

doing good work matters. And when you’re in the front of a room, and you’re speaking, the thing I’ve learned is what he says can always tell whether or not you’re telling the truth, and whether or not you know your stuff. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. If the managing customer service for 20 years, you could say, I knew my stuff. And it was just easier to be myself speaking about issues that arose and how I resolved them. This is my first book. For the mechanical trade. That’s eh, eh, fac, customer service handbook. And then the second one that I wrote is the trade technician soft skills manual. And both are used in more than 250 colleges. So I started being the speaker and consultant, and then learned about the the academic side and got into that side. And so it’s been, it’s been really valuable in terms of having multiple revenue streams. I can consult, I can speak, and then I have passive revenue from textbooks. I have passive revenue from the online courses that we’ve created. And in consulting or in any business, having multiple revenue streams is the best model.

Oh, that’s not too long of an answer. No, that’s excellent. Sounds like you’re living the American dream. Right? You know, you found a niche a need and you’re filling it. I mean, that’s you can’t get much better than that. We do live in a great country. I mean, if if you have an idea, and you’re willing to work your butt off, stay up late get up early, just bang against every obstacle. You can be successful. Yeah. Yeah, I was helping out somebody believe it or not over in India, because you could just reach people nowadays with with the internet and stuff and I was helping this guy out with some refrigeration issues.

And, you know, I just before we disconnected the call, I said, so, you know, what do you think about America?

And it was a really, he didn’t have greatest English. But he basically said, Well, pretty much everybody thinks that you’re all crazy right now. Because everybody’s, you know, talking about how terrible things are over in America and they just nobody understands. And I said, Well, what do you mean by that? I says, Well, the reality of it is, and I’ve never been to America, and I, you know, I’m paraphrasing here, but I want to, I want to go to America sometime. What and you have that thing over there called the lottery, where, you know, you put money into and you know, you win stuff. And he said to me, that Americans, pretty much every one of you, no matter what your circumstance, being born there, you won the lottery. Because there’s a lot of you know, it’s, it’s pretty bad here. You know, he said, I’m like, You know what I couldn’t I couldn’t put it much better myself. You know, a lot of people rephrase, yeah, yeah. Nailed it. He totally nailed it. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway. So I want to talk about the skills gap. And I’ve been super excited about talking to you about this, because you know, you’ve been around a while, you service the HVAC niche, a lot.

And so let’s dive into this a little bit. So what’s your opinion, the skills gap? You know, it’s always been bad. That was one of the main reasons why I got out of the contracting business, because it just,

I just got tired of banging my head against the wall, you know, what we invested money in, in training. And then, you know, after a period of time, I really got the feeling like I was training really good guys, for my competitors. Because they would come along and scoop up my guys.

And it seems, but it’s gotten worse. You know, so What What’s your opinion about the skills gap? And it’s in the skills gap acceleration that’s going on right now?

Well, the skills gap is one issue. Right, and then the workforce.

Demand is another issue. But the the skills gap, as I perceive it is what is the gap between what a trade school or community college believes they are making available to the contractors out there, and what the contractors are saying they’re actually getting that there’s a gap between what trade schools are producing, and what contractors are really getting in terms of people they can hire. And, and, and put to work? I think the, the the best remedies I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some progress,

I’ve been going to the the mechanical trade educators conferences for more than more than 1213 years now. And what I’ve seen is there are more local contractors in a region, serving as the advisory board at a local community college or trade school. And they’re doing that so they can be consultants to the school, or say, this is what we need. And, you know, once you have contractors on your advisory board,

then the the, the administrators at the school see the gap. And they say, well, well, we need we need better equipment. And in our lab, and the contractors go I’ll I’ll talk to the supply house nearby, and they’ll get a condensing unit and a refrigerator unit and a retail unit. And they’ll get stuff for free from the from the suppliers for any colleges lab, and I’ve seen some of that progress happening.

Encouraging so many of the laboratories have gotten better. From my perspective out out in the in the field.

A, a curriculum like mine, didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now teaching soft skills was like not even there. Right. Now, now trade schools and colleges are thinking about, about soft skills about teaching young people in the in the workforce, you got to show up on time. You can’t be late, you know, if if we say we’re going to be there at 8am, you got to be there at 745. And just getting some of these soft skills embedded into the into the students. So I think the gap has has been has been around for a while and we’re making some progress. But the bigger issue is that is is the workforce shortage.

I have an exciting announcement, we just recently made some updates to our three most popular online courses at process Tiller academy.com. If you’re a technician, that’s looking to improve your skills a little bit, maybe get some specialized training to be of more value to your customers and your employer. Or if you are an employer or a contractor that is looking to augment your existing in house training with online training that can be accessible from any device, this is a really great opportunity. Just go to process Chillar Academy comm just scroll down on the homepage, and you will see the course area. If you go into the course page, you will see that we are currently for limited time, we have a promo code of chiller Pro, that will save you 25% on any one of these courses. So I hope you check it out. And I’m looking forward to seeing you in class.

In 2005, if the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that within the next five years, from 2005 to 2010, that about 35% of the mechanical workforce

will be retiring. Moran was that that was back then

when I go to conferences, everyone’s got gray hair like me. They’re in their 60s, you know, and you’ve got some young people coming in, however, not enough. Right. So the biggest change we that I think that has been made there since 2010 and beyond is that we’ve learned that children need to be introduced to career opportunities while they’re in middle school. We thought it was high school. But you got to get there sooner in middle school and and have the local contractors speaking to children who are 1011 12 years old. And letting them know there are there are other career career opportunities beyond a four year university

degree and that you could be a plumber, you could be a refrigerator tech, earn really good money, have good job security. And so that’s been that has also been making some progress. It’s it’s gonna take time. Yeah, much of that progress began with getting the K through 12 schools,

guidance counselors to reframe their advice to students. Because the K through 12 World was always steer them towards a four year year university. And reframing that took some time, but I think there’s some progress being made. So that’s my, that’s my experience. That’s my take. I’ve witnessed this in real time. Right? What one of the one of the benefits that the mechanical trades has,

or instructors who do this as a vocation, they don’t get paid enough to do what they do. And then they work all these extra hours being a mentor to these younger students, many of whom don’t have a dad. And these guys will mentor these young people going out with them,

bringing them along on a job as a helper.

Well, I know some great instructors out there who are just they’re vocational. And often they can’t get approval from their, from their college to attend an Educators Conference. And these instructors will spend their own money to do it. Because they know how important it is for their students. So Boy, I’ve seen that firsthand everywhere around the country. I can I can name of a dozen instructors right now who are just doing this, and they’re doing a great job. Yeah, I you know, I’ve been

I’ve been working on this new program I called skilled trades rescue. And I’ve been doing a lot of research on this whole thing. And the the thing I’m seeing, first of all, it’s sort of like skilled trades are sort of like the consolation prize, right? It’s sort of like, a lot of it is almost like a you know cliche right now, you know, if, if your career you know, turns to shit, well, you can always be a plumber. Right. I mean, pun intended. I mean that that’s kind of how it is. Right? Yeah. So it’s, it’s really interesting. And the other thing I’m finding is the reporting that’s out there on the opportunities and the wage growth and all that kind of stuff is just wrong. I mean, I’m putting up on the screen right now.

The

this is the

Bureau of Labor Statistics, right and, and this data is just incorrect. Like for example,

California, the annual mean wage for a heating, air conditioning, refrigeration mechanic and installer, now the installers make a little bit less. So that may be part of it, but 63,005 60 in California, right. And this is as of May, when was this report may of 2020. Right? And I can pick up the phone

shops I, I know the owners shops, I don’t know the owners, I could survey and if I bring whenever I bring this up, like, you know, you mean wage for installers and mechanics in California $63,000. They look at me like you’re full of it. i If I could find a good journeymen technician for $63,000 just doesn’t happen. And and I see guys that are making? I mean, I’d say the average wage is probably at least 20% More than that. And once you figure in the overtime, and all that kind of stuff. And it doesn’t matter if it’s union or non union. What’s your opinion on that? Steve? I mean, why is this data off? Is it? Where are they getting their numbers for this stuff?

As far as root causes, I would just say they’re probably aggregating a lot of information from different states and factoring that, that in, you know, the cost of living in California might be different, might be different than the cost of living in a different state. So that could be that could be one factor. The other thing is their, their data pool, what’s their, what’s their data pool? And where are they grabbing the the, the, the data from? So I’m not sure what all these sources are, or the root causes for this. It’s it’s it’s a couple, it’s a couple years old, as you said, but it shouldn’t be off by my that much. It’s yeah, you know, well, and the other thing, I think it’s happening, I’m not sure if you’re noticing this, but there was very few good things that came out of this pandemic. Right. So, you know, we’re finally I hope this Coronavirus thing is in our rearview mirror. But one good thing that came out of it is there’s a lot of parents out there that, you know, when their kids were strapped to a desk at home trying to try to learn.

They saw things they didn’t like, right so that they saw some things that were going on in the school instruction that they didn’t like. And I think I think potentially, that parents are waking up to the fact that a college degree, the experience they had in college is not the experience. Now. It’s much, much different now. And I’m hoping and praying that the you know, the parents out there can, you know, come to the realization that maybe their child is not college material, and there is a great opportunity out there in skilled trades. That doesn’t have to be the consolation prize, it can be something that’s real. And what’s interesting, is the the media actually not a surprise. They never talk about skilled trades very much. I mean, it’s it’s not it’s not talked about very much. What do you think about that?

It’s not a sexy topic, you know, the

right? The, the enrollment at four year universities is projected to diminish, right over the next few years because of the phenomenon you described. Parents seeing what they’re paying for

wanting, wanting, wanting to make a change. So that’s that’s one factor. And that’s transparency is always good. One of the thing the one of the things the Internet has delivered, since its inception is transparency. Is that eventually you can’t hide, you know, is that the stuff is going to be found out. Right now. That was that was one of the areas that

that happened there. In terms of enrollment at trade, schools, community colleges.

Things were really down in 2020 Because

you know,

so my text, my my textbook, sales went down, then I really rebounded last year. So let’s jump in

came back, and there’s still rebounding now. So the, the whole idea with the trades, being a worthwhile career is one of the things that’s going to filter through society, as more and more of it continues to happen. And so it’s like anything else, the best marketing in the world is word of mouth. And I think the trades are going to benefit from that.

From the word of mouth. And that’ll be a good thing. So what do you think would be like the secret sauce to getting to the youth? You mentioned, you know, getting him in, in middle school, and, you know, at least

talking to them at their, at their level, where they’re at? And, you know, what, what can people at our place in our careers

do to encourage consideration at the very least, of getting into skilled trades? versus, versus college? You know, like, what are things that every business owner, American parent, what are some some things that you think that we can all do, to expose our youth to the possibilities of skilled trades?

The best, the best way to,

to share a message is person to person. So, you know, I see it out in the field all the time, as I mentioned earlier, contractors volunteering their time to do a presentation, either at a middle school, and not just to hold up the tools, even though the tools are cool. But that, you know, the, let me just talk about tools for just a minute. So the tools of 2030 years ago, I would people still have in their head, you know, it’s a wrench, it’s a screwdriver. It’s a, it’s a ratchet. But today, a contractor shows up, and now he’s got these cool gadgets, they’re, they’re digital gadgets, and you pass that around the room. And now kids are like, Oh, this is pretty cool. You know. So yeah, some of that is, is one thing we can do is to convey that, it’s, it’s not like it used to be it’s, it’s not your, it’s not your, your father’s mechanical trade is more cool. But then the other thing the contractor was visiting a middle school would have to convey is, if you want to get into the trades, children, learn your math, learn math, you got to learn science. So you may not be a required to learn the multiplication table. But I would urge you to do so more than you have to in terms of learning math, learning, learning science, the more children you can, you can get on board, to taking seriously some of these some of these courses, the better off we’re all gonna be, you know, the best way to to be persuasive, is always person to person show up. So one of the things I’ve done since 1985, is I spend a week every summer counseling children at a camp here in Pennsylvania. I’m an athletic director. So we even though I’m old,

I still have this, this athletics program that I do. And it’s not just athletics. I’m teaching life lessons while I’m there. I’ve got boys who are like eight to 10 years old. And we’re doing athletics, but I’m also teaching them vocabulary. I use words they’ve never heard before we once you can introduce a word to a child and then use the word and then ask them questions about the word so they have to use it. And then you find children seem to have this comfort level using new words. And the little light bulb goes off and says, Oh, okay, that’s how it works. You hear a word, you learn the definition, and then you use it. The same thing with mathematics and all of that. So

people have to volunteer you got to get involved. It’s it’s person to person, right, and it’s the easiest way to be persuasive.

Well, I just I just recently did a mini series on on programmable logic controllers, because they’re, they’re making their way into all kinds of equipment out there. And I’ve been amazed at the comments that I’m getting from people who are some some college graduates and they’re like

You know, wow, I had no idea that this type of technology is being applied to heating, air conditioning refrigeration equipment. And you’re exactly right. I mean, nowadays, technicians are showing up with tablets. They’re jacking into PLCs to see what the heck’s going on the PLC ‘s are starting to communicate with the world out there. What’s wrong with the equipment? I mean, that that’s stuff that that was rocket science man, when when I first started doing this in the 80s. I mean, it was like, and it seems like we were slow. You know, it seems like the HVAC refrigeration business was really slow to come around to using processors and going, you know, with printed circuit boards and things like that. And, you know, it’s finally now becoming real mainstream, I don’t think you can get a commercial piece of equipment nowadays, that doesn’t have a PLC or some type of logic controller inside.

Very true, very, very true. And the whole, the whole application of that technology, how it’s changed things now is just tremendous. You know, lots of the lots of the trade schools students today, they’re used to a field piece or a fluke, digital device, right? And they’ve got that that nice, bright, yellowish orange color, you know? So when I go teach at a at a trade school, I bring this yellow, Sony Walkman.

Exact same color as the flute or the fieldpiece device, right? So I bring this this Sony Walkman, and hold it up, and they’re all going, Oh, which one is that? You know, and I handed around, and they’re all confounded. They have no idea what it is, what do you do with this thing, you know, and then I show them, and I show them to make a point.

I end, the point I make is that the company that manufactured this, used to own

portable audio?

And now they don’t? Yeah, the reason why they don’t is that they had an internal communication problem. The research and and development engineers within Sony, they had fashioned off into what are called silos where you had separate business units that did not talk to each other. They love each other. Right, right. And so the point I make is that when you would you girls and guys get hired by the local company in town, your most important customer is going to be your co worker.

We don’t want to have any silos. So that means complete your paperwork 100%, you don’t leave a job, until you got the serial number, you’ve got the date code, you’ve got everything that the office is going to need to complete that transaction. When you serve your co workers, well, the benefactors of that improvement are going to be the external customers.

So it’s a it’s a, it takes about five minutes to get across about internal service. But that’s the big push. I have seen today because the biggest issue in contracting companies today is internal service is incomplete paperwork is inappropriate dispatching, inefficient dispatching, and

lots of clutter inside the trucks in terms of tools and parts and supplies. So my big push these days is let’s get better on the inside. We can improve internal service, then the benefactors of that will be the external customers. Right? It all starts with that yellow Sony Walkman, which is a lot of fun to do. I’ll bet I bet you get some interesting looks for sure. Yeah.

Yeah. So give me a fun story about you know, one of your something that you’ve done for one of your clients or students or however you want to whatever whatever story you think’s fun that that you consider to be, you know, kind of a success story for the solutions that your company provides. Sure, sure. Yeah, one of the soft skills training I deliver besides working with with technicians and first impressions. I also do telephone skills training. And my training on the telephone is is mostly based around the first impression again,

however, it involves what I call vocal

Goal imaging, how to convey a vocal image that other people perceive to be positive. And to do it effectively, you have to slow down your pace of speech. So I train people in this. So one of my first clients was in Telford, a Christian, he, it was a Christian heating and air. Dave, Dave pixelmon was the owner of the, of the company. And I went in there on a Saturday to do some training. And they had this little woman named Sophia, she was only about that tall, and and that she worked the phones. So I did some training on slowing down, smiling, vocal imaging ftu. So if you ask a question, shut up and wait for the answer. Don’t interrupt it. Just simple things. Simple things like that. So I did a training. I called Dave up about a month later. And Dave goes, Do you remember little Sophia? Is it sure she’s, yes, she she sold $10,000 and maintenance agreements last month, you said that’s never happened before. And all because she just made a few small changes. So that’s always fun. I love I love when I work with a small family company. I go in, I do some training. And the next morning, the father calls me up and says you’re not going to believe it, my daughter sold the water heater, it’s this, like, within 24 hours, they get the return on investment right away. So the most fun part of the work we do is knowing we can make a difference. Right? And and contractors have so much potential that is latent. And all they need sometimes is just a little tweak, a little change to take that latency and turn it into something more productive.

So Steve, when you when you go into a new, let’s say you go into a consulting engagement with an HVAC refrigeration contractor, so what is the what’s the first couple of things that that you really zero in on? That’s pretty consistent through through your experience? Like what are the what are the things that you really like to close in on when you first show up?

Well, doing it in doing a brief needs analysis is,

is how I start, just so I can understand a little bit about about the company culture about the company history, what whether they have any documentation. So what I find often, even with large companies with a couple of 100 employees, is they don’t document what they do. And, and, and they wing it. So in finding things like that some of my training might include, how do we document what we do. Because if you document what you do, then your employees can do what’s been documented, which is the approach in in international standards. So that’s one of the first things I do is is to make sure that if I’m working with them,

let’s get things written down. Let’s get things documented. Let’s create standard operating procedures. And then I do train the trainer to make sure after I’m gone. There’s a supervisor or a manager who is responsible for the ongoing training. Because what I find about customer service and soft skills, you talk to a contractor owner about customer service. And he goes oh yeah, we did that last year. It should be every week, someone should be in their weekly meeting should be spending five to 10 minutes on a new customer service skill on lose on listening on

how to convey empathy, on how to ask the right questions, how to paraphrase what the customer just said, every week, pick a different topic and focus on it. Because we redundancy is a great training device. Well, it happens right? That’s right, right. Yeah, you’re right. Yep. For the habits. So that that’s the approach that I take up. I’m just amazed at how little documentation there is out there.

For how companies do things.

Yeah, that’s all great stuff. So Steve, what’s the

what are you doing now like short term here. You think you said in the beginning of our interview here that you’re getting ready to go back out in the field. You’re getting ready to go on the road again? I am I am. I’m going to be? I’m going to be heading out west to the southwest but I’ll be I’ll be speaking at colleges

trade schools

serving clients on on the way. I’m speaking at HVAC excellence on March 22, in Las Vegas, so there’s things, things to do. But then there’s also lots of time for camp out on the desert. There you go get on the bike. Right?

So if if some of my audience out there wants to get a hold of you, I have your website up here. And they have some things that they need help with? What’s the what’s the process, just call you up and say, Hey, Steve, I got a problem, or how do people reach out to you? My website is my last name. So on your screen, you can see my last name CEOs, CIA, the website is is just catia.com. So go to the website, send me a message from there. My phone number is 610-853-9836. Okay, either way works. And that’s it. I was. I was like, just doing some research here. So it looks like you got a bunch of books here.

on Amazon.

You got a lot of put mister took you forever to write all this stuff.

It takes time. There’s, there’s a lot of time in involved. Right? My my experience with writing is it’s it’s about

50% organization, and 50% creativity.

If you can’t be organized, you’re probably not going to write. So being organized is a key part of it. So your latest book here is this HVAC customer service handbook. Is that is that different than the soft skills manual? Yeah, the the, the HVAC customer service handbook is a little more recent. And it it covers information for the people out in the field. But also for the people in the office. There’s telephone skills in chapter three. And it’s good for both residential for commercial for plumbing, refrigeration, lots of lots of worthwhile information. And then the the treat technician soft skills manual is more for the people out in the field. So there is there’s not much of the office work in that one. So that’s, that’s, that’s that’s the difference between the two books. And they’re both available, either in print or in digital format. Okay, so the both books are like the trade technician soft skills manual is available in the

in the mind, the mind tap platform. Cengage is the publisher. And they have a platform called Mind. Tap is a very interactive textbook. Every chapter has videos, they have quizzes, it’s real interactive. Really, really good. And then each service. I’m sorry, what was that? I was just wondering if you’ve done any audio? Like have you audio books, these books? Have not? Not yet. I get asked every now and then just haven’t made the time to do it. Yeah.

Yeah, it’s it’s interesting that we produce our podcast and video, as well as audio. Right. And I get a lot of comments from people that that watch the pod or do the podcast, like our podcast, is that they, they listen in their trucks when they’re out driving around, right? And then if I, it’s difficult, because when you’re talking about something you’re putting up on the screen, it’s a little little cumbersome, because you have to really go pretty slow and create a word picture to try to cater to the people that are driving around their service trucks. But what’s interesting is a lot of them initially first listen to the podcast driving around. And then if it’s happens to be an episode of something they’re interested in, they’ll go back and and check it out again on the video. And I get a lot of comments about, you know, the fact that I produce it in audio and video. So it was just a comment. No, it’s good. I’ve I’ve gotten it before I have created lots of audio. So we’ve got a whole series of mp3 files made available at the at no charge. Yeah, on the website. Yes, that that people can can get access to. They’re there. They’re part of our of our training.

systems and then the the other things we’ve done is we’ve created actual online courses. So I’ve created six courses. I’m working on the seventh one now. And those are all accredited so technicians can earn neat credits and lots of other cool things that way. Very cool. Very cool. Well, we put we put lots of videos in the blogs, you know, that are on the website. So it’s it’s pretty neat.

Very cool, Steve. Well, that wraps this up. I am super excited to have you here and

like I said, I was I was really looking forward to this this interview any any last things you’d like to share with the audience?

No, I just want to thank you for hosting me. This was a lots of fun, it’s always good to talk about the the mechanical trades, I would I would urge your viewers and your listeners to you know, look at the upside of everything we are doing. Attitude is just about everything. And we’re all responsible for our circumstances wherever we might be. It may not be your fault. But wherever you are, you got to make choices make positive choices.

Well, this episode of the process children Pro is a wrap as they say. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m very much looking forward to developing relationship with you and seeing if I can help you in your career path as much as I possibly can. I’m looking forward to hearing from you on LinkedIn where I’m at most of the time I’m also on all the social networks. You can also send me emails at M King at process chiller. academy.com and I will see you next week for our next installment of the process. Chiller pro podcast. You have a great week and go get them out there. I’ll talk to you soon.