A How-To Guide for Training New Technicians

4 steps to success for you, your drain cleaning business and your employees.
A How-To Guide for Training New Technicians
Education on new products, services and industry best practices are critical to building a strong workforce. (Photos courtesy Ferguson Enterprises)

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Today’s drain cleaning contractors have a tough job. With new technology, a constant decline in an experienced workforce and the need to perform more than the service requested, there’s a lot of strain and pressure on new technicians to get the job done quickly and accurately. When product education, peer mentorship and customer service techniques are linked together, new cleaners gain the skills they need to perform the job well, while growing a solid customer base for your business.  

1. Product knowledge and skills training

Education on new products, services and industry best practices are critical to building a strong workforce. This education breeds confidence in associates, especially your newest technicians. When business is rolling and there are many jobs and service requests to complete, finding training resources moves down your priority list. What drain cleaning business owners may not know is that training opportunities are easily accessible and most often free.

Manufacturers offer hands-on training and on-site demonstrations of their products. Skills training is available through local associations, like PHCC. Distributors and supply houses, like Ferguson, offer a combination of the two. Their trained and knowledgeable sales associates offer extensive product knowledge and a deep understanding of the needs of the plumbing business. They also partner with manufacturers to co-host product trainings.

The best way to ensure your team takes advantage of these valuable resources is to hold them accountable. Require a standard onboarding training process for new technicians. To keep all associates up to date, follow up with each to ensure they’re attending new product trainings at least a few times a year. 

2. Mentoring for success

As the older workforce retires, a lot of knowledge and experience leaves with them, widening the information gap within the company. According to the Society of Human Resource Management and Pew Research, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65, the traditional age of retirement, every day during the next two decades. Many organizations are unprepared for the knowledge void that will be left as Boomers leave and less experienced workers take over key roles.

The experienced contractor or technician harbors a wealth of knowledge they can pass on to newer team members. Ease the learning curve and bridge the knowledge gap by creating a mentor program between senior-level and new employees. New associates should also shadow various business positions — like the office manager, accounting — to gain an overall understanding of how their role impacts the entire business.

3. Customer service skills

While core skills such as product knowledge and service/repair techniques are important, customer service is the key skill that leads to repeat business and helps grow your customer base. It also provides new technicians the confidence they need to be more than order-takers. These skills can be taught through a combination of role-playing, mock scenarios and leading by example.

Before going on a job, have an experienced associate role-play with a new technician. They should guide the employee through the entire scope of a service request. Encourage them to pose questions that challenge new associates to consider the possibilities of what could happen once they arrive on the job site.

Take role-playing a step further by creating a mock scenario. Will the customer need to replace the kitchen plumbing instead of simply unclogging it? If so, what product recommendations should the technician offer? Show the trainee how providing expert opinions, sensible recommendations and showcasing courtesy could lead the customer to solutions they may have never considered and increase the company’s reputation.

Make sure new technicians shadow your best employees, who routinely model the correct customer approach. Have these mentors discuss how poor customer service can negatively impact the employee and company credibility.

4. Take timeout for training

Adequate training ensures your employees are well prepared to service a customer in need. Guided peer mentorship imparts real-world experience to new employees and reinforces the knowledge of your more seasoned workforce. A deliberate focus to teach good customer service skills will result in increased opportunities to grow your customer base and profitability. While finding the time to implement training can be difficult, it will save your business money in the long run, foster increased employee satisfaction and can lead to increased profits and productivity.

When a home’s plumbing fails, there is a sense of urgency to repair the issue, and homeowners rely on knowledgeable technicians to quickly get them back up and running. Make your drain cleaning business reputable and reliable by preparing new associates to be knowledgeable and efficient workers. That’s smart business! 

About the author: Steven Hamilton is a corporate trainer for Ferguson Enterprises.


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