Selling service

Feature Story

Training is the key to success for any Service Department

By Pete Cullen

Having spent a significant portion of my career developing and conducting training seminars, I often get asked one very important question: Why is training important for the oilheat industry, and as a business owner, why should I invest in training? Having grown up as the third generation in a family oil business, I can fully understand why a company owner would want a significant answer to this question in order to justify his or her investment.

A former boss of mine summed it up best. He would always tell me that if I make a decision based on anything other than what is in the best interests of our customer, I probably just made a bad decision. It all comes down to the CUSTOMER! Remember, the oilheat industry prides itself not on selling oil, but on selling service!

Let’s take a look at the actual costs of sending a technician to a one-day training seminar:

Cost of seminar: $150
Cost of lost billable hours: $640
Cost of company vehicle for one day: $150
Total: $940

For the sake of argument, let’s round this number up to $1,000. Now, let’s think about the cost of replacing a customer lost to poor service. The cost of replacing a customer can be several times higher than that $1,000.

One of the major factors that makes training so critical for oilheat technicians has to do with the diversity of skills needed to be a successful technician. The duties of an oilheat technician encompass little pieces of almost every other trade on Earth. The oilheat tech must be part plumber, part sheet-metal mechanic, part electrician, part mason and part psychologist to deal with demanding customers. In addition to these skills, the oilheat tech is the only one of these trades where technicians routinely, not just occasionally, leave a warm house to go to a cold house 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Continuous training is the only way to keep up on the latest technologies needed to stay on top of your game.

With the establishment of NORA, the oilheat industry is poised to be more successful than ever before. The marketing and advertising of the benefits of oilheat have been taken to all-time high levels. Research and development projects have been funded at the highest level of all time. But perhaps the biggest opportunity NORA provides is the opportunity to provide training programs that will benefit every technician in our industry. Getting your service technicians NORA-certified and following up with continuing education on an ongoing basis is the best way to keep your technicians at their sharpest.

There are many reasons why training is a key to the success of your service department, but here is my ‘Top Ten List:”

10. You keep up on the latest technologies.
9. You get input from other technicians who may have
common problems.
8. You have the chance to learn from some of the best and brightest in the industry.
7. Keeping up on the latest technologies gives you a leg up on the competition.
6. You get the chance to exercise your mind. Always a good thing!
5. NORA-approved training ensures the quality of the seminar.
4. The technician you send is the company in the eyes of your customer. The customer is putting their trust in you and they deserve the best.
3. You will expand you network within the industry and gain valuable recourses.
2. Your CUSTOMER deserves the BEST.
1. The only thing worse than training a technician and having them leave is NOT training them and having them STAY!!

Put yourself in your customer’s position. Remember, nobody wants to wake up with no heat or hot water. The customer who wakes up to a cold house is already having a bad day. At this point our customer is looking for heat and hot water in the quickest possible fashion. They put their trust in you to send a professional, skilled technician to their home and solve their problem. When you take the time to view this through your customer’s eyes it makes it a no-brainer to appreciate the importance of providing as much training as possible for your technicians.

Pete Cullen is the vice president of sales and marketing for Wohler USA. and ‘The Dean” of The Wohler Institute of Technology. He is also the chairman of the NORA Education sub-committee on Technician Certification. He can be reached at (978) 750-9876 or

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