Skills Gap or Lack of Accountability?

Dave Borowski
Contributing Writer
Direct Energy/Success Academy

You’re living it…  Call back after call back, lost revenue, lost opportunities and eventually lost customers.

Before you start down the road of blaming the HVAC manufactures for equipment that just won’t hold up, you’d better look at the facts below. Are you a victim of “failed” parts or of “failed technicians”?

Are you ready for some tough love?

In a recent study (*1) made of OEM warranty parts evaluation, the following was delivered and was determined to have NO FAULT FOUND:

• 82.1% of residential parts

• 67.9% of light commercial parts

• 28.6% of industrial parts

• 10.7% of chiller parts

• 30% of compressors

• 40% to 50% of motors

• 32.7% commercial controls

What caused these high numbers of No faults? Was it skills or was it poor failure analysis?  Major issues include:

• Recommended indoor temperature and humidity
• Refrigeration cycle (Pressures, Refrigerant State, & Temperatures)
• Metering device installation, operation, and troubleshooting
• Airflow and static pressure
• How circuits operate wired in series and parallel
• Fractional horse power compressor starting devices
• Understanding schematic wiring diagrams
Some of the observations made may have some validity, but we would have to agree there are considerable variables in play.

First and foremost, assuming these stats of non-failed parts are accurate, and experienced techs would lean towards trusting the data – it would appear a fail of the technical training system; pass core technology assessments or no certificate of completion.   However – more importantly there is NO correlation to trained technicians vs. non- trained and the parts returned dilemma – these stats represent ALL parts from all industry persons officially trained or not.

Informed persons would have to weigh-in that one of the biggest influences is driven by the business model we have defaulted to. The impact of on-line sales, DIY YouTube infomercials and despicable decline of reputable wholesale outlets selling for cash to non-licensed home owners, moon lighting techs and want-to-be tradesmen has been a corrosive environment.  Ironically, adding to this dilemma; the remarkable ability for products to perform under the worst of installed applications has resulted (overall) in service providers having to extract every dollar they can just to offset substantial overhead where they possess little to no building science skills – most contractors are BOX CHANGERS.

Second, there is some speculation that even parts markup should be waived in lieu of service providers charging fees comparable to attorneys’ hourly rates for what they know.  Education certainly goes a long way in improving services delivered and consumer experiences (call backs etc.) and most would concur our educators have a full plate instilling core disciplines required to navigate a myriad of vintage products to new high-tech systems.

Third, it’s clear the biggest deficit we must navigate is entrenched in reduced work ethic and the decline of character of your field and management staff.   This along with a persistent lack of accountability, drugs, and implosion of family values is certainly enough stand alone to decimate any industry.

While no one would profess to have all the answers, putting societies problems on the backs of underpaid elementary teachers (where core disciplines are matured) is just lame.  Invoking better parenting – is quite frankly that’s where it starts… way ahead of technical schools.

Now – rather than just making quips and abstract venting, I want to offer a solution or at least a pathway to a solution.  Talk is cheap, if you’re committed to change follow this directive:

Be home for your own family – keep their needs 1st
Provide and expect continuing education – things won’t get better wishing for it.
Be a role model – in your behaviors and actions as an owner, manager or employee – this includes honesty even when it’s uncomfortable.
Hire for CHARACTER – it can be done.  Skills can be taught
Engage NPS (net promoter score) – find out what your customers are really saying
Apply the 4-way test in every decision you make.  Is it the truth?   Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it be beneficial to all parties?   Will it build goodwill & better relationships?
Raise the bar.   Don’t engage in Silent Consent, this means making adult decisions, nothing “slides”
Be engaged.  Volunteer at public schools, all levels.  Sponsor a small group of high school students for technical training – make them job ready
Be a mentor.  Boys Clubs, Boy Scouts, Youth Sports, Big Brothers – Big Sisters etc.  There is no shortage of organizations in need
Now, how is that for some tough love?

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