Monthly Archives: June 2013
I noticed that the subject of how to pay HVACR technicians came up again (likely for about the 1,000th time or so in a recent history) on an Internet thread. It’s always a discussion about the best way to pay technicians for the work they do so they will be fairly compensated, while at the same time allowing for the company to make a profit on their activity. And, of course, the two schools of thought are to either pay an hourly wage or pay them on a commission basis according to the amount of labor they bill, along with some compensation for add-on sales and other revenue-generating activities…often referred to as a “spiff”.
On one hand, some of those who advocate an hourly wage system may decide to follow that path because they’re concerned that technicians might wind up selling customers something they don’t need, replacing more parts than necessary during a repair, or selling them something in regard to add-on products or services that they’ll later regret buying, all in the interest of nothing more than a bigger paycheck or bonus. In other words, out-and-out greed; customer service and ethics be damned.
Those on the other side of the compensation fence advocate a commission system that pays a technician a certain percentage of the labor they bill on a given service call, along with other possibilities for earning more income from the sales of products and services the company offers. Of course, one element of a commission-only system is that if a technician only completes and bills a couple of service calls on a given day rather than the five or six that would be considered the norm, it means a lower-than-desired income for that day. Also, if a technician has to go back because something isn’t right (or is perceived to be wrong even if everything is OK) and there is no billing for that activity, then the technician receives no income from that re-call.
So, from a company perspective, a commission-based compensation system seems to have its advantages when it comes to minimizing labor expenses and maximizing profit. And, from a technician’s perspective an other than hourly wage system could come with some risk if things are slow, or if they miss something, or if a customer is being difficult, or if a part fails within a warranty period and no labor is billed.
And, of course, also from a company perspective, an hourly wage system presents some challenges. One of those being the technician’s perception that the company is billing a whopping amount of dough on every service call while paying what appears to be a comparatively tiny hourly wage to the person who is doing the work. This leads some technicians to think, “Well, heck, why am I working my butt off to make somebody else rich when I can just go on my own and make more money by noon than I do in a whole day now”, and, sometimes, they actually follow through with the idea….(they may have no idea about the actual reality of things, but that’s a subject for another day)…., quit their job, and wind up being, on some level, competition for the company that used to employ them.
From a technician’s perspective, the hourly wage system offers a sense of security. It’s pretty much a given that they’ll be taking home a guaranteed amount of money unless their work situation is drastically affected by things beyond their control. But, once they feel secure, a technician sometimes, as I mentioned above, winds up thinking about what they perceive as a disparity between what they’re being paid and what their employer is collecting from a customer. All of which leads them either to ‘going out on their own’ or pretty much constantly on the hunt for a wage increase, which has a lot of effect on them and their workplace.
My, my, my…lot’s of things to consider here. And, like everyone else, I’ve got my opinions (not always popular with technicians or employers) on the subject, and I’ll be sharing them in upcoming segments here. In the meantime, if you have an opinion on the subject, feel free to express your thoughts either by using the reply form you find on this page or getting in touch with me directly at my email.
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From what I can gather, it seems as though many residential HVACR service technicians and service companies are of the opinion that there’s not a lot of opportunity when it comes to offering blower door testing to customers. I disagree.
The number of homeowners who are interested in having their HVAC system and their home evaluated to make sure they’re not wasting energy (money) is growing steadily, and technicians who understand the fundamentals of testing a building envelope for tightness can explain the benefits of blower door testing to their customers while they are there either on a service call to solve a problem, or if they are there for a regularly scheduled preventive maintenance check.
I’m not saying that a technician will be able to sell….there I go, I said the four-letter word, but it’s a reality that shouldn’t be looked upon as a negative….a building evaluation on every service call. After all, in some cases, the customer can barely afford the service call, labor and parts cost of, say, replacing a failed condenser fan motor. But, in some cases, the customer has the resources, and they are willing to entertain the idea of a blower door test if they understand the benefits of it.
They key to this is to first educate the technician on the fundamentals of the procedure, and the second step is to put together a simplified information sheet that explains the process of blower door testing to the customer. In the simplified graphic below in Figure One, the concept of a building envelope is illustrated.
With this simple illustration, a technician can show and explain to a customer that cracks and problems regarding their building envelope can allow unwanted air into the conditioned space from either the outside or through unheated areas adjacent to the conditioned space. In our illustration here, the bold line shows the building envelope and its possible exposure to both outside air directly, or through the unheated attic space.
This just makes simple sense to me. If the outdoor ambient temperature is somewhere in the 90s and the humidity level is 70 or 80 percent, having even a small percentage of that outdoor air being drawn into the building in an uncontrolled manner through cracks and past whatever insulation, tar paper, etc… that are elements of the building’s construction materials, will have a negative effect on both the performance of the system from an unnecessary heat load perspective as well as the indoor air quality in the conditioned space.
And, another element of that simplified information sheet can show what blower door test equipment looks like. (See Figure Two below.
As this illustration (equipment manufactured by Retrotec) shows, the technician can explain to the customer that the testing process involves positioning a blower assembly in a doorway, then using an electronic device that is capable of accomplishing very precise measurements in order to evaluate the tightness of the building envelope and identify potential problems that need to be solved in order to make sure that the HVAC system is operating as efficiently as possible.
Learn From Yesterday….Live For Today…. Look Forward To Tomorrow