When a homeowner or business calls for a plumber, electrician, HVACR, or appliance technician, who is it that actually shows up at their door to provide the service they requested?

Often, a customer isn’t really certain what the answer to the above question is because they’re not completely familiar with the way the service business works. When they do some research and place the call, they may be requesting service from a local independent operator, or they may be calling an area office of a large chain. In either case, the person who shows up may be someone who is considered to be a journeyman in their craft, having been tested and licensed as an individual….or they may not be.

In some states, for example, a service organization can have only one person on staff who holds the required license, and as long as that person’s name appears on the invoice issued to the customer, any other person employed by the company can perform the service. That means that the person who shows up at the door to clean the drain, intall the new air-conditioning system, or repair the dishwasher may actually be the person who has been deemed qualified via whatever licensing process applies, or they may be an employee of the company who does not hold an individual license.

From the consumers perspective, all this means is that they should always remember to ask questions. Ask about how the licensing that a particular company advertises actually applies regarding the technician who is going to show up. And, be educated about the issue of “licensing” and “certification”, and ask questions about that process. Certifications can, in some cases be required, such as EPA certification for a refrigeration technician, or they may be granted via a trade association. Like I said….ask.

A technician who isn’t “licensed” by a state entity such as a registrar of contractors, may in fact be “certified” by a non-government entity. And, having been through a certification process, may be eminently qualified to do the work that needs to be accomplished. Then again, a technician who is “licensed” by a state entity may not, in fact, be as competent as necessary to effectively perform the work.

In some states, not only are service company owners licensed, but each technician requires a license to be allowed to work. And, they may be required to document that they have completed a given number of hours in continuing education every year in order to be allowed to renew that license. And, that’s all well and good….except for the fact that the continuing education process may be, well, pretty much a joke. If a technician is just showing up for an 8-hour class, having picked the simplest thing possible from an approved list, and if the main focus of the entity providing the “training” is revenue, then all that has occurred is that the technician has, as we say, filled-in-a-square, and winds up with a renewed license.

What’s a consumer to do? Ask. Ask for an explanation of how a technician becomes licensed or certified, and ask about the continuing education process that allows them to keep that license or certification. Perhaps your state doesn’t even have a technician licensing program, but the company you are calling has an effective in-house training program and has embraced an industry certification process. Or perhaps the person who actually shows up at the door isn’t licensed or certified at all, but has been “unofficially” trained and has been in the field for many years, knows the particular equipment that needs to be repaired or the situation that needs to be handled ‘upside down, inside out and backwards’, and can do what needs to be done in an efficient and professional manner.

How would you know? Ask.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

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