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The Future of Appliance Repair: a Profession or an "Idiocracy"?

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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We have a lot of moving parts at play in the appliance repair industry today. Over the past couple of decades, appliance technology has become much more complicated, yet technician troubleshooting skills have eroded. This creates some uncertainty about the direction our industry is going. 

Are we going to be a profession, filled with well-paid, highly-skilled technicians at the top of their game, or a semi-skilled trade, filled with low-paid parts changers who are essentially just the eyes and hands carrying out the directions of tech-line personnel? Will both of these types of techs coexist, or will one go extinct?

We’ve worked with thousands of techs and scores of business owners online over the years, most of whom take training and their profession seriously. We meet lots of folks like that at events such as ASTI. It makes us feel that the transition from trade to profession is here, and here to stay. 

A big wake-up call for the Samurai

Recently, however, I had an abrupt reminder that there are still many who are not on board with that vision and are also influencing the direction of our industry. 

I was doing ride-alongs with techs at a large service company to assess the effectiveness of our online training at The Master Samurai Tech Academy. I was surprised and dismayed to see that the techs weren’t using many of the techniques that we emphasize in our training, such as coming to a job prepared with tech documents, doing a simple load analysis using the schematic, and performing electrical measurements from easy-access locations to definitively identify the component failure. In fact, they seemed to have forgotten even how to do many of these things. 

What the heck? Where did I go wrong?

It all became clear to me when I had a chance to go over the day’s calls with a service manager for the company. When I described the troubleshooting methods we used on a dryer call, he declared that we had gone "full retard" (a phrase from the movie Tropic Thunder) for actually looking at the schematic, doing a few amp readings and one simple Ohm’s Law calculation.

I was speechless. This is the guy who is supervising the techs who were paid to go through Master Samurai Tech training. However, it explained what I had seen that day. Although one of the senior managers at this company saw the value of using the MST Academy training for their techs, the other managers were not on board. Many of the skills taught at the Academy were not just ignored or discouraged, they were outright ridiculed. So of course the techs basically became parts-changers who simply carried out instructions from their manager or tech line.

At that point, another movie came to mind, Idiocracy, which imagines the dismal result of several hundred years of cultural anti-intellectualism.

I’m used to encountering techs who are a bit defensive about their lack of troubleshooting skills, but when even service managers mistake pattern recognition, parts changing, and a collection of factoids for real troubleshooting or, worse yet, have become hostile to it, then idiocracy is gaining a foothold in the appliance repair trade.

Attitudes: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Over the past decades, the technical skill level among many appliance techs has degenerated to such a low level that they don't even know what cause-and-effect troubleshooting is anymore. Since service managers are now being promoted from this group of techs, this attitude has become firmly entrenched in some organizations.

In all my dealings with techs over the past 20 years, I have come to realize how phenomenally important attitude is. And I’ve seen it all. Some techs love to keep learning and sharpening their skills, no matter how many years they’ve been doing it, and enjoy the pride of accomplishment and the profits that come along with it. Then there are others who have worked long enough to have some know-how based purely on pattern recognition (“if this problem on that model change this part”) and resist the notion that their job performance and income would benefit even further if they learned real troubleshooting skills. The causes of this attitude include ignorance, arrogance, and laziness. Ignorance is curable through outreach and training. Arrogance and laziness are difficult and dangerous qualities in a tech, but even worse in someone who is in a leadership role.

What's the risk to the industry if too many techs go down the road of idiocracy? Doesn’t that just give an opening for more success by those companies that behave like professionals?

Not necessarily. The expression "a rising tide lifts all boats" works in the opposite direction as well. The experiences our customers have with “parts changers” can negatively impact their future interactions with other service companies. They will often be more suspicious and price sensitive.

Furthermore, appliance manufacturers are seeing this problem in the appliance repair industry today, too. They realize there is uneven, often inadequate technical expertise in the trade. As a result, they are adapting to this general dumbing down in troubleshooting skills by dumbing down their training programs to essentially spoonfeeding what's already in the service manuals, knowing that most techs don't RTFM. They're also developing new technologies to decrease reliance on field techs to troubleshoot and solve problems. 

Here's what the future could hold:
- Wifi-enabled appliances will report errors and diagnostics directly to the manufacturer's central technical staff who are specialists in that product. 
- Corporate techs can then run diagnostics and do most troubleshooting remotely. 
- The service company is then dispatched to simply replace a part- no troubleshooting required. 

If this comes to fruition, the end result will be a decrease in skill level expectation from technicians. And since higher pay accompanies and incentivizes the acquisition of specialized skills, there will be a concomitant reduction in "technician" pay and skill level. Service managers will be be reduced to route makers and time card checkers with a corresponding reduction in their skill level expectation and pay. 

All is not lost on this front. I speak with enough manufacturers to know that they would still like a better trained corps of appliance techs out there who can keep our mutual customers more satisfied. They haven’t given up on us yet!

Take a look at yourself! Have you looked at yourself? 

I’m sure most of you reading this don’t come anywhere near being the kind of person who would call technical troubleshooting going "full retard." But, we would all benefit by stepping back and taking an honest look at our attitudes and expectations to see what part we are playing in raising our trade to a profession, and identify (and remedy) any weak links in our organizations.

After all, if you’ve invested in training the techs in your company, it’s a waste of money if you aren’t implementing and nurturing the skills and practices that the techs learned in that training.

Here’s what I still see too often when I go on ride-alongs with techs. Do you recognize any of these traits in your own service calls?

1. The tech arrives at the service call with no technical literature (service manual, tech sheet, bulletins) pre-loaded on his tablet or notebook computer. A manager may have pre-screened the calls and had probable parts pre-loaded on the service tech's vehicle, but the tech himself/herself is walking into the call completely cold.

2. If the call is anything other than a simple mechanical problem or parts replacement, the tech calls either his service manager or the manufacturer tech line. 

3. Either way, the tech is spoon fed information to complete the diagnosis or repair; he is merely following detailed instructions but not doing the troubleshooting himself. From the tech's standpoint, this is only adding to his internal database of pattern recognition and factoids.

4. Neither the service manager nor the tech line guy has the time, patience, or skill to use this experience as a teaching moment and coach the tech through a troubleshooting thought process by asking leading questions. Examples:
    - what is your load of interest on the schematic?
    - what other components have you identified in the circuit for that load?
    - where does the schematic indicate that you would test the power supply for that load?

5. The appliance may get repaired as a result of the spoon feeding but the tech never grows in his ability to perform independent troubleshooting analysis-- he has simply added another pattern to his repertoire for recall on another job with the same problem. Reliance on outside counsel such as service manager and manufacturer tech line, which should be a rare event for a skilled tech, is perpetuated. Job security for the service manager and tech line guy is assured, but no skill growth for the service tech takes place. 

The foregoing is a typical pattern of degraded tech performance that is accepted as the "new normal" by far too many service companies. The problem is compounded when the service company middle management-- the service managers-- not only accept this degraded performance, but defend it. 

Pattern recognition and a head full of factoids do have their place in appliance repair. In fact, these form the basis of experience in older technicians, allowing for quick diagnosis and repair of commonly-occurring problems with known solutions. But these experiential skills should not be mistaken as classical troubleshooting and are insufficient for service calls with problems that don't fit the pattern or are "off the flow chart." 

The rewards of professionalism

Techs who take the time to hone their craft with training, continuing education, and pre-diagnostic work are true professionals. Being prepared and able to competently troubleshoot any type of appliance and failure scenario is where the big payoffs happen in terms of reputation and profit. First Call Completes are maximized, callbacks are minimized, and cheerleader customers are forged. That’s what a professional business looks like.

Is it too late to turn back the tide of idiocracy in the appliance repair trade? We at Master Samurai Tech firmly believe it is not too late and we have developed affordable, time-flexible training solutions to aid our brethren in the Craft. These skills are eminently learnable by anyone who desires to do so, and we’ve seen countless examples of techs and owners who have reaped the rewards of rising to the challenge.

Join us, and help avert the future portrayed here:

In a recent webinar, I offered a mental framework for executing classical troubleshooting strategies during service calls. Professional Appliantologist members and Master Samurai Tech Academy students may watch the 1-hour webinar recording here:

 




29 Comments




Scott, thank you for this article. We have suffered at time from exactly what you're describing, and I recognize some of the faults causing them in your article. I've definitely been guilty of using techs eyes and hands, without involving them in the troubleshooting, which doesn't help them to improve. Great food for thought.

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Hi Todd - glad you liked it. I am often so immersed in working with techs and owners who "get it" (which is great), then something like this happens that reminds me there's still a struggle.

While helping Scott pull this article together, I was reminded of when our kids were growing up, how often I would think that I needed to take the time to teach them how to do things around the house so they could be helpful and learn important life skills, but it was SO much easier and faster to do myself. Busy managers/owners have the same challenge!

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Thanks, Todd. But I have to say, based on what I know about how involved you are with your tech's training, that you are the ideological polar opposite of the "full retard" guy mentioned in the post.

We could all do better at managing and training people but, ultimately, the responsibility for learning and mastering the skills lies with each individual tech. Techs need to get out of the "hourly worker" or "clock puncher" mentality and take ownership of these skills. They can do this by spending several meager hours each month of their personal time acquiring new skills, reading service manuals, studying text books, attending webinars here at Appliantology, and even answering questions from their fellow techs here in the forums. These continuing education efforts are what distinguish a professional from a "clock watcher" and they stand to directly benefit. The challenge is in helping some techs to realize that it is in their personal best interest to see themselves as professionals. It's that "vision thing." 

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Scott,

I read you article with great interest and when you talked about your ride along, it brought me back to a time when I was teaching at our local technical school. My class was set up to "teach"  pneumatics  and fluid power to the local factory workers. Towards the end of the semester, I was distressed to see how poorly some of the students performed. I really took it hard as this was the first time I was in a teaching position instead of student. I took the time to sit down with a couple of the students and was surprised by their answers. It seemed that the only reason they were in the class was the fact that if they attended, they were paid for their time. There was no follow up on their performance in the class, just attendance records. As long as they showed up they were paid, so they really had no reason to apply themselves to succeed. Maybe, that is in play here. Just a thought.

I did notice that you changed your format on your classes to being stopped when the student could not pass certain levels, and required an intervention from you to proceed. I thought that it was a great idea, because it made them really think about the problem and master it before proceeding. How else can one master a problem?  

I would be curious as to whether you have seen better results from people who actually pay for your classes vs the employer paid students.

I have personally told a number of people about your classes and your school is right at the top as far as I am concerned, if techs really want to advance their knowledge of this field.

Thanks for listening.

Don

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Good article, was that an A&E factory service you were doing a tech ride with? Oh I forgot A&E  does not believe in training other than sending you to a school in Chicago to learn how to sell sears extended warranties. Maybe that manger had a sears background. A sears district manger once said that our training, is when we call sears tech support for help.

 This is one of the reasons why I decided to start my own business, so I can get good training and develop my tech skills when it comes to trouble shooting. I used to love doing R&D  and repairing the old CRT TV's. Now days TV repair(what little is left) is mostly board replacement. At least for now appliance repair is challenging

. Keep up the good work.

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1 hour ago, drt1200 said:

Scott,

I read you article with great interest and when you talked about your ride along, it brought me back to a time when I was teaching at our local technical school. My class was set up to "teach"  pneumatics  and fluid power to the local factory workers. Towards the end of the semester, I was distressed to see how poorly some of the students performed. I really took it hard as this was the first time I was in a teaching position instead of student. I took the time to sit down with a couple of the students and was surprised by their answers. It seemed that the only reason they were in the class was the fact that if they attended, they were paid for their time. There was no follow up on their performance in the class, just attendance records. As long as they showed up they were paid, so they really had no reason to apply themselves to succeed. Maybe, that is in play here. Just a thought.

I did notice that you changed your format on your classes to being stopped when the student could not pass certain levels, and required an intervention from you to proceed. I thought that it was a great idea, because it made them really think about the problem and master it before proceeding. How else can one master a problem?  

I would be curious as to whether you have seen better results from people who actually pay for your classes vs the employer paid students.

I have personally told a number of people about your classes and your school is right at the top as far as I am concerned, if techs really want to advance their knowledge of this field.

Thanks for listening.

Don

Don,

That's *precisely* the problem.

I have attended many training seminars (mostly manufacturer-specific)

In some cases---a test is req'd at the end of the seminar---BUT---the answers are provided *before* the test paper is turned in. WTF? 

Why have a test at all???

In most of these seminars---about 10% of the attendees are genuinely attentive/ask questions etc.

The rest are snoozing or texting.

Very common to see groups from a large service company---with no real interest. Just a mandatory training event (paid day off).

The USA event that I attended last week was different in that---about half the techs were self-employed or very small business owners. Since they *paid* to attend---there was a noticeable level of interest in the group than would be the case in a free manufacturer seminar.

I was impressed with James Dolbeare (USA president) and his vision (very identical to Scott's on this forum) to promote a higher level of professionalism to our trade. I made a point to tell him just that.

The techs that attended seemed to be a class above as well. Very approachable as a whole and most enjoyed chatting with others during breaks. A good experience overall. 

The technical training was the same (and very good as usual).

 

 

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

11 hours ago, drt1200 said:

I would be curious as to whether you have seen better results from people who actually pay for your classes vs the employer paid students.

We see far better results from students who pay their own tuition, whether they're owner-operators or employees paying their own way. Makes sense-- they have skin in the game and want to get their money's worth. 

Too often, the problem we see with employee students is that the employer "drops them off" to get trained, like dropping a kid off at school. The employee is doing as little as possible to get through the training "just 'cuz the boss says so." The employer has taken a hands-off approach, forgetting that they still need to be the manager and hold them accountable. No training system can be effective under these conditions. If a student doesn't want to learn then they won't, no matter what. 

We want to teach people who want to learn. We are not in the business of running a tech day care. If a student does not desire to learn these skills and isn't willing to put in the work, they're better off not enrolling. They would also do well to re-assess their career aspirations, look into a less mentally-demanding line of work, like delivering building supplies, or drive for Uber. An employer should honestly assess his employee's willingness and desire to learn the art and science of appliance repair (what I call "Appliantology") and make a decision if he's a good candidate for training (or even remaining employed as a technician).

I can tell you that anyone who wants to learn Appliantology WILL learn it at Master Samurai Tech. We've successfully trained hundreds of students with widely varying levels of learning ability (or disability). Dyslexia, mathematical illiteracy, slow to assimilate new information... none of that matters because we work with each student as much as it takes to make sure they get it. The key ingredient is desire. If we see a student is working hard to understand the concepts, we do whatever it takes to help them. In fact, this was a big reason I started offering the live Office Hours webinars in the first place- to offer live, real-time additional instruction on concepts that students were struggling with. The very name "Office Hours" comes from a school setting where students could drop by the instructor's office and ask questions. 

 

11 hours ago, drt1200 said:

I have personally told a number of people about your classes and your school is right at the top as far as I am concerned, if techs really want to advance their knowledge of this field

Thank you, Don. I really appreciate that! :)

 

11 hours ago, rbmappltech said:

Maybe that manger had a sears background.

An eerily keen insight, Richard! As a matter of fact, he did (though the company I was doing ride-alongs with was not A&E). 

 

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1 hour ago, Samurai Appliance Repair Man said:

We see far better results from students who pay their own tuition, whether they're owner-operators or employees paying their own way. Makes sense-- they have skin in the game and want to get their money's worth. 

That's true, but I do want to say that we also get a regular stream of employees who come with really positive attitudes and self-motivation. They aren't the majority, but they aren't a tiny minority, either. I wish we knew the factors that go into whether or not someone has that attitude. If we could clone or create that in people, we'd be making the big bucks! 

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Properly learning to trouble shoot and repair is NOT easy. It's a skill most can never master completely. It takes someone self motivated and highly driven with the want to. Someone smart and someone hungry. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

This appliance repair industry as a whole is in trouble. I saw it coming years ago. As far as I'm concerned the manufactures are to blame. They demanded charity work in their behalf. None of them had the guts to hold the line on quality and price. To make matters worse things have become more complicated and some choose to withhold information necessary to trouble shoot. Parts are priced to high, the machines are priced to low. 

Where she goes no one knows.

Quick

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I shared your less than optimistic view of our trade, Quick.

Until I attended the USA seminar recently.

Yes---the manufacturers seem to have a subtle contempt for us servicers.

The warranty pay schedule certainly reflects that.

The only reason training is offered for authorized servicers---is to fulfill their warranty obligations.

Corporate types would eliminate this expense entirely---if it were possible to do so. Not saying that they will---because as long as warranties are provided on appliances---it's unlikely.

Most of my training has been through manufacturer seminars---although the old Wagner Appliance Parts distributor (now Marcone) had several local training sessions that I attended.

My experience with the USA sponsored training was a new one.

United Servicers Association is anon-profit/ S corporation *trade organization* .

Non authorized servicers (and rookies) can get the same level of brand-specific training as ACSs 

The main difference---is that virtually no literature or flash drives are given out.  You'll be taking a lot of notes (many attendees used their phone/cameras to save important technical information shown by projector.

Some manufacturers (like Dacor) will go further by offering literature as well as access to technical help for the non-ASC by providing phone numbers and/or other contact information (priceless).

Much time was dedicated by USA discussing the Cost Of Doing Business formula (CODB)---which I really found informative.

My advice to techs starting their careers  would be this...

1) Learn from Scott on this forum---diagnostic/troubleshooting methods and strategies (enroll NOW!)

2) Join the USA---it's there to promote all of us. Through this organization you'll get practically all the manufacturer-specific training that could be hoped for. 

3) Learn and adopt the CODB formula to stay alive in the industry (become better situated to be profitable)

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

On 11/1/2016 at 10:58 AM, Quick said:

Properly learning to trouble shoot and repair is NOT easy.

No it's not, but neither is anything else that's worth doing. 

On 11/1/2016 at 10:58 AM, Quick said:

It's a skill most can never master completely. 

Anyone who wants to can learn these skills. However, it takes years of applying them in different situations to master them. That means two things: time and tenacity. This is where most people fall short. 

Being a master at something doesn't mean that you know all there is to know or that you have arrived at the end of all knowledge on a subject. That's called arrogance, not mastery. 

A true master never stops learning and honing his craft; he stays open to learning new things about it, even going out of his way to seek it out. Many of you here, such as Brothers @Quick@john63, @drt1200, @beyonddoubt, @rbmappltech, and many others, are great examples of this: you've been doing the Great Work for a long time and yet you're still learning and seeking out ways to hone your craft. That is the humility of masters in action.

 

On 11/1/2016 at 10:58 AM, Quick said:

As far as I'm concerned the manufactures are to blame.

Brethren, I submit to you that it's time we, as a profession, grow up and stop complaining about the manufacturers. Let's, instead, start taking responsibility for our own short comings. By doing this, we empower ourselves, advancing our own businesses along with the appliance repair industry as a whole. 

Here's a reality check: Manufacturers build stuff people will buy. Period. People value the product a manufacturer builds more than the federal reserve note digits in their bank accounts and, behold, a transaction in the free market is born!

Well, mostly free if you don't count the Energy Star BS and all the other consumer regulations. 

Also, manufacturers have no obligation to train us on how to fix their stuff. Even the product technical information they do provide, like service manuals and schematics, are a gift. Yes, a GIFT. My momma taught me that the polite response when I received a gift was to say "thank you."  Later, in the Navy, that was modified to "Thank you, sir, may I have another!"... but I digress...

Manufacturers have no obligation to teach us modern technical skills, either. Nor does it make financial sense for them to do so. We're supposed to bring those skills to the table if we call ourselves "technicians."  If we don't bring these skills, then let's quit all the bullshit, call ourselves "parts changers," accept the minimum wage pay that comes along with that and be done with it. 

Can I hear an "Amen"?

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21 minutes ago, Samurai Appliance Repair Man said:

People value the product a manufacturer builds more than the federal reserve note digits in their bank accounts and, behold, a transaction in the free market is born!

I don't hear to many claiming "value" on appliances much anymore. I watched the price war start with GE. Competitors had to get on down there with them. 300 dollar washers and 200 dollar dryers??? I seen it. I watched it happen. You right I should not blame them. It is indeed about the free market and what that free market is willing to give for something. 

Fingers crossed Trump wins. That's services best bet.

Quick

 

 

 

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Amen (mostly) :)

There are some issues that are perfectly legitimate to discuss regarding manufacturers.

 

 

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Service has it's challenges at the mercy of the manufacture. But you know what? I just offered my 11 year old an option of appliance repair for his life. Pa Pa would be happy to see him and teach him appliance repair. Start with basic electricity right here. Pa Pa would be happy to share with him what I have learned about the appliance repair business. What I have learned right here. I tell you what Scott I got to give it to you. You did good with those courses. Samurai Tech Academy. Nothing like it on the web that I've found. I'll say it strait up. Your course's are of "value" big value if anyone is wanting to break in this business or just sharpen up.

Long live the Samurai Tech Association. Can I say something like that? L.O.L.

Quick

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(Some days I feel like a PCM, sure, when I have done everything I know to do, and the dang machine still won't work!)

I know, in my case, my manager is largely uninterested in teaching me anything. The way it was explained to me, he's taught other people in the past, and then they've left to start their own shop/truck. And since he is unwilling (or unable, we do a LOT of warranty work) to pay a wage commensurate with the technical work this industry requires, the best techs would have little incentive to work for him. So, in his experience, investing in his techs leads to people leaving. 

 

 

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That's a sad but true scenario that is played out all the time. Invest in yourself. Take the courses here. What you get for the money makes it cheap. I know what I'm talking about. I took them.

Quick 

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Fjwelch77

Posted (edited)

First of all Scott, thank you for truly giving a damn when way too many others don't.  Its appreciated more than you will know. I'm thankful for your knowledge and willingness and desire to propagate that knowledge to others who understand it's true value and opportunity.

With respect to whether the industry will evolve (or devolve, depending on how you look at it) into an environment where an incredibly smart appliance can quickly churn out an error code for the benefit of either the owner or a "parts changer" performing their own fast replacement.  I'm actually quite optimistic. Assuming that its likely that lots of us will be replaced by smart appliances throwing off error codes I think actually runs counter to all historical evidence.

While on the surface it would seem that sites like Repair Clinic, You Tube, etc will reduce the demand for professional service technicians as consumer's can be directed into successful self-help, the reality is that all things grow increasing complicated and complex over time, and never less so. This has been true since we humans left our first cave and discovered fire (now we mess around with lasers, induction cooktops and heat seeking missiles).  In other words, as systems become more complex, they require more energy in themselves to maintain order ( or reduce entropy), and according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, "information" is interchangeable with "energy."

Therefore, in reality it'll become increasing harder for the average person (and average technician) to be able to successfully help themselves without the assistance of very knowledgeable & skilled technicians. I can just look at my own life and every year everything in it increases in complexity and always has.

But as a practical matter and a corollary to my above point is that consumers themselves and their possessions become increasing complex and expensive, year after year. Its been the undeniable truth that peoples standards of living, as well as their standards of expectations, rise continually and there is no reason to presume this trend will reverse its long and one directional trajectory.

Here in Houston for example, its a very common thing to see $2,500 - $3,500 Samsung, Kenmore, LG, etc refrigerators in homes that are not even middle class. In fact, an awful lot of very common people have complicated and expensive appliances stuffed all over the place that 10 - 15 years ago would have been in the sole possession of only the minority of people in the high upper income class. And every year, their expectations increase right along with the price tag and complexity of these new "must have" appliances. (And this is not to mention now you have Samsung and LG's market dominance only adding more fuel to this fire.)  Heck, my sisters three kids all have their own iPhones because all their kids friends have them and they don't want them to feel left behind. I got my first smart phone only about six-seven years ago and I own a business and was in my mid-forties! Just project that trend line forward for a moment and you can only imagine where it will be in only a few years down the road.

What I'm saying is that as this undeniable and unhalting technological & consumer progression moves forward, experienced and well-trained appliance repair technicians will be in even more demand than they are now, not less so. And as these appliances march inexorably towards more complexity and expense, consumers won't have the ability to repair most of these themselves. Ultimately that's good news for the conscientious practitioners who add more information (knowledge and training) into their "system", that is to say into themselves, their skill set and their career.

Keep the faith and keep up the excellent work Sensei!

-Francis Welch

http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns

(p.s. And no I wasn't drinking while I wrote all this...)

 

Edited by Fjwelch77

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Thanks for your comments, Francis. 

8 hours ago, Fjwelch77 said:

Assuming that its likely that lots of us will be replaced by smart appliances throwing off error codes I think actually runs counter to all historical evidence.

This is already a possibility with wifi-enabled appliances. The Internet is the historical new kid on the block and has been a big game changer. Tomorrow's history is being made today. So looking backwards and saying that it's never been done in history is just not seeing where things are heading. Using your analogy and going back 20 years ago, people would have said "assuming that appliances will ever communicate directly to the manufacturer runs counter to all historical evidence." And it surely would have... 20 years ago. But it's a reality today. 

Having said all that, I don't want to overstate my case. I am not claiming unequivocally that field techs will be cut out of the troubleshooting game. I am saying that the technology exists today to do so. And unless we up our game, the manufacturers have increasing motive to go the way I described. Quoting myself from the post:

Quote

Here's what the future could hold:
- Wifi-enabled appliances will report errors and diagnostics directly to the manufacturer's central technical staff who are specialists in that product. 
- Corporate techs can then run diagnostics and do most troubleshooting remotely. 
- The service company is then dispatched to simply replace a part- no troubleshooting required.

(emphasis added)

I don't see a future where field techs will be replaced. Someone still needs to change the part. But I do see where field techs may not be relied on for troubleshooting and reduced to mere parts changers. 

 

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Lorainfurniture

Posted

This is an interesting post that got me thinking: 

 I notice that appliances are getting more basic, in a complicated type of way.   Think about an old Lady kenmore belt drive washer from the 70's.  All sorts of pulleys, solenoids, wig wags, rods, etc.  This washer was mechanically complex, but with a 1 speed, one direction motor (I'm sure there were a few 2 speeds), it was electrically pretty basic. 

Then we moved to the direct drive washer, which had a very modular power train, 100x more simple than its previous incarnation.  With the reversing 2 speed motor, the washer could do more, with less mechanicals.  The electrics grew more complicated. 

Now we have the VMW washer, that has a motor,capacitor, gearbox, actuator, water pump, inlet valve, and a control board. Thats it.  Its infinitely more basic than washers of the 80's. 

WHY?

1. Its cheaper to make.  People want cheap. Its not the manufacture's fault, its the consumer.  How many of you have Speed Queen washers? How about Sub zero?  Money talks. 

2. The 1 Year warranty is an obligation the manufacture is REQUIRED BY LAW to provide.  Im 100% positive if they could circumvent it in any way they would.   Technicians are getting more stupid by the day, and they have to fix the damned thing.  So now what? 

I see the day coming very soon where a washer will have 4 parts.  A controller assembly, (the brain) a mechanical assembly, (the wash/spin part), an inlet valve, and a water pump.   The Cabrio washer (the floating tub version) came pretty close.   

Im sure it will be a bit more, but not by much.  Maybe 10 parts total.  Why? Because a PCM doing warranty work now has a LEGIT 1 in 10 chance of fixing that washer.  This makes satisfying the warranty a lot less of a headache for the manufacture.  No wash complaint? change the controller, if that doesn't work, change the mechanical assy.  done.   This job can now be done by a slightly better than minimum wage employee.  This is the direction the hacks are going, and good riddance.

Once they become cheap/ light enough, they will just send you a replacement part in the mail and the customer will install it themselves with basic tools.  As the samurai said, it will be diagnosed remotely via wifi, by the manufacture.  

The manufacture wants to eliminate servicers because most servicers suck at their job.  They are following the McDonalds way of doing business.  No more higher paid cooks, just an assembly line of burger assemblers making minimum wage.  Its a lot easier to find idiots to do a simple job. 

Quality technicians will always have a place fixing more expensive units.  Soon our houses will become really "smart" (more electronics), and our marketshare will increase to things like house monitoring systems, etc.   These things are expensive, and in a lot of cases, will be really engrained in the house and must be fixed, not replaced.   

There is a fork in the road coming for us technicians:  The road on the left leads to dumbed down, PCM style repairs that require very little brain activity.  Be prepared to live off of $500 a week for the rest of your life.  

The road on the right leads to a lucrative business, where a person can make a good middle class living.  You can work whatever hours you want, and charge basically whatever you want. ( the price of replacing the unit is the only barrier).  You will be in high demand, always.  

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Good post.

Those Lady Kenmore belt drive washers had 3 speed motors (very slow/slow/fast).

Most had a special thin (but strong) belt for quieter operation---than the thicker cogged 95405 belts.

The best (overall quality) were built during the 1960s

Full length spin tubes/solid clutch discs etc

The true Cadillac of washers.

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12 hours ago, Lorainfurniture said:

1. Its cheaper to make.  People want cheap. Its not the manufacture's fault, its the consumer.  How many of you have Speed Queen washers? How about Sub zero?  Money talks. 

Exactly! In a (relatively) free market, ultimately the consumers are the predominant force that drives the direction that products go in. The majority of those decisions are based on cost alone. Majority opinion is not inherently correct, wise, or well-informed.

However, I'm not criticizing free markets. These are peaceful, voluntary transactions, and free markets allow for a large variety to satisfy just about anyone's choice. We can still buy a Sub-Zero or Miele, if our priorities are different than most of the other consumers.

I do spend a lot of time trying to convince our service customers that it is not "planned obsolescence" that caused their VMW to crap out after 2 years, but consumer preference combined with increasingly stringent energy requirements. A base model Whirlpool top-loader is only $30 more today than it was in 1987. It's unreasonable to expect the same lifespan from  it. What would we expect if we bought a new car today for 1987 prices? (e.g., Toyota Corolla for $9300.)

12 hours ago, Lorainfurniture said:

Quality technicians will always have a place fixing more expensive units.

 

12 hours ago, Lorainfurniture said:

There is a fork in the road coming for us technicians

The key in any profession, particularly one tied to technology of any kind, is to be aware of trends and willing to retool as often as needed to stay relevant in the profession. Change is disruptive, but inevitable. Nostalgia and lamentations may be a normal reaction, but they aren't useful. For anyone who stays alert and continues to learn, there is opportunity. 

Thanks for the great post!

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The future of appliance repair hinges on the election tonight boys and girls. Don't think for a minute it won't have an effect on the future of appliance repair. It will. Appliance repair will always be good. You can always trade a goat for a service call.

If prosperity don't come back and people don't start getting some money in their pockets, enough to buy higher priced appliances, appliance repair will not do as well. 

I can only speak for my area and my customers. I speak, and have spoken to many many white good reps and many many brown good reps. Not good.

The future of my business in sales and service depends on who's elected tonight. I'll kid you not.

I'll bet big plans are being entertained and made right now by the big boys of business! If Clinton wins I see them big boys toss um right into the garbage can.

Wow. This is an exciting night for me as it should be all of us and I know it is!

Go America! 

Go Trump!

Quick

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I haven't read through all the comments yet, but I want to comment on one thing I have seen over and over.

When I follow behind other techs, I hear the stories the customers tell me and it's obvious the previous technicians were both bullshitting and guessing. (Sidenote: Guys, quit pretending you know shit you don't know. The customers know you're making it up and it pisses them off. It doesn't make you look more confident, it makes you look less honest.)

When I get on Facebook and get in the Appliance Repair group, what I see over and over are guys who can't be bothered to have any diagnostic process -- it's all "replace this part."

So to piggyback on the comment about the United Servicers Association -- I believe we need, for the future of this trade, a national certification program. This should be a certification that can on probation or even revoked. There should be a strong message to consumers that repair shops not willing to get the certification may not be adhering to the best practices of the trade -- and might not even be competent.

When I look at the technicians here in Lawrence, when I see the technicians in Kansas City and Facebook, it seems to be that about 1/3 of our trade are people who care and learn, 1/3 is people who care but don't learn, and the other 1/3 are guys that don't learn and don't give a crap.

Our customers need a way to know who is in that top 1/3. They need to be able to schedule an appointment with some level of confidence. If they have that confidence, the people who want to make a good living doing a good job will prosper.

Does that make sense?

 

 

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