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Retail Observer article: Technician Diagnostic Skills In the Age of Computer-Controlled Appliances

Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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The Retail Observer is a widely-read publication in the appliance and retail industry. We contributed an article that just came out in the August 2017 issue. Enjoy! 

Technician Diagnostic Skills In the Age of Computer-Controlled Appliances (PDF, 97 kb)

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A & G Enterprises

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nice going scott on your article

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

Domo, mah bruvah! 

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Well Done, Sir!

I hear this is how Hemingway got started.

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

Posted

42 minutes ago, PDuff said:

I hear this is how Hemingway got started.

Let's just hope I don't end up like him

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Lighthouse

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On 8/28/2017 at 2:39 PM, Samurai Appliance Repair Man said:

Let's just hope I don't end up like him!

Dealing with the public will sometimes make you want to do that.

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Love the article. Only wish Bosses were on the same page by giving techs enough time to actually troubleshoot a call. Seems the bottom line is money, money, money, money. Get in, get a quick diagnosis, order parts, get out and get to the next call. I've yet to find a company that actually cares about doing it right, except yours! I don't think they exist, frankly. I think a lot of companies actually force their techs to be Parts Changing Monkeys because the tech is under enormous self-preservation pressure. I've known techs that would basically guess at what parts were needed, and when the parts were installed and didn't solve the problem, would tell the customer additional parts were needed because the parts just replaced hid the other problem not solved. ALL BECAUSE THE BOSS didn't give them the time and freedom to actually tear the machine down enough to get an accurate diagnosis!

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Samurai Appliance Repair Man

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18 hours ago, georgerdavis said:

Only wish Bosses were on the same page by giving techs enough time to actually troubleshoot a call.

This is a great point, George, and something we need to message more to owners. Training is just the beginning of the journey to mastery- speed and proficiency come with practice. 

I'm going to say something here that some business owners may take as criticism, though that is not my intention at all. 

There's what I call a "Harvard Business School" model of running a multi-tech appliance repair business. This model says that the owner doesn't need to have any technical skill in troubleshooting and repairing appliances, they just need to run the business "by the numbers." This is the model that Sears uses, for example, in running its service operations. 

The risk with this model is that it may not adequately account for the very real human factor of proficiency that is acquired with time, experience, and practice. This is the "learning curve." We all have it and it varies among individuals though there are general rules of thumb which can be broadly applied.

The challenge with the "Harvard Business School" model is that it may result in management having unrealistic expectations of technicians because they have no idea of how technicians actually do what we do. 

The more realistic model of a multi-tech operation is what I call the "Navy shop" model. This is where the service manager would be equivalent to a Navy shop supervisor (First Class Petty Officer) and is the hottest, sharpest tech in the room who knows every piece of gear in the shop. When a junior tech gets stumped on something, the First Class can step him through it. Two important things happen as a result of this: 1) the gear gets fixed and 2) the junior tech learns something and improves his skill.

Even though in both models, (the "Harvard Business School" and "Navy shop") the techs have been through some kind of training, the expectations of the tech are usually much more realistic in the Navy shop model. The Navy shop is still run "by the numbers" but with a human assessment and nurturing of technician skills that is often missing in the Harvard Business School model. 

 

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On 9/17/2017 at 4:46 PM, georgerdavis said:

Only wish Bosses were on the same page by giving techs enough time to actually troubleshoot a call.

There's always going to be a tension between running enough calls each day to stay profitable and spending enough time on each job to properly perform the job and communicate well with the customer. There's a "sweet spot" that a good business owner will help his techs find - at least on average. And this isn't easy! As Scott said, being very familiar with what it's like to be the technician is an important part of this. 

Ideally there's a collaboration between the owner/supervisor and the tech, and they both understand the pressures that each faces. Sitting down periodically and reviewing jobs (identifying mistakes/trends/successes) can help dial in best business practices to keep the job averages in that sweet spot.

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