Something that hurts the cause of service technicians everywhere is dishonesty in the field, and one problem area in that regard is the locksmith industry. Customers can feel kind of vulnerable requesting the help of a service tech, since often that means inviting a stranger to your place of business, or even your home. Locksmiths are by and large a reputable lot, but some bad apples are spoiling the barrel with shady business practices that have been going on for years.

Consumers are advised to make sure locksmiths arrive in a company vehicle, like this one.

Locksmith scams were once again discussed this week, this time in an article by Trish Powell in the Odessa American describing how to avoid getting swindled by a locksmith — a common occurrence since the people requiring their services are in a desperate situation and therefore are easy prey for the unscrupulous. The Better Business Bureau regularly receives reports of locksmith scams, usually including a price an inaccurate or heavily modified price quote once the locksmith comes out to fix the problem, damage to customers’ vehicles during service and new keys that were either shoddily produced or stopped working after a few uses. Powell provided five tips for consumers who need the services of a locksmith:

  1. Call your roadside assistance provider first, if you have one.
  2. Ask friends and family for locksmith recommendations.
  3. Get an estimate over the phone and confirmation that it includes all possible services and fees.
  4. Ask for identification, make sure locksmith arrives in a company vehicle and don’t trust locksmiths who don’t ask you for ID before opening up a locked vehicle.
  5. Once the locksmith arrives, confirm the estimate before letting them work on the vehicle.

All good advice, but while The SmartVan feels the pain of consumers taken advantage of by dishonest locksmiths, we’re just as worried (if not more so) about what these kinds of stories mean for all field service employees, from HVAC techs to plumbers and electricians. Because these image of rogue locksmiths driving around in unmarked vehicles, jimmying open car doors and demanding a king’s ransom, make customers that much more hesitant to trust other technicians who drive in legitimate company vehicles, provide honest estimates and aim to do nothing more or less than get the job done right, as quickly as possible.

So for all field service techs out there wondering how to keep from getting thrown into the same category as sketchy locksmiths (whose exploits are nothing new to the BBB, according to this Consumerist piece from a few years ago), here are five tips to pair with the advice Powell gave to consumers:

  1. When a customer calls requesting information, make sure whomever takes the call clearly identifies the company name along with their own.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask a satisfied customer to write an online review of your business.
  3. If your company provides estimates over the phone, make sure to explain all details of the estimate before coming out and starting the job.
  4. When going out to a job, always keep a professional appearance, including a presentable uniform and clean company vehicle.
  5. Before starting work, confirm with the customer that they’ve agreed to the estimate and the services to be provided so there’s no confusion after the fact.

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