Service techs can be a company’s biggest referral booster — or loser.

On the front lines, they are best-positioned to garner new business. But while they undergo rigorous technical education, they often aren’t given sufficient training in the softer “people skills” that earn referrals.

How do you equip your techs to generate more business from service calls? Here are three tips.

1. Prepare the Customer for a Positive Experience — Before the Call

Keith Lowe, co-founder of Conditioned Air Solutions, a 28-person heating and air conditioning company in Huntsville, Ala., and a small-business advisor at Business is in the Details, has a pre-service call tradition that he says gives customers a feeling of transparency and prepares them for a great experience: He e-mails a picture and bio of the technician to the customer before the call.

It adds a personal touch and lays the ground for a great service call, he says — and that’s the first step to generating repeat and referral business.

2. Train Techs to Communicate

When customers feel at ease with a service tech — an experience they don’t usually expect from technicians — they are more inclined to share that positive news about your company with friends. How to create that comfortable environment?

“When you first arrive, introduce yourself in a professional manner, smile, and announce that you’re there to fix the problem,” says Sally Mounts, PhD, president of  Auctus Consulting Group, a management consulting firm near Pittsburgh, and the author of the upcoming book Middle Management Mojo: How to Hire, Retain, and Mentor the Real Leaders of your Organization. “Explain how long service calls usually take, since no one really likes having strangers in their homes.  Ask if they would like you to leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking on their floors. While you are working, be friendly and open. Ask if they would like you to explain what you’re doing and why.”

Adds Mounts: “People are not used to empathic technicians who are adept at communicating. If you are [that technician], you’ll be seen as extraordinary.”

3. Ask for Referrals

Even the most enthusiastic customers may not send referrals. Why? Nobody’s asked them.

Lowe, of Conditioned Air Solutions, says he holds technicians accountable for asking for feedback and referrals. His company uses ReviewBuzz, an online reputation management application, which he says makes it easy for his customers to post feedback on multiple review and social media sites, such as Google Places, Yelp, and Facebook, in a single entry.

“Before they leave the house, our technicians are to hand the customer our ReviewBuzz card (click here for an example) with the technician’s name on it, and say something like, ‘Would you mind going onto this website to give me a review and let me know how I did? I’d really appreciate it,’ ” Lowe says. “If [a technician] calls in after a service call, we’ll ask, ‘Did you leave a ReviewBuzz card? No? Then turn around.’ ”

For those who don’t have a system like ReviewBuzz, Mounts offers this advice for techs: “After completing the project, explain what the customer can do to prevent [the issue] from happening again. Give them your business card and tell them to call you personally if they have any problems in the future. Then explain that referrals are the lifeblood of any successful business, and ask if they know anyone who could also use your services. Ask if you can use their name in your referral call.”

MoreFive Easy Tips to Get Field Service Techs Selling.

Click here to download a free whitepaper, “Five Steps to Make Field Service Profitable.”

ABOUT Sean Lyden

Avatar photoSean is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a content strategy and editorial consulting firm, and also serves as editor for Utility Fleet Professional magazine. A nationally recognized feature writer on sales, marketing, technology and transportation topics, Sean is also a contributing author to "The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide” and “The Great Big Book of Business Lists,” both books published by Entrepreneur Press.