A technician is often the sole face-to-face customer interaction point following a sale. So, what happens when a technician shows up for an interview, or to a customer location, with visible tattoos? Is it an assured way to lose credibility, or should a technician’s skills trump his or her appearance?

Tattoos are common these days — nearly one-quarter of adult Americans sport at least one, according to the Pew Research Center — but they can still carry a stigma. Appearance undoubtedly matters for front-line workers, such as service technicians, who work inside customers’ homes and businesses. But should a little ink prevent professional, skilled technicians from getting a job, or gaining a customer’s trust?

Contractor magazine editor Candace Roulo put the question to readers in a recent article. “Does a tattoo make or break how well someone can do a job?,” she asks. “Plus, do tattoos really offend people that much? I can think of many more offensive things in the service industry, such as rude behavior, bad customer service and a bad attitude.”

Whether it’s fair or not, tattoos can put even the most qualified technicians at a disadvantage. And the stigmas aren’t limited to tattoos, says Joe Crisara, CEO of ContractorSelling.com. Body piercings, age and behavior such as smoking can affect a technician’s ability to find work, or to impress a customer — at least initially.

Tattooed technicians might have to work harder to win over a skeptical customer or manager, but technicians’ skills often trump appearances. Crisara, a former contractor himself who now runs consulting and training programs for contractors, says he’s seen those stigmas melt away once customers get to know the technician. He’s also experienced it himself with former employees and clients. “They won me over with their skills,” says Crisara.

Contractors and managers who don’t allow technicians to have a tattoo might want to give their customers more credit.

“If the leader of a company says to hide the tattoos, they’re trying to hide the real person from their customers. That’s not a sound policy,” says Crisara. “There’s a balance in the person you’re looking for. The balance is not between tattoos and appearance. It’s really between the technician’s ability to communicate value and the technical skills.”

Crisara’s advice for inked techs is simple: win customers (and management) over with confidence, technical aptitude and great service. “The statement of service has to be louder than the tattoo,” he says. “A tattoo is only skin deep, but the level of service goes deeper — and you have to amplify that more than the tattoo.”

Would you hire a technician with visible tattoos? And if you’re a technician, do you cover your tattoos while on the clock? Tell us in the comments below.

h/t Contractor Magazine