Field service technicians are in and out of customers’ homes and workplaces all day long, and while some of those could be featured on “House Beautiful,” others are more likely to end up on “Hoarders.” What kind of advice should you give to your technicians to prepare them for what they might encounter?

Dealing With Inappropriate Customer Behavior

Lauren Hough described her career as a “cable guy” (her description), in a Huffington Post article. She described an unclad housewife who was surprised that Hough was female instead of male. They laughed together and the lady got dressed. It’s a funny story.

However, today you can’t afford to send your techs, male or female, into this type of situation alone and without guidance about how to respond. Should they call it in? (Hi, this is John, just want to note that the lady of the house opened the door in her lingerie.). For their safety and the financial stability and reputation of your company, the tech needs to call for another person, or perhaps walk away.  

While you can’t anticipate every situation, service leaders should have a protocol for techs to call for backup or to leave. If you’re struggling to find the situation of a half-clad woman meeting a male tech as anything but funny, flip it around: What if it were a female tech who was greeted by a naked male customer? As an employer, you are obligated to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. This means customers aren’t allowed to behave this way either. Once an employee reports a situation, you become liable if you don’t resolve it.

Safety Hazards

The very nature of a field service tech’s job exposes them to dangerous equipment and situations. Danger is part of the job. But unchained dogs, filthy homes or even the presence of weapons cross the line.

Illegal Activities

Customers often treat service techs like furniture. They come in and complete the job, but they aren’t expected to do anything else. For the most part, that’s exactly how service leaders want their techs to behave. The last thing you want are customers who feel uncomfortable because their dinner dishes are still on the table at 10:00 am.

But what if your techs encounter illegal drugs, or a child who appears to be abused or neglected? In some states, all adults are required by law to report these situations to child protective services. A good policy, regardless of state law, is for employees to report all suspected child abuse and neglect. Is that your policy?

These questions may seem like things you can laugh off. After all, these situations make for hilarious retelling at the company holiday party. But, as the employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your employees are safe and well cared for and the customer absolutely, positively, isn’t always right. Establish guidelines and back up your techs when needed. Sometimes they need the ability to just walk away.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.