The field service industry has long relied on partnerships and friendships to cultivate business and recruit new employees. Traditionally a father would train his son or take on an apprentice that is hand-picked from the community to continue the business. The customers were neighbors and friends within the community, and everyone knew each other well.
Over time, communities have grown much larger and increasingly diverse. It is not quite as easy as it once was to rely solely on your circle of friends for business or employees. Even smaller towns across the country have seen new communities established that are by no means traditional.
As a field service business owner or manager, you must work with a variety of people. Service technicians can come from all walks of life - they could be your sister, an immigrant, or simply a new person that has acquired the skills needed for the job. You must be able to work with these people and keep them motivated to get the job done. For some this can be an uncomfortable experience because you may not have worked with diverse cultures or attitudes in the past.
Customers are even more diverse and can be quite challenging at times when there are communication barriers or simply cultural differences. For example a field service company may want to schedule services at a particular time of day that could be unavailable for the customer. Being cognizant of these differences are important in order to keep good customers and build a good business reputation.
Some things to consider when working with different types of people and cultures include:
Yelling or arguing is not always a bad thing. Some cultures welcome opportunities to passionately express their opinions and their negotiation skills. Accept it without becoming offended or angry.
Avoid stereotypes or misconceptions. To assume that a female knows nothing about HVAC could be a fatal error and lose your business a potentially good customer or employee. Likewise assuming a man would understand a plumbing problem without thoroughly explaining could be just as bad. Treat everyone regardless of their appearance or background with the same level of respect.
Be consistent. Establish a policy on how to treat everyone. Discuss with your employees different scenarios and how best they should be handled. What was once typical workplace banter can now be considered highly offensive to some people, and your team should understand this. While they may have no intentions of offending anyone it is important to understand there could be legal implications if the situation gets out of hand.
The field service industry world has grown over the years to be a rich and healthy industry. But some businesses are so entrenched in their traditions it may be more difficult to adapt to new and diverse cultures or situations. Take your time and be patient but know that in today's communities there are many people who are eager to be very reliable workers and also very loyal customers. Once you grow beyond your traditional network, you will find there are many wonderful opportunities to grow your business even more.