Between the travel and hotel costs, meals, room rental, and most importantly lost service revenue, #training is an expensive endeavor for any small business. It is something for which it is frustratingly difficult to quantify the return on investment. However, it is also critical to the success of any industrial services company.
Our service technicians and engineers are truly a reflection of the company. Every single day, these folks are interacting with our customers. It is imperative that they be knowledgeable, detail-oriented, courteous, and respectful. They must provide value. It does not matter how good our products, technology or execution are, if we fail to provide exemplary service, we lose accounts. And above all else, service technicians must be good communicators.
We just finished up our most recent training session, so I wanted to look back and see what worked well, and what could be improved upon. Our service network is spread across the northeast connected by many service centers. Service training is an opportunity for employees to come together and meet face to face; something it seems everyone enjoys. We consider the training events an opportunity to not only provide professional development for our employees, but also to provide company updates, introduce new suppliers or product lines, provide safety module updates, and to have some fun.
We have always provided our core training with in-house resources. There are many organizations that provide excellent training for the #watertreatment industry, but we prefer to handle of the technical training ourselves (selfishly, this is because I really enjoy doing it). But I do realize that listening to me ramble on about water treatment for hours – or days – can get tiring , so we bring in guest speakers and provide additional training modules to break up the monotony. We’re always looking to make our events even better. Below are some suggestions that have helped us get bigger and smarter every year.
Leverage Key Partners and Suppliers
We are fortunate to have some of the best water technology companies in the world as strategic partners. Their detailed knowledge of the theory and operation behind their products is invaluable. For these to be successful, they must focus on troubleshooting and maintenance of their products and not the features and benefits.
Consider Hands-On Sessions
Service technicians by nature love to work with their hands. Anytime you can take material from a PowerPoint presentation to a hands-on, interactive demonstration, the interest level will rise. For us, successful sessions have included valve rebuilds, pump rebuilds and seal changes, and welding demonstrations.
When we first started holding company training events, there was a lot of excitement surrounding them. Many folks had to travel overnight and sit in a classroom all day. Based on feedback, we have modified these events to focus on the interests of the employees. Now, most employees actually look forward to these events. I could not believe the attentiveness at the last event, compared to when we initially started hosting events years ago.
We’ve all heard the saying “What is worse, train someone and they leave or don’t train someone and they stay”. For us, it goes beyond this; if you don’t develop your employees’ skills, they will leave or forever be unhappy. Our training provides so much more than just increasing the knowledge base of our employees. We focus on providing the tools, awareness, and autonomy so they can make decisions in real time and react quickly to solve problems. This gives them the flexibility and confidence to know that they can make a decision in the field without retribution if it is incorrect. This is an incredibly powerful and cost-effective approach for a small industrial services firm to adopt. So, I have little trouble convincing myself that the service training is worth the investment. In fact, we are probably not investing enough.