Being an electrician is a profession that depends more on your technical skills than your people skills. That may be one of the reasons you chose it! But whether you love the part of your business that involves dealing directly with customers or not, it is just that: a part of your business. The way you interact with customers can set you up as a professional or make people feel uneasy. Your customers might not know a circuit breaker from a thermostat, but they will know their opinion of you within minutes of meeting you. The rapport you build with customers is what will make people want to call you back and recommend you to their friends.
One of the most important ways to present yourself as personable and trustworthy is through small talk. Maybe you’re the kind of person who never shuts up, or you may be content to go an entire day and not say a word. Either way, observing and listening are the most important skills you can master to help make customers feel at ease.
Let the Customer Drive the Conversation
When you first arrive at a new site, take a second to think of how your customer might feel. Is this a project the customer is excited to be paying for, or is it a repair they wish they didn’t need done? Money is most people’s main concern when they need any type of home repair or remodel project. If they’re excited to see you, you’re in a great spot already. If, however, they’re annoyed or frustrated that they have to pay you to fix something unexpectedly, you need to be extra careful to reassure them that you’re trustworthy and great at what you do.
You can do this by introducing yourself, then perhaps asking how long the customer has lived in their home. Then share how long you’ve lived in the area (or nearby). This topic can help break the ice and make the customer feel like you have something in common.
As you’re introducing yourself, notice how the customer acts. Do they seem worried? Do they talk much or say as little as possible? Is it someone home alone who seems nervous to let you into the house? In all of these cases, a little bit of small talk can help put the customer at ease. However, follow their lead. If the customer seems to open up, some small talk up front, when returning on the following days, or while getting payment figured out is great. If they still seem nervous, stay friendly, but get to the job at hand and don’t try to talk a lot while you complete the project.
Things to Talk about (with One Caveat)
Here are some topics that are generally good for conversation:
Sports – This subject is always safe. Is there equipment in a corner of the house, a jersey on the wall, or a game on TV? Ask questions like, “Who’s the hockey fan in the family?” or “I see you’ve got the Packers on. Did you see their game last week?” People interested in sports usually love to talk about them and brag about anyone in the house who plays them, so this can be a great topic if you sense there are any sports fans living there.
The home – Another safe one. Can you find something about the yard or the home itself to compliment? People love to hear nice things said about their home, whether it’s a paint color, a nice flower bed layout, or a beautiful piece of furniture.
Kids – This can be a good topic, or it can be a really bad one, so you need to be astute about your customer’s attitude. While most adults love to brag about the children in their life, many parents become uncomfortable if you ask too many questions about their kids. Take your cue from the customer. If you see pictures of kids on the wall, you can ask how many kids they have and their ages. If the parents answer but don’t offer any extra information, don’t ask. You can though, feel free to share information about the children in your life and what they might have in common. If the adult opens up more, great. If not, move on to another topic.
The most important thing about conversation is to keep it natural and friendly. If things start to feel stagnant or uncomfortable at any point in a conversation, a comment like “I don’t want to keep you from what you were doing” is a great way to move onto the project. Pay attention to the customer and follow their lead, and you’ll have people feeling at ease and glad to have you in their home.
We’d love to hear from you. What do you do to make customers feel at ease?