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Home Services Tips: Optimizing Virtual Technician Training

Dan Dowdy's Headshot Dan Dowdy Owner, Built for the Trades

Over the past couple months, we’ve all experienced a shakeup in our day-to-day lives. Both professionally and personally, we’ve been forced out of our comfort zones and have had to adapt to new ways of doing things.

For home services companies, this means organizational tasks, like technician training, can’t be completed normally. But the keys to success during uncertain times are creativity and an attitude that empowers you to find new opportunities. That is what makes the difference in gaining momentum through tough times or losing momentum.

One of the big changes home services companies have seen from COVID-19 is the transition toward virtual technician training. Over the past couple months, I have had the pleasure of sitting in on and hosting multiple virtual training sessions for my clients across the nation and conducted thousands of in-person sessions during my time as a business owner. In my previous experience owning and running a home service company, I personally gave thousands of tech trainings, but all of them were in person. I thought that virtual tech training was going to be easy — boy, was I wrong. Engagement with your team is more crucial now than ever, so I hope there are a few takeaways that you can apply to your virtual training today. If you are one of the business owners who decided to stop training in the midst of this change, understand that you are losing ground while your competitors are getting ahead of you. Hopefully, this will encourage you to take the first step to virtual training.

Preparation Checklist

Set a date and time

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but it is always a good reminder to set a date and time every week and be consistent with training sessions. That means to start and end on schedule! This is important because it shows that you are prepared and respect everyone’s time. Techs tend to “not have the Zoom link” or “forget that they have training”, so be sure to over-communicate. Good practice is to send a 24-hour reminder email to the entire team with the training time and Zoom link. Follow that up with a 15-minute text before starting as a reminder.

Choose a topic

The first thing to remember is that there is a difference between hosting a training session and a meeting. Training requires engagement. A meeting is typically going through topics that they are doing wrong. No one likes to hear about what they are doing wrong for 60 minutes, so I encourage you to stick to training for most of the session and keep it simple with one to two training topics max. There are a couple of different approaches that you can take when it comes to choosing a topic and it all starts with knowing your team’s key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are usually in the form of sales numbers, close percentage, and/or average ticket. Tracking these numbers through a consistent company scorecard will allow you to keep a good pulse on the business and have relevant training topics for your techs. Once you decide on a topic, I encourage you to pull from your service system and/or your company core values to show how they relate to what you’ll be covering. This will bring the content full circle and have a greater impact on your culture. For example, if your training session focuses on building value with customers to raise your average ticket, you could discuss a company value about building relationships.

Build a Presentation

If just the thought of putting a slide presentation together makes you feel overwhelmed, don’t panic. It is less about how pretty the slides are and more about the content in them. If you have never done this before, this is always a great task to delegate to someone in the office. I have found from personal experience that 9 times out of 10, there is someone there who can do it better and would love to be involved. Also, it’s best to keep the presentation to around 10 slides or less. If you have ever been slideshowed to death with 100+ slides, you know why.

Role Play

The word role play is familiar to a lot of businesses that do tech training well. Take 30 minutes the day before the training session and role play through the entire presentation with a coworker or friend on Zoom. Not only will you work out all the kinks in the presentation, but you will also memorize the content, making for smoother slide transitions. Always remember that the more you prepare the more your team will take away from the session. They’ll be able to tell if you are just “winging it.”

Agenda

In my experience, the lack of an agenda is one of the most common causes of training sessions going off the rails. Sticking to an agenda will not only keep you on track but it will also keep the team engaged. I recommend showing the agenda as one of the first slides in every training session. The following is a 60-minute virtual training agenda that has proven to be successful.

• Slide 1: Agenda (2.5 min)

Have bullet points that cover all of the agenda listed below and move on. This shows respect for time and that you have prepared. Your team will appreciate it!

• Slide 2: Housekeeping (2.5 min)

Do you find that your techs join the training meeting just to turn off their camera or point the camera at the ceiling so you have no idea if they’re present or not? This is why the housekeeping slide is important. You need to set the expectations for the session early and hold techs accountable to following them.

- Turn the camera on and face it to where I can see you
- Mute yourself until called on or you are ready to ask a question
- Be present and turn off distractions: phones, tv, etc
- The goal for today’s training is that you get at least one takeaway
- Be prepared to share your one takeaway at the end of the training session

• Slide 3: Positive Focus (10 min)

People want a leader who is real, but they also want one who is positive. This will set the tone for the entire training, so I encourage you to call on everyone in the session (assuming it is reasonable in the 10 min time frame) individually to share something positive that they’ve experienced recently. Keep it simple. For example: “I had a good night's sleep,” or “I got a 5 star review the other day.” Early engagement is key to maximizing the value of the session.

• Slide 4: Company Core Values (10 min)

In these uncertain times, I encourage you to lean on your company core values more than ever. During this session get engagement from your team. Different team members can alternate reading the core values and share which is their favorite and why. Then I encourage you to explain how the core values are used in the company and why they are important. This will no doubt shape your culture for the better when done consistently.

• Slide 5: Company Updates (5 min)

There always seems to be something worth sharing with the technicians about an update in the company. Usually it is changes to procedures or a reminder to start doing something better. I encourage you to keep this short, simple and positive! You only have 5 minutes, so limit the info.

• Slide 6: Training Topic (20 min)

Once again, keep it simple. Your team will not retain more than one or two topics at a time. I recommend one topic that is based on current KPI results. Take that topic, relate it to your service system and/or your company core values, and watch how it adds credibility to what you bring.

• Slide 7: Recap and Takeaways (10 min)

To maximize engagement and see who paid attention, include your techs in a recap conversation at the end of the presentation. When you know you will be called upon to give a takeaway at the end of the session, you more than likely will pay attention.

• Slide 8: Conclude

It is always good to end on a positive note, so consider showing a slide with a motivational quote. It’s a great way to end the training session.

Follow Up

Most companies struggle to get engagement from their teams, so don’t expect everyone to be highly involved on the first go. I predict that it will take 3-4 quality training sessions before the teams start to catch on. This will require you to get out of your comfort zone. So if it feels weird at first, then you know you are doing it right. At the end of the day, we are all going through this together. The good news is IT WILL END and the opportunities are out there for businesses that can adapt.

Make the decision to apply new and different things to what you do daily and watch the opportunities grow. It is when we tell ourselves that we can’t do things because of issues outside of our control that we start to fall into self-pity and get lapped by our competitors. Now is the time. Hopefully this will inspire you to take action!

Home Services Tips: Optimizing Virtual Technician Training
About the Author
Dan Dowdy's Headshot Dan Dowdy Owner, Built for the Trades

Dan Dowdy is the owner of Built for the Trades, a leadership development company specializing in trade-specific businesses. He is a Master plumber and has 20 years of experience in the plumbing and leadership field, running a successful home services company. Dan is passionate about his faith, his family, and the outdoors. If he’s not at home with the family, you can find him with a bow in his hand getting ready for hunting season. His goals are to grow others to their true potential so that they may lead others with confidence and passion.

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