The Appliance Service Occupation: Problem Solving and Customer Relations

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At the present time homeowners are becoming more dependent on machinery to provide them with comfort and the finer things in life. Machines such as automatic washing machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and other such equipment all make our lives easier and happier. These machines all need service and repairs at some point in time. It’s the job of the appliance technician to make certain that these machines are installed, maintained, and serviced properly. Most homeowners don’t have the time, desire, tools, or perhaps the ability to perform these chores. They, therefore, depend on the appliance technician to provide these services accurately and economically.


The degree of responsibility of the technicians will depend on their ability and knowledge of the equipment. Therefore, technicians with a wide range of experience would be required to repair more types of appliances than would technicians with a limited background. This has a tendency to reduce the unnecessary replacement of good parts in an attempt to find the problem.

Service technicians are generally classified in several general categories. Each successive category requires more knowledge and skills. At the same time they have more responsibility and make more money. The major categories are as follows.

Parts Person

This person is responsible for maintaining an adequate inventory of the necessary parts and supplies needed to keep the service and installation departments operating smoothly. The parts person must keep track of the parts and supplies and issue them to the technicians as necessary or he or she may actually sell them to customers, depending on the size of the shop and the nature of the business.


The common names for persons in this category are benchperson, shopperson, and small appliance service technician. The technicians in this group are capable of repairing small appliances such as toasters, mixers, irons, and small heaters that may be brought into the shop for repair. Many of them, while working under the direct supervision of a more experienced technician, can change parts in major appliances. The benchperson has very little, if any, contact with the customer. He or she generally works all day in the shop repairing appliances. In most cases the repair can be performed at a bench or work table.


These persons are generally more experienced than the benchperson. Installers deliver, install, and demonstrate the operation of the appliance to the customer. In most instances they do little or no troubleshooting or parts re placement. However, they will work under a wide variety of conditions. They are mostly concerned with major appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, and room air-conditioning units. It’s their job to know how these appliances operate and how to get the best performance from them. Most of these technicians’ work will occur at the customer’s home. They will have very little supervision. They should be familiar with the local building codes and be physically able. They must present themselves in a good manner to the customer.

Major Appliance Technicians

The duties of major appliance technicians are to make service calls and make repairs to major appliances in the customers’ home or business. These technicians are usually very knowledgeable about all types of appliances. They will have sufficient experience to handle most problems as they arise. They work with a minimum of supervision. On most calls they will make estimates, make the repairs, and receive payment for the work while they are there. In most instances they will plan their own work schedules. The major appliance technicians must be very good at human relations. They are responsible for a large supply of parts on their trucks as well as the necessary tools and test equipment. They must be well groomed and be physically able to do the required lifting. They must adapt to changing working conditions.


The dispatchers are responsible for receiving the ser vice calls from the customers. They route the service personnel and establish priority on service calls. They may also make recommendations for special tools and parts that are to be taken to a specific job site.

Service Managers

These persons are in direct charge of the service shop and are usually responsible for the activities there. Their responsibility is to both the customer and the business owner. They should make every effort to keep them both satisfied.

Field Service Technicians (Factory Representatives)

These persons must have a very in-depth understanding of the products that their companies manufacture. They must have a very strong diagnostic ability and be able to teach other technicians about the equipment. Generally, there is a great amount of traveling required in this position. Most of the training courses that they present will be given at night, after normal working hours.

Technical Writers

Technical writers are responsible for writing books of instruction and any other service and installation literature that will help people in the field. They usually work with factory engineers and engineering technicians who have designed and tested the appliance.

The training courses which are considered to be the most beneficial to appliance technicians are physics, math, basic electricity, electronics, English, and some basic-level courses in behavioral sciences and the necessary laboratory exercises which reinforce the theory learned during the lecture period. Even after graduating from a technical school majoring in appliances, they must continue their education by attending manufacturer’s product seminars. Many good appliance technicians have failed to succeed in this field because they would not attend these seminars and failed to keep up with the changes in the field.



A neat-appearing technician will impress the customer just about as much as anything. The technician must be neat and clean. Cleanliness is important in both your appearance and your work habits. It’s very desirable to keep your tools and parts in order so that they can be easily and quickly found. When you are finished with the job, be sure that the work area is left clean and neat. Wipe off the machine with a clean rag. Don’t leave grease, fingerprints or handprints on the machine. A few extra minutes used for this purpose will go a long way toward customer relations in addition to making the machine look like it has been re paired. There will be very few complaints from anyone about this gesture.

Maintaining a Good Attitude

A good attitude toward the customer, the machine, the equipment manufacturer, and your employer is very important. If you display a negative attitude toward any one of these, the customer will also develop a bad attitude toward them. You must always project a positive attitude, confidence, be courteous, and cheerful. Always project a businesslike impression. Be on time for the appointment, if one is made. If you are unable to make the appointment, be courteous enough to phone the customer and set up a new appointment. If you do not, and the customer must phone the company again, the customer will be very displeased with the whole job and will probably be very difficult to satisfy. Always be honest with the customer. If you are not familiar with the piece of equipment that is to be worked on, tell the customer. Many times you have a background that will permit you to call upon past experience to repair the machine. If you cannot fix the machine, inform the customer and give an explanation of what you propose to do. Treat other people the way that you would want them to treat you if you were their customer.

A self-conducted tour through the customer’s home or building should not occur. Don’t talk about other customers, neighbors, or the product to the customer. In most instances it’s better to offer no opinion about the quality of the machine. Even if you think the customer is going to have a lot of trouble with it, don’t say so.


Any machine that was built by humans can be repaired, if approached with a positive attitude. Sometimes it may be more economical not to repair it, but it can be repaired. When a malfunctioning part is replaced, the machine should function just as well as it did when it was new. It’s the job of the technician to find the defective component and repair or replace it. There will be some repair price that you have in your mind that above which the customer must be consulted. Sometimes it’s better to give the customer the option of making the repair at any cost rather than just repairing it and submitting a bill. The customer may wish to do some thing other than repair the machine. The machine may be obsolete and the customer might want to replace it rather than repair it. In any case it’s the customer’s decision to make. Present the facts as they are. Don’t try to sell new equipment at this time. Wait until the customer asks whether it’s economically feasible or not, then make your recommendations.


It’s not wise to make a decision on what the problem may be before you have gotten to the job. Many technicians make this mistake and because of it they have a closed mind when they get to the job site. This makes troubleshooting the machine much harder and takes more lime than is necessary. Talk to the customer about what the machine was doing when it malfunctioned. Remember that the customers live with the machine and know its characteristics much better than you. Many times they will tell you exactly what the problem is during their explanation, that is if you listen to what they are saying. Your knowledge of the machine will pinpoint what components were in operation when the unit failed. These should be the first ones checked.

On any service call it should be your first step to check the installation of the machine. Make certain that everything is as it should be. If it’s not be sure to correct anything that is not proper. When you are making an in-warranty service call, explain to the customer what part failed and was re placed or what action was taken, a connection came loose, or what adjustments needed to be made and that there is no charge for the service call. Express your regret for the inconvenience that the failure may have caused, and thank the customer for phoning you promptly so that he or she can realize the full and proper performance of the machine.


When customers make a purchase, there are many things about the new machine that they don’t understand or sometimes don’t even know are available on the machine. It’s the job of the technician to train the customers how to properly use the machine. Usually the salesperson will tell them but may not show them and it slips their memory. This is where you fit in. If there is actually a problem with the machine or its installation, make certain that the customer knows what is required to make the unit operate as it was designed. If the problem is with the customer, explain in a courteous manner how to properly operate the machine. The customer will appreciate this and will feel that he or she has made the right choice. When instructions are properly given, your reputation as a technician will be enhanced as well as that of the equipment.

In most instances you are the only contact that the customer has with the manufacturer. It’s your obligation to both the manufacturer and to your employer to make certain that the customer is satisfied. Many times it’s your attitude and professionalism that either keeps or loses a customer. When a customer is lost everyone loses.


The effective use of your time affects both you and your employer. A reliable technician is very much in demand. However, one that has the image of being disloyal or dishonest will have a difficult time getting and keeping a job. Being honest and loyal is very much a part of public relations and will affect your success as a technician. Your efforts in these areas will enhance your success as much as your knowledge of the equipment that you are servicing.

Another step in succeeding is the ability to recognize that parts do fail either by abuse, damage, or just plain wear- out. It’s a part of your job to learn the difference and explain to the customer what was found and how to prevent it from happening again.

Never compare the operation of one piece of equipment with another. Each one has different features and must operate on its own merits. The customer chose the one that was satisfactory at the time of purchase. However, you must be up-to-date on the newer equipment in your field, so that when, and if asked, you can discuss it confidently and freely with the customer. Perhaps the customer will even ask your opinion on which will suit his or her needs the best. But, unless you know the customer, don’t offer it.


Every machine will need servicing at some time or another. Therefore, a good service technician will always have a good job. The better the technician, the better and more secure is his or her position. Since there is a constant standoff between price and reliability, there will always be some type of service needed. The best service that you can provide is to prevent as many repeat service calls as humanly possible. This will help if you remember that the machine is made up of parts that are assembled to provide a given service and that when one malfunctions the remainder of the machine won’t function as it was designed. With this knowledge you can examine the complete machine for the bad part and make the repairs as economically and as accurately as possible.

Customers know that when a machine fails it’s going to cost money to have it repaired. However, they are not always aware of the high cost of making these repairs and are due an explanation of the problem and the cost.

It costs money to equip an appliance truck with the necessary tools, instruments, and parts to do the job. This money must come from somewhere and this somewhere is the customer. It’s figured into the bill as overhead to operate the business. Then the shop owner must make enough money to pay you and make some for his or her troubles and investment, to which he or she is entitled.

To help this happen is by and large up to the professional appliance technician. A professional is a person who knows what it takes to repair the machine and one who does not “kill” time.


You must continually study to keep up with the constant changes which are taking place on appliances. This is best done by studying manufacturers’ literature and attending manufacture-sponsored seminars. Other training programs that are beneficial are usually offered at the local community college or trade school. Basic courses can only provide you with just that, basic information. You will need to find sources of detailed information on any given piece of machinery. This can be accomplished in part by belonging to trade organizations and subscribing to trade publications which offer this type of information.

The benefit of staying abreast of the industry is job security and a better chance to stay in business, if you are in business. The appliance industry is a multibillion dollar industry and is still growing. It will, therefore, benefit those who put forth the effort to keep up-to-date of what is happening in the industry.


Customer relations is one of the most important aspects of any type of business. A service business is certainly no exception. An appliance service and installation technician should have a good understanding of what makes good customer relations.

As an appliance service and installation technician, your job will involve working directly with the customer and other people who can have an effect on the success of the company, as well as your own personal success. You will also be required to work with equipment and materials. All of these factors are necessary for you to do your job; however, the customers are by far the most important. Your success will depend on them and their attitude toward you. It’s sometimes difficult to make friends with difficult customers, but your success depends on how well you handle difficult situations.

Many potential appliance technicians think an ability to use the proper tools is all that is necessary to get the job done. This idea is far from the truth because customers have basic needs that they want satisfied. Therefore, as a technician you must know how to provide these needs and how to get along with customers. Because of this, one of your top priorities must be to continually improve the relationships between you and your customers. Remember that your personal success as a technician is, to a great extent, dependent on how well you get along with the customers.

Many technicians who are not the best at working with equipment and materials are very good at getting along with customers and hold higher-paying positions within the company. This is, for the most part, because the customers call for them to do the needed work.

The Meaning of Human Relations

There are several schools of thought concerning human relations. Some think that the practice of good human relations is applying the golden rule to relationships. Some think that it’s applying psychology to make friends and influence people. Others think that human relations makes use of an ethical approach to personal problems. The fact is that human relations is made up of all these factors.

Good human relations means people getting along with other people in a harmonious manner, reaching satisfactory production, and cooperatively achieving an economic as well as some social satisfaction. The key part to any human relations is the motivation of people. Therefore, the practice of good human relations is more than back- slapping, more than being a nice person, and more than glad-handing.


As an appliance technician you will be working directly with the customers. Because of this fact, there are several things you should remember about them as individuals:

1. We’re all different. We have thousands of differences. Each of our personalities is different, just as our fingerprints are different. We develop differently from the day we are born. We each have our own ideas about life and our wants as an individual.

Due to these individual differences, any study of human relations must start with the individual. It starts, there fore, with you. You are always a part of a team, but you must remember that the team consists of individuals just like yourself. The team is an entity and has a certain amount of power because of its individual members. The team, however, cannot make decisions. It’s the individual members who must make the decisions.

2. You must remember that when you are working with a person, you are working with a complete person. You may wish to enjoy a certain part of that person’s personality, but this cannot be done. When any part of a person is considered, the whole person must be considered: mind, thoughts, and actions. The person’s desires and motivations must also be considered, along with his or her home life, which has an effect on how the person responds to different situations. As a company representative, you must remember that each person is different and in your dealings you must take into consideration the complete person.

3. All the normal behavior of an individual is caused by individual needs and wants. A person is motivated to do things through the belief that doing so will help achieve a goal that he or she feels is worthwhile. Remember, the customer is generally not considering what you think is right but what he or she thinks is right. All of us sometimes think that another person’s wants, and the reasons behind them, are foolish; but to him or her they are very important and real needs. These are needs with which you will be dealing when working with customers or fellow employees.

4. Remember that customers are not something that can be programmed for use when we desire and discarded when we are finished with them. We’re all human beings and we all need and should be treated with dignity and due respect. This should be done regardless of what we think of a person. Regardless of their stations in life, customers should be shown the proper respect for their personal choices and abilities.

When dealing with people, you should always keep these four aspects clearly in mind. When doing this, you will find that your understanding of other people and your ability to work with them will improve with experience. For example, when you realize that all people are different from each other, you will find that categorizing them is most difficult. You will soon stop trying to handle all people in the same way because you will begin to recognize that you are dealing with the complete person as an individual who is unique.


Remember, your job is getting things done for people and your effectiveness as a technician will be measured by how the customer relates to you and your company. Your success depends on how the customer sees you. Because of this fact, your customers are a very real asset to you and should be treated with respect and consideration. Your customers, in most cases, want to get along with you and help get the job done as efficiently as is possible. Remember, the work you are doing has an impact on their lives and they hope to gain some personal satisfaction from its successful completion. Whether or not this satisfaction is realized depends on how well you do your job and your style of presenting yourself. A technician who is generally happy and self-confident will usually be seen as a good technician.


Someone once said that if you want to understand other people, you must first understand yourself. When a person begins to know himself or herself, he or she has taken the first step toward understanding others. For example, when you realize that you have certain attitudes about your dress, how fast you should work, and how you should behave, you should also realize that other people have their ideas about these things and they may not be the same as yours. Therefore, understanding yourself will help you to under stand others.

This is especially true of the relationship between the technician and the customer. Any time you become critical about what someone has said or done, you should ask yourself if you have done something to cause the person to react in this manner and what you can do to correct the situation. In most cases, some of the blame is on your shoulders. When none of the blame is yours, change your point of view and look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. In most cases this will help you gain a better understanding of the problem. As a result, you will generally feel differently toward the other person and the problem that exists, because you will have greater understanding, compassion, and integrity because you know how you would react under the same circumstances.

Attempting to understand yourself means taking a good look at both your strong points and your weaknesses. Your good points are easy to look at but your weaknesses are a bit more difficult to see. You should realize that you have limitations and hangups just like any other person; you may have a short temper, or you may be prejudiced against certain individuals, and have other such weak nesses. When these shortcomings about yourself are recognized, you are in a better position to control them and do a much better job of human relations.

Earlier we mentioned putting yourself in another per son’s shoes to help understand his or her behavior. When you do this, you are empathizing; that is, you are trying to see the problem from the other person’s point of view. This does not mean that you are going to agree with the person and do things his or her way. It means just the opposite. Once you have an understanding of the problem from the other person’s point of view, you are just in a better position to deal with it fairly and effectively. In this manner you are in a better position to appreciate the other person’s point of view and feelings without getting involved in his or her personal life. At this point you can truthfully say that you understand why the person feels the way he or she does. When you have truly achieved this ability, you will be in a better position to solve the problem with fairness to all concerned.

We learned earlier that all behavior is the result of something, that there is a reason for that behavior. As a technician, you should attempt to recognize and understand the cause for the behavior of your customers. The specific reason that a customer does something may not have a logical explanation; it may not even be reasonable, and it may be ridiculous to you, but it’s important to the customer and it has caused his or her actions. A major task facing you as a technician is to understand why a particular customer or fellow employee behaves the way he or she does, and not turn off the person’s actions as absurd or ridiculous. As a matter of fact, when you state that the other person’s actions are absurd, you are actually admitting your own inability to see things from the other person’s point of view and to understand the reasons for his or her actions. If you are not able to see the reasons, then you are going to have a tough time as a technician.

You should make empathizing so much a part of your actions that it comes as easily as shaking hands with a friend. It should be so easy for you to use that solving disputes will be easily done in most cases.


The better a person knows the people with whom he or she is associated, the easier it will be to understand them, their viewpoints, and their problems. As a technician, therefore, you should make every effort to understand the complete person, whether a customer or a fellow employee. A per son’s life will influence his or her behavior and actions.

To be good at human relations, it’s almost impossible for you to know too much about the people with whom you associate. When the facts about the complete person are known, it’s much easier to see his or her point of view and to empathize.


The total concept of human relations is that something takes place between one person and another. When good human relations is practiced, you will be better able to help satisfy some of the needs of those around you. After all, this is what human relations is all about. For example, we all feel a need to belong to something, a group, or someone. Any thing that you can do to fill this need will enhance you in that person’s eyes and allow you to do a better job.

However, practicing good human relations does not mean that everyone will be all smiles and that happiness will abound in all corners. We all have our own set of problems, but practicing good human relations will allow us to work around the difficulties that most problems present.

Achieving good human relations will pay off in a big way. The rewards are sometimes difficult to measure, but they are most certainly there. The practice of good human relations often means that a difficult problem can be avoided, and usually stopped before it gets started. Because of this, good human relations will show up in many different ways and will give you the satisfaction of a job well done.


1. The installation, maintenance, and service procedures are accomplished by the _____

2. What is the first step in servicing appliances?

3. Who is responsible for maintaining an inventory of the necessary parts and supplies?

4. Which appliance service technician has the last contact with the customer?

5. Who is the person who directs the operation of the service shop?

6. With what should the appliance technician be equipped to accomplish his task?

7. In addition to equipment knowledge, what is required of the appliance technician?

8. To be able to succeed in the appliance field, what must a person have?

9. Why must an appliance technician be neat and clean?

10. What is important concerning the customer, machinery, the manufacturer, and your employer?

11. What should never be done on a job?

12. What is the job of the appliance technician?

13. What should be the first step on a service call?

14. What is your obligation to both the manufacturer and your employer?

15. What is one of the most important aspects of any type of business?

16. To be a successful appliance technician, all that is required is the proper use of tools. (True-False)

17. What is the key part to human relations?

18. Where does human relations start?

19. What must be remembered when dealing with people?

20. What causes individual behavior?

21. How should people be treated?

22. How will your effectiveness as a technician be measured?

23. How will a good technician usually be seen?

24. When you want to understand other people, what must first be done?

25. What should be done when attempting to under stand yourself?

26. What does it take to be good at human relations?



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