This seems to be one of the unluckiest weeks to draw in the on-call pool for a technician.  You see, over the Winter you have to respond to no-heat calls much faster than a residence without cooling on Memorial or Independence Day.  I remember visiting homes many Festivus evenings and getting the old clunker of a boiler running, without the swears from "A Christmas Story".  But, even over the last fifteen years, being on-call has changed.  If you were not able to  barter your way out of this holiday, you may experience a process similar to these:

    We would always get that 4:30pm call of the old woman without heat on Christmas Eve.   Why the office staff hadn't left yet, I could never figure out.  Of course, this responsibility fell onto the on-call technician.  Hopefully, the local distributors and stock houses have yet to close if you needed a part!

   About 10-15 years ago, most technicians used to carry beepers.  When you were on-call, you got the pleasure of carrying two beepers and living in fear of being confused for a drug dealer!  When the beeper went off -911, that dreaded buzz could have been confused for a lot of things.  But, in the back of your mind you knew exactly what it meant!

   Luckily, those beepers were quickly replaced with Nextel service and cell phones.  We would instead carry two cell phones when we drew the short straw over the holidays.  The technicians where I worked always set the most horrible, annoying ring tone on that on-call phone.  So bad that even my wife still can't forget the tone some 4 years later.

   Lately, I have noticed more companies are opting for an answering service.  This provides a person for your customer to immediately talk to, avoiding the situation where they would leave a message and start dialing another company.  I can see how this service would reduce the frustration for a homeowner that is already uncomfortable without heat.  Still, waiting for that call back will seem like watching water boil, all the while a potential confrontation brewing.

   So, in the age of technology, how great would it be if you could "FaceTime" with your customer?  Video conferencing is quickly taking over business meetings and would really translate well into the service industry. How often has a customer screamed, swore, and threatened over the phone, only to be oh so cordial when face-to-face.  Seeing their trusted technician would go a long way, particularly when they need to talk them off of that cliff.  The technician may be able to avoid an evening trip on a holiday weekend when you may be paying for warranty work anyhow.  The technician could see the customer pushing the correct thermostat buttons, or even see the error code on the furnace ahead of their decision to strap on their boots.

   Is anyone out there trying this approach?  I understand not everyone has an IPhone, but there are many tablets and phones that can accommodate other providers.  Is  there another recipe that I did not mention?  I never thought I would have been carrying 2 beepers at one time, so why not set yourself apart by using the technology already in both of your fingertips?

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Comment by Bob Blanchette on December 24, 2012 at 8:34am

We shut down for Christmas day, nobody on call. Our answering service explains this to our customers and most are OK with it. They will even schedule the appointments for the day after, and the guys at the shop don't mind getting some overtime the 26th.

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