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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

Eventually, I'll Disappoint You.

Jun 11, 2010

 Being a mechanic has changed the way I relate to plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen. I've learned there are three distinct phases of any customer's relationship with a tradesman like myself:

Phase One: The first time a tradesman works for a customer, both individuals have to feel things out. The customer is cautious, polite, skeptical and hesitant to challenge the worker with tough jobs. The tradesman works extra hard to make a good first impression, often excels at the basic repairs and wastes no time chatting because he doesn't really know the customer. The job is finished in good time, the customer is satisfied and tells neighbors and friends that, "That new (mechanic, electrician, plumber...) is alright."

Phase Two: Over time the customer and tradesman get to know each other. The customer feels comfortable hanging around and "helping" the tradesman, or, conversely, trusts him to work without constant supervision. The tradesman feels comfortable joking with the customer and isn't adverse to doing extra tasks or offering free advice on other repairs or questions. The customer sometimes presents the worker with nearly impossible challenges, or asks him to take money-saving short-cuts. The worker may or may not succeed at the challenging repairs, or resist taking the short-cuts. The customer's response: "Oh, that's okay--it never hurts to ask! You're my guy, and I trust what you say."

Phase Three: Sooner or later, every worker is going to botch a repair. Maybe the tradesman is having a bad day. Maybe he installs faulty parts. Maybe the customer asked him to do an "impossible" repair. Whatever the cause of the problem with the repair, the worker is embarrassed and frustrated. The customer is naturally frustrated and takes one of two approaches. He either says,"Stuff happens--see what you can do to make it right," or says nothing to the worker but tells neighbors and anybody who will listen, "Boy, he really messed THAT job up!", with no mention of the dozens of previous perfectly performed repairs.

When I hire a plumber or electrician I expect quality work with no problems. Ninety-nine percent of the time that's what I get. The other one percent, when things don't go "right"--I remember all the times I've disappointed my own customers, and trust that the plumber or electrician feels as bad about his errors as I did about mine.

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COMMENTS (1 Comments)

My thinking has always been that the tradesman who consistently botches the job won't be in business for very long. Therefore, if you can find someone who's been on the job for a long time, they will most likely do the work fine. It's the "new kid" on the block I tend to worry about, and I hate it when the dealership sends him out to me. I hate paying $100 an hour to train the guy for the dealer.
4:44 PM Jun 11th
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