Business Tips from ASTI – a glimpse into Mrs. Samurai’s notebook

Posted on April 8, 2019 by - Business Talk

Most of Team Samurai was in Nashville last month for the Annual Service Training Institute put on by United Servicers Association. We had a booth at the trade show and enjoyed chatting with many of our students and business owners. It’s great to be able to meet folks face-to-face!

I always attend as many of the Business track courses as I can while I’m at ASTI, as they are always filled with interesting and useful information.

Here are some highlights from my ASTI notebook for you:

Be friendly!

“Friendliness” is very highly ranked as an influence on how a customer rates their experience. Many business owners report that their most popular tech is not necessarily the most technically proficient.

So - take those friendly techs and give them more appliance repair training at Master Samurai Tech to make them a powerhouse!

Friendliness is also critically important for the Customer Service Representative who answers the phone.

Google continues to keep everyone on their toes

So there’s Google My Business, which is a free listing, and Google Ads (pay-per-click), and now a new feature that Google is rolling out called Local Services. It will show up at the top of a Google search results listing, and is meant to be like Home Advisor. You can be “Google Guaranteed” - for a price. You’ll pay a fixed price for leads, and you only pay if they actually contact you.

I acquired the slides from 3 presentations given by a Google trainer on many aspects of using Google to market your business. You can download them here:

Reach Customers Online with Google

Get Found on Google Search and Maps

Using Data to Drive Growth

Algorithm, Shmalgorithm

Like it or not, the vast majority of people (over 80%) use Google for search. So, when they release an algorithm change (that is, when Google changes up the secret way they determine who will rank highly on search results pages), if it negatively impacts your website’s search results it can be a big hit on your business.

In a presentation on digital marketing, Christina Kraker of Servicer’s Web talked about how to “algorithm change-proof” your site

  • Get online reviews (should have 50+ Google reviews) and keep them as positive as possible.
  • Have a diverse online profile - claim all those directory listings out there!
  • Have an active blog (at least one post per month)
  • Make sure your search-engine-optimized pages are good quality and diverse. (For example, if you create different pages for different towns, they actually have to have different content.)

Email Marketing

Email services like MailChimp are an easy way to communicate with your customers, especially if you set up “work flows” where pre-written emails are automatically sent when you add their email to the mailing list. Initially you can thank your customer for their recent service call and ask them to leave a review (with link(s) to make that easy). Then, send out a monthly newsletter (can mostly be the monthly blog post that you are going to write at your website blog.)

Entice visitors to your website to sign up for your newsletter by offering a coupon in exchange for their email address.

Expect the Unexpected

I sat in on an interesting panel discussion where several business owners described a sudden, devastating event and how they dealt with it.

  • Technician death while on the job. First takeaway: OSHA requires that you notify them of a work-related injury or death. There are fines if you fail to do so within a certain time period. In the case of a death, that time period is 8 hours. Second takeaway: while these types of events are very rare (this was the result of improper electrical installation by someone else), train your techs on basic safety precautions and how to spot warning signs.
  • Ransomware. Several companies have fallen prey to this, and lost valuable time and income while recovering from the data loss. Takeaway: BACKUP YOUR DATA and keep one copy off-site (or in the cloud). If you don’t know much about cybersecurity, hire someone to help assess your vulnerability.
  • Natural disaster. Similar warning as above in terms of your data. If your computer equipment got destroyed, do you have a backup somewhere else? Also, having enough cash on hand to help you and your employees to survive until work can resume can increase the odds of getting back to normal more quickly.

Inventory Management for Fun and Profit

1. Having the part you need when you go on a job can increase your First Call Complete rate

2. On the other hand, minimizing your parts inventory can prevent wasting money on parts that sit on the shelf for years.

The trick is balancing those two realities by effectively managing your parts inventory. Eventually this will help you to cut costs, save time, and effectively budget and forecast.

The typical way companies have dealt with parts was to have storage in the shop in order to replenish the vehicle as needed.

Michael Noe of Mr. Appliance said that increasingly their franchisees are going to a zero shop inventory model. This means there is only truck stock of the most commonly needed parts - those that you tend to use 3-4 times per year. All other parts are ordered as needed. This generally results in about 100-200 parts on the truck worth about $2500-3000. No more needing storage space for parts in the shop or ending up with money tied up in parts that don’t move on a regular basis.

Consider drop-shipping special order parts. This takes away the handling on your end, and if the part takes awhile to arrive (or the wrong part is sent), the customer will not blame you, but will see that it was the fault of the supplier.

The fastest way to keep up with your inventory is to scan the codes with a laser scanner. Note: the bar codes on Bosch and Miele parts will not give you a proper part number, so you’ll need to create labels for those. There is inexpensive software and label printers that allow you to do this.

Inventory should be scanned on a regular basis (quarterly, at a minimum) to determine what should stay on the truck, what should come off, and any restocking that’s needed.
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Did these suggestions give you any ideas for your business?
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UPDATE: Our friends at Fred's Academy posted the slides from their two dynamic business presentations at ASTI. You can check them out here: https://fluid.services/asti/

Scheduled Downtime from 12 – 1 PM Eastern Time

Posted on February 26, 2019 by - Uncategorized

Just a quick heads-up -- today at 12 PM Eastern, we'll be upgrading from the Master Samurai Tech Academy's current server to a brand new, $6 billion, NASA-style supercomputer, complete with artificial consciousness and sake liquid cooling.

So, what does this mean for you?

It means about an hour of downtime from 12 to 1 PM EST, during which both Master Samurai Tech and Appliantology will be inaccessible. But after that, it means better site performance and an even more robust, secure server going into the future.

See you on the other side!

How do I get Sealed System training?

Posted on February 17, 2019 by - Academy Talk, Tech Talk

Many techs do not do sealed system work because the large majority of refrigerator repairs that customers are willing to pay for do not involve the sealed system. Many one- or two-man shops don't find that it makes financial sense to have and maintain all the of equipment needed to do the work. Larger companies often have one or two techs who do sealed-system repairs, not their whole crew.

If your company does enough warranty work or there are a lot of high-end refrigerators in your market area, then you might want to have the ability to do sealed-system repairs, and are looking for training. Read on!

First, understand that actually doing sealed system repairs is a completely different skill from diagnosing a sealed system problem to begin with. Here’s the reality: it's relatively easy to learn how to do sealed system work; it’s much harder to train technicians how to troubleshoot and diagnose warm refrigerator problems correctly, quickly, and accurately.

In fact, I've found that many guys who do sealed system work don't actually understand how the sealed system works. I know, it sounds crazy! But that's the dirty little secret of doing sealed system repairs: you don't have to understand how the sealed system actually works in order to replace a compressor and recharge a system. You just need to follow a procedure, pay attention to details, know how to use some special equipment like scales and gauges, and acquire some degree of proficiency with brazing copper (and soon, Lokring).

If you are going to work on refrigerators in any way, then the first step is to take our our Refrigerator repair course. This will teach you how the sealed system works in conjunction with the controls to keep the compartments cold. You'll then be equipped to troubleshoot all fridge problems, and repair most of them.

Then, to add sealed-system work to your repertoire, you don't need a whole new course. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a one-day workshop that steps you through the process and gives you some hands-on practice. But there are lots of free materials out there from manufacturers that you can read or watch, and then practice in your work shop. Get some old dehumidifiers or refrigerators to practice on. You'll destroy the first couple of them you work on but no big deal-- it's not a customer unit. After you get it right in your work shop, then you're ready to take your new skills into the real world.

Read, watch, learn, fix...

Technical Documents (You'll need a tech account at Appliantology.org to download):

Instructional Videos (from YouTube):

EPA Certification

This is the other question we get asked a lot - how to get the EPA Certification required to do sealed system work. EPA certification simply shows that you’ve passed a test regarding refrigerant handling and understand the regulations and certain safety procedures. It does not demonstrate your technical competence or ability to troubleshoot and repair sealed systems.

You can search online for a place that is authorized to offer the EPA “Section 608” test and certification. Here is one example.

Diagnosing two different no-start complaints in electric dryers

Posted on November 20, 2018 by - Academy Talk, Career Talk, Tech Talk

"My dryer won't start. I think it's the belt."

Many people mistakenly think that working on an electric dryer is easy Parts-changing-monkey work. Just swap out the part that isn't doing its thing, right?

Oh, no, my bruthahs and sistahs. Electric dryers can have interesting circuits that are fun to troubleshoot... if you know your stuff. If you can’t troubleshoot the electric circuits in these “low tech”, Old Skool appliances, how can you expect to troubleshoot the modern, computer-controlled appliances? We teach this in the Fundamentals course.

Both of the electric dryers in the video below wouldn't start. The causes were different, but in both cases we were able to find the exact failure by gazing upon the schematic diagrams and doing a few measurements from the control panel. Minimum disassembly, maximum bad-assery. This is the power of knowing basic electricity and circuits. Learn more, earn more!

 

 

This video demonstrates a powerful troubleshooting tool: Electrically Equivalent Points (EEPs). By identifying EEPs on the schematic, you can speed up your diagnosis and prevent unnecessary disassembly. Work smarter not harder!

 

 

Refrigerator Sealed System Diagnosis using Condenser Temperature Split

Posted on November 1, 2018 by - Academy Talk, Tech Talk, Video Repair Tips

In this short video, the Samurai demonstrates how understanding how sealed systems work and move heat can be used to make non-invasive diagnostics on refrigerator sealed systems. In this case, we're using a design criteria for condensers called "temperature split". This is the difference between the condenser's SATURATION temperature and the ambient temperature. Saturation is the key here because you don't want the superheated or sub-cooled part of the condenser for your condenser temperature.

This temperature measurement assumes normal heat transfer at both coils (evaporator and condenser) and that that the compressor has been running (at full speed, in the case of a variable speed compressor) for at least half an hour.

You need to measure at the midpoint of the condenser and right on the tubing. This can be tricky to do with an IR gun on some condensers. In these cases, a thermocouple strapped to the tubing would give a more accurate reading.

Remember that this is just a quick screening test to determine if the problem is the sealed system or something else. It won’t tell you what is specifically wrong with the sealed system, just that something IS wrong with it. This would inform and direct your troubleshooting.

 

We teach sealed system thermodynamics, operation, troubleshooting, and repair in the Refrigerator Repair course at the Master Samurai Tech Academy. Self-paced, online, on-demand 24/7.