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BACK STORY: It Pays To Listen

A service technician’s job includes both repairing a problem and educating a client to prevent future issues. Unfortunately, clients don’t always apply their knowledge, staff members aren’t informed or policies remain unchanged—all leading to repetitive service calls.

Hawkins Commercial Appliance Service, Englewood, Colo., recently received a call from a quick-service restaurant to service a gas range. The tech on the scene discovered water damage beneath the oven. The damage had caused the gas pilot safety valve to fail—the exact same issue that a Hawkins’ tech had repaired one year earlier. The restaurant owner contacted John Schwindt, G.M.,V.P. of Operations at Hawkins, and expected the repairs to be covered under warranty since the problem had returned.

Flashback to a year prior, when a Hawkins’ tech first discovered water damage under the oven and replaced the failed gas pilot safety valve, the owner requested a splash guard be ordered and installed to protect the controls in the bottom of the oven. But their particular model did not offer a splash guard accessory. Besides unavailability, the splash guard would only have been a treatment for a symptom—not the solution to a problem.

Schwindt explains that in the tech’s notes it came to light that the cleaning crew’s procedure was to dump buckets of soapy water beneath the oven, causing soap and grime to saturate and corrode the bottom controls of the oven. “It’s a simple case of bad cleaning practices,” describes Schwindt. Instead of moving the equipment or carefully mopping underneath, the crew splashed water over the kitchen floor without any care for the equipment in the way.

The tech explained to the owner that a splash guard couldn’t be installed, to which the owner argued the cleaning policies couldn’t be altered. “We told the manager that the valve would fail again if this practice was not stopped,” says Schwindt. “We couldn’t resolve the cause of the problem.”

One year later, with the same issue arising, Schwindt reiterated to the owner that the restaurant cleaning crew was the source of the problem—not the service job, and nothing could be done to prevent further damage unless policies were changed. The valve was replaced at the owner’s expense and the restaurant took no action to prevent the issue in the future. “We see this all the time,” says Schwindt. The customer disregards the service company’s instructions and it ends up costing them more and more.

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