MTO Case Study

There are two ways to grow your crew of appliance techs: hire an experienced tech, or hire a novice and train in-house.

Finding an experienced tech to hire is getting increasingly difficult, and even if you can find someone who is looking for a job change, it comes with some downsides.

  • They were not trained by you, so they may have habits or practices that aren’t to your liking.
  • Techs with some experience are often resistant to taking additional training.
  • You will need to be paying them a higher salary right off the bat, before you know how effective they are and how compatible they will be with your company.

What we have seen over the last five years is a steady increase of service companies hiring folks with potential, and training them in-house. This way they can shape their technical and customer service skills just the way they want them to be.

That outcome probably sounds great to you, but the process of getting them trained may seem difficult and time consuming. We know you are busy and anxious to get more techs rolling.

Here’s the good news: you can outsource most of your training to Master Samurai Tech.

In just the past 5 years alone we have been the training partner for hundreds of appliance businesses around the globe, training 1500+ techs. We’ve learned a lot about how to take a person with good potential and have them running service calls independently in 6-9 months. (That is the typical amount of time that business owners have told us it takes.)

Here’s a breakdown of how it works. There is lots of room for variety - for you to make the training program fit your company. But we encourage you to consider what actions and programs have brought the most success to companies.

1. Hiring.

You probably already know what you are looking for in terms of character: good work ethic, friendly, honest, presentable, etc. But what about technical aptitude? Here’s what we would look for in a good prospect:

  1. High school diploma (minimum) with decent math and science grades (see note)
  2. Evidence of technical curiosity - electronics kits, history of taking things apart to “see how they work”, doing their own maintenance/repairs in their home, etc.
  3. Evidence of mechanical proficiency - working on engines, building models or rockets, etc.
  4. Any other technical training during or after high school

Note about grades: some folks are bright with good potential, but weren’t very comfortable or successful in an academic environment, so poor grades isn’t an automatic “no.” However, what we’ve seen is that if someone isn’t comfortable with basic math (arithmetic and extremely easy algebra, such as being able to see a formula like E = I squared x R and know how to use it if you are given values for I and R), they will be limited in their troubleshooting ability. If a candidate had poor grades, you’ll want to probe a little further and see evidence of some technical curiosity and aptitude.

2. Job offer/setting expectations

It is critical at the outset to let your prospective hire know that they will be expected to take online training courses once they are hired. The best way to do this is to outline your requirements in the job offer itself.

There are various ways to do this. Here is one example.

Yale Appliance in Boston stipulates that a new hire will complete the “Tech Bundle” at the Master Samurai Tech Academy, earning Certification for the courses, within 90 days of their hiring. To fail to do so is grounds for termination. So, they are essentially hired on a 90 day probation.

A note about the 90 day time period: Yale gives their trainees 2-3 mornings a week at the office to work on the courses, but if that is not enough, the tech is expected to do extra work on his own time. It would be unreasonable to expect completion in that short a time without giving time in the office to do the courses.

During this probation/training time, the tech is paid a lower rate than he will be once he is running service calls.

That just gives you an idea of how you can structure it. The exact details are up to you, but the most important thing is to set the expectations at the outset.

There are also ways you can protect your investment in their training. For example, you can stipulate that if a tech quits within a certain time period - say, the first year of employment - the cost of the training courses will be deducted from the final paycheck.

Be aware that your state labor laws may influence exactly how you handle the above.

3. Training period

So, you’ve hired a tech who has great people skills and promising technical aptitude, who knows that he/she is expected to become Master Samurai Tech Certified. Now what?

The best scenario, in our experience, is for the tech-in-training to do a combination of online studies with hands-on practice and exposure to real-life service calls.

Spending 8 hours a day taking the online courses usually exceeds their attention span and will result in less retention of the material than doing 2-4 hours a day max.

Also, there’s a great feedback mechanism that happens when a student sees things on actual repairs that remind him of something he saw in the course, and vice versa. This really improves the learning process, helping him to get more out of his study time as well as the hands-on time.

4. The Online Courses

Ideally, whoever is supervising the tech during his training will have taken one or more of our courses himself, but if you haven’t taken our courses yourself, we have a short video that shows you how the courses work on this page: https://mastersamuraitech.com/site-help-videos/

Bottom line: you need to know how the tech is expected to earn Certification so you can monitor his progress and insert yourself as necessary. It is also very valuable if you know what we encourage techs to do in order to learn the material.

Does Master Samurai Tech supervise the students?

There are a few key points at which we will check a student’s progress in the Fundamentals course:

At the end of Module 3, Basic Electricity. This is a challenging module for most students, and if their scores don’t meet the Certification requirements we will email them and their supervisor to see what the issues are. Sometimes a tech didn’t pay close attention to the Orientation information, and didn’t realize what was expected. That’s why it is so helpful for the supervisor at your company to communicate that clearly ahead of time, and also keep an eye on scores.
Midterm exam. This is an exam that requires them to write down the answers themselves, not just do multiple choice. We grade it personally and then communicate back to the student (and supervisor) with feedback.
Fundamentals Final Exam, Part 2. This is similar to the Midterm Exam, except with more questions.

Otherwise, it is up to the employer/supervisor to keep a close eye on the tech’s progress and scores. We discuss the best ways to do that, including some downloadable documents you can use, in the video How to Plan and Track your Tech’s Progress on this page: https://mastersamuraitech.com/site-help-videos/

5. Hands-on training

MST provides “brains-on” training, you provide “hands-on”. In our opinion, the most important and valuable work a tech does for any job happens between their ears: the mental troubleshooting process.

But even someone who can read schematics in their sleep ultimately needs to transfer what they see on the neat and tidy diagram to that mess of wires and components that they’ll find under the shroud or panel of the machine.

Videos are a great help. We have lots in the course, more at Appliantology, and then there are tons of free videos at parts sites (RepairClinic, AppliancePartsPros, for example). These are great for showing someone how to gain access to the various areas of a particular appliance and changing out parts.

But a tech has to get comfortable working with both his hands and his head, and that just takes practice. More importantly, he has to understand how to make electrical measurements. Those always look so easy on videos, but we find that rookies make a lot of mistakes when they are first using their meter in the field.

There are two basic ways to get this hands-on training - either working on machines in the shop, if you have one, or riding along with an experienced tech.

If you have a shop, it’s great to do both. Start in the shop, which is a very low-pressure environment. Then gradually give more time in the field.

In both instances, however, there needs to be someone who is training them. The experienced tech can’t just do the work in front of the trainee - he needs to explain what he’s doing, and also get the trainee involved.

Ideally, the experienced tech has taken our courses, so they can be speaking the same language. If the trainer or service manager doesn’t reinforce the good troubleshooting habits that we teach, the new tech may fail to progress.

6. Transition to independence

What this next step looks like will depend a lot on how many techs your company has and your call volume. Here’s what we would consider ideal. You will have to adapt this to fit your company’s situation and the trainee’s readiness.

Once your trainee has completed the online training, then he should continue to spend some time running calls with an experienced tech and working on appliances in the shop, if that option is available.

While running calls as a second man, the experienced tech can start to let the trainee take the lead on the jobs, including handling the customer service part. In other words, the trainee should act like he is the lead tech, and the experienced tech will just step in with comments or corrections (to the trainee) as needed.

It generally doesn’t take very long in this phase before the trainee is ready to start running calls independently. Some small shops don’t have much flexibility and will have to send this tech on all types of jobs as soon as he/she is reasonably ready. A larger company may be able to send the new tech on selected jobs that appear to be more straightforward. The job load (number of calls per day) should be a little lighter when they start out on their own as well.

During this transition period, a senior tech or service manager should go over the service calls ahead of time - either the afternoon before or the morning of - to help the tech with prediagnosis and point out any tips that may be helpful. The new tech should also have a senior tech that he can reach out to during the day if needed. (The goal is to avoid these calls by advance planning, but they will inevitably be needed occasionally.)

7. Continuing Education

Congratulations! Your trainee is now running service calls independently.

He or she will gradually need less help as they build experience and confidence. But, you should encourage them to continue their education and training. Part of being a professional is continuing to learn and sharpen your skills. The courses at Master Samurai Tech are a great foundation - but there is always more. Plus, a student will only retain so much from their studies. Review and practice are necessary to become a master.

Besides any in-house training you may offer at your company, a great way for all of your techs to continue to hone their craft is by being active at our tech support site, www.Appliantology.org. As MST Students and/or Alumni, they are eligible for a free membership there. (Conditions apply - see here for details: https://appliantology.org/blogs/entry/1027-tech-memberships-at-appliantology/)

The tech-only forums at Appliantology are a fantastic resource for information as well as camaraderie with other techs. You can browse through topics, ask your own questions, and then start answering questions as you are able. It’s a powerful way to increase your knowledge--much faster than just by doing service calls alone.

Some companies offer financial incentives to their techs for spending time researching and pre-diagnosing jobs. This is usually measured by an increased first-call complete rate, or by knowing what parts they will likely need for their upcoming jobs, based on their preparation.

Lastly, the tech will continue to have access for some period of time to their training courses at the MST Academy. They should also have their notes that they took while going through. It is an excellent idea to revisit and review the material while they have that access. There will be many things that they will forget over time, so periodic refreshers can really help them to up their game quickly as they are either transitioning or already running calls independently.

Employer Checklist

  1. Determine what your training program will look like before you hire your next tech, so you can include the requirement in the job offer. (You can adapt this as you gain experience, but you’ve got to start with a plan.)
    • Which course or courses will you require?
    • How long will you give them to complete?
    • How much time in the office to study?
    • What financial stipulation will you include in the job offer in case they leave the company?
  2. Create your MST supervision plan (we have resources you can use here: https://mastersamuraitech.com/employer-resource-page/)
    • If you haven’t taken our courses yourself, watch the short videos on this page: https://mastersamuraitech.com/site-help-videos/
    • Put the details of the training plan in writing and have the tech sign it.
    • Create your supervision strategy - will you track their emails, have them log their study time, and/or will you log into their account on a scheduled basis? (If you have 2 or more techs, we can also create a Supervisor Dashboard for you.)
  3. Create your hands-on plan
    • Determine who will be in charge of this part of the training.
    • Set up a schedule for ride-alongs and shop time.
    • If opportunities for these things are limited, also identify disassembly videos from the free resources we mentioned in Section 5 above for the trainee to watch.
  4. Set up a transition to independence plan for when courses are completed
    • Update the schedule to increase the number of ride-alongs and the variety of techs they ride with
    • Meet with the experienced techs as needed to make sure they understand the strategies and tactics, and to get feedback on the trainee.
    • Set up a schedule to do prediagnostic work with the new tech (afternoon before or morning of?)
  5. Continuing education
    • Will you give them a little time in the shop for this or expect it to be done on their own?
    • Will you offer incentives to encourage prediagnosis and/or other participation in ongoing education such as participating at Appliantology forums?
    • When will their course access expire (or, will you pay for the ongoing access subscription)? Set a reminder on your calendar to ask them periodically if they are spending time reviewing the coursework.