The Importance Of Being Likeable

Started in St. Louis in 1953, PayneCrest Electric Co. Inc. is broadly diversified in electrical and communications installation work, which the company now takes on throughout the United States. Its signature “PCE way” embodies a customer-centered philosophy with a constant drive toward creative solutions that has resulted in an impressive project resume and an enviable client roster.

Terry Brogan is service manager and a 37-year veteran of the electrical industry. Here, he shares his insights into approaches that have yielded consistent results for his service team.

The most sought-after result of developing a robust field-service organization is to build a loyal customer base that provides a never-ending source of recurring revenue. Could you sum up your philosophy on the subject?

I repeat it quite often, because it’s essential to success in the electrical service business: People have to like you. What we call “customer relationships” all gets back to person-to-person relationships. And while we’re all used to thinking about this in terms of happy times when customers call us back once again because they want us to do the next job, customer relationships mean even more to us when something does not go quite right. It’s not a perfect world. Every once in a while, we make mistakes. But when we do, if we have developed a good working relationship with a customer—that is, if they like us—chances are we will not jeopardize our standing with them.

How can our readers make their customers love their service organizations?

One essential step in the process, for sure, is to do a good job in the very beginning to match the service electricians who you are assigning to an account with the customers who they will be serving. The best way to accomplish that is by personally getting involved as early as possible to size up the situation. Know your people. Know who fits what kind of situation, and be prepared to quickly respond to complaints from customers who, from time to time, will call to make their thoughts known to you.

Your service group has a wide range of capabilities that spans a much broader customer spectrum than most electrical contractors typically serve.

Our team has a widely ranging customer base that calls upon us time after time for the kinds of commercial and institutional facilities that most [electrical contractors] are familiar with. But we are fortunate to have, as well, a lengthy list of large industrial, electric utility, major healthcare, solar power, controls work, communications, A/V, fire alarm, and other kinds of customers who regularly rely upon us for their electrical system service and maintenance needs. We’re especially proud of having that healthy diversification in our customer base. It means a lot when you consider how the ups and downs of the business cycles of different market segments tend to balance out in such a way as to ensure that our service work activity never falls off.

One of the more interesting things we noticed is that your service group is organized to address both traditional and low-voltage electrical systems.

That is one of our special strengths. We can serve all of the electrically related needs that our customers might have. In addition to our permanent cadre of service electricians who are ready to deliver whatever may come up in the realm of conventional power and lighting systems, we have an experienced group of technicians who are specially trained in low-voltage systems. And by the way, this dual capability leads to a lot of cross-selling opportunities. They go both ways. They are always great because, as the saying goes, it’s easier to sell something new to an old customer than something new to a new customer. Anyhow, it gives our customers the benefit of one-stop shopping.

Everyone in the business has a special source of pride about something that they have consistently accomplished. Surely you must have that, too.

I could point to many success stories that reflect the PCE way, but at the very top of the list is our safety record. Our experience modification rate [EMR] that applies to our workers’ compensation insurance—the truest scorecard for our safety program—says it all. Our most recent EMR was 0.55. Knowing that all of our workers go home safe at the end of each workday is what means the most to us.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at

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