TECHNICIANS ARE more comfortable tinkering with machines than selling to customers. Yet Shun Hing Electric Service Centre has succeeded in turning them into effective salespeople for its maintenance service. The typical Hong Kong customer tended to prefer to buy new equipment rather than repair broken-down or malfunctioning appliances, which was the reason the firm's decade-old maintenance referral scheme saw revenue plummet by half between 2000 and 2004, said Kenneth Lee, the centre's assistant general manager and head of human resources department. The technicians were expected to help sell the scheme to customers while fixing their machines, but lost confidence after a few rejections. 'Some of our technicians are very experienced. They didn't realise that their opinions mattered a lot to customers,' said training manager Anita Lam. With an eye to winning an HKMA Excellence in Training Award, the company devised a training programme to motivate its technicians in selling the maintenance service. 'We had three objectives - to increase the scheme's revenue by 40 per cent, to improve our service level by 6 per cent, and to promote team spirit,' Ms Lam said. All 240 technicians and customer services staff took part in a special training course conducted in two phases, from May to October last year. The results, highlighting the top performers, were published in a series of entertaining newsletters. In six months the scheme's revenue had gone up by 190 per cent, dramatically boosting the scheme's contribution to the group's total turnover.