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5 biggest gripes about piano tuners

Top 5 gripes about Piano Technicians

I’ve been in the piano tech business for over ten years and of the pianos that I service are much older than I am. As such, i’m usually not the first person to provide service. Sometimes, even on newer instruments, I’ll get a call to provide follow up service almost directly after another technician has worked on the piano. When this happens the client will undoubtedly express their impression of the previous technician(s) and their work. While piano owners likely don’t have extensive knowledge of the inner workings of their instrument, they almost certainly know enough to have a pretty accurate read on the service they received.

Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern of common complaints about technicians I’ve “cleaned up after”. This blog highlights the top 5 complaints I hear from clients about piano technicians.

This is basically a list of “don’ts” and will hopefully serve to help any technicians improve their craft, professional image and overall business success.

Side note: A good rule to live by in any professional capacity is never trash talk other professionals to your clients. Even if the negative input you have is totally accurate and justified, just keep it to yourself. No need to weigh in on others’ poor performance with pejorative comments…It’s not a good look. In the long run it reflects poorly on your brand. Show up and do a great job. Aim for superb service and let that speak for itself!

The Long Talker - “It seems like he talked longer than he worked”

It’s great to be personable. Strive to make meaningful connections with your clients. Do they have young students in the house? What is the piano owner’s occupation? Is there some other common ground you may have with them? These are some great ways to engage your clients on a personal level. After all we go into their homes and service what is sometimes their most prized possession. Personal connection is very important. We must be able to warmly converse with our clients.

However, don’t lose sight of what that conversation is for. What is it for, you say? To build bridges. To make the client feel total confidence in YOU as a person and a professional; and motivate them to call you for repeat service. In my view, that is the primary (perhaps only) utility of conversational interface with clients. It’s not about me. It’s about them. Find a good balance of being conversational and open, but also be visibly intentional with your movements toward getting the job done.

The type of conversation that has no utility includes talking too much about yourself and your personal life, talking too much about the client’s house and their personal life etc…

In short, just have a reason for everything you say. Don’t waste their time or yours.

Get in, get the job done and get out!

The Hasty Half Job - “He was only here for 30-40 minutes and the piano doesn’t even sound good”.

These people are easy to clean up after and make some loyal clients because they set the bar so low. I honestly don’t know what these people are doing in the piano tech business. It seems like a lack of basic conviction concerning one’s job as a piano tuner.

I do have a theory that ostensibly accounts for this behavior. I think it’s a mixture of not taking the time to do a complete job and not charging enough. Both display of lack of discretion. Never be this person. Here are two simply ways to avoid this. 1. Always be willing to do a complete job. 2. Charge enough!

Without fail I hear that the “hasty half job” technician only charged half of what I charge to tune a piano. I imagine this technician booking 8 or 9 tunes in a day just to make a livable wage. The result is that he rushes from appointment to appointment all day and does a half job wherever he goes.

This kind of rolls into an auxiliary point. Don’t be the cheapest person in town. Charge a fair price. Something that allows you to spend the requisite time to do an excellent job. Something that also covers your costs and makes a profit. I suspect that if these hasty technicians charged more, they would almost certainly do a better job.

Clients will ALWAYS gladly pay more for excellent service than less for shoddy service…which ultimately costs more anyway.

The Cold Hand Luke - “He acted annoyed. As if my very existence bothered him”.

The type of person who becomes a piano tech generally has a fairly clinical mind. We get into the trade because of our fascination and passion for the pianos. It’s not hard for someone with this personality to become so myopic about the task at hand that they forget they’re ultimately serving a real, human person. You might say this technician has the opposite problem of the “long talker”. I think in most cases, “Cold Hand Luke” isn’t trying to be rude or annoyed. The lack of human consideration is more likely just a part of their temperament (insert nerdy piano joke here). Personal skills come more naturally to some people than others. This job requires much focus and demands a lot of different skillsets. Yes, be exceptional at those. But, do not neglect to cultivate your personal skills as well!

Smile - be open -answer questions in a warm tone of voice - make eye contact

The Condescending Carl - “He treated me like I was stupid for asking questions”.

This trade uses a lot of specific terminology. While it is important for technicians to be able to articulate correct nomenclature it’s certainly unrealistic to expect clients to speak this way.

A number of times I’ve stood by a technician who overtly talked down to his clients over the phone for the misuse of terminology. It was actually sort of shocking that he still was hired to go tune for them. So what…they said reverb instead of sustain. Or they erroneously characterize the idea of perfect pitch. Whatever the case, no one responds well to being talked down to. This pitfall has definitely cost some technicians work.

This is not (or at least should not be) a power struggle. In a situation like this you have the opportunity and privilege to graciously educate someone in the proper terminology. You can do it with authority and kindness. This has potential to earn you some major points toward a loyal client. Or alternatively, just keep your mouth shut. Smile and go about your work.

The Slob - “He just looked (sometimes smelled) unkempt and I didn’t want him back in my house”.

This one is simple. Just be presentable. Dress decently. Groom yourself. Make sure you don’t stink.

Additionally, make sure your vehicle is clean. Have your tools in order. These things that have nothing to do with piano tech have everything to do with your professional image. When a client sees someone park a clean vehicle and walk up to their residence looking put together, it sends a message of competence and confidence.

By the same token, when they see someone pull up in a rig caked in mud and looking scraggly…it sends the opposite message loud and clear.

Set yourself up for success by making good first impression!


As you can see, these points have little to do with being exceptional at the piano tech trade itself and more to do with how to comport oneself as a professional. It can be argued that a lesser tradesman who implements these ideals will garner and maintain a higher professional reputation than a better tradesman who does not.

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