BUSINESS PROFILE: Roberts Electric Service serves their neighborhood with a smile

SAN DIEGO -- A side effect of the cable channel explosion over the last decade has been the growing prevalence of DIY shows, which teach do-it-yourselfers how to redecorate a room, plant a garden, install a deck and perform minor household repairs—all while saving money and instilling a sense of pride in a job well done.

However, not all home projects are DIY-compatible, such as the ones that could potentially set your house on fire, kill you, or both.

That’s where licensed and respected electricians come in. With more than 60 years of combined experience, the team at Roberts Electric Service implores people to leave electrical repairs to the professionals, even though it might appear cost-effective to tackle it with a cheap how-to book and a handful of household tools.

“Not to scare people, but electricity can be deadly,” said electrician Ben Day, a company principal. “We spend years learning how to properly work with it and understand its behavior.”

While some of the company’s clients have minor experience and will call Roberts Electric Service to check that the project is done properly, most of the DIY-related calls they get involve clients wondering why their own repairs aren’t working—resulting in a much larger bill for troubleshooting and fixing than it would have been to just call Roberts in the first place.

“I’ve got nothing against do-it-yourself projects in general,” said Robert Donovan, another technician and principal at the company. “I do work around my house all the time.”

But Donovan said he knows when to call an expert—people have to consider the risk of doing something wrong, such as flood damage with plumbing, and shock and fire with electrical.

Additionally, the Roberts team warns against using your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s husband, a.k.a. any unlicensed electrician, in order to save money.

“It’s a bad idea for the same reason you wouldn’t go to an unlicensed doctor or dentist,” said Mat Wahlstrom, the office manager. “You want proper care for your body. Why wouldn’t you want proper care for your home? Getting and keeping a license requires us to follow standards and regulations for the sake of public safety.”

Wahlstrom pointed out that if you hire an unlicensed electrician to work in your home, you’re liable for medical bills if he gets injured, plus any damage he does to your home or neighbors, because you’re hiring an employee and not an official contractor.

“Bad idea is an understatement,” Wahlstrom said.

Reputation for good customer service

However, getting professional help with home electrical issues does not mean you have to deal with an impersonal, county-spanning company. Roberts Electric Service prides itself on being “neighborhood electricians.”

“We live here, too,” Donovan said. “And by focusing on helping our neighbors as opposed to everyone everywhere we can give quick and reliable service.”

“We can take care of more people for less cost the closer we are,” Day said. “And we really like being a part of and supporting our local community.”

It’s a corporate philosophy that grew organically out of founder Robert May’s early history as a fixture in the Hillcrest community, or a “colorful personality” as Day describes him. May, known for decades as “Robert the Electrician,” was originally trained as an electrical engineer, Wahlstrom said, and was very successful in developing alarms and other electronic systems. After retiring from the engineering trade, May found himself helping friends and acquaintances “figure out” electrical problems—a hobby that soon turned into a full-time venture.

Since then, Roberts Electric Service has developed a sterling reputation for service, handling emergencies 24/7 and guaranteeing their work. Wahlstrom said such commitment is helped by “being a light sleeper,” and ensuring that all calls to the main line are forwarded to one of the electricians, and in the worst case, transferred to a personal voice mail instead of a message service.

“There’s just no substitute for being able to talk with customers directly about what they need and, even if I don’t know the answer, assure them that one of us will,” Wahlstrom said.

Another hallmark of the company’s commitment to customer service is the value they place on honesty. “We’re not going to try to tell you what you want to hear or hold back on bad news,” Donovan said. “Some customers might not appreciate it at first, but the ones who do know they can trust us.”

That level of customer loyalty also extends to recommendations for money-saving electric installations, such as outdoor photo sensor controls and indoor occupancy sensors to save electricity when it’s not needed.

“It’s also fun and futuristic to not have to flip switches,” Wahlstrom said.

Helpful hints

Other helpful tips electricians at Roberts Electric Service are happy to pass along include unplugging mobile device chargers and any other small devices with lights—“energy vampires,” as Day says they are called—and not using the radio option on LED flat screens, which use up energy in their large display size and brightness settings.

Above all, the most unique aspect that sets technicians from Roberts Electric Service apart from competitors is their passion for electricity.

“There’s always new things to learn, and a customer to help with a problem,” Day said. “New technologies and methods get more interesting by the week.”

So you can be sure that when a smiling electrician from Roberts Electric Service shows up at your door, it’s not just because he has to do the job, but that he gets to do something he loves—fixing your electrical woes, DIY-related or otherwise.

The details

Roberts Electric Service is based in Hillcrest. Call (619) 757-7500. Visit their website HERE.