Most plumbing contractors have similar complaints about their plumbing teams. The best way to address the issues is through training. Here are six things you should teach your team.
1. The Grass is Not Necessarily Greener on the Other Side of the Fence
It is always tempting for plumbers to believe another company is better than the current one. Too often, a plumber jumps ship and discovers that what looked like green grass is actually green weeds. Some of them might even come with thorns.
Periodically, remind your plumbers how good they have it. Draft a statement of all of the benefits you provide and place a value on them. Point out the training you provide, the holidays and vacation you offer, and little things you do for the team, such as company parties, fishing trips, etc.
2. It's a Spending Problem, Not an Income Problem
Plumbers are paid well. If they lack money, it is because they are spending too much, not because they are making too little. They are like the government. We do not have massive deficits because the government taxes too little. It’s because the government spends too much.
The plumber who leaves your company for a dollar or two more per hour will not solve his financial problems. His financial problems are not income dependent. They are the result of poor personal finance.
Most plumbers are bad at personal finance because no one ever taught them. Make personal financial management part of your training program. People in control of their financial destiny are generally happier, more productive, and more loyal.
3. Success Depends on People Skills
Technical people are proud of the technical skills. This includes plumbers. Homeowners, however, have little ability to evaluate a plumber’s technical skills, but they do know how the plumber made them feel. Was he courteous? Well-groomed? Did he listen and explain things at a level the customer could understand?
Sooner or later, every contractor will employ the world’s greatest mechanic who is rough, gruff, and manages to generate customer complaints on every third or fourth call. By contrast, there is the All-American kid who can’t fix a thing, but is so likeable people hesitate to call when he blows a repair because the customer doesn’t want to get him in trouble. This is the power of bedside manner.
Train your plumbers to smile, stand up straight, to look the customer in the eye, and to nod and take notes when the customer is explaining things. Teaching soft skills results in higher average tickets, more referrals, and better reviews.
4. Profits are a Fraction of Sales
Plumbers inevitably think contractors are raking in the dough because they do not understand overhead. They only know what is charged and what they earn after taxes. This makes the notion of hanging out their own shingle seem more tempting than it should be.
Play the profit game with the plumbers. This can be done individually or in a group. Hand a plumber a hundred single dollar bills. Using your profit and loss statement, say that the hundred dollars represents all of the company’s sales. He’s going to get to keep the profit after tax.
If your gross profit is 60%, tell him to count out $40 and put it in a pile. This represents the cost of sales. The rest is gross profit. Use a similar approach to cover the major overhead items, such as office salaries, rent, benefits, etc., making stacks for each. The remainder is profit.
Of course, the plumber doesn’t get to keep all of the profit because there’s another silent partner, the government. Have him count out the Fed’s cut, then the state’s cut. The remainder will likely range from $5 to $15. This is what the company makes for every $100 of sales.
5. A Plumber Cannot Know if a Customer Has Money
Some plumbers are so empathetic that they identify with the customer’s situation, or rather what they perceive is the customer’s situation. They make assumptions about who can afford what based on the car in the driveway and the size of the home. This is a mistake.
Sometimes, the guy with the luxury car and McMansion has all sorts of cash flow problems. He might make a lot of money but he spends it as fast as it comes in. By contrast, the guy with the used Honda and modest house has plenty of money because he lives below his means.
There’s another factor at play as well. Sometimes wealthy people select the cheap solution because they can risk it. If it doesn’t work out, they can afford to get the work done a second time using the better approach. Less well-off customers may not be able to afford to pay twice so they pay a little more to get it done right the first time.
Train your plumbers not to pre-judge a customer. Their role is to diagnose a problem and present all of the appropriate options. It is up to the customer to decide which one is appropriate for their unique circumstances.
6. Customers Call Because They Want a Problem Solved
People do not call plumbers because they are lonely. They call plumbers and willingly pay the response charge because they have a problem that is beyond their ability or inclination to tackle on their own. They want the plumber to make the problem go away and expect to pay for it.
Plumbers should never be embarrassed or afraid of presenting a price. Frankly, most homeowners have no idea what it costs for a repair. If they object, give your plumbers some standard responses they can use. For example, explain that the price of everything is going up and use the cost of plywood as an example.
Teach your plumbers to approach every door with the idea the person on the other side of the door is glad of his arrival and desperate for him to solve a problem. Moreover, they expect to pay for it and they are ready to pay for it.
Are you coming to the Service World Expo this September in Louisville, KY? If not, you should. This is the biggest show for residential service contractors in the industry. It’s time to engage with other contractors. It’s time to travel. Come to Service World Expo. Visit www.ServiceWorldExpo.com.