By Tom Grandy, Founder
Last month we covered the first four, of fourteen things NOT to do on a service. You will remember these were not theoretical situations. These really happened on a recent service call performed by my local plumber. If you happened not to have read last month’s article you might was to click Part 1 and read it before moving forward.
The previous article covered where not to park the service vehicle, entering the home utilizing the door the customer prefers be used, the proper use of drop cloths, and how not to use them, and finally, the use of shoe covers. We will now proceed to the final ten (10) areas of concern during my service call.
- Wear a mask – Nearly every customer has a different perspective on Covid-19. Some believe masks are totally unnecessary while other are fearful to even leave their home without one. The key word here is “their home”. Just like using drop cloths and shoe covers shows respect for their home, so does the use of a face mask. My tech did really well in this area, for a while. When he arrived, he had a face mask on and I felt very comfortable. However, sometime during the repair of the first of three toilets he apparently made the personal decision that a face mask was either unnecessary or too irritating to work with. Before long I noticed it was gone and it did not return during the remainder of the time he was in our home. Personally, I did not have a problem with that, so I did not mention it. However, that very well may not be the case for the next customer on his list.
Hint #5 – It matters not what the trades company and/or the technician thinks, in terms of the value of wearing face mask in the current working environment. The tech is working in the customers environment and their home and personal space needs to be respected. During this unique time in history wearing, and continuing to wear, a face mask while performing a repair is absolutely required. Should the customer choose to tell the tech they don’t mind if he removes it that is fine, however this decision should be initiated by the customer, not the tech.
- Listen and follow the customers’ requests – When the tech first arrived, I politely requested he begin with the main floor bathroom. I did not feel it was necessary to explain that my wife was gone, but would likely return soon. When she did return, she would probably want to use the main bathroom. Completing the toilet first on the first floor first would provide her free access when, and if, she needed to use it. I left his side for a few minutes. When I returned, he was gone! After a minor search I found him. Where? Bingo, right where you would now expect him to be, in the UPSTAIRS bath. My wife did return and after walking in from the street where she was forced to park, she needed to use the toilet but it had not been repaired yet. This wasn’t a major issue, but that is not the point. The point is that the tech did not listen to my request, he simply continued with his preconceived agenda.
Hint #6 – Listen, yes actually listen, to any requests the customer may make. If it was important enough for the customer (me) to mention it, it should instantly becomes a priority for the tech to honor their request.
- Do you have a trash bag!?! Now let’s think through the service request for a moment. I called and requested the entire insides of our three toilets be replaced. It does not require an advanced degree from Harvard Business School to surmise that after removing parts from three toilets they will need to be disposed of in some form or fashion. Apparently, my tech was playing hooky the day that subject was covered. However, he had a Plan B. “Do you have a trash bag I could put these old parts in?”
Hint #7 – Think through what will be needed on a job before you leave the shop. This guy is a plumber, right? What is the likelihood that he will have parts, pieces and/or scraps of materials that will have to be removed from the customers’ homes he visits throughout the day? Brilliant conclusion. ALWAYS carry a box of heavy-duty trash bags on the truck. In case it slipped your mind, put the filled-up trash bag, or bags, in your truck and place it in the company dumpster back at the office, not in the customers trash can or dumpster. As a matter of fact, don’t even ask the customer if you can place the bag, or bags, in their dumpster, just haul it away.
- Use of a water suction – This was a huge improvement from the last time a plumbing tech from the same company performed a repair on one of our toilets. Last time he asked for a pan to catch the toilet water! This time he had a bucket and a nifty hand suction to suck up the water and place it in his bucket. It worked well and did the job. It wasn’t the equipment that was the problem, it was the condition of the equipment. The exterior of the bucket and the suction looked like they had been used for a number of years…and were filthy.
Hint #8 – All customers, especially women, take note of how clean the tech, equipment, and the truck were when he arrived. The final test is how clear the area is when he leaves. Most (assume) a direct relationship, right or wrong, between how clean things are and the quality of work performed. It may, or may not, be a true assumption but if you have not learned it already…perception is truth in the eyes of the customer.
- Placed tools on ceramic tile floor – All three of our bathrooms have ceramic tile floors. In case you are unaware, it doesn’t take a very hard impact from something like a heavy tool in order to crack a tile. Having used this plumbing company in the past, we were well aware of how they operate. While hoping for the best, my wife prepared for the worst. She placed old, full sized, bath towels around the base of each toilet in order to prepare a spot for the tech to place his tools. What we thought was proper preparation turned out to be for naught. The tech simply placed, and often not very gently, his tools directly on the ceramic tile. Each time he “placed” them on the tile I cringed hoping he did no break one.
Hint #9 – Please – either place the tool into a bucket, or bag, and/or onto a clean cloth or towel. Again, it shows respect the customer’s home.
- Hung his light on the paper towel roll – Ok, it was a bit dark behind the basement toilet. I get that and a light was needed. I also suspect this was not the first time he had ever needed a light. He came prepared with a homemade, battery operated, hanging electric light. His “light” was hanging by what looked like a portion of a coat hanger although it may have simply been a piece of wire. In either case, the end of the wire he was using to hang the light was sharp. After trying to hang it on the toilet paper holder, with no success, he found a solution. Simply stick the shape wire directly into the toilet paper roll. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right? That is exactly what he did. Just because the sharp end did not hold in the toilet paper roll the first time he was not deterred. After several attempts (and therefore several holes in the roll) he got it to stay. This occurred while I was standing right next to him. Needless to say, I had to peel off several lays of toilet paper after he left in order to return the roll to its original functional state.
Hint #10 – Purchase and bring with you a light that can be placed on the floor and moved or angled to shine on the needed work area.
- Did not have one of the gaskets that was needed – Now I am admittedly not a plumber. However, it would seem, at least from a laymen’s perspective, that one would stock a variety of gasket sizes ON THE TRUCK. I would suspect our friendly repair man works on toilets nearly every day of the week. Did he have the gasket needed for one of my toilets – no! He excused himself as he traveled back to the shop, or perhaps to Lowe’s, to get one. That inexpensive gasket just cost me, the consumer, $40-$50 in travel time plus the marked-up price of the gasket. Remember, they charge by the hour, port-port.
Hint #11 – Inventory a variety of gaskets on the service truck. It’s not like gaskets are expensive or take up a lot of room.
- Cleanup after the tech left – Ok, the job of replacing the inside of all three toilets was now complete. Then it was time for my wife and I to take over. The mud from his shoes had to be swept up, the trash in the waste baskets needed to be thrown away and the wet towels my wife lovingly placed around the toilets needed to be washed. After he left, my wife was able to pull her car back into the garage. It only took roughly an hour after he left for things to be back pretty much in order!?!
Hint #12 – Bring your own towels and/or rags. Clean up after yourself before you leave. Remember, from the customers perspective (especially women), how clean the area is AFTER the tech leaves is a direct reflection on the quality of work done. It may not be true…but perception is truth to the homeowner.
- How much did it cost? – The job was completed, so how much did it cost? I asked the tech how much it was and offered to write a check on the spot. He told me he had no idea how much it was and then told me the office would bill me and out the door he went.
Hint #13 – Collect on the job before buyer’s remorse sets in. The real suggestion is to charge via flat rate pricing. That way the customer knows the cost “before” the work is done. Also, there would not have been any grumbling by the customer when the tech needed to go back and get a part. The price would have been set. Best of all, the tech could have collected right on the spot which would have helped cash flow.
From a functional standpoint the technician did a great job. Before he left, he flushed and adjusted each toilet multiple times and he was very friendly. He was experienced, having worked for the company for over twenty years. Had he received a bit of customer service training, coupled with a few basic systems set up by the company, it would have been a great experience.
By the way, the total bill (which I received a couple weeks later) was a bit over $300. If the company has been on flat rate pricing the tech could have simply told me, up front “Mr. Grandy each toilet will be $100.” I would have been happy, had no concerns about his having to go pick up a gasket, and the job would have been completed without my wondering for two weeks how much it was going to cost.
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