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A customer can tell if your being friendly or if your really taking an interest in their problem. here's something that worked for me 90% of the time but only because I was sincere and not trying to make a sale. I would often times look at a situation and give several options, if I could see that this was not going anywhere or moving slowly
No mater how bad I feel or what my mood is I put a smile on my face when I walk to the door, I talk to my customers with respect and gratefulness that there feeding my family and paying our bills I take the time to talk were entertainers as well as professionals get your drain cleaned and see a show. I remember sitting down with an 80 year old customer and eating a piece of birthday cake with her on her birthday as the kids had celebrated it early so no one came on her real birthday I was honored she chose me to celebrate her birthday with. My customers are not just someone who feeds and clothes me and my family they are my friends we laff they tell me there problems and swap stories. I dress in a uniform and work professionally but my customers are not just someone to make money off of, in fact I have cut my price on some that were on hard times some I didn't charge at all or let them pay what they could each month. I know I am a sap never be rich in money but I get enough word of mouth advertising that I think I come out ahead in the long run. And I always feel honored that I was the one they chose over the others to do the work.
I think for every 10 customers I work for, only 7 are going to "possibly" call me back.
The other 3 could be for a slew of reasons...didn't like how I looked, didn't like my willingness to "give" in situations where they try to hustle me or costs.
Out of that 7 however, the pie is sliced even again.
I think people like selection by default, I think people can subconciously get in that phone book again and not think twice about hiring the same plumber. I know this for a fact because some lady called me that I did work for twice before, in a recent time frame, and was surprised when I showed up as she wasn't expecting me.....???
Some people x-nay me for good when they call and I either didn't answer the phone fast enough or I can't get to them soon enough. Those take a hike and that's it, gone forever.
I sent a bill to a lady that I "thought" owed me money, turns out my dad told me another plumber was in her driveway this week. Oh well, I'm allowed to make mistakes and running 3 companies, that can happen. It's not my fault as she didn't call me back when she did, and I had to refer her to another plumbing company thanks to Wolverine Brass shower valves that I'll never work on, ever. So if I'm passing the buck, I shouldn't be too upset eh?
Then there are the surprise jobs that blow up and you make more money, but you can't control it. These people are planning on spending the minimum and it can sometimes escalate two/three times the initial amount. Another reason to be hated.
I've lost customers because I took too long to do a job, too long to send a bill, too fat, unwilling to date their daughter living in the basement with 3 kids with no daddy and "she's going to school to become a _________."
The customer that calls me numerous times before I'm staged to actually come out, those are the ones that fall off the face of the earth and never hear from them again.
The "we just got you because our plumber's busy" are the ones that I'll take for the monetary reasons, no complaints.
And finally, The customer that you do work for one time.....then all of a sudden they start having all kinds of plumbing problems, you're making really good money but they're expecting discounts even though you're doing the same qualified work as the first time you're there, or they spin off a customer to you and now they expect something for nothing.
This "rush" of this customer stops, then you never hear from them again. Or the one you did work for years ago, they call you because you have been in their house and you give them a roundabout price and never hear from them again. <<< That one I have dealt with on a regular basis.
I understand the economy but homer can't be cutting too many deals, especially when I'm in the same boat as everyone else.
There was a customer I used to do work for...for years. Worked on 4 properties of theirs and all of sudden, it stopped. I worked cheaper for them to help out, but I think with their job losses and economy, I think they are scraping to keep it all together. I shouldn't wear any bad feelings about why they aren't calling me but I understand about keeping things to a minimum.
Hell charging $10 more for a plumbing permit has knocked me out of jobs just because the incoming customer was already in the know that the cost is $10 less. I don't think it's asking too much to pay for my time on the computer filling out a fairly lengthy permit...do you?
Last but not least,
Doing work for a customer for quite a while, all is good, then they refer me to another. For some stupid reason no matter how well I worked on the job, the top dollar on the job either irks or disturbs the one I was referred to, now I look like I went after venture capital at the benefit of my referral. Simply not true. People don't realize that when they commit to numerous EXTRA repairs, it DOES INDEED increase the price both on the labor and material costs.
No matter how many materials I put in a job at times, they still think the plumber just made their month's salary, like I got the materials for free. What?!@@!!
There's a dumb by default mode in this....where like a water heater install is figured by the customer as "how hard is it to put a water heater in?" and they look at it how someone no more than the average person wouldn't have trouble with it either, they just can't find some RATM.
Hate me because I wasn't the handyman or brother, friend of the family that couldn't get there in time to save you a bundle.
I did a job for a guy replacing a horrible kitchen sink drain this year, had to have help on it, the guy's attitude has since changed after I charged accordingly for my time between fruitless drain cleaning and then the task of fixing the drain properly, a lifetime repair that his sink will not ever clog again for the same reason.
So my here was a very honest one, one that it is worth mentioning that you cannot keep everyone happy, even ones you have established relationships with. The reality is if the person you're working for has neighbors, you'd think since the person you work for trusts you, therefore everyone on the street should too?
Doesn't work that way, minus existing work relationships and DIYr's which are really in full force these days.
6 years into my profession under my company name and the majority still don't know who I am. If I direct mailed my community on a 4 step process, I could gather tons of work no problems. I just am lazy and run off repeat business, new customer call-ins from a large venue of advertising through paid to sponsorships.
Calling and rescheduling calls can ruin existing relationships too. I did this quite a bit this summer to get my other two businesses off the ground and I don't even want to further elaborate on that. Time for ice cream to make me happy.
I appreciate your bluntly honest post Dunbar. As you know recently I have had to 'fire' a couple of customers. Also I have people hang up on me almost daily when they find out I won't drive out to their house for free to give them a price. Its all part of being a service plumber who charges decently, and has to deal with the general public (good and bad.)
However, the customers who do hire me tend to be a really great bunch. I treat them with the utmost respect, I answer my phone 24/7, I respond with timely appointments, I always give a price UPFRONT, and I use high quality parts and I warranty all my work (parts and labor). I am very friendly and a few customers I consider genuine friends.
In the end I have a a LOT of repeat customers and referrals. I also advertise very heavily and get a lot of new customers that way. But with advertising you have to take the good with the bad. For every good new client I pick up from my advertising, I probably have 3 to 4 people who are just calling to find out if I am the cheapest in town. Once they find out I'm not, it goes nowhere.
So yea, be friendly, get referrals, make clients for life. But also, know when to stand your ground with bad customers and not be taken advantage of.
I doubt any of us on this forum have any difficulty with attitude (except maybe one or two who shall remain nameless-you know who you are )
But, I bet I can count on one hand the number of sales people who act like they're glad to see me and actually give a damn about their work out of a hundred that I visit during the week.
It seems to come down to-are you the owner or just hired help.
There are a few exceptions. Shubee comes to mind. Have you heard how they answer their phones? "It's a beautiful day at SHUBEE, how may I make you smile today?" It works! I was smiling the first time.
Now, I frequently answer my phone that way. Of course, with caller i.d. it can get fun. I call most of my customers by their first name anyway, "Hello Susan, how can I make you smile today?"
"I need some help, I have a leak"
"Anything for you, Susan, when do you need me?".........
Another fun thing to do--when you're driving around and a customer comes to mind-call them and ask how they're doing. Tell them you were thinking of them and is there anything you can do for them, plumbing or not. You'd be surprised......
"Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied." Mark Twain