There’s no getting away from the fact that plumbers have a bad name. Stereotypes of messy, unpunctual tradesmen who turn up late and leave the job half done are common and it’s a reputation you’ll have to work hard to distance your own venture from. However, it is possible to build a solid and reliable reputation.
“Our growth was built on quality of service and if you drop that, you’ve got nothing,” says Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers. “It takes a long time to build up a name but you can lose it overnight.”
Mullins issues all his staff a Pimlico Bible which lays out everything from how they must present themselves to how clean their van should be and what time they turn up for a job. If staff can’t abide by the book, they don’t last long at Pimlico.
Complaints are also dealt with swiftly with the same engineer almost always sent back to rectify the problem. Mullins believes if you handle a complaint correctly it can often turn into further work. “We want to be seen as the John Lewis of the plumbing industry where if you’re not satisfied you get your money back. Retaining customers is more important than getting new ones.”
William Davies of Aspect Maintenance also decided his business would need to focus heavily on customer service from the outset. “We saw that it was an underserviced marketplace and if you ask anyone they’ll tell you they’ve had problems with maintenance companies at some stage.”
Offering great customer service can also save you a huge amount on your marketing spend. Word of mouth is will give you far better return on investment than a full page ad in a business directory.
Davies says he didn’t do much in the way of advertising when he started Aspect Maintenance but instead relied on the client base his partner Nick was already familiar with. It was only once the company was more established that he started spending cash on branding and advertising to the general public.
Mullins says the Pimlico vans with their prominent logos and personalised number plates are the biggest advertising tool the company has by far. “We have 120 on the road. They’re very recognisable and seen all over London.”
Another pull for many customers looking for a plumber is the knowledge that the person they’re hiring belongs to reputable trade organisation. Being a member of the CIPHE can add credibility to your business. The process involves having your qualifications and experience checked by the organisation, and sticking to a set of working standards which are enforced by a committee. Plumbers that are found to be lacking in these standards are removed from the register.