Visualize Plumbing Problems for Customers Rather Than Confusing Them With Industry Jargon

Gaining a person’s business ultimately means earning their trust, and there is no better way to do that than tapping into the brain’s affinity for processing information visually

Visualize Plumbing Problems for Customers Rather Than Confusing Them With Industry Jargon

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People are visual.

This idea hit home when I was in college and took an advanced marketing class that featured an individual who made a living getting inside consumers’ minds for a successful marketing firm. It was by far one the most exciting courses I had ever taken.

This person explained that the human brain is the most impressive processing machine we have ever known and for all of our advancements we know relatively little about how it works. One thing we do know is that the human brain is much better at processing things in a visual way versus a verbal form. I remember him saying, “If you have a hard time remembering your grocery list do this right now: Picture a gallon of milk sitting inside of your bathtub. Now picture a laundry detergent bottle spilling over your driveway. If I ask someone five years from now completely at random, ‘Where is the milk?’ people can always remember to respond, ‘In my bathtub.’”

The brain is very visual. So why then do we continue to use industry jargon and confuse our customers with verbal jiu-jitsu that talks about the complexities of their plumbing issues with objects they are unfamiliar with and processes they don’t understand?

In the past, when more people were part of a blue-collar, working-class family, a plumber was trusted to know what was best to solve the problem. The customer rarely cared about what exactly they were being billed for. They were being billed for the plumber’s knowledge and time, and the material involved in solving the problem.

Fast-forward to today’s market. People no longer trust the expertise of a plumber. They aren’t always aware of the difference in material for what we are installing versus what they can find for cheap online. Because of that, they can’t and won’t justify the cost of your labor. We lost some that trust when we started letting unlicensed people without the proper qualifications go into homes and work on plumbing systems. 

To bring back the perception of your value, you have to prove to a homeowner that you not only know your stuff but can easily explain to them what is happening or what needs to happen to solve their problem. You have to earn their trust for them to spend money with you, as unfortunate as that may sound.

Keep a binder or photo section on an iPad featuring cutaway diagrams for the most common household plumbing repairs: P-traps, root intrusions, pipe bellies, garbage disposals, faucets, shower valves, clay pipe, cast iron pipe, the system as a whole, water heaters, etc. You should also consider taking some old parts and cutting them in half using a band saw or whatever you have available. For example, you could cut a shower valve in half and show the customer how — if a valve body is pitted — it will continue to leak no matter how many cartridges you install. This way, you can show the customer a visual and point and explain exactly what you think is happening to their faulty system. Keep things very basic and work on metaphors that a child could understand. I once heard someone explain that heating up the crud on the bottom of a water heater is inefficient because it would be like trying to boil a pot of water with stacked bricks underneath the pot. I believe that most customers who become combative and argumentative do so because you ultimately failed to control the service call. 

After you have made a visual explanation of what is happening to their system, then and only then should you talk price. You have given their mind a pleasurable experience with visuals and shown them that you are in control, have a mastery of their issue, and have the correct material. They have already engaged with your company to the point where it doesn’t make sense for them to start this process over again and call someone else. You have done all you can do, and you present the price for completing the work.

At this point, the customer either can afford to have you complete the service, or they can’t. They either trust you are the person to do the job or they don’t. But just because a customer can’t afford to have professional services done by a professional company does not mean you are too expensive, and it definitely doesn’t mean you aren’t worth what you are charging. How would the customer really know how much you and your knowledge are worth? How does the customer know how much your company’s overhead is? They have no clue. Use visuals, do a simple explanation to help their understanding, and give them your price. Don’t assume you’re the bad guy if they decline, and make them feel comfortable about having a basic understanding of what they need.

About the Author

Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 23 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College. 


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