Offering Financing Puts Customers at Ease about those Big Projects

Customer financing helps sticker-shocked customers afford major plumbing repairs.

Offering Financing Puts Customers at Ease about those Big Projects

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When people can’t afford large plumbing repairs, technicians at Rozga Plumbing Corp. in suburban Milwaukee are equipped to provide a convenient solution: customer financing.

For projects that cost $1,000 or more, the company started offering customers financing through Payzer, a financial-services and technology company, about five years ago. Since then, it’s become an important part of the company’s operations and has contributed to its growth and profitability, says owner Sam Gillis.

“We started to realize that as projects got more and more expensive — more so on the sewer and water side — and money got tighter, people couldn’t always afford needed repairs,” says Gillis, who bought the West Allis-based company about three years ago.

“When people wake up in the morning, they’re not expecting to spend, say, $10,000 on replacing a sewer lateral or a waterline,” he continues. “But offering financing has allowed customers to say yes to so much more work that they otherwise couldn’t afford.

“Being able to solve their problems affordably, as well as not force them to hire less-qualified side-jobbers and handymen, has been a game-changer.”

The company used to try to help out cash-strapped customers by letting them pay off large repair bills in installments over six months, for example. But that gets risky in terms of cash flow, Gillis points out.

“As your customer base grows, the ability to provide in-house financing starts to get expensive,” he notes. “The bottom line is we’re not a bank or in the bill-collecting business.”

WORD-OF-MOUTH REFERRALS

To find a good, reputable finance company, Gillis says the company relied on referrals from supply houses and vendors.

“We asked them who they trust, and they recommended Payzer, which has been a good partner with us,” he says. “Your vendors know who’s doing things right and who’s doing things wrong.”

Other factors played into the decision, such as the ability for customers to get credit approval quickly. As Gillis points out, customers in need of a sewerline repair can’t wait two or three days to get approval.

“Payzer can approve credit in a couple minutes,” he says. “Fast approval is very important.”

TECHNICIANS PLAY A ROLE

Customers can apply for financing through a secure link on the Rozga website that takes them to a Payzer portal. Or they can access a contractor-specific Payzer app by using a technician’s iPad, he explains.

“This streamlines the process and can allow customers to get the necessary work performed the same day, if time permits,” Gillis says.

Getting technicians involved in the process required training. “We’re good tradesmen, but that doesn’t mean we’re good financial advisers, too,” he says. “So we train technicians about things such as when to bring the subject of financing up, how to offer it, what the options are — in short, explain how to have that conversation.

“We also give them some pointers on how to be discreet and confidential about these discussions and how to give customers some privacy while they’re entering in financial information, a Social Security number and so forth.”

Most technicians have responded well to the additional responsibility, which allows them to broaden their skills and expand their comfort zones. But if they don’t feel comfortable in a sales role, or need more information, office staff is always available as a backup, Gillis says.

FLEXIBILITY MATTERS

A wide range of payment plans also made Payzer attractive. Gillis says Payzer offers 10 different programs, but most customers opt for either one-, three- or 10-year payment terms. The 10-year plan is the most popular because it keeps the monthly payment small.

On the other hand, the longer the loan terms, the higher the interest rate, although Payzer does not impose any pre-payment penalties, he notes.

“They even offer options for customers that don’t have stellar credit,” Gillis says.

Offering customers financing isn’t free, however. Finance companies typically charge contractors a percentage of the total cost of a project, in much the same way that retailers must pay credit card companies a percentage of a transaction total.

As such, contractors typically build that expense into the overall price of a project instead of “eating” the cost.

MUST-HAVE OPTION

Looking at the big picture, Gillis says plumbers are missing out if they don’t offer financing, especially since customers now are more comfortable with loans and monthly payments than ever before.

“People live in a world of monthly payments,” he says. “Companies that are stubborn and don’t want to learn new things are the companies that will fade and fizzle out.

“You can be the best plumbing company in the world, but if you can’t make yourself affordable, you’ll soon become irrelevant.”  



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