Image is Everything in the Plumbing World

The value of the work plumbers do isn’t always obvious to the public if you don’t look the part

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Society views the plumber as an uneducated, dirty, dopey, polluted guy with his “plumber’s crack” bent over repairing a toilet.

But why? What led to this being our image? And what can we do about it?

What the public sees and the truth are two completely different things. The public may view us as the careless plumber’s crack chum beneath a sink or hovering over a toilet, but we see the grueling work mixed with expertise that it takes to serve in a highly diverse field.

It’s great to talk with each other about how impressively complex the systems we work on can be, or how we have decades of experience and professionalism compared to the typical handyman. But that really does no good unless we can convey that message to individuals outside our field. If we are able to get a sense of unity and push the boundaries of our image, maybe we can not only be taken more seriously in society, but also instill an expectation that the expense of a real plumber is worth every penny to the homeowner. 

Company Uniforms

Nearly every profession has a recognizable and respectable uniform. Doctors have lab coats, lawyers have a suit and tie, judges have their robes, members of the military have their uniforms as well as their formal “dress” uniforms, nurses have their scrubs. Since each profession has a similar standard and expectation for work dress, they obtain a certain level of respect within society. They get respect because the way that they dress and carry themselves demands respect. If you needed an attorney and he showed up with old, cracked leather slippers and smelled like he hadn’t showered in a week would you want him to represent you in court? No.

We hurt our image when we allow ourselves to wear greasy and grimy clothes into a customer’s home. It is true that we have a dirty job and that it is near impossible to stay fresh and clean throughout the workday. Still, it is no excuse to not throw on a pair of overalls for the dirty jobs in order to keep our appearance tidy for the next customer. Our uniforms nationwide should be functional and reflect who we really are: blue collar professionals who get their hands dirty. A strange combination for sure, but with a clean button down with our name on it, plus a pair of crisp denim overalls for the dirty jobs, we can start taking back our image one customer at a time. The money we earn is a reflection of worth, and worth is all about perception from the person paying the bill.

Company Trucks

A van with a picture of the owner sitting with their pants down on a toilet hurts us. Using that as an eye-catching marketing tactic to show that you are not expensive could be a worthwhile endeavor to put food on the table and separate yourself from the competition, but don’t let the rest of us hear you complain about how plumbers get no respect and have a poor image. You don’t see police cars with images of officers eating doughnuts. Why feed the beast?

Trucks should be just as clean as your personal image, from the lettering to the organization inside. You don’t necessarily need to come up with expensive-looking decals or spend a ton of money on the latest shelving system. Good, old-fashioned clean and organized interiors checked routinely with a respectable message and all your critical information and branding. That’s all you need. Anything that promotes a professional and clean image is advantageous.

Company and Personal Tools

As a technician, don’t keep your tools and van trashed. Nothing sends a stronger signal to a homeowner than your tool and van upkeep. People can tell how serious you take yourself and your craft by how well you take care of your things. I know you don’t want your tools dirty and spread out all over your van, but we know that when a call is over, it’s easy to simply throw everything in the van and go to the next call. You repeat this for days without taking the time to clean and put your tools back where they belong. You wait until you’re not on call one weekend and do a massive cleanup.

Think for a second from the homeowner’s standpoint. They don’t know you or how great you are at what you do. So when you open the back door of your service vehicle, and there is a mountain of junk, the homeowner’s first impression is that you are the typical slob plumber. When you bring your pipe wrench in and it is covered with mud from yesterday’s water service, all they see is that you don’t care about your tools.

Consistently conveying a professional image at every level will demand respect and ultimately lead to higher wages, higher sales, more respect, and less complaining about price because what customers are really complaining about is perceived value.

About the Author

Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 22 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College. 



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