By Manny Roman
I recently had a customer relations encounter with a plumber that I want to share with you. The water here in Las Vegas apparently consists of approximately 10% sand and 20% bricks. A water softener is a must and we installed one within a week of moving here.
We recently decided that lugging around hundreds of pounds of bottled water was not good for the environment, my back and my wallet. We bought a digital water quality tester and it showed that the incoming water was way in the red. The bottled water was way in the green. We were convinced. We wanted to install a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink rather than a whole house system. The toilets probably don’t care that the water would be soft and drinkable.
After researching the available options to death, and learning much more than I care to remember, I decided on a six-stage filtration system. Videos from YouTube, the manufacturer and others demonstrated that this system would be easily installed. Any normal individual should be able to implement an installation within 30 minutes including cleanup. I, however, do not fit the normal category, nor do I easily fit under the kitchen sink.
The solution was to call a plumber that I have used a few times in the past. I have been happy with his work and his pricing. We agreed on a date and time for the installation. Then, things got interesting.
When he saw that there were six filters and a small integrated pump involved he became visibly disturbed which surprised me. He told me that I should not have bought such a complex system. That he sells a four-stage system that is sufficient. He broke a few customer relationship skills laws here. He obviously had not attended any customer satisfaction skills training.
Rule #1: Know what you will be working on and, if necessary, research possible issues before you approach the customer and/or the equipment. He should have asked what I bought and if it was new to him research the installation process.
Rule #2: Always be prepared to answer 10 likely questions and have the actual speech ready so you do not break Rule #3.
Rule #3: Be prepared to NOT say 10 boneheaded things, like “You should not have bought this in the first place.” If you are going to tell a customer that they committed an error in a purchase, you better have a good speech prepared. How you frame your statements should ensure that the customer does not feel stupid or chastised.
It became obvious that he did not wish to follow the very simple installation procedure. The pictures of the completed project really are enough to finish the job. Everything is color coded. However, I had to point out which picture to follow as he continued complaining that this system was all wrong.
Rule #4: If you need extra time to calm down and explore the project for simplification, remove the customer from the area. “I will need to look at this more closely. Please give me about 20 minutes and I will get back to you. Where will you be?” This question is actually a request that the customer go away but presented in a nicer way.
I realized that my presence was detrimental, so I turned the air conditioner to cold and fans on to help since he was by now sweating profusely then went to another room. About 20 minutes later he cried out that everything was leaking and he needed a bucket and some towels.
Rule # 5: Anticipate the time, talent and tools needed for the job and have them readily available.
After much manipulation, sweating and under-the-breath cursing all was well except the last stage of the system. It continued to leak. I suggested that, since it was the last stage and it just added some minerals back to the filtered water, we should bypass it for now. His relief at this was palpable.
This project should have been about 30 minutes. It took just over 2 hours. I could have been upset but he implemented
Rule #6: Do not charge for your incompetence and lack of preparation. He did not even attempt to charge more than the agreed-to fee.
Regarding the bypassed filtration: It is good to have a neighbor who fits under sinks and will work for a glass of wine.
Manny Roman, CRES