Pardon me while I vent a little about one of the most annoying things that happens to those of us in the plumbing business. It doesn’t happen to Dutton Plumbing nearly as much as it does to the average plumbing shop – for a reason I’ll explain shortly – but when it does happen it shakes my faith in humanity a little.
When they need a plumber, certain home owners will call more than one plumbing company and give the job to the first one that shows up. It’s a sinking feeling to arrive at an address and see another plumbing truck parked in the driveway. If the second (or third!) plumber rings the doorbell, he typically gets told, “Sorry, but I needed someone fast and the other guy showed up before you.” Sometimes the home owner wants to avoid a potentially unpleasant confrontation and won’t answer the doorbell even though it’s obvious someone is home.
Home owners who pull these stunts are inconsiderate, to say the least. It costs a plumbing company significant time and money to dispatch a service vehicle to an address, and the time wasted traveling to a nonexistent service call reduces the ability to respond to other customers who may have serious plumbing problems. I have little respect for home owners who make phantom calls for service.
But I’ll tell you something else. I’m not as mad at those thoughtless home owners as I am at the plumbing companies that are the root cause of the problem. People who call more than one company to their home usually are reacting to a bad experience in the past when they called a plumbing firm and had to wait and wait and wait some more for someone to show up. Sometimes they never show up. Too many plumbers get bogged down with a tough job and then claim to be “too busy” to notify the home owner that they’d be late or can’t come until the next day. This infuriates me because all of us in the plumbing business end up suffering a bad reputation. I understand that some delays are unavoidable, but to me it’s inexcusable not to notify customers when you can’t get there on time.
I’m sorry to say that this kind of customer disservice runs rampant in the plumbing industry. Dispatching is one of the trickiest functions of our business, especially here in Southern California with large territories to cover and monstrous traffic jams. Most plumbing companies operate only one or two trucks and have a real hard time getting to customers in a timely manner.
Dutton Plumbing takes pride in the fact that we are able to respond to 90% of service calls within one hour. That’s because we pay a lot of attention not only to superior mechanical performance, but also to the operational side of running a service business.
We have more than a dozen vehicles serving our area and we control them via a sophisticated computer dispatching system, with human dispatchers empowered to make decisions in the best interest of our customers. Also, we make sure our service vehicles are well-stocked with the plumbing parts and equipment needed to handle 90%+ of the problems we encounter. Our technicians seldom have to return to the shop or a supply house for additional supplies. When they do, we try to use “runners” from the shop to obtain the materials while our skilled technicians continue working if they can. Oh, and because we charge by the job rather than by the hour, if a delay does occur that time will not cost you extra.
When our technicians get delayed by a complicated job, traffic or any other reason, often there’s another Dutton service vehicle nearby that can take over the call. For the few times when we can’t get there within an hour, we will be sure to contact customers and update estimated arrival times.
I mentioned earlier that Dutton Plumbing doesn’t experience as many multiple show-ups as other companies. That’s simply because our technicians are almost always the first ones to arrive. They are probably already at work in a basement or utility room and won’t even notice if another company’s vehicle arrives.