contractors

Callbacks are often preventable—if you understand the common causes. Learn how to reduce callbacks, maintain your reputation and boost productivity with a few best practices. “I’m not happy with the work.” They are the words no contractor ever wants to hear. They mean less attention to other jobs, a smaller profit margin and the potential loss Read More

Callbacks are often preventable—if you understand the common causes. Learn how to reduce callbacks, maintain your reputation and boost productivity with a few best practices.

“I’m not happy with the work.” They are the words no contractor ever wants to hear. They mean less attention to other jobs, a smaller profit margin and the potential loss of future business.

Callbacks can hurt a business’ reputation in several ways. First, referrals are adversely affected when homeowners talk with one another and share their unpleasant experiences. And when those same homeowners take their displeasure online and leave negative reviews online and on social media, the impact can be much more permanent. Finally, callbacks can also hurt a company’s productivity by inhibiting the ability of the team to move on to other projects.

The good news? Many callbacks are preventable. Here’s a rundown of three key strategies for avoiding them.

Educate the Customer

Very often, customer satisfaction comes down to one very important factor: A contractor’s ability to manage customer expectations.

“We get fewer callbacks when we educate the client about things like materials and warranties,” says Cal Phillips, who has owned and operated the Denver-based Eco Paint since 1990 and has been painting homes since 1977. “We’re the professionals, so it’s up to us to educate the client so they can care for their home.”

Education should start as early as the initial onsite visit. Managing a customer’s expectations is essential, especially when it comes to color variations, service parameters and ongoing maintenance.

And consumer education doesn’t stop after the last coat is applied. Phillips makes sure his clients understand their responsibilities for continued care after the job is completed.

“On an exterior project, we’ll let a client know that the paint needs to be maintained by making sure sprinklers are properly adjusted, with gutters and downspouts in good operation so that water is adequately removed from painted surfaces,” he says. “We also inform them to keep vegetation pruned back away from the substrate.”

This kind of dialog does more than help prevent callbacks. It can also instill a trust factor with your customers that tells them you care about the lasting quality of your work, even after the job is complete. And that can have the fringe benefit of turning first-time customers into repeat clients.

Maintain Clear Communication — Inside the Office and Out

Rarely is poor work the reason painters get called back to a job site. The most common reason is poor communication.  Communication breakdowns between estimators and painters or between painters and customers can result in mistakes. Like applying an accent color to the wrong wall or painting trim the customer had wanted untouched. That can often mean lost productivity and bad customer reviews.

At Two Dudes Painting, a leading commercial and residential painting company in Lancaster, PA, painters receive a copy of the client’s paperwork to ensure everyone understands what the client has signed off on.

Samantha Seifried, who holds the role of Client Advocate at Two Dudes, says for longer projects, the company encourages clients to communicate with painting crews.

“When a project lasts more than a couple of days, we strongly encourage homeowners to review the work daily and let us know if they see errors or details they’re not happy with,” says Seifried. Regular dialog with the customer makes the company more efficient—and clients are more satisfied—because if errors crop up, painting crews can make corrections while they’re still on site, rather than having to come back after they’ve committed to another job.

Re-scope the Job When Needed

When customers fail to understand the process or timeline, or ask their painting contractor to perform work outside their area of expertise — carpentry or electrical work, for example — professional painters can sometimes find themselves tasked with a job in which they’re less-than-comfortable. Painters may not have experience in carpentry, drywall finishing or electrical work, and therefore trying to perform work in these areas could end up worsening jobsite problems. Knowing when to call in a specialist, as well as rescope the job with the customer, is crucial to ensuring your work and reputation remain intact.

For companies that offer a variety of service lines, it makes sense for crew members to request assistance from others who specialize in that line of work when needed. Trusting your field staff and giving them the authority to call and ask for help if they feel uncomfortable taking on certain aspects of a project can reduce callbacks significantly, since certain contractors have more experience in certain areas than others.

For smaller companies or one-to two-person crews, it makes sense in such cases to simply recommend an outside contractor to tackle repairs that fall outside the scope of the painting job. This is especially true with exterior paint projects, where it’s not uncommon to run into damage like rotted wood. It may be the last thing small painting companies (or homeowners, for that matter) want to hear, but in the end, the customer will appreciate your honesty and have a better overall experience because of it.

In the end, callbacks can cost a painting company dearly, both in reputation and production. It’s essential to take proactive steps to prevent them if you want to build a more profitable business.

“We don’t want callbacks,” Seifried says. “But, more than that, we want great reviews and ratings. That’s why we work so hard to deliver a whole project experience.”

Diane Walsh is Vice President of Market Development and Sales Operations for ShurTech Brands, LLC, maker of FrogTape® brand painter’s tape. Diane also serves as director of the ShurTech Brands Professional Paint Advisory Board, working with leading contractors from across the country to explore industry trends and share innovations for the benefit of the entire trade. Diane was awarded 2018 PDCA Associate Member of the Year.

E-commerce solutions for the kitchen and bath industry are crucial for contractor suppliers. The right online solution must combine the complexity of business-to-business with the ease of consumer simplicity. It can enhance, develop and support customer relationships. But it involves the relentless pursuit of the exact mix of data, technology, training and support. In the Read More

E-commerce solutions for the kitchen and bath industry are crucial for contractor suppliers. The right online solution must combine the complexity of business-to-business with the ease of consumer simplicity. It can enhance, develop and support customer relationships. But it involves the relentless pursuit of the exact mix of data, technology, training and support.

In the end, it preserves old-school relationships, adds a new-school solution and becomes a tool to spur new business.

A Rich History of Relationships
Contractor supply has historically been a relationship business. Customers go to the supply house and develop face-to-face relationships with staff, who become more than just order-takers.

Tailoring the right online solutions for customers can maintain that personal touch and help everyone get their jobs done faster.

What Customers Want
Distributors are adapting to a changing buyer profile that expects online services – from requesting and checking quotes, to reviewing local inventory and pricing in real time, to placing orders quickly for scheduled delivery.

But e-commerce systems and personnel can do more than help current customers. They can help win new business.

E-commerce is more than just creating a shopping cart. It’s a complete digital transformation.

A Complex Transaction
It’s critical to get input from both customers and from every level of the supplier organization. At MORSCO, we listen closely to customers, as well as our inside and outside sales teams, operations, accounts payable and other internal stakeholders. All these parties must help develop the solution and train customers afterward. It becomes everyday business, not just a one-time project.

Keep it Personal
Even with stakeholder input from all levels, e-commerce can still seem impersonal. But with support from the staff at the local branches – particularly inside sales – and with communication from local contractors, the face-to-face support will remain. Orders and follow ups should go through the local branch – not a call center – so customers know they are still dealing with suppliers at the local level who understand their needs.

The right online solution also frees up time for the outside sales staff. With advanced features, like easy-to-use custom pricing and quoting tools, the outside team can better support new and potential customers. Instead of tracking down invoices and delivery slips, outside sales reps can leverage digital platforms to spark better conversations with customers, bringing sophistication to a centuries-old industry.

Suppliers in the kitchen and bath industry, meanwhile, can continue to serve as personal consultants, troubleshooters and more, all in a face-to-face capacity. That provides better, faster service, while maintaining an unmatched level of local, personal support for customers.

Benefits for Vendors
E-commerce sites can also serve as a vendor’s marketing tool, salesperson and cashier. Benefits include:

  • Mobile solutions like phone and tablet access that help customers search for products and inventory at the local level and place orders anywhere, anytime, including on job sites.
  • The ability to increase customer reach and become the preferred online vendor for customers.
  • Increased sales and loyalty with existing and new customers.

The Right Solutions
So what does it take to offer world class e-commerce? Solutions that:

  • Help people get jobs done more efficiently, freeing talent for higher-value tasks. Viewing and paying invoices can now be done online, much more quickly, and at the customer’s convenience.
  • Allow access anywhere from desktop computers to job sites through mobile phones. Offer technical documents, catalogs, component and accessory information, as well as substitute items and recommendations.
  • Include side-by-side input from customers and support from employees.
  • Invest in training for all sales and branch staff, ensuring the face-to-face support can be seamless and add value.
  • Offer support that involve local branches, which are critical for both your customers and your employees. Be sure users know the types of support offered and that support tickets are addressed quickly and completely.
  • Leverage technology: Power your digital customer experience with top-tier e-commerce, search, marketing automation, analytics, and data platforms. At MORSCO, this gives customers the 24/7 access they need, increases our ability to make complex online transactions that vary by a customer’s needs and creates the customer value that goes beyond the online shopping cart.

E-commerce solutions must remember the importance of the long-standing relationship nature of the business. It’s an exciting time for those who can adapt.

Darren Taylor is a digital transformation marketing executive with a rare combination of market-centric strategy formulation skills, Fortune 500 operational experience, and a track record for driving commercial growth in early stage and large corporate environments. He currently serves as CMO for MORSCO, a leading U.S. distributor of commercial and residential plumbing, waterworks and HVAC, with branches and showrooms across the country. Taylor previously served as Director of e-commerce Strategy & Integration at W.W. Grainger, spearheading the company’s digital strategy and execution. Under his leadership Grainger became one of the top 15 eRetailers in the U.S. Taylor also serves as an Adjunct Professor in Northwestern University’s Masters of Information Technology Program and is a keynote speaker at many industry events such as CMOSummitt, DX Summitt and B2B Online. He also has be featured in INC. magazine and leadership books.

RighTime Home Services San Diego and ARS/Rescue Rooter San Diego have donated and performed free home comfort work to a veteran in need.  Both a new HVAC unit and water heater was provided to Adam Martel, a Navy veteran. Martel was identified through collaboration with ARS/Rescue Rooter and Vet’s Community Connections in San Diego as Read More

RighTime Home Services San Diego and ARS/Rescue Rooter San Diego have donated and performed free home comfort work to a veteran in need.  Both a new HVAC unit and water heater was provided to Adam Martel, a Navy veteran. Martel was identified through collaboration with ARS/Rescue Rooter and Vet’s Community Connections in San Diego as part of the national ARS Cares Program.

Martel followed the tradition of his grandfather and father and joined the military, serving eight years in the Navy. On May 19, 2009, he was involved in a helicopter accident, and he stills emotionally suffers from the loss of fellow servicemen. “I have completed three tours of service, and I have been a part of OEF (Afghanistan) and OIF (Iraq) with numerous medals, awards and citations on board the USS Nimitz. In 2007 did my re-enlistment on board the USS Arizona in Hawaii,” notes Martel. “I attempted to join the guard but was disqualified due to my PTSD. The loss was that great.”

After an honorable discharge in 2011, Martel has struggled with PTSD and, subsequently, had trouble keeping up with several home repairs. Vet’s Community Connections in San Diego identified Martel through the Wounded Warrior Project as a good candidate for the ARS Cares program.

Both RighTime Home Services of San Diego and ARS/Rescue Rooter San Diego are part of the American Residential Services (ARS) network, which is a Memphis, Tenn. based, privately-held national provider of air conditioning, heating and plumbing services. The ARS Cares program donates a HVAC system or water heater to a veteran in need by enlisting the help of local veterans’ agencies. Once a veteran in need is identified, ARS works with their local service center and ensures the installation process goes smoothly. Martel is the recipient of collaboration between the two ARS service centers.

RighTime Home Services San Diego went to Martel’s home to originally evaluate the HVAC system. However, the service team also noticed a leak in Martel’s water heater.

The team at RighTime quickly reached out to their sister service center and plumbing specialists, ARS/Rescue Rooter San Diego, to ensure that Martel had installation water heater installed as well, and at no cost. Neil Chapman, RighTime Home Services’ General Manager, says, “We are very happy to have supported Mr. Martel, and we love every opportunity to give back to our community.” In fact, RighTime Home Services had two military veterans, Rich Valle and Jeffrey Berg, working on the project for Martel, and both RighTime and ARS/Rescue Rooter San Diego were happy to donate their time and resources.

Adam Martel will now have a newly-installed HVAC unit, a new hot water heater, and several additional members to add to his veterans’ fellowship network from this ARS Cares installation. “It is a privilege to be able to serve those who have selflessly served our country,” says Chris Mellon, CMO. “We’re proud of our employees who volunteered to help with this installation, particularly the veterans that are giving back to a fellow vet. Not only are they generous but they already know the value of teamwork, communication and organization which makes them a valuable part of our team.”

ARS will be working in targeted markets alongside specific veterans’ services agencies in order to complete this project. In addition to donating HVAC and water heater equipment and installation, ARS employees across the country will be engaging in volunteer and civic opportunities geared towards veterans’ services.

From Florida to Wisconsin, contractors across the nation are wrestling with a growing shortage of skilled plumbers. “There are simply not enough skilled workers available in the labor market,” said Troy W. Maschmeyer, Jr., president and CEO, Maschmeyer Concrete in Lake Park, Florida. “Demand is rising, but many older workers have retired or left the Read More

From Florida to Wisconsin, contractors across the nation are wrestling with a growing shortage of skilled plumbers. “There are simply not enough skilled workers available in the labor market,” said Troy W. Maschmeyer, Jr., president and CEO, Maschmeyer Concrete in Lake Park, Florida. “Demand is rising, but many older workers have retired or left the trades during the recession. This is a major challenge for contractors and their customers.”

Responding to the need, public schools and workforce development agencies in many states have introduced pre-apprenticeship programs and skills training in plumbing and other construction trades. For example, CareerSource Pasco Hernando in Florida’s Tampa Bay area recently launched a “fast track” plumber training program that moves quickly into an apprenticeship position.

On the national level, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors–National Association (PHCC) and the PHCC Educational Foundation have sought to change young adults’ perceptions of the plumbing and HVAC fields through classroom programs, videos and hands-on learning experiences.

“We need more than 100,000 new workers to take care of the ones that are retiring,” said Cindy Sheridan, chief operating officer, PHCC Educational Foundation.

Because of the growing demand for skilled workers, plumbing offers well-paying positions and strong career prospects for Americans of all ages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) which tracks employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, said there were 425,000 jobs in this field in 2014 with an estimated increase of 49,100 jobs (12 percent) by 2024. The median pay in 2015 was $50,620 per year or $24.34 per hour.

Construction of buildings that need new plumbing systems should drive demand for these workers, according to the BLS. “Although overall job opportunities are expected to be good, some employers continuing to report difficulty finding qualified workers,” said the BLS.

New training programs

A wide range of recruitment and training programs are underway to bring new workers of all ages into the plumbing and HVAC fields. For example, the PHCC and PHCC Educational Foundation released a video in December that showcases the advantages of a career in plumbing, heating and cooling. “Think about it,” asks the video’s narrator. “No college debt; great pay; huge demand, no matter where you want to live; interesting hands-on work—there’s always new products and technologies to learn. And if you want, someday you can own your own business. So what are you waiting for?”

The video is part of a new website – www.phccareers.com – that highlights the benefits of the skilled trade. Geared for 16- to 24-year-olds, the responsive design site offers a host of training resources, including apprenticeship programs; direct links to PHCC chapters where visitors can learn more about training programs and careers in their local areas; and scholarship information, as well as videos and other materials showcasing the options and opportunities within the industry.

“It creatively shows there’s a lot to like about this industry, including the ability to ‘earn while you learn’ and choose from many career paths that offer attractive salaries,” said PHCC President Patrick Wallner.

Last summer, the PHCC Educational Foundation introduced an HVAC and plumbing pre-apprenticeship course, giving potential workers an opportunity to learn about the day-to-day aspects of the trades before beginning a longer-term apprentice program and eventual career.

Available online, prospective apprentices can take the course at their convenience, using six thematically focused modules that offer an introduction to the trades plus other important aspects of working in the industry, such as basic math skills, tools, safety, and construction drawings.

“This is a great tool not only for those applying for jobs who say they have a certain level of expertise but for anyone actually considering entering the apprenticeship program,” said Laurie Crigler of L&D Associates in Aroda, Virginia.

“It gives a great overview of what they should expect to learn in apprenticeship.”

On a regional level, many plumbing contractors are taking the time to go into local high schools and talk about career opportunities in the industry, including a growing emphasis on technology skills. One example is a “Ride and Decide” program in Knoxville, Tennessee. High school students are paid for a six-week summer job of riding with a plumber, working in the office and observing on the job site.

“When we first presented this over a year ago, we hoped that it would be accepted enough to benefit students and skilled trades in the area,” said Gordy Noe, president, Pioneer Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., and a PHCC chapter leader. “Now the program is gaining momentum daily with the school systems, businesses, students, media, government officials and parents.”

Advocacy efforts

Meanwhile, plumbing and HVAC contractors will continue to advocate for programs like the Perkins Act that provide financial support for students in career and technical education (CTE) programs.

Last year at a PHCC Workforce Development Roundtable on Capitol Hill, a panel of contractors shared proactive recruiting and hiring solutions they have implemented to create awareness of career opportunities and fill the many jobs available in the industry.

After the session, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a former HVAC builder, called the shortage a “terrible crisis,” noting the difficulty in finding workers for a new stadium being built in the Atlanta area.   “The economy and strength of our country lies with small business,” he added.  “Plumbers provide value-added services.  They add to the quality of buildings constructed in communities and the country.”

Plumbers By state:

Plumbers - by state

 

Annual Plumber Wages by State

Wage by state

 

Transition to Trades, an approved Career Skills Program (CSP) developed by Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical and U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Campbell, proudly graduates 42 members from its second series of classes for HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing trades. Transition to Trades, launched on July 5, allows separating soldiers the opportunity to attend Total Tech Read More

Transition to Trades, an approved Career Skills Program (CSP) developed by Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical and U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Campbell, proudly graduates 42 members from its second series of classes for HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing trades.

Transition to Trades, launched on July 5, allows separating soldiers the opportunity to attend Total Tech trade school (a subsidiary of Hiller, LLC) to learn valuable technical career skills while remaining active duty in the U.S. Army. Total Tech offers a unique approach to technician training through classroom and hands-on laboratory instruction in a 10,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility. As part of the program, students are guaranteed an employment interview at a Hiller branch location of their choosing. Soldiers desiring to return to their hometowns are provided key industry contact information to aid in employment searches in those respective areas.

To date, the Transition to Trades program has placed 45 soldiers in new careers in the industry, with 30 graduates now working at one of Hiller’s locations across the region. Another 10 soldiers are currently finalizing positions with companies out of state.

“Today, we are grateful for the opportunity to assist you in job placement”, remarked Jimmy Hiller, founder and CEO of Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “After Total Tech training, you have the tools to make you successful in the trades”, he continued, “and soldiers have the respect, team mentality, honor, and work ethic to make them ideal employees for our company”.

The graduation ceremony, held on Friday, January 6 by SSG Glenn H. English, Jr. in the Army Education Center at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Campbell, KY, marked the completion of the September, October, November, and December classes for the Plumbing, HVAC, and Electrical trades. 18 of the 42 transitioning soldiers were awarded graduation certificates in front of an audience of peers, family, members of the Army, associates from Hiller LLC and Total Tech LLC, and representatives from the press.

Keynote speakers included Mr. Hunter, Deputy Garrison Commander, Jimmy Hiller, Owner of Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical, and Don Miller, Institutional Director of Total Tech, LLC. In addition, Teresa K. English, Career Skills Program Coordinator for U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Campbell and student speakers SSG Dennis McGrath and SGT Brian Meyers addressed the audience.

“Getting out of the military can be a very scary reality. But Transition to Trades is giving veterans, like myself, an outlet and a way to make a living”, noted SGT Meyers. “And for that”, he continued, “I am grateful”.

Transition to Trades is an approved program developed by Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, and Electrical and the U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Campbell, to train transitioning active duty military service members for new civilian careers as plumbers, electricians, and HVAC service technicians. For more information about the program, visit https://www.transitiontotrades.com or e-mail dfrontz@happyhiller.com

Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical, provides residential and commercial service and repair throughout Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, and Northern Alabama. As the homeowner’s premier provider of choice with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, Hiller is Tennessee’s largest residential plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical services provider. Hiller, recently named the fifth fastest-growing private company in Middle Tennessee and “Best in Business” from the Nashville Business Journal, employs more than 600 associates, boasts a fleet of 470 “happy face” trucks across 12 locations, and has responded to over 1.4 million service calls. For more information about Hiller, visit https://www.happyhiller.com or e-mail press@happyhiller.com.