Video calls are not new. The Service Nation Alliance has been conducting weekly contractor Advisory Board meetings this way for a decade. What is new is today’s widespread acceptance of video communication. What is needed is an understanding of the proper etiquette of communicating with customers by video.

Smart plumbing companies started innovating as soon as the coronavirus pandemic struck. Many are now troubleshooting by video for nervous homeowners. Products have been sold by video and installed without plumbers coming into contact with the customers. Company meetings are being held by video. Training is conducted by video.  

While video is not as good as face-to-face interaction, it is far more efficient. Some use of video meetings will stick around long after the pandemic burns itself out. While plumbers are well aware of how to present themselves to homeowners at the start of a service call, few seem to have given much thought to video. Here are 14 rules of video etiquette. 

  1. Use device agnostic software. Some video software can only be used on certain types of computers or requires effort to download and set up. Avoid it. There are too many packages that work well and install easily across any device that can access the internet. Service Nation has been satisfactorily using Zoom for years.
  2. Be on time. This should be obvious. Nothing is worse than waiting for someone to start a video meeting. Video is uncomfortable for most people as it is. Being the only person on a video call compounds it. Your objective with video is to put people at ease. Thus, you should be early. If you are on time, you are late. If you are early, you are on time.
  3. Worry about your appearance. You should look sharper for video than meeting someone face-to-face. Shave. Make sure your hair is combed. Wear a collared shirt, not a t-shirt, and especially not a t-shirt with a message like, “Plumbers really lay the pipe!”  

    You might consider ditching the cap. On video, a cap is distracting. If you insist on wearing one, only wear one with your company logo. Plus, make sure it doesn’t shade your face. 
  4. Landscape. If using your phone, hold it sideways so the video is landscape, not portrait. It should be the same as a computer screen.
  5. Choose a background. Choose your background for video calls. Look at what will be on the screen behind you. Make sure you are presenting a professional image.

    With some video software and some computer processors, it is possible to automatically remove your background and replace it with an image from your computer. Do not get too cute. Do not select a background that distracts or takes the focus away from you as a speaker.
  6. The camera should be at eye level. Set your computer on a box, if necessary, to elevate the camera. If the ceiling of the room you are in appears in the frame, the computer is too low. People do not want to look up your nose.
  7. Frame yourself. Your head and shoulders should be visible. Do not cut off the top of your head. Do not cut off everything from the chin down.
  8. Use good lighting. Lighting should be in front of you and not behind you. Make sure the lighting shows your face clearly.  
  9. Watch for eyeglass glare and reflections. If you wear glasses, check to see if the glasses reflect your lighting. If your eyes are not visible, you might want to take them off for video calls. 
  10. Talk to the camera. When speaking, look to the camera. On laptops, the camera shows up with an LED light at the top of the screen. Even though the person you are conversing with is on the screen, to the left or right, speak to the LED light and the camera. Remember, people don’t trust people who won’t look them in the eye. The camera is the customer’s eye.
  11. Use mute when not speaking. Get good at toggling the mute feature, either from your computer or using the software. This removes unwelcome background noise and is especially needed in group meetings.
  12. Do not speak over others. Be careful not to speak over other people. Let people finish, then start talking. This is a good practice in any situation and will force you to be a better listener.
  13. Remember to smile. When you are not talking, smile. It can be hard to remember to smile when you are concentrating on the technology. It all seems so cold. Smiling makes you appear friendlier. It helps you build rapport.
  14. Send reminders. Before your meeting with the customer, send reminders including any connection links. It’s also a good idea to send calendar reminders, but make sure you know the calendar software your customer is using so you can match the format. Or, send calendar reminders in all formats.

These should be simple and obvious. Unfortunately, they are not practiced by far too many contractors, distributors, and manufacturers in the plumbing industry. This video etiquette will improve your communication. Follow it.