During the COVID-19 global pandemic, essential businesses such as plumbing have been key to ensuring people have access to the products and services they need to survive. Fortunate are those companies considered essential because they can continue serving communities during these trying times.
But nothing has been business as usual.
As we move through a year where it’s more vital than ever to disinfect, sanitize and prevent the spread of virus and disease, properly working plumbing and access to clean potable water are critical to world health.
As Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise owners, we’ve been diligent, protective and comprehensive with our approach to serving customer needs while protecting our employees and their families. Here are nine ways our essential business has continued to safely serve customers in Mississauga and Etobicoke, Ontario, during these unprecedented times.
1. Understanding our role in the big picture
Properly working plumbing that delivers clean water and prevents disease isn’t a wish — it’s a necessity. Our mission is to keep our employees, customer, and communities safe. We can do this by being diligent and smart with every business interaction.
By understanding that we have an important role to play in the health of our communities, we can empower our professionals to work with the pride and knowledge that they’re fulfilling an important job.
2. Strict adherence to existing and COVID-19 protocols
Mr. Rooter franchises have long led the service industry with smart protocols to ensure safety and comfort. Some of the standard protocols we follow include:
- Technicians always park their trucks in clear view;
- We let our customers know the name of the technician prior to arrival;
- Each technician brings a doormat and new shoe covers;
- After knocking on the front door, the technician takes three steps back;
- Technician uses disposable gloves; and
- Technicians clean and disinfect the area they work in.
Because of COVID-19, we’ve also implemented additional protocols:
- After knocking on the door, the technician takes six steps back;
- The technician must wear a face mask and reusable gloves; and
- At the workstation, the technician wipes down the area with disinfectant prior to doing the work and again immediately after the job is complete.
We created a document outlining these protocols and sent it to all of our technicians so everyone can operate from the same playbook.
3. Prescreening customers before visits
We take no chances. Before a technician steps foot inside a residence, we do our due diligence through prescreening to ensure a safe work environment.
We ask the customer if anyone in the home has traveled in the past 14 days or has flu-like systems. If the answer is yes to either, we book out the service by 16 days. We also communicate our health and safety protocols to reassure the customer what we’re doing on our end to keep them safe. Upon request, we can email the written document outlining those protocols to the customers.
4. Prescreening technicians
Each morning before the dispatch professional sends out first calls, they pre-screen the technicians to ensure they’re feeling healthy and doing well. If a technician reports he/she is unwell, they’re asked to stay home and follow the COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization.
5. Honoring our technicians’ comfort level
We employ many plumbers, some of whom have their own pre-existing health conditions that make them especially susceptible to illness. As such, we want to protect them to the fullest extent possible. If a technician isn’t comfortable with a particular job, then he/she can let us know and we can make other arrangements to service the customer.
6. Continual communication
During this pandemic, each person’s comfort level with conducting business, or receiving service, is different. We’ve found our customers are smart and ask a lot of questions, so we take our time to answer them. When they grill us, it also gives us a sense of comfort because we feel that they too are taking the right precautions, which helps keep our technicians safe.
We work hard to ensure transparency and communication between the two of us as owners and our employees, and between our business and its customers. We want everyone to be comfortable with how we’re operating, and we continually communicate what we’re doing to mitigate risk and promote positivity and goodwill.
7. All digital paperwork
All paperwork related to our office operations was digital before the pandemic and remains so. As we interact with customers, we’ve also implemented a digital system to avoid personal contact. For example, we normally use iPads to collect signature, but now, instead of passing the device around, the tech can sign COVID19 on the signature line with the customer’s permission. If the customer wants to avoid passing a credit card back and forth, he or she can read the number aloud and we’ll enter it into the payment system. We don’t accept cash, and we no longer hand out hard copies of paperwork or business cards.
8. Consistent pricing
Unlike most other service businesses during this time, our prices haven’t changed. We work off of a flat rate book that’s the same for everyone and can be easily compared with competitors. Customers like knowing we’re consistent with pricing, and this has helped us hit a acceptance rate of about 90%, despite the reality that our overall call volume is still down.
9. Strategic advertising
We want our customers to know they can trust us, so we’ve engaged in strategic advertising through Facebook and pay-per-click campaigns. With the right messaging, we can let our customers and prospects know that we’re an essential service, we’re open and we’re taking the right precautions to keep them safe.
The goal for any business is to become essential in the customer’s mind. While plumbing falls into the right category from the start, keeping customers, technicians and communities safe requires dedication and focus.
While our business has definitely been impacted by the global pandemic, we’re seeing a rebound. Call volume dropped by more than 50% in the first two months, but it’s inching its way back up to about 85% of where it was pre-pandemic. And the level of service has evolved too.
The key to success during a global pandemic is to stick to protocol, communicate your rules, and be consistent. Following these nine tips is a good start for your business and can help you build a foundation for continued success as we all adjust to this “new normal.”