We often get consumer needs and wants confused. When water’s flowing where it should not, when the shower is cold, when the toilet does not flush, the need is obvious. Solving needs brings relief, but it does not bring loyalty. Addressing consumer wants is what leads a consumer to proclaim, “So and so is my plumber.” Here are the eight wants of service plumbers.

1. They want you to arrive on time

Waiting for a plumber to show up, wondering if one will show up when there’s a problem is misery for consumers, who often have to take off work to wait. If the plumber is late, it is agonizing beyond merit because the situation is already tense. Showing up late means showing up in a hole, but at least you showed up.

On-time arrival is largely a function of dispatch. The service plumber feels the seething resentment to open wrath from the consumer, mixed with relief that the plumber is there at last. The dispatcher can make things infinitely better by keeping the consumer informed of the plumber’s progress. People understand that jobs can run long and that traffic can slow the arrival. Keep adjusting the consumer’s expectation so that it is realistic.

2. They want you to be well-groomed

Plumbing is not an office occupation. Plumbers will get dirty. This is understood. Poor grooming is different, and the way a plumber starts the day is entirely in his control. Over the years, the most frequently mentioned complaint about plumbers by customers of Service Nation Alliance members is poor grooming. The consumer is inviting a plumber into his or her home. It is only courtesy to be well-groomed.

Shower in the morning. Shave. If you wear facial hair, neatly trim it. Comb your hair. Smokers should carry breath spray and take care to smoke in places where the smoke will not saturate their clothes. Clothes should be clean and shirts tucked in. Remember, the more professional the appearance, the greater the perceived value on the part of the consumer.

3. They want to trust you

Consumers want someone to hand their problems to. They want to be able to trust the plumber will do what he says he will do. They want to be reassured that everything will soon be OK and believe it.

Trust is built over time. It is based on experience. Fortunately, consumers will borrow the trust of their friends. This is why so many customers are generated based on the recommendations of existing customers. When a consumer trusts a plumber and recommends him to a friend, she shares her trust. Give the new customer a reason to make that trust hers and she will.

4. They Want to Buy

As Charlie “Tec Daddy” Greer says, people want to buy. They call you because they want to buy your solution to their problem. They hope they will never need to call anyone else ever again. Do not be afraid to offer products and services. Remember, consumers call plumbers over lack of ability, desire or time to do the work themselves.

Plumbing is not an office occupation. Plumbers will get dirty. This is understood. Poor grooming is different...

5. They want your recommendations

The plumber is the professional. He is the person who thinks about plumbing every day. The consumer does not. The plumber has seen what works and what doesn’t work. The plumber is presumed to be aware of the innovative new products and solutions that the consumer lacks time to research. The plumber has the knowledge. The consumer does not. This is why the consumer asks, “What would you do if it was your house?”

When asked for a recommendation, it is important that the plumber look at it from the consumer’s perspective, not his own. The plumber can fix anything. He can fix it repeatedly. Thus, the plumbing in a plumber’s home is often in worse shape than in his customers’ homes. Based on the conversation with the consumer, recommend what is sincerely believed to be in the consumer’s best interests. Then, let the consumer decide.

6. They want your empathy

Consumers do not want sympathy. They do not want the plumber to say, “Poor you. Your plumbing sucks.” Consumers want empathy. The job may be no big deal to the plumber, but it is to the consumer. Thus, the consumer wants a service provider who understands the bind the consumer finds his or herself in and will get him or her out of it.

Fortunately, service plumbers are naturally empathetic. It is part of the reason they are working on the residential service side instead of commercial or new construction. Still, empathy takes effort. It’s seeking to understand how another sees things and expressing understanding. Sincere empathy reassures consumers.

7. They want to work done right

There is no shortcut for performance. Ultimately, consumers expect the work to be done right, even if consumers are not aware the nuances between a quality repair and a half-assed one.

Quality work is necessary, but insufficient. It is the reason a plumber is called. However, if this is the only consumer want that’s fulfilled, the service call will not be a success. Conversely, everything else can be perfect and the call is also a failure if the work is not performed well.

8. They want a fair price

No one wants to pay too much. However, different people have different perceptions on what makes up “too much.” This is why some people pay a premium to fly in first class, some people drink expensive wine and eat at expensive restaurants, and so on. Price resistance is often the result of a tight household budget, not the price per se. It is impossible for the plumber to assess whether a consumer has excess cash or not. The owner of a McMansion may be spending everything she earns while the owner of a modest home is a diligent saver.

Conversely, a consumer cannot fathom what it costs to position a well-trained plumber with a fully-stocked service truck at her home in a timely manner. Quality, responsive plumbing costs money. There is no shame in charging what is necessary. The great thing about capitalism is it is voluntary. People are free to say no and they are not your customers.