If you are a smart businessperson, you have raised your prices over the past year, and probably more than once. The cost of professional plumbing was a shock to many people as it was. Now, if your pricing is keeping up with inflation, people are really going to be surprised. Here are 11 creative ways to respond to price complaints in the current inflationary environment.

1. Pre-empt price complaints

The best way to deal with price complaints is to head them off before they are made. Train your call takers to prepare customers by adding something like, “Mrs. Customer, I want to prepare you for the cost of plumbing right now. I’m sure you’ve seen how the price of groceries and gasoline has increased.  It has hit everyone, including us and our competitors. Our prices rise and fall with our costs. Right now, everything is up for everyone.”

Will a statement like this cost a customer? Perhaps. But you likely would lose that customer anyway and get tagged with a bad review to boot. Remember, the customer is calling you because she has a problem she cannot solve on her own. The problem is not going away.

2. Listen

When your plumbers encounter a customer who complains about price, do not get defensive. It is likely the customer merely needs to vent. The customer has probably vented in a similar manner at the grocery store check-out line. Let her get it off her chest, while nodding with a sad smile. 

3. Agree with the customer

Acknowledge that things cost more. Agree with the customer, but be a little sad about it and note how you find other things more expensive. For example, you might say, “I know.  I just bought some plywood at the hardware store. It would have cost me $34 a year ago. I had to pay $100. Can you believe that? I know it’s tough, but all of our costs are higher and we have to pass it along.”

4. Tell the customer where she can get a discount

According to digital marketing company, HelloWorld, three out of four consumers expect a discount or special offer. The marketing company Valassis claims that 90% of consumers use coupons. If people want a discount or coupon to make them feel better, offer one. Build a discount into your pricing.  

A discount can be dollars off or percentage off. You need to choose whether to make it dollars off or percentage off. If your average call is $400, a 10% discount is $40. You might get more interest in a $25 coupon than 10% off and it costs less! 

Put the coupon on your website. Your call taker can ask customers, “Would you like me to email you a $25 coupon?” This becomes an easy way to collect customer email addresses.  

Alternatively, your plumbers can tell the customer, confidentially, about an online coupon.  Make the URL something easy to remember, such as, www.yourcompany.com/coupon. Do not link it to other pages on your website.

Offering the coupon, gives people a way to think they have been smart consumers despite the high price of plumbing. If you build it into your pricing, it ultimately costs nothing.

5. Note that it will cost more going forward

When a consumer complains about the price of major work that is discretionary at the moment and can be put off, note that with manufacturers increasing prices several times a year, it will only cost more in the future. It is better to buy now than six months from now or a year from now.

6. Ask what the customer thinks is fair

One of the ways to offset consumer price shock is to simply ask what the consumer thinks would be fair.  This sets some consumers back because they really do not know what it should cost. If they respond with a reasonable number, highlight the difference between your price and their expectation. Note that the difference is the result of inflation.

If, on the other hand, the consumer fires back a ridiculous number, note that you would have to work for free or would lose money. Ask if that would be fair.

7. Ask what the customer would like to remove

If you are going to discount out of hand, there should be a reason. Is there something you could take away from the job to justify reducing the price? Could you reduce the price a small amount if the customer agreed to forego the warranty?

8. Bundle

Another option is to discount by addition. Do not change the price but add something to the job. You could give away a service agreement, add water heater service (e.g., flushing the water heater, inspecting the sacrificial anode, and inspecting the T&P valve).

9. Ask if the customer would like to finance the job

Sometimes the price objection is not about price, but affordability. Help people pay for the job by offering financing. There are companies offering to finance plumbing work, provided the job is priced above a certain amount. Find one and incorporate financing as an option. Then, you can sell the payment and not the price.

10. Offer a discount for consideration

If you want to take work, another option is to offer a discount by consideration. You offer to give the discount to the customer if the customer will do something for you. For example, the customer might agree to place your yard sign in her yard and leave it for a month. The customer might agree to give a video testimonial that you can use in social media. The point is to get something to give something.

11. Refer a competitor

Remember, you can always walk away. Not every customer is your customer. If the customer is not worth it, recommend a competitor. Let your competitor waste time with an unprofitable customer.