Scott Pape is Australia’s legendary financial expert best known as the Barefoot Investor. Recently, he chatted to Master Plumbers’ Daniel Carroll on the new podcast, Masters Plumbers Radio, about the importance...
Don’t miss the money by not being where your customers are. Matt Reynolds explores the problems of not being part of the party.
I first started looking for technology to use in my plumbing business in the early 2000s after I missed a party that was organised among friends on Facebook. I didn’t have an account at the time, so the party took place and I never knew about it.
Missing that party really got me thinking about leveraging the power of technology and the possibilities it had to transform a small company like mine. If it was beginning to change the way we communicate socially, I thought at the time, could the future of plumbing look different?
Almost two decades on and it turns out that technology has changed many more sectors than just plumbing. While we all still change tap washers the exact same way, the path we trek to get those taps repaired is very different.
We now run ads on the internet, spend more hours each day on our mobile devices than we do talking to real people and can manage our jobs in the cloud. It’s virtually impossible to complete a job without swiping an electronic device somewhere in the process.
For a long time it has been both difficult and expensive to implement technology into a plumbing business. The plummeting cost and evolution of mobile technology has changed that for the better. We have now crossed that cost barrier and opportunity is everywhere. The race to reduce costs and increase profits while offering a superior level of service is on.
In basic terms, the reason that party was organised on the Facebook platform was not only because it was easier and cost less than previous methods, it’s actually a much better way of completing the task. It’s the same reason you use email instead of carrier pigeons. It’s easier, cheaper and delivers a more reliable outcome.
The more interesting part to me however, was not that I missed the party, it was that I didn’t even know it was happening! That’s particularly challenging for those of us who are trained with manual skillsets because technology is, for the most part, invisible.
The business of plumbing as we know it, has changed. The skills required to run a modern day efficient and professional plumbing business are therefore changing too. It’s a huge task but the evidence is clear, if you’re not using technology to get ahead, technology will leave you behind.
So, where do we start? There must be two fundamental shifts in our thinking.
Firstly, forget about your own problems and move your focus to solving the problems of your customers. As a customer standing at the trade counter, we never worry about internal issues with the supplier’s business. We want and appreciate good service. Your customers are the same and care only about their issues, not yours, so work on solving them first.
If you solve your customer’s problems first, you may also find that many of your own mysteriously go away in the process.
Secondly, don’t think about technology, think about better ways to communicate. Most of the digital advances in our industry are simply improved methods of communication. It’s about sending and receiving information in the most efficient way.
To do that most effectively, you need to know who you are communicating with. This means building a 360-degree view of your customers. Essentially, the more you know about them, the more effectively you can communicate with and then serve them.
Employees fall into this same category too. If you take the time to understand who they are and collect data on what they do, rather than thinking of them as holes to plug in your leaky bucket, you’ll probably find yourself with a more committed and higher performing team.
We live in a mobile world. Almost every aspect of our lives can now be accurately measured, tracked and critiqued with a mobile device and a single finger. Plumbing businesses are very quickly becoming the same. It goes without saying that the businesses who collect the best data can make the best decisions.
Vetting and implementing technology solutions is rarely a walk in the park. But, in the long run the challenge and possible frustration is a lot easier to endure than the cost of getting left behind.
Swiping, for the foreseeable future, is the easiest and most efficient way of communicating, leading to a solution for most of our problems. It’s time to think about swiping as culture because that’s exactly what it is. We’ve seen it too many times now, iconic companies who think they can outrun the tech tidal wave. Unfortunately, you can’t win a new game following outdated rules so the fast companies very often beat the big ones.