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How Long does it Take to Forget the Plumber?

How Long does it Take to Forget the Plumber?

When it comes to plumbing services, wait time matters more than you might think, according to a new study from the market research team at Zion & Zion, a national marketing agency. The survey polled 863 adult homeowners nationwide. Findings include that the vast majority of people first want to turn to a provider they’ve used before; that nearly half have trouble remembering who that was; and that as time goes by it becomes more difficult for people to locate the contact information of their last-used plumbing company.

The First Call

As a strong testament to the comfort of familiarity and to perhaps rewarding a previous job well done, an impressive majority of consumers prefer to call a plumbing company they’ve used before. In the survey, 67 percent of all respondents said that calling a prior plumbing company would be one of the actions they take when needing service.

When asked to prioritize the various actions they would take to find a plumbing company, the reliance on a former service provider becomes even more pronounced. Among people who chose calling a previously used plumbing company as one of the actions they would take, 87 percent of them named it the first thing they would do.

Remembering the Plumbing Company

However, while people may desire to contact a former plumbing company, they may actually never be able to make such a call as nearly half couldn’t recall which company it was that they used last. This is an eye opener for companies that rely on repeat business and referrals.

When asked if they could remember the name of the last plumbing company they used without looking it up or referring to anything. 45.1 percent could not remember the name of the plumbing company they used most recently.

While it’s significant that nearly half of consumers can’t remember the name of their plumbing company, all is not lost. Of the people who could not name their plumbing company off the top of their head, nearly 25 percent said it would be very easy for them to find.

On a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being “very difficult” and 10 being “very easy,” 24 percent of those who could not remember their provider’s name chose 10. While that’s nearly a quarter of all respondents, 42 percent of people ranked their ease of locating the plumbing company from 1 to 5. That’s an alarming number of people who don’t have confidence they can find the name of their past plumbing company.

The downward arc is compelling evidence that people will have greater difficulty in finding a plumbing company’s contact information as time goes by. Within the first 12 months of service, respondents’ self-rated ability to find their last-used plumber’s contact info is a very healthy 7.7 (out of 10). But after that, their confidence falls exponentially — a 40 percent drop by year three.

That people are unlikely to find a plumbing company’s contact information after 36 months isn’t surprising; memories fade, and documents that might have provided clues to the plumbing company’s identity become more difficult to find. Respondents last called a plumbing company an average of 28.3 months ago, or well over two years. At that point, the ability to find their plumbing company’s contact information has already degraded substantially and is in danger of slipping away entirely. When a consumer has any difficulty finding their previous plumbing company’s contact information, the door opens for a competitor to be given an opportunity.

Memory Prompts

Unless a plumbing company is consistent with its one-to-one marketing or institutes a special program to help customers be more likely to recall them when they need a plumbing company, consumers are pretty much on their own. The 45 percent of people who can’t remember their plumbing company without assistance rely on a number of resources to find it.

Far and away in the lead at 48 percent, consumers look through home records to find the name of a previous plumbing company. This method includes looking through:

  • Receipts, invoices, checkbook registers and bank statements.
  • Contact lists, calendars, address books and business card files.
  • House repair/maintenance files or notes.
  • Emails and text message archives.

When customers can’t find their plumbing company’s name in home records, they next turn to the place they may have found the plumbing company in the first place — the internet.

Putting the Data to Work

Zion & Zion’s research suggests three actions plumbing companies can take to substantially improve the odds that customers will return.

First, plumbing company owners who aren’t happy with repeat or referral business may not need to look beyond fine-tuning their direct marketing and providing handy reference devices. While budgetary constraints may keep some plumbing companies from mass-market advertising, there should be no skimping on direct marketing to existing customers. It is well-established that it is cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one, so there should be significant focus on staying in touch with customers. Quarterly newsletters, emails and “anniversary of your service” celebrations can go a long way to ensure that your customer will remember who you are when there’s a plumbing emergency.

Second, to help the 45 percent of consumers who need help finding your contact information, the following may help. For example, at the first visit some plumbing companies already give the homeowner a business card or refrigerator magnet, or placing stickers on the appliances they service, but this is generally out of sight and out of mind. However, this may not be enough. Only 2 percent of consumers look for such devices when trying to remember the previous plumber’s contact information. More innovative approaches are needed. What if the plumbing company gave each customer a special branded “my home” three-ring binder with tabs and pocket folders to keep information about each type of home-service provider, such as landscapers, HVAC, roofers and plumbing companies? The plumbing company tab/info would already be filled out, with a copy of the receipt already tucked away inside the notebook. Customers are likely to appreciate such a terrific and practical parting gift, and it’s likely that the notebook would be saved and used.

Regardless of the approach plumbing and home-service companies have the opportunity to realize the true potential of customer lifetime value by working harder to make it easier for their customers to remember them and return.

The authors of this report are: Aric Zion, MS; Nicole Ellis; Anna Bussert; and Thomas Hollman, MBA, Ph.D.