What If The Plumber Didn’t Show Up

It’s always within about 5 minutes of the new hour. On this Friday it was 4:03pm. “Yes, I was just wondering if you were on your way. I thought we had a 2pm-4pm arrival window today.” After some stammering and quickly checking the calendar, it got really clear, real quick that we had screwed up. I told the customer we could see if anyone was available to come out after hours. Wrong answer. “I took off work this afternoon to be here!” (that one stings) Our team had messed up and did not put her appointment in our scheduling software. Mistakes happen from time to time – nobody on our team is perfect. At this moment the only thing that mattered was our next move.

A lot of customer service representatives and even some owners would go straight into what we call SDM or “Shut Down Mode”. When faced with what seems like an attack you shut down, make excuses, blame someone or something. Most of all, SDM blocks your ability to think about solutions.

Thanks to a lot of teaching and encouragement, we sprung into SM or “Solutions Mode”. So our response to the dreaded, “I took off work this afternoon to be here” was simple….”We screwed up. I know your time is valuable. I’m really sorry. How can we repair the damage we’ve caused?”

As a company, we have to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. We don’t know their situation, what they had to do to get off work, or what other stressors may have been going in their life. All we really know is that we gave them our word that we’d be there – and we weren’t. Like I said earlier, mistakes happen. There will be mistakes in the future. Sure, I can set up structures and systems to limit the mistakes but, more importantly, how do we handle mistakes when they do happen?

Turns out the customer graciously decided to reschedule her new toilet installation. We gave her a discount on the installation and threw in a premium, slow-close toilet seat at no extra cost. Saving some money or getting a nicer toilet seat doesn’t repair broken trust – we know that. But, listening, acknowledging, and offering to make amends does start the process.

So why do plumbers not show up? I think the better question is, why do plumbers (or any home services company for that matter) not recognize that their stated arrival window, quoted price, guarantee, or any promise they make – is just that, a promise? “We’ll be there between 2pm-4pm” is, after all, a promise. It’s a sacred bond of trust that needs to be protected and nurtured. There could be a lot of reasons a company didn’t fulfill its promise – but how did they handle it – that’s the critical question.