How to Choose the Plumbing CRM That’s Right for Your Business

ServiceTitan November 13th, 2020
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In our experience, even veteran plumbing contractors organize their interactions with customers with a hodge-podge of tools: phone services and answering machines, excel spreadsheets and filing cabinets, a healthy supply of pens and paper. 

It’s not that this approach is wrong, per se. Numerous small businesses — and even not-so-small businesses — have managed to get along profitably this way for many years. 

The trouble is that a plumbing business has an awful lot of moving parts related to customer interaction, and without a comprehensive system in place to keep them working together smoothly, things are liable to go off track. The results can impact their entire business, especially:

  • Employees who struggle to make efficient use of their time

  • Customer satisfaction, causing poor close and retention rates

  • Revenue growth    

Nowadays, as more and more plumbing contractors are employing Customer Relationship Management software tools, or CRMs, plumbers who haven’t added a CRM to their toolkit are feeling these effects more acutely than ever. So in this article, we’ll explain:

  • Just what a plumbing CRM is and how using one can help contractors avoid the pitfalls of customer relationship management

  • Why and how not all CRMs are created equal

  • The advantages of using a top-notch CRM like ServiceTitan

We’ll also explain why the best CRMs on the market offer comprehensive solutions — connecting customer relationship management with all the other essential areas of a plumbing company’s business. 

If you’d like to learn more about how ServiceTitan can help your plumbing business become more efficient and grow revenue through improved customer relationships, schedule a call today.

What Exactly is a Plumbing CRM? And How Do Companies Manage Customer Interactions without One?

Even for industry veterans, the abbreviations and acronyms — like CRM —    that tend to come along with new field service solutions can be confusing, sometimes leading them to shy away from tech that has the potential to exponentially improve their business. 

As mentioned above, CRM software helps contractors manage their relationships with customers — providing customer support, improving customer experience, and more. This sounds straightforward enough. 

But it’s not unusual for the plumbers we work with to be a bit perplexed about what that means in practice. To illustrate the sorts of things that CRM software tools can make easier, we’ll first take a quick look at how plumbers tend to manage customer relationships without a CRM.   

Traditional Customer Relationship Management

Generally speaking, plumbing contractors who don’t use a CRM don’t have a customer relationship management system, so much as a loosely connected collection of tools that they use to attract, win, and manage jobs and accounts — which is sometimes overseen by an accounts manager.  

In most cases, plumbers’ primary point of contact with customers is their phone line. Some use an internet service, while others stick to dial-up. Whatever the case, their customer service reps field incoming calls — hoping that no one else tries to reach them while they’re on the line — and write down what the customer tells them using a pen and paper.    

Next, they’ll enter the information into a spreadsheet of some kind, and perhaps a calendar. Except that often, by the time they finish one conversation, another call is coming in, and it’s not unusual for even a good CSR to lose track of their notes from time to time. When that happens, the information from one or more calls never gets into their system, and the job in question gets delayed — or lost altogether.  

If all goes according to plan, when the appointed date for a job comes around, the CSR calls the tech assigned to the job and relays the information they’ve entered in the spreadsheet. Then they call the customer to let them know roughly when the tech will arrive at their home. Many service businesses use their spreadsheets to log previous work at a given property, and in the case of existing customers, the CSR might also remind the tech of any work they’ve done for them in the past.      

When tech finishes with the job, they call the CSR back and tell them what work, if any was agreed upon, and provide the credit card number they’ve written down on a paper work order. The CSR, in turn, writes down all that info, enters it into the system, and makes any necessary orders for parts and equipment. Then the CSR has to call the customer back and schedule a time for the tech to return to their home to complete the work. In the not unlikely event that the tech forgot to leave paperwork behind, the CSR will often also need to send a copy to the homeowner by mail.   

Each step in the process introduces opportunities for error:

  • A forgotten detail 

  • A misheard word over a bad phone connection 

  • Handwriting that can’t be read the next time someone needs to reference a note

  • Lost paperwork 

The arrangement can sometimes result in work delays, billing problems, ordering inappropriate supplies, and even lost business. 

It’s also incredibly time-consuming, requiring employees to devote hours to phone calls that could be better spent booking and performing work. Without an automated system to provide alerts about scheduling, follow-ups, and the like, employees must devise reminder systems of their own — or have a superhuman memory — to make things run smoothly. For techs and CSRs at companies that offer recurring services and membership plans, things become more complicated still.     

Many plumbing companies don’t have office staff on weekends. In such cases, for CSRs, Mondays are especially challenging, as they must review a backlog of answering service messages and repeat the process described above for each one, even as new calls are coming in.   

Not All Plumbing CRMs Are Created Equal

We should note here that as a concept, the plumbing CRM isn’t brand new. A number of customer field service management solutions have been on the market for years. But there are major differences between them, and when businesses are looking to add a CRM to the mix — or to upgrade from their current CRM — there are a number of things to keep in mind.    

In general, the best CRMs provide robust, flexible functionality that allows plumbing contractors to streamline their operation, linking customer relationship management with the other areas of their business. 

While by no means a comprehensive list, these characteristics often signal that contractors should shop further:

  • No option to connect with an answering service

  • No way to integrate with payroll

  • No accessibility for field service technicians 

  • No mobile app access

  • Clunky user interface

  • Reports expressed in numerical codes — like the top of a fax 

We would never advocate making a big decision like investing in a CRM on the basis of aesthetics. But it’s hard to tell if a product is up to the task by simply examining its interface. If a CRM looks like something that might have run on Windows 95, it’s probably not the best choice. 

What a Best-in-Class Plumbing CRM Looks Like

By the same token, a top-notch plumbing CRM — one that will truly help a contractor grow revenue, increase efficiency, and improve long-term customer relationships — will be recognizable chiefly by the way it allows plumbers to seamlessly integrate all the essential elements of their entire  business. 

To illustrate how the best CRMs improve holistic business management, let’s walk through what customer relationship management looks like for plumbing contractors who use ServiceTitan.

With ServiceTitan’s plumbing service software, when a customer call comes in — either via phone, web inquiry, or chat — there’s no need for the customer service rep to juggle a pen, paper, spreadsheets, and file folders. 

Using the interface shown above, they can simply enter the customer information directly into their system, coding for job type, start date, priority, and more. ServiceTitan even gives plumbers the ability to attribute new business to a marketing campaign (eg. a recent Google Ads campaign), allowing them to track the effectiveness of their efforts.

In the event that the call is from an existing customer, ServiceTitan will tell the CSR exactly who is calling before they even answer the phone. That way, they can pull up their job history immediately, ensuring that they’re prepared to answer questions about previous or ongoing work, and that they can book a new job as quickly as possible. 

With web-based, user-friendly service management software like ServiceTitan, there’s no need for customer service reps to put customers on hold or call them back while they pull paperwork from a filing cabinet. Plus, they don’t have to hope that it’s legible, correct, contains accurate spelling, and isn’t dirty from spending time in a field service technician’s truck. 

With each existing customer’s service history at hand, the CSR knows right away which tech to assign to every job. And if there’s any confusion, ServiceTitan offers a suite of features to help them sort things out quickly: 

  • Geographical booking zones 

  • Tech availability calendars 

  • Skill ratings (to name just a few) 

In combination, these can help CSRs make sure they send the right tech to the right job every single time.

Plumbing contractors who use ServiceTitan don’t need to worry about making confirmation calls the evening before a visit — a source of annoyance to many customers — or about calling the day of the appointment to let them know when their tech will arrive. The software takes care of both of these contacts with automated texts. And the second text will include a link, providing customers with a gps tracking tool so they can monitor their tech’s arrival in real-time, as well as a photo and some fun facts about them. That way, customers already have a degree of comfort with their tech when they get there.    

The image below shows ServiceTitan’s Call Playback feature, which, like virtually every element of the software, is available remotely, including to techs out in the field. With ServiceTitan, every call gets recorded and logged into the relevant customer’s account. Before a tech enters a home, they can listen to their CSR’s conversation(s) with the relevant customer, arming themselves with every possible detail that might improve their sales or service call.

The feature is also great in the event of minor confusion — an address that got inadvertently entered as 621, say, rather than 612.

Business owners love Call Playback, too, for the accountability it provides. The feature allows contractors to better coach CSRs on how to handle customer interaction, as well as how to negotiate with customers when disagreement or nonpayment occurs with background intelligence that is as accurate and well-documented as possible. 

(As we’ve written elsewhere, ServiceTitan easily connects with accounting software, via a painless QuickBooks integration.)    

Using the Follow Up menu, ServiceTitan users can efficiently execute a range of post-call tasks that are crucial to maximizing revenue. CSRs can use the Opportunities tab, for example, to follow-up on unsold estimates in a regular, methodical fashion, ensuring that their employer is leaving as little money on the table as possible. Just by following up on unsold estimates, we’ve seen contractors improve their bottom line by as much as $1 million in a single year. 

As we’ve written previously, customer service membership agreements can provide a huge influx to a contractors’ revenue stream, as well as a boost to their overall relationship with their customers. ServiceTitan helps business owners facilitate memberships in a variety of ways, including from a CRM standpoint.

As shown in the screenshot above, CSRs can select Recurring Service Events from the Follow Ups menu to keep their company — and their customers — up to date. That way, nothing gets lost in the system.

ServiceTitan makes payments for membership agreements, as well as standard plumbing services, easy, allowing customers to enter credit card information directly into their tech’s tablet, or follow a link via text to submit payment online. Both options beat chasing unpaid invoices by phone. And the Follow Ups section also includes a tab for outstanding bills, so there’s no chance for them to go neglected over time. 

Being able to monitor individual phone calls with customers is great. But ServiceTitan also gives business owners a more comprehensive, instantaneous view of their CSRs’ performance, in the form of a scorecard, shown above. Contractors can see how many calls their employees are booking, what percentage of potential business they’re booking, how long they’re taking to do it, and more. From this screen, they can zoom in on individual calls to see what might have gone right or wrong, and how to improve things going forward. 

Conclusion

There’s no question that as more and more of the plumbing industry embraces tech-forward solutions to old obstacles, it will become increasingly difficult for business owners to compete without a CRM in their toolbelt. In choosing one, though, it’s vital that plumbers are careful to select an option that integrates customer relationship management with the other essential elements of their business — scheduling, dispatching, job management, invoicing, inventory management, marketing, customer management, sales, etc.  

Often, the alternative ends up being a clunky add on, one that not infrequently aggravates some of the very same problems it was meant to address. With a field service software solution like ServiceTitan, however, plumbing contractors can improve their business exponentially. Among other things, they can: 

  • Maintain a close eye on their ticket prices 

  • Keep their techs focused on tasks and close rates 

  • Free up CSRs for valuable follow ups

  • Ensure that the right tech is always at the right job    

A best-in-class CRM gives plumbing contractors the ability to take better care of their employees and equipment, allowing them to service more customers more effectively in less time and — ultimately — helping their company to evolve into a modern, fully integrated machine. 

If you’d like to learn more about how ServiceTitan can help your plumbing business become more efficient and grow revenue through improved customer relationships, schedule a call today.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive plumbing business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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