By: Steve Brown – IOPSA national operations manager
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) continues its campaign to help your business grow by helping you provide great customer service
Knowing and understanding your customers is the starting point, and key to delivering a good service. So the question is: how you get to know who your customers are or what customers you want to have? We believe that we are all experts at communication, but what is effective communication and how does this make the difference?
What is effective communication?
The process of sharing information either through speaking, writing or body language. With the result being that the instruction given was clear and precise and carried out as originally intended.
What is customer care?
Customer care is a chain of events designed to meet or exceed the customers’ expectations. In order to obtain this level, effective communication is a key element to customer care. As we are all unique, our level of interpretation of both good and bad service will differ from one individual to another.
We are quick to recognise fault in others and how we felt during this process. We are however slow to recognise these same traits in our own working environment or business. We therefore need to concern ourselves not with what we think, but how our actions will impact on those customers.
The buck stops here. I’m the ultimately responsible person in this organisation. Other people can pass the buck to me, but I can’t pass the buck to anyone else.
Businesses are built on sustainable business. Keeping your customers happy by providing exceptional service is the key to having a profitable and successful business. Keeping the lines of communication open at all times goes a long way to securing a customer’s loyalty. To lose one customer is not acceptable. If you do not look after your customers, someone else will.
Are your staff on board? Are they aware of your expectations? Our technicians are skilled in their trade, but they’re not equipped or trained to deal with customers and communicate effectively. This can and does affect the clients’ perception of your business.
Finishing the service call
Call the client and, if possible, view repairs done. Test the repairs a few times in the presence of the client and show the client that the faulty item has been replaced.
When the client is satisfied that repairs are complete ask if they want the redundant spares. By doing this, you show it has no value to you, and set the client at ease that they indeed have received new parts.
Once the client is satisfied that work is complete, ask if there is anything else you can assist with whilst on site:
The invoice/job card
If you have a trip sheet ensure that the client signed time and time out and explain to the client that the warranty/guarantee on the materials is carried out by the manufacturer.
In the event of a new geyser/product, provide the client with all relevant booklets and ensure these are filled out correctly and include these on your invoice.
Dos and don’ts of service
1. Always keep the communication lines open.
2. No matter how bad your day has been, have a positive attitude towards the client.
3. Never run other contractors or supplier products down.
4. Whilst on site, ensure all tools are placed in your carry box and not left to dirty the clients’ basins.
5. Bad treatment of staff on site, shouting, swearing and altercations are never acceptable.
6. Foul language of any kind is not tolerable.
7. Borrowing globes and batteries from clients is a no-go.
8. Using candles instead of a leadlight does not work.
9. Cell phones: whilst in the presence of your customers, never answer.
10. Multiple trips to the vehicle show the client that you are unprepared.
11. When arriving on site to carry out a service call, starting with lunch will not land you in the client’s good books or make them feel as though you’re interested in their problem.
There are many pitfalls when running service trucks. The level of service you provide should be the same high level across the board, extended to clients both old and new. This should be well above the level of service you expect.
Dealing with comebacks
The money is in the bank, client is happy, service was great. But two weeks later, it’s the dreaded comeback. Just as in taking a call, the procedure and response should be exactly the same. We all have comebacks – it is a part of our business. How we deal with it depends on how we keep a customer or not.
A complaint or come back should be treated like a fire. The sooner you put it out, the better. Many companies undo all the good work they have done by not having procedures in place or ignoring clients, hoping that they will go away.
Identify the nature of the complaint
3. Lack of service delivery
4. Staff related
Deal with the problem. Make sure all correspondence has been documented and is available when dealing with a compliant. You will be better equipped to respond to the complaint and resolve it with factual information.
Playing the blame game
Passing the buck and blaming others does not bode well for good customer care. Take control of the situation if you are indeed at fault. Turn a bad situation into a positive PR exercise for your company.
Dealing with an abusive customer
1. Always be honest and upfront; don’t try and bluff your way through a problem.
2. Explain policies and point out references to warranty/guarantees in your terms and conditions.
3. If you are unable to deal with the problem, ask for help.
4. Abusive language: politely ask the client to refrain as you are there to help.
5. A helpful hint is to advise that you seek a ‘resolution’.
6. If abuse continues, advise the client that you will terminate the call or leave the premises.
7. Don’t try to out-shout a customer; let them vent and finish before you respond.
By ignoring these instructions, you may simply add fuel to the fire. Take a break and calm down.
Most importantly, deliver what you promise
Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. No matter the obstacles, frustrations and interferences your clients will support you if you deliver what you promise. Communicate effectively. If you’re late, let your client know.
Last but not least, making mistakes is okay.
We all make mistakes. It’s not the fact that we make mistakes; it’s how we deal with them. Sometimes we are embarrassed or those mistakes impact on our bottom line. Acknowledge your mistake, sort out the client straight away and most importantly, learn from the experience.
On 29th March 2016, Geberit Southern Africa will be moving its Head office, Training centre and Warehouse to 6 Meadowview Lane, Meadowview Business Estate, Longmeadow, Linbro Park, a larger, state-of-the-art facility.
In a strategic move to broaden its presence in the sanitary industry, the Geberit Group have expanded their product offering to include ceramics and bathroom furniture.
In addition to their advanced plumbing and sanitary technologies, they now offer a full bathroom solution - both behind the wall and in front of the wall. Sustainability, innovation and efficiency in both function and design remain at the core of all Geberit products, from design to completion. They are the key drivers for the continuous development of their product portfolio, reputation and product leadership. Geberit continue to innovate and set trends in the industry and are well-positioned for many more decades of design pioneering, both in-front and behind-the-wall.
The expanded premises in Johannesburg will house the full product offering and all aspects of the business under one roof, providing a world-class service, catering for all the needs of plumbers, installers, specifiers, merchants, retailers, architects, designers and end-users.
The new showroom will display the increased product lines for a visual experience to ignite everyone’s imagination. The improved, more advanced, training facility will ensure the trainees will experience both the theoretical and practical aspects of all the inner-workings of the various Geberit products. The larger, leading edge warehouse facility will provide a better, far more efficient service to the customer.
Combining all the facilities on one property will be of greater convenience and ensure that Geberit continues to provide their customers with unsurpassed service excellence.
25 February 2016 marked a historical occasion in the plumbing industry where short-term insurers and IOPSA, on behalf of our members, signed a voluntary Code of Good Practice towards sustainable plumbing services.
Back row: Michael Hetzel (Outsurance), Ernst Ledwaba (Mutual & Federal), Angela Vernes (Nedbank), Tiro Tlhwaele (ABSA), Chris Burgess (IOPSA), Ryder Rollinson (IOPSA) Seated: Gary Macnamara (IOPSA), Noluthando Ngqandu (Mutual & Federal), Malcolm Schnaid (Hollard), Maheer Jeva (Standard Bank).
This journey started 18 months ago when current IOPSA president Lea Smith led the way by implementing a sustainable review of the plumbing industry. The central question: what will it take to sustain our sector?
One outcome of the sustainability review highlighted that behaviours between short-term-insurers and plumbing service providers needed clarification. Therefore, the single minded purpose of the Code is to promote healthy, equitable and long-term relationships that provide consistent value for customers, plumbing service providers and short-term insurers.
The IOPSA Insurance Forum was put in place in October 2014. Participants to the Forum include IOPSA representatives on behalf of IOPSA members and seven of the top homeowners’ short-term insurers. Work on the Code commenced in May 2015 and was completed in November 2015, a process that involved healthy and vigorous conversation to seek understanding in creating a Code that would be supported and implemented by all signatories
IOPSA is delighted to confirm that the signatories include:
By the end of March 2016, all IOPSA Insurance Forum members will have evaluated the Code and possible participation.
View the code of good practice for sustainable plumbing
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) invites its members to celebrate World Plumbing Day (WPD) on 11 March 2016
World Plumbing Day is an international event, initiated by the World Plumbing Council (WPC), and held on 11 March every year. This day recognises the important role the plumbing industry plays in sanitation, health and hygiene.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that globally, more people have a mobile phone than a toilet. Furthermore, one in three individuals lack access to improved sanitation, one billion still practice open defecation and only 64% of the world's population has access to improved sanitation.
South Africa’s water crisis and sanitation situation
In South Africa, the situation is no less dire. According to Stats SA’s 2013 General Household Survey, 89,9% of South African households have access to piped water, while only 77,9% have access to improved sanitation.
Currently 94.8% of South Africans have access to clean and safe drinking water. But approximately 1,4 million formal households require sanitation services and about 500 000 informal households are currently forced to make use of interim services.
Bearing these statistics in mind, IOPSA and World Plumbing Day are dedicated to promoting the benefits of safe plumbing and creating awareness about the importance of proper sanitation, health and hygiene. It provides individuals with the opportunity to get involved with relieving the crisis and make a difference.
The dire consequences of inadequate sanitation
Due to the lack of sanitation and access in the country's rural communities the threat of water borne disease is steadily increasing. Getaway and tourist destinations such as the Vaal River are becoming increasingly contaminated with faecal material due to the lack of sanitation supplies. This results in fewer tourists visiting certain destinations, and wildlife is being affected by the raw sewage run-off.
The role of plumbers
Plumbers are contributing their part to protect the environment by providing safe fresh water and sanitation through proper management, care, reuse and conservation of natural resources. The plumbing industry recognises the questionable balance mankind must maintain to guarantee its very existence and embraces efforts to ensure we are preserving every drop possible.
The role of the plumber
You can make a difference by getting involved with non-profit organisations such as UNICEF, who sponsor a wide range of activities and work with many partners, including families, communities, and governments. Also, get involved with local schools by volunteering to give talks and educate pupils about the importance of washing hands and using proper clean water.
IOPSA WPD initiatives
In 2016, IOPSA regions will be focusing on key upliftment projects and water conservation at schools in their respective regions.
IOPSA Gauteng will be involved in the Doug Whitehead Special School in Kensington. IOPSA members have donated and will be installing much-needed water and sanitation products.
The Doug Whitehead School is a special school for 189 children between the ages of six and 19 years old. All of them are severely mentally challenged. Many have multiple disabilities. Some are in wheelchairs, and many are epileptic. The school also has autistic pupils as well as pupils with visual and hearing disabilities.
The school strives to provide specialised teaching, training and therapy in a happy, nurturing environment so that each child can achieve his or her maximum potential in all areas of development. Children with disabilities have a right to learn how to become as self-sufficient as possible to enable them to integrate more easily into society.
The school recognises and responds to the diverse needs of learners, and has a functional school governing body and parents’ support, as well as a dedicated staff.
Projects that you can get involved in
In an effort to help the industry stay connected, the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) has organised roadshows in 2016
In an effort to help plumbers across South Africa become more connected with each other, and to provide them with opportunities to better themselves through further learning and training, IOPSA will be hosting a series of roadshows across South Africa.
Roadshows will be held in all of IOPSA’s regions, namely Gauteng, the North West, Free State, Border, Eastern Cape, Southern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape. Stops are scheduled for major cities in these regions.
Each event will emphasise the achievements and benefits of the institute, will include continual professional development (CPD) activities and workshops, and highlight the institute’s current projects. Feedback will be provided regarding legislation, standards, building inspectors and products. New plumbing qualifications and trade testing will also be discussed.
As per the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) requirements, Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) CPD activities will be compulsory from 1 March 2016.
Plumbing industry registered plumbers are required to acquire new and updated levels of knowledge and skills that will not only add measurable benefits to the practice of plumbing compliant with mandatory national standards and regulations, but also enhance and promote professional integrity of the industry.
Phase-in of CPD points system
For the first year, an individual will be able to obtain CPD credits from any category and only 15 credits will be required over a 12-month cycle. Each roadshow is aimed at uplifting the skills and knowledge of plumbers, and creating awareness about the industry.
As the new year really gets going, the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) keeps you up-to-date with new developments
As of March 2016, IOPSA members will be certified on an annual basis.
From March 2016, IOPSA member registration will be annual. Members will be issued with a new certificate and sticker each year. These certificates and stickers will carry the new registration date, which gives consumers, customers or property owners the ability to identify that the member is current. Your certificate will be issued electronically, which means it is secure (unlike paper which can be lost or damaged). This new system will also allow IOPSA to keep you, the member, up-to-date and informed on all the goings-on at the Institute, including Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, fun events and meetings.
New members can join IOPSA at any time during the year, but membership runs from March to February. That means that if you join in July 2016, you will need to renew your membership in February the following year.
From the executive director
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA)’s executive director, Gary Macnamara, walks you through winning the plumbing battle
It all starts with you!
We often complain about how difficult the plumbing industry is and how much better it would be doing something else. The saying that the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ is unfortunately not our exclusive right. The fact is that all industries and countries have their own difficulties and challenges, especially in the current political, economic and social turmoil we find ourselves in.
So how do you decide on which battles to fight in your business? How are you getting yourself fit for the future?
How much of your personal mindset creates stumbling blocks in solving challenges? Are you supporting and stimulating yourself with options? Exploring all possible opportunities to implement solutions to your business challenges or are you stuck and a little overwhelmed at this point?
When last did you step back, reflect and brainstorm your options alone, with other entrepreneurs or with a mentor? How hungry are you to surround yourself with solution-seekers rather than people who will agree with how hard business is?
Take the plunge; treat yourself to the gift of stepping back and looking at where you are and where you want to go.
There is a simple concept referred to a ‘learned helplessness’ – where we are prevented from avoiding some repeatedly negative stimuli. We eventually reach a state in which it we become passive and depressed because we believe there is no action we can take to avoid the aversive stimulus. Essentially, we give up trying.
Whilst this sounds extreme, even a little of this at a personal level can play with our motivation… So how about building on the gift to yourself? Shift from ‘give up’ exercises to ‘I’m building solutions that make sense’, especially if you choose to give yourself a fighting opportunity to be fit for the future.
If you can shift your thinking even a little bit, you can shift from blaming yourself and others to learning from your past decisions. That old saying – ‘We can’t change our outcome if we keep doing the same thing’ – may start to make sense.
Let’s go into a little more detail and, by way of example, show you that everyone has the opportunity to be successful:
Round 1 – SIMPLE
Focus on what you do best, think simple. It’s that simple; don’t complicate your business for the sake of things. Controls, processes, products and services must make a difference to your vision for the business and client experience, otherwise why have them? You’re looking for excellence without unnecessary stress, effective use of your resources, management of your overheads and delivering a quality service.
Fighters keep their plans simple, so they can deliver – trying to implement many different techniques and moves can be tiring and often ineffective. A fighter knows his/her strengths and focusses on those to deliver the knockout blows.
Your team is part of your business, they need to understand what you expect and how you measure service and client satisfaction.
Get the basics right and build from there. Your unique offering must be a living experience for clients. Don’t focus on what people don’t use or want – ‘Focus on what you do best, think simple.’
Remember – ‘No-one wins a world title fight by throwing the same punches... Each fighter plays to their unique strengths to deliver the unexpected and to gain victory when their opponent least expects it.’
Coming soon to upcoming issues of Plumbing Africa:
What is the secret of success? ‘RIGHT DECISIONS’
How do you make the right decisions? ‘EXPERIENCE’
How do you get experience? ‘WRONG DECISIONS
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) is paving the way for plumbers to become qualified solar water geyser and heat pump installers in terms of the new apprenticeship qualification.
The plumbing environment is changing and the question is are you ready? The Department of Energy (DOE) is gearing up to roll out a new solar hot water rebate system, coupled with the legislative requirements to install min 50 % alternative hot water heating technologies in new buildings. This means that the plumbing industry needs solar geyser and heat pump installers.
How can you, the plumber, upskill yourself and become a certified installer? There are two routes that you can follow to become qualified as a solar geyser or heat pump installer, which will allow you as an individual to be certified as a solar geyser or heat pump installer and issue a Certificate of compliance (CoC) as required by the National building Regulations.
The first route applies to qualified plumbers that have not completed their solar geyser / heat pump qualified (those who do not have the solar geyser or heat pump PIRB designation). You will be required to go through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) route at an accredited skills development provider (SDP) ‘training provider’. Once the training provider has established that you have met all the requirements through the Recognition of Prior learning process the Skills Development Provider (SDP) ‘training provider’ can apply to IOPSA for you to complete the final summative assessment.
The second route as a new learner is that you must complete the training in order to be recommended for the summative assessment ‘Trade Test’ and receive your professional designation. Accredited solar geyser and heat pump SDPs can be found on the IOPSA website.
The Quality Council for Trade and Occupation (QCTO) has appointed IOPSA as the Assessment Quality Partner (AQP) for the solar geyser and heat pump qualifications. To carry out the summative assessment all learners will have to go through the new solar geyser and heat pump training programme.
IOPSA is rolling out a pilot project in January 2016, establishing test centres where summative assessments (Solar geyser /Heat pump ‘trade tests’) can take place according to IOPSA set standards and procedures. There will be two test centres, one in Johannesburg, and Cape Town to begin with.
Anyone who meets the requirements as detailed above can apply for either of these assessments and must do so through their SDP i.e. training provider, college or school, to IOPSA.
This qualification is made up of the following compulsory knowledge and practical skill modules, as well as work experience:
1. Knowledge Modules – 14 credits required
2. Practical Skills Modules – 23 credits required
3. Work Experience Modules – 30 credits required
4. Final Summative assessment (trade test) required to complete qualification
The summative assessment will comprise of two sections being theory and practical components.
Theory assessment will be carried out in a controlled environment at an accredited test centre. Candidates must successfully complete their theory assessment before they can progress to the practical assessment.
Practical assessment will also be carried out at an accredited test centre for new learners.
Qualified/licensed plumbers who have worked on solar or heat pump installation under adequate control and passed the solar geyser or heat pump theory summative assessment will be able to submit five CoCs as proof of practical and workplace experience of which two will be audited. If the audit report complies with regulations (i.e. no re-fix items are necessary), it will result in the awarding of the qualification.
Alternatively a temporary solar geyser / heat pump designation within PIRB system can be allocated and five training CoCs will be issued to a licensed plumber. The five installations will need to be completed and logged for their practical and work place experience submission of which two will be audited.
For more information, contact IOPSA on 0027 (0)11 454 0025.
Plumbers to be aware of the responsibility they take on when signing a PIRB Certificate of Compliance (CoC) for plumbing installation on the sale of a house
Consumer’s or property owner’s expectation of a Certificate of Compliance is that all plumbing work within a building complies with regulation and is in working order.
A PIRB Certificate of Compliance (CoC) certifies an installation is compliant in terms of regulation. In most cases this will most likely be on a specific installation and does not necessarily include all plumbing in a building and definitely does not certify that existing plumbing is in working order.
If you have been requested to issue a CoC on a new building or sale of a house take note of the following:
1. If an installation is not complaint do NOT issue a CoC. The consequences of issuing a CoC on a non-compliant plumbing work is the property owner will have legal recourse on the individual that issues and signs the certificate.
2. Notify the property owner that the plumbing work does not comply with the National Building Regulations and specifically what needs to be rectified.
3. Notify the property owner that a CoC is not a confirmation that products are in working order but specifically plumbing work has been installed in compliance with regulation.
4. Notify the property owner that plumbing work that is hidden in walls, floors, ground and concrete roofs are excluded from certificate as they cannot be inspected, unless one has carried out such an inspection such as with a drain camera inspection.
5. The PIRB CoC covers a specific installation and not the entire property plumbing work. We suggest that you download a comprehensive domestic property checklist (can be found under member information on IOPSA website) to guide you in what needs to be inspected and this can be given to a property owner as proof of what is non-complaint.
This will require a plumber to inspect a property comprehensively and they should allow enough time accordingly.
IOPSA’s Gauteng plumbers’ evening was an enjoyable and educational experience for all
The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA)’s Gauteng plumbers’ evening, held at Three Oaks in Centurion on 28 October 2015, was a roaring success.
The plumbers’ evenings, which are held on a regular basis by IOPSA around South Africa, provide plumbers with the opportunity to socialise with one another and, in this case, listen to those who ‘have been there’.
Speakers at this event included Dale Simon, a plumber and business owner who talked about his experience in the industry; Debbie Donaldson, a motivational speaker and a consultant who talked to the attendees about what they need to do to take their business to the next level; and representatives from Nedbank, who presented attendees with the PocketPOS, a mobile payment system that will help small business owners deal more effectively with client payments on the go.
The evening ended with a raffle and dinner, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
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