Minimize Blame with "DiY" Customers

March 18, 2011

By Steve Coscia

These days, some customers who are low on cash are attempting to repair and install equipment that is best handled by a plumbing contractor. During the last few months, I have heard numerous horror stories about Do It Yourself customers who, in an attempt to save a few bucks, try to fix things themselves.

Taking it one step further, Lowe's and Home Depot continually promote the idea that "You can Do It Yourself" and so this concept becomes cemented in the mind of customers.

A plumbing company recently handled a call from a customer complaining about a hot water heater malfunction. When the technician arrived at the customer's home and diagnosed the unit he found evidence of tampering which resulted in damage. When the technician inquired about the damage the customer played coy and spoke vaguely about what had happened. It took about 15 minutes of qualification before the customer admitted that he had attempted to fix the unit himself.

When trade professionals encounter the "Do It Yourself" customer they should minimize Blame Implication. This means that once a technician has ascertained that the customer screwed things up - it's best not to make things worse by implying blame.
Customers feel bad enough when their good intentions spiral downward to defeat. A talented trade professional knows how to leverage these events to his or her advantage by making the customer feel better and thereby enhancing the rapport for future opportunities.

One way to make a customer feel better is to pay them a compliment. The compliment doesn't have to be anything grandiose. One example of a compliment might be, "You're light years ahead of most customers who have tackled a project like this. Unfortunately most customers don't contact me until they have damaged items beyond repair. Contacting me was definitely the wise thing to do."

Regarding compliments, only two types of people like to hear a compliment: men and women. A compliment needn't be too gushy or pretentious, be subtle, concise and straightforward. Then, get on with the business of adding value.

Plumbers who master the art of minimizing blame implication stand a better chance of explaining the benefits of scheduled maintenance by a professional to enhance their system's performance and avert future equipment failure.

A plumber should not use too much technical jargon when explaining benefits. Balancing expertise and empathy, while explaining the benefits, is a winning formula. Customers who hear and sense a technician's empathy are more likely to invest in a long-term business relationship. The customer won't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

In these challenging economic times, minimize blame implication - even when customers screw up. Remember that the customer is always right. Training your employees in these subtle behaviors will differentiate your contracting company from the competition.

Steve Coscia helps Plumbing and HVACR companies make more money through increased customer retention, improved upselling and reduced on-the-job stress. He is the author of the HVAC Customer Service Handbook. A best selling author, columnist and customer service specialist, Steve presents keynote speeches and facilitates HVACR customer service workshops. To learn more about Coscia Communications go to or contact Steve Coscia at 610-853-9836 or

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