Plumbing Codes and Public Service:
The people in our trade sometimes forget that it’s easier to attract bees with honey than with vinegar.
This is especially true when it comes to plumbing code enforcement.
Many consumers believe that permits and inspections are just another way for government bureaucrats to pick money out of their pockets, and an excuse to send a nosy city official into their homes. They won’t hire a contractor who insists on pulling a permit for a job. That’s a shame. Because while the belief that permits are a waste of money and have no benefit to the consumer might be widespread, nothing could be further from the truth.
We readily inform customers about what work a job requires, how much it will cost and sometimes how long it will take, but we often skip the important information about why we must do a job a certain way, why plumbing codes are important and why an inspection is a valuable part of the total project.
Without this input, the consumer will be unable to make a truly informed decision on how to proceed with the job.
At a recent PHCC meeting, our chief city inspector was the speaker. I raised my hand and asked him, “What are you doing to promote code enforcement among the consumers?” His two-word answer, “We’re trying,” seemed to point out the frustration he felt at not having an adequate forum to get the message out.
All of us in the trade should know that code enforcement is there to protect the health and safety of the consumer. It’s an extra pair of eyes to catch what the plumber may have missed, or to point out a new code requirement that became necessary because of problems with the old way of doing things.
Inspectors tend to concentrate more on “shotgun enforcement” of the codes rather than the easier route of informing consumers of why codes are important. One city official said he thought it was our job as a trade organization to promote this kind of awareness. I say it’s everybody’s job. Inspectors, educators and plumbers in the field can all spread the word, and by doing so, we’ll all be winning the respect of those we serve.
The goal is to get consumers to ASK for a permit and inspection.
While we’re bolstering our image as protectors of the public health, we might also look at opportunities open to us when we project ouselves as generous and caring public servants. I call this “giving back” to the community that supports us.
As for my company, we plan to say “Thank you” by helping out with a food drive for the needy. We’ve also been involved in providing transportation to pick up and deliver groceries to our local food pantry. To quote a book I’m sure many of you have read, these kinds of good deeds will be “repaid ten fold.”
Remember that public awareness of what we are about will ultimately bring us more business than any number of promotions about special pricing, fancy equipment or fast response time.
It all comes down to creating an image of intergity, community service and involvement. By winning the respect of the public, we will be winners in our business for many years to come.
Like I said… Bees and honey. Give it a try and watch them swarm in.
– Bob Allen