EMPLOYEE SUCCESS STORY: Dave Semenyna of Capital Plumbing & Heating in Edmonton, Alberta

Develop Relationships by Educating Your Customers

Dave Semenyna of Capital Plumbing & Heating in Edmonton, Alberta, Has Become a Regular on the PSI Scoreboard by Earning the Trust of His Customers by Fully Informing Them of Their Options & Allowing Them to Make the Best Decision for Their Homes & Families.

by Bob Houchin

Upon reaching out to Wendy Ellis, general manager of Capital Plumbing & Heating in Edmonton, Alberta, about the opportunity to interview their peak-performing technician Dave Semenyna, she approved and then laughed as she said, “Dave is a great young man. We’re very proud of him. He tells us all the time, if he could, the only tool he’d like to carry is a pen.”

Later, I asked Dave about Wendy’s comments. He also laughed when confirming her accuracy. “Oh yeah, I say that to Wendy and [Capital’s owner] Gregg [Weir] all the time. I’d be fine if someone else wanted to come behind me and do the work, that would be great. I’d have no problem with it. What I love to do is talk with people. I like to learn what they want and what they need.”

“I believe very much in educating my customers,” Dave continued enthusiastically. “A well-educated customer will make a well-educated decision. If they don’t understand why they need something, they’re not going to invest in it. I give the pros and the cons with every option on every repair. I let them pick what’s best for them. It’s their home. It’s their choice.”

Dave is a Capital Plumbing & Heating homegrown technician. He started with the company not long after graduating high school in 2006. His first year, he only rode along with a senior technician, learning the ropes. By his second year, he was being sent to easier jobs, and by his third year, he was running service by himself. He soon became a top performer.

For two years, Dave left Capital and left town with the ambition of opening his own service business. “It gave me a different perspective on everything. I found the learning curve was steep. It cost me a lot of money in the end, but it gave me a world of knowledge, experience, and appreciation for what I have here,” Dave said earnestly.

Dave rejoined Capital Plumbing & Heating in 2016, and he’s been excelling ever since, regularly posting average tickets in excess of $1,000 for the month. “[In residential service,] it’s all about the relationship. By the end of the call, I feel like every customer is closer to being my friend, rather than just a customer. I’ve had clients buy me gifts when my wife had our baby. I’m that close with some of them. They like me. They trust me. They don’t want anyone else in their home.”

How has Dave build trust and relationships with his customers? Let’s take a look in this issue’s “Learning from the Best.”

How often do you train as a company?

Four times a week, we have shorter meetings—about 30 to 45 minutes. We’ll talk about the previous day, look over invoices, and talk about things we might have done differently to generate more opportunities. Once or twice a week, we’ll train for an hour and a half to two hours. We’ll troubleshoot a furnace, or we’ll talk about how to talk with customers. We just had a meeting on how to show empathy and how that helps build relationships. We do lots of training on making and maintaining relationships.

How do you prepare for each call?

We’re 100 percent paperless. We get everything on our iPad with SWRemote. I can see up to the last nine times we were at a customer’s house. We collect all their equipment detail, so I can see the notes, past inspections, and previous recommendations. It paints a picture for me before I’m even in the home. I look at that before I even leave [for that job]. Sometimes I’ll even call the previous tech to get more information.

Once you get in the customer’s home, how do you begin developing a relationship with the customer?

I do my best to notice something as I’m walking up. I’ll notice a car in the driveway, a dog, golf clubs, a piano. I try to talk with them about anything other than what their issue is. Once you get a conversation going, you can see them get less tense. I try to talk to my customers like I talk to a friend.

Will you immediately go to the problem or do you try and sit at the kitchen to collect information?

I will try to go to a kitchen table. That happens about 75 percent of the time. It allows me to set our price book down, talk about our licensing, and things like that. If they want to take me to the problem, and they’re adamant about it, I’ll go. Once we’re there, I’ll ask them questions they don’t know the answers to. There are customers who will say, “Oh, it’s definitely the thermocouple.” I’ll ask, “What’s the millivolt reading on it?” They obviously don’t know. It catches them off guard and reminds them that they called me out here for a reason. So, I’ll then say, “Let’s sit down and go through this book so I can explain some things to you.”

When do you conduct your safety inspection?

I prioritize it. If they’re having issues with the toilet flushing, I’ll look at the entire plumbing system, and their problem, and then come back to them with everything. Now, if they have a leak, a drip, or no heat, I’ll address that problem right away to ease that anxiety before I go through everything else.

Do you provide options on every proposed repair?

Absolutely. We try to give three options on everything. We used to call them good, better, and best. Now, we’re moving to must, should, and could. If you have a leak, you must do this to fix it, but your lines are poly-b, so you should replace them. And you could upgrade all of this if you wanted to at the same time.

When do you like to bring up your club membership? Do you push the savings angle?

I like to bring it up as often as possible. I try not to push the savings. I like to push that we do an inspection every year for our club members at no cost. I want them to see the benefit of making sure everything is working perfectly so they don’t have to worry about it. Customers love that.

Do you go on many club-membership calls?

I probably go to five or six a month. About 50 percent of the time, I’ll generate revenue. The other 50 percent enjoys the info I provide, and later down the line, they’ll buy something. With club memberships, there have been occasions where I’ve told the customer that something is going to fail, but the customer said, “No, we’ll wait on it.” Literally, a week later, they phone us back to take care of it right away because the hot-water tank is out. At that point, the trust factor they have in you is huge.

How do you explain to a customer that their functional water heater really should be replaced because it would be in their best interest?

When I start my call, before I see any of the equipment, I like to find out what kind of maintenance they’ve been doing, and I will give them lifespans. I’ll tell them the average water heater in our area lasts about 15 years. Have you flushed it recently? That way, when I eventually look at the water heater, and based on the serial number, I know it’s 22 years old, they already know that it’s old. I’ll tell them that I’ve seen a lot of tanks younger have their bottoms rust out. At that point, they know I’m not just making a number up. I educated them earlier in the call. I have credibility now.

For larger jobs, do you have financing available? If so, what options?

We offer it on every job we can. A $10,000 job becomes much more manageable. Our financing company has an app that we can use on our iPad. It gives us approval within seconds. You only need their name, number, social—and they need to own the mortgage. That’s it. It will say the customer is approved up to this amount. With that company, we can do zero-interest payments. We break the payments out over 144 months to keep payments live. We can build a dollar amount to match whatever the customer can afford. Ninety-eight percent of the time, I can find financing that works for them.

How do you bring up financing during your calls?

I like to start when we’re going through the book and building the relationship. I let them know we have payment-plan options at the start. I let them know that the job must be over $1,000 to offer financing. But with a $1,000 job, we can get payments down to as low as $12 a month if you want. At $12 a month, people will say, “Well, that’s nothing.” Most people don’t even ask what their interest rates are. That customer who was only going to spend $300 on a repair can now spend $6,000 and really take care of their problem because their payment will only be $40 a month.

What’s it like working with the team at Capital Plumbing & Heating? I know there are many high-performing technicians at your company.

The team here is phenomenal. All the guys will get together outside of work. We’re all close. It’s very much about growing a team first and then training and getting your skills after. Everyone is willing to work and help each other. It makes it easier to learn in that environment.

What advice would you have for a plumber new to residential service?

Walk into every job 100 percent confident that you’ll know exactly what’s wrong with their house and that you can help them. I can tell how I felt each day based upon looking at my numbers for that day. When I’m confident, I’m doing well. When you have that mentality, you’re going to be successful.