Archive for January, 2011

Plumber Story – Business 2.0

About 6 months back, my domestic water pump stopped working. I called a local plumber to check with the problem and it turned out that it needed a valve replacement. As usual, the plumber replaced it with a new valve and in no time, it was up running perfectly fine. Of-course at a dear cost of Rs 400.

To my disappointment, the problem re-occurred last week. Based on the plumbing expertise I had acquired by them, It seemed obvious that the valve needed a replacement, yet again.

This time, I decided to hire a different plumber who lives two blocks away from my place. It wasn’t a surprise that he identified the problem was with the defective valve. He told me about the choices I had for the replacement valve. He even demonstrated a couple of them to me. There was this rust proof stainless steel valve and a manually operated brass valve. He reasoned this recurring problem to those cheap cast-iron valve that was earlier used. To me, it sounded more pretentious.

I was given a choice to use another cast-iron valve, which would workout cheap or a steel valve which is a little more expensive but had a longer life span. The brass valve wasn’t a choice, it was too expensive, beyond reasons. As he was fixing the steel valve, he mentioned about this new automatic water level controller that was in the market. He elaborated, that one of the reasons for these valves to go wrong was water level going below threshold. And, using this water level controller will further protect from this kind of breakdown. It looked natural for me to put off the conversation. He also mentioned about the worn-out spindle that he noticed while repairing. He was suspicious about a possible pump breakdown in a few more months.

So, that’s about it. He gave me his contact number offering to service if required in future. The pump was again up running fine with another expense of Rs 200 this time.

There were a few things I notice here, worth mentioning. I feel, the key to run a successful next-gen business is the surprise factor. To what extend a business can positively surprise its customers. Now, I am referring to the service that must exceed the customer’s expectation. In this case, all I needed was a valve replacement to get the pump running. But, this plumber took the extra effort to tell me about the choices I had. If I was to spend on any kind of service, I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Another thing to notice here is the business diversification. He might have lost some business by installing a stainless steel valve, but definitely increased the chances of selling an automatic water level controller. He was diversifying his business by offering me to buy this equipment. And, who wouldn’t let go some pea-nut earnings for a bigger piece.

And, all this at a 50% price cut. Pricing plays a crucial role in business sustainability. Neither underpricing nor overpricing will get the business going. The secret is to strike the balance.

The fact that he told about this worn-out spindle is again a service experience that exceeds expectation. This again might get him more business in future. More reasons for me to keep his contact number though.

At the end of it all, its clear that customers these days are ready to experiment in unconventional ways, not much like there predecessors. They are willing to walk that extra mile, if its worth it. Gone are the days when service had to be worth every penny. Now, it must be worth more than it. And all it takes for the businesses is to tender it in an effective way. This, is what I call Business 2.0, more for less. I wont promise to use the same plumber again. But, his number has definitely made a place in my contact book.

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