New Drain Tools Help Justify Prices on Small-Line Cleaning Services

Even the simplest service calls provide opportunity to demonstrate your value to customers

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As drain techs, we are in and out of different buildings doing a wide variety of work — commercial line jetting, residential root cutting, main drain backups, routine maintenance contracts, etc. Most of those jobs come with their own highs and lows, but the smaller drain cleaning calls are what can really turn into a nightmare for a drain tech.

The problem is that you are taking a drain tech who has vast experience with all types of crazy problems, earning a lot of money, and applying that skill to something as simple as a clogged toilet — making them in a way overqualified for the job. More than likely the company you work for — or own — has overhead, wages, taxes, etc. That makes a simple call difficult to bill.

On one hand, you want to provide the customer with a good deal to gain customer loyalty. On the other hand, you need to make money on the call. The average homeowner has no idea how much it costs to run a drain cleaning business. An hour of labor plus a service call fee could be just shy of $200 — and that’s just to break even most times. The customer thinks they’ve been taken advantage of for such a simple task, the business is more than likely taking a loss or breaking even on the call, and the drain tech on site is now in a bad spot because walking into a clogged toilet with a toilet auger for a 10-second fix is hard to do when you must collect hundreds of dollars a few minutes later.

These small calls can rack up thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the company so you must charge the full rate, which puts everyone in a bind. With new drain technology, however, you can change the perception of the service call and provide some additional value to the homeowner while doing a better job.

Introduce new technology

Most of the time, the customer is just upset because they feel like they didn’t get a good value. They see you walk in with a hand auger — or a plunger — and they think, “Wait, I have one of those” or, “I should have just called my son to come over if that’s all they were going to use.” It’s as if they were expecting you to walk in with some fancy machine that they’ve never seen before with some real power.

And if that’s what the customers want, that’s what you should give them. Especially with some of the new technology and tools that are available. General Pipe Cleaners’ Kinetic Water Ram, Milwaukee Tool’s AIRSNAKE or Milwaukee’s battery-powered toilet auger are all good examples that come to mind.

If you swear by your brand of hand auger, it doesn’t hurt to follow that up with a battery-powered auger and/or an air snake. This does two things: It shows the customer you’ve provided a service that they couldn’t have done themselves, and it does do a better job than plunging the toilet and leaving.

Using compressed air

There’s debate on whether you should use an AirSnake or Water Ram before the auger or as a follow-up tool after the auger. In my opinion it should be used after an auger, especially on a water closet. 

Both the Water Ram and the AirSnake utilize a blast of compressed air or a combination of water and compressed air to blast clogs downstream. But if there is a ton of corrosion buildup inside the internal trap, or the rubber adapter doesn’t squeeze and seal all around the opening, you are going to take an unwanted shower when the blast from the gun discharges into the air and all over you.

If you can use the battery-powered auger and follow that up with the Water Ram or the AirSnake, you are really giving the customer the best possible service for such a small call. It will also help justify the cost of the call because you used tools that the homeowner either has never seen or doesn’t have.

Speaking to the homeowner

It’s also a smart move to make sure the customer sees that you are going the extra mile by bringing in these tools. It may even help to explain what you are going to do, or what you just did, to put their mind at ease. Even though it’s a very straightforward and simple service call, a quick explanation can go a long way. Explain that an auger does a good job but that the new technology available with drain cleaning equipment provides a more powerful cleaning service. That information can justify the service charges in the customer’s mind.

Don’t totally rely on these tools, but make sure you leverage their use to provide additional value to your calls.


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