Seal the Deal With Preventive Maintenance Plans

Selling your commercial clients on a routine checkup provides stability for your drain cleaning business while offering the customer peace of mind
Seal the Deal With Preventive Maintenance Plans
Offering routine and preventive maintenance agreements to your commercial clients, such as pumping grease traps, helps to ensure steady work.

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You’ve undoubtedly received an emergency call from a desperate restaurant manager or business owner in a panic over their clogged drainline. For contractors who have been there, selling a preventive maintenance agreement is about selling peace of mind.

For commercial accounts, the goal is avoiding a backup, or worse — a shut down — that leads to a potential loss of business. The service provider can better benefit the client by offering and encouraging some type of program that will help alleviate these situations.

Tim Ottis, general manager of Roto-Rooter of Forth Worth, says they have been offering preventive maintenance contracts for quite some time to their commercial clients, especially restaurants.

“The cities are coming down hard wanting these accounts to maintain their grease traps and keep as much of the grease out of the public sewer systems as possible,” Ottis says. “We also have contracts with car washes to pump and clean their sand interceptors and grit separators.”

Written contracts for maintenance services generally run for a year, he says, and the language will include a guarantee that the lines they clear will remain open for at least 30 days. The contract will also state how often they will come in to service the lines. The language is pretty straight forward, Ottis says.

If his technicians find there is a problem, they will notify the customer and then do a video inspection to diagnose the issue. This is written into the contract. Roto-Rooter of Forth Worth wants to be able to get the customer up and running again, and in most cases there is no extra charge for these video inspections.

Ottis says it’s easy to sell the idea. The cities are making it clear they want to keep grease out of their sanitary sewer systems. He’ll bring in his truck with a 120-foot reel and a 2,000 psi jetter attached. “We can do it all with this one truck,” he says.

A gentlemen’s agreement
Providing a preventive maintenance program with commercial customers has been a positive thing for Avery Zahn, owner of Infra-Track in Worthing, South Dakota. The obvious benefit for the client is preventing a backup that can shut down a business. However, many times the customer doesn’t realize the importance of this service until there is a problem. They will explain they don’t want the added cost of the regular checkup. Once they have a problem, they then realize that maybe this is something to reconsider.           

“Our commercial customers might opt for our coming in once a month, or every three months,” Zahn says. “We even have customers who have us come in once a week. We will just do a verbal agreement … a gentlemen’s agreement. I’m old school. Our customers have a lot of faith and trust in us.”

In addition to the benefits for their customer, the advantage for Infra-Track is being able to schedule the work ahead of time, rather than getting an emergency call.

“This is actually huge for us,” he says. “If we can schedule the work it helps our technicians to know where they will be working. It is extra assurance of steady work, and a win-win for all.”

Pat Brown, owner of Roto-Rooter of Sioux City, Iowa, agrees that scheduling routine maintenance work helps balance the workload between emergency calls.

“We have a number of accounts on a plan,” Brown says. “We may go in on a Wednesday at 6 p.m. to check up, or at a time more convenient, perhaps if it would be 9 p.m. This is a positive tool for us, and also for our client.”

Like Infra-Track, Brown does not deal with signed contracts, opting to work out verbal agreements with his commercial accounts.

“We’re not going to lock anyone into this,” Brown says. “Maybe they will think they can get it done for less money elsewhere, or they think another company will do a better job. Sometimes our agreement will be on a quarterly basis, say every three or four months where we come in and do some work. We’ll call and remind the client that it’s time for us to visit.

“Sometimes there will be a new manager on board with our client,” he says. “He may say that they don’t have the money for this agreement. We know what is going to happen.” He says they know they will get a call back in most situations.


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