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The video call revolution

Plumbing contractor finds success during coronavirus pandemic by offering video service.

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Levi Torres, president and owner of Denver-based High 5 Plumbing, talks to a customer during a High 5 Live video call.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the world drastically changed as businesses shut down and employees moved to work-from-home settings. Once used mostly by the tech industry, video chat software companies such as Zoom, Go To Meeting and Microsoft Teams saw huge increases in demand as people began using these services for work, school and even to stay in touch with family members. Even doctor’s visits became virtual.

You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, but it can’t possibly work for plumbing contractors.”

Well, one company is out to prove differently. Denver-based High 5 Plumbing established an online service option for customers called “High 5 Live” — and they had the foresight to do this all before the pandemic even began.

“We were getting a lot of calls from people asking for a price for certain replacements or installations,” says Levi Torres, president and owner of High 5 Plumbing. “Realistically, we didn’t feel comfortable giving prices over the phone. We were probably missing seven to 10 leads a day with people who just wanted a price. So, we decided at that point that we would start the High 5 Live program, which was connecting with people however we could, whether it was over Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Instagram or Facebook. We were using anything possible to try to get people to let us get eyes on the job. This was in March 2018. Then, we spent all of 2018 kind of fine-tuning the program.”

 After a year of trial and error, High 5 Plumbing settled on using only one video platform — BlueJeans Video Conferencing. They just send a link to customers to access a chat room, and anyone can access it through any device (mobile, tablet or laptop) as long as they have internet access. Homeowners don’t need to download a new app, which was appealing for High 5 Plumbing. Essentially, Torres notes they got the kinks all worked out just in time for COVID to hit in March 2020.

 “It was very convenient because a lot of people in our market were kind of scrambling and trying to figure out how to do virtual estimates, and for us, we already knew what we were doing,” Torres says.  

High 5 Plumbing has successfully virtually diagnosed jobs for pipe leaks, garbage disposal issues, toilet repairs, drain clogs and water heater issues, to name a few. The company schedules virtual appointments in 30-minute windows and estimates are completed by any of High 5 Plumbing’s four team leaders.  

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 High 5 Plumbing Service Manager Jay Owens FaceTimes during an early High 5 Live video call.

“The technician gets in the chat room and we treat it just like a normal service call,” Torres explains. “We ask all the same questions. We just use the homeowner as a remote control now. Like, ‘Great. Can you go down in the basement and show me the main water shutoff valve? OK, perfect. Does that turn? No? OK, it’s locked. We may have to do some work with that. Now, can you show me the model and serial number on your water heater?’ We just use them to show us everything we need to provide an accurate price.”

Torres acknowledges estimating a job over a virtual video call is still really hard.

“Three of the biggest reasons that cause plumbing failures in a home are water quality, water pressure and age — two of those things I can’t test over video. We just endeavor to explain to our customers. ‘Hey, listen, I think your toilet is running because your water pressure in the home might be excessively high. I can’t test it over video, but that’s my professional assumption, so that’s why we need to get a technician out there to confirm the pricing.’ Whenever we give a price over video estimate, it’s never confirmed until we get on-site and get eyes on it. Then, we confirm the price is good, and then go forward with work at that point. The High 5 Live appointment is really just another touchpoint to get them to understand why it’s important for us to be on site.”

On average, High 5 Plumbing does between seven to 10 video calls per week, and Torres estimates about 70% of those calls turn into customers. During peak COVID from March to June 2020, the company was completing about 20 High 5 Live calls per week.

The service is also free for customers, Torres notes. “We charge $49 to go to the home, but we will have a 10-15 minute conversation for free all day. We use it more of an educational tool that automatically helps with our plumbing business.”

Plumbing contractors already need to adapt to an ever-changing industry by staying up-to-date on the latest products and trends, but they should also be staying current with the latest technologies such as video chat, web chats, customer text messaging and more that will help improve their customer satisfaction and their bottom lines.

“The feedback has been nothing but positive,” Torres adds. “We’ve found the people who want to use it love it, and the people who don’t want to use it would rather have us at their house anyways.”

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Photos courtesy of High 5 Plumbing

Nicole Krawcke is chief editor of Plumbing & Mechanical.