5 Ways a Plumber’s Job Will Change in the Next 5 Years

Plumbing is changing much faster than most of us realize – not only to the fixtures themselves, but also to the industry around them. Generational changes, new technology, record-setting droughts, and regulatory pressures are all coming together to bring huge changes to the plumbing industry over the next five years.

Here’s a look at some of those shifts and how they will impact everyday plumbers across the country.

1. Customers Increasingly Expect On-Demand Service

Let’s face it, nothing will turn a millennial away from a plumber’s business faster than a lackluster website with no online booking interface or slow response times. Even the older folks among us are getting less and less eager to make a phone call when ordering via smartphone is fast becoming the norm for most services (just think of the last time you actually called to order pizza).

Plumbers who own their own small businesses are going to face increasing pressure to invest in local search results, a good booking interface, and a contemporary website. By targeting young people just as they’re looking for a plumber for the first time, a plumber is making early investments towards a potential lifelong customer. By staying out of this realm, a plumber is pushing the average customer’s age up and up, limiting future growth potential.

2. Reviews Are Becoming More Vital

Plumbing reviews

To today’s average consumer, good reviews on Yelp or Angie’s List, a Facebook page with more than 18 likes, and a generally active online presence speak volumes. Many consumers won’t touch a business with a 10 foot pole unless it’s been thoroughly vouched for online.

As with the previous trend, plumbers and managers of plumbing companies have to work harder than ever to establish themselves online – including something as simple as offering incentives for customers to review the service online or including a call to action on business cards. Neglect this and plumbers risk getting outmaneuvered by rivals and losing business. Excel at it and there are huge returns on your investment.

Still, changes in the plumbing industry aren’t all about what’s happening online and on smartphones. In fact, there’s also a lot of changes with everyday plumbing products.

3. Customers and Regulators Are Demanding Greater Efficiency

The pressure to install toilets, sinks, and water heaters with ever-greater levels of energy and water efficiency is simultaneously coming from many places. It would be easy to see these pressures as an annoyance, forcing a business to change its plumbing product line.

However, there’s real potential here. As with many other industries undergoing similar changes (like renewable energy), if you can position your business as being ahead of the curve, you can gain from regulatory shifts while your rivals scramble.

Plumbers can consider not just carrying more energy and water efficient products, but using branding to connect the company to them. Consumers want more efficient products, and when they are faced with a choice between two plumbers, one of whom overtly specializes in installing efficient systems, the decision is going to be easy.

4. Leak Prevention and Detection Is Changing the Industry

Get Smart About Water Leak Detection

In the future, plumbers will be called upon to fix huge emergency leaks less and less. This is due to a combination of more products like tankless water heaters and water leak detection systems. The fact that these products will, over time, significantly reduce issues like flooded basements, is all the more reason for plumbers to invest in selling their services by installing these kinds of systems, instead of just responding to emergencies.

It’s another case of how plumbers need to adapt quickly if they’re going to thrive. However, thriving also requires finding the right people to hire.

5. It’s Getting Harder to Attract Young Apprentices

Most trade industries like plumbing, electrical work, or construction are facing a challenge attracting young talent (with skilled trade workers being listed as the hardest positions to fill). The results of this trend are a mixed bag. On the one hand, fewer plumbers means less competition and higher pay rates. On the other hand, if the industry can’t attract young talent, it can’t survive forever.

In theory, those higher wages should be fixing this problem over time. However, that just hasn’t happened so far. With good marketing and a bit of luck, trades in the US will be able to rebrand themselves as jobs of the future, not of the past, but that’s going to take time. In the meantime, plumbers have to prepare for higher wages and more difficulty hiring – but associating their business with things like green technology can certainly help to give them an edge.

Are you a plumber? Which challenges is your plumbing business facing?

What do you see as the defining changes coming to the plumbing industry in the next few years? Which are going to challenge your plumbing business the most? Let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear more about from us in the comments.