HVP Editor Joe Dart finds out more about Plumber at Hand, a newly launched video call-led lead generation platform.

The COVID-19 lockdown has drastically altered the way that we interact with other people. Many people hadn’t even heard of Zoom before the lockdown came into force, but now hundreds of millions of people around the globe are using platforms like it to keep in touch with friends and family on a daily basis.

Video calling software is becoming more commonly used by businesses and, with callouts not always possible in recent times, some of you may have already even used it yourselves to assist customers with their plumbing and heating problems. 

Although we are starting to return to some sense of normality now, it seems unlikely that everything will go back to the way it did before COVID-19 struck. This new normal presents plumbers and heating engineers an opportunity to operate their businesses differently and tap into popularity of video calling, at least that’s the hope of Plumber at Hand’s co-founder, Michael Guard.

Plumber at Hand is a recently launched lead generation platform, with a twist. Although, much like other lead generation websites, members of the public sign up and use the platform to connect with plumbing and heating professionals, the focus is on using the trades’ expertise to solve the problem remotely via video chat, meaning that the tradesperson may not have to visit the customer’s property at all.

Michael explains thusly: “Plumber at Hand enables people who require instant access to advice from a water or heating specialist via remote video call in the first instance. 

“How that works is that they will create a booking online by searching through to find a plumber or a heating specialist who fits their requirements, and that takes place at a time that’s convenient for them and at a cost that’s a fraction of traditional callout charge.”

Customers pay £25 upfront to book in a video call session of up to 30 minutes with a trade professional on the platform, who will offer their expertise in trying to solve the problem. If it is a relatively simple issue then it might be solved over the phone but, if not, then the customer has the option of hiring that professional to come to their property to fix it. 

The real benefit of the platform, according to Michael, is the freedom and flexibility it offers plumbers and heating engineers compared to other similar lead generation sites.

He said: “In a more traditional model, an engineer will typically pay to have their services on the system, they’ll then be notified when certain jobs become available, and then they’ve got to do the interaction with the customer, probably give them an estimate, then go and visit them, and may not get the job. 

“They’ve wasted their time, they’ve wasted their petrol and, ultimately, not received the return on investment (ROI) they wanted. With this, simply having the call, even if no job comes out of it, you’ve still earnt money in the process.”

With Plumber at Hand, the engineer earns a slice of the customer call fee (60%) regardless, so even if the matter is resolved in only five minutes over the phone, or the engineer doesn’t win the job, they at least get ROI for their time. 

If the issue cannot be resolved over the phone and does require the engineer to visit the customer’s property, engineers will get to keep 100% of what they earn from that job, as Plumber at Hand doesn’t cut into any further profit that is made. 

Michael says approximately 80% of the calls through the platform so far have still resulted in the customer asking the engineer to visit their property to resolve the problem for them, indicating that there’s a strong likelihood that, on top of what they make from the initial call through the platform, trade professionals can make the profit they usually would from a job.

With engineers able to earn on every call they field, Michael explains that Plumber at Hand can also provide a route for topping up your earnings, or help those who are less able to get out on a job to make some additional money by sharing their expertise.

He explained: “For older or more incapacitated plumbers, the feedback we’re getting from them is this a great way they can still earn money from their trade without necessarily having to go in and do the heavy, dirty labour they might have done. 

“For example, there are plenty of black cabbies who only go in for a day or two as a little pocket money for them and their wife. You can set what times you’re available [on Plumber at Hand], so it’s a way in which people can supplement their income without necessarily having to get on the tools.”

Michael adds that trades are also under no obligation to take on a job in person, even should they be unable to resolve an issue over the phone. If you solely want to field calls from home, you can as a Plumber at Hand member.

The platform launched mid-May and, as of early June, only has a handful of members, however Michael says the aim is to drive those numbers up to ensure the site offers UK-wide coverage. The carrot for plumbers and heating engineers to join now is that the first 100 sign-ups will get their first year of membership for free. 

Not just anyone will be accepted on the platform however, as Michael explains: “They need to have at least five years’ experience, they need to make sure they’ve got the qualifications needed to support what they’re doing, and references to prove they’ve provided good service in the first instance.”

Michael feels as though now the time is right for a service like Plumber at Hand, even though he admits launching earlier could have been even better. 

He said: “We got to a point where we were sitting here during lockdown where we were thinking, ‘God, can you imagine if Plumber at Hand was already available to people?’ And it got to a stage where it was a case of, ‘Right, we need to get this out, we need to get this done’.

“I think people are now very comfortable with the idea of video interacting with a service provider that can support them, but the price obviously has to be right and the convenience has to be there.”

The company has plans to expand quickly and, if the idea takes hold, to expand into other trades as well. However, Michael says that they’re not trying to get carried away at this stage.

He concluded: “You don’t run before you crawl, so we want to make sure we’ve got this service as tight and professional for all parties as we possibly can, and we know that our tradespeople are really happy with their return on investment, and it’s about how we grow that out. So it’s really exciting, but an idea’s only an idea if you don’t execute it properly and that’s what we’re trying to do for everybody.”

If you want to learn more, visit www.plumberathand.com.