Cincinnati Plumber - Operations manager Sonny Boyce of 1-Tom-Plumber seated at desk

Life As An Emergency Plumber

We often think of first responders as firefighters, policemen, or ambulance drivers. But what happens when you have a home plumbing or water damage emergency? Who do you call then?

Waking up to water up to your ankles from a burst pipe is something you want to take care of right away. While most plumbing companies don’t offer after-hours plumbing, the ones who do take pride in putting their customers first.

Sonny and Ryan Boyce lead our drain division at 1-Tom-Plumber. They also happen to be father and son. Balancing family and work can be quite tricky as an emergency plumber, but the Boyce’s make it look easy.

Read on to hear what Sonny, Ryan, and wife/mother Michelle have to say about the exciting life of an emergency plumber and how they make it work.

Q: Why do you do what you do? When someone calls at 3 a.m. what motivates you to get out of bed?

Sonny: I think it’s important to take care of the customer. I think it’s a career that the younger generation needs to pick up or else it will be lost. 

Q: Why do you think younger generations are not interested in following a trade career path?

Michelle: It’s because we have a generation before us that did not go to college and have suffered because of that. They have been told by respected employers that they need a degree, it’s been beaten into their kids’ heads. I think it’s a stigma. There are many more financially stable people in this day of age who say “oh you don’t want to be a plumber or an electrician.” They say there’s no money in that. A lot of the people that are in trades are way more laid back and not advertising it if they do make a lot of money. Until baby boomers started to retire is when people realized there was no one to replace them because trade careers are not a part of the conversation when kids are in school these days. 

Q: How do you think your customers feel when you show up for an emergency?

Sonny: They appreciate the fact that there’s a live person answering the phone at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, not a grumpy old person that doesn’t want to be woken up. We understand that it’s part of the job we signed up for.

It’s almost the same pride that police or firefighters have when they tell someone what they do, it’s our duty. It’s our job to be enthusiastic no matter what time of day. We don’t have as important a role as a firefighter, but we have a similar role in the sense of urgency. Especially in the case of a basement flood. We can actually save someone’s personal memories and property.

It’s a role that I take pride in, it’s not a bother. It’s important to be there when they need you. I think to myself– How would I want to be treated if I had an emergency?

Michelle: I think another thing that has gone by the wayside is customer service. This is one reason why 1-Tom-Plumber shines so much as an after-hours service is because it’s hard to find, no one wants to do it. They can’t get people who are willing to wake up at all hours of the night and still treat the customers well so they just don’t even offer it, rather than giving someone a bad experience. 

Sonny: I’ve been doing this for 27 years and I can’t tell you how often the phone rings on a Saturday and the person on the other line is shocked that I even answered. Obviously, there’s a little bit of a price to pay for that so we make sure we are taking care of our guys as well, but you get what you pay for. And most of the time, people are willing to pay the emergency fee to avoid property damage and get someone out there right away. Most of those customers then stay repeat customers because they notice the sense of urgency, the customer service, and the willingness to help in whatever way possible. 

Q: What is it like being married to an emergency plumber?

Sonny: Dinner has been interrupted lots of times. 

Michelle: There are times when it’s annoying, but I think the reason it’s not an issue with us is probably that we previously did property management for 15 years. It’s your job to be available at any time. So, if you don’t want to do that then you shouldn’t get into property management. And you probably shouldn’t be a plumber. 

Q: Say you get a call on Christmas Eve when you’re with your family, why do you run the call?

Ryan: Well, I run the call because my dad makes me (just kidding). I run the call because I enjoy fixing someone’s problem, especially on an important day like Christmas where they might have family over and they weren’t expecting anything to go wrong. It feels good knowing I can help someone out when they need it the most. Other than that, yes it’s not the ideal situation but I do what I have to do because I take pride in my work. 

Q: When you first started emergency plumbing, what did you like and dislike?

Ryan: Building your client base through on-call jobs is actually very fun. I like that if I can help them out when they have a major issue, they’re more likely to call me again when they have something minor going on. I mean, obviously, you don’t jump out of bed excited to take a call at 3 a.m., but you know that’s just what comes with the job.

Q: So I remember you telling me that you actually took some calls at your mother’s funeral. Talk to us a little more about that.

Michelle: To me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finishing what you’re doing, then responding to a call. I would’ve drawn the line when I’m burying my mother. I would’ve put that on the answering machine. 

Sonny: What happened was, at my previous company, I had the phones every single day of the week, 365 days a year. So when my mother passed away, we were in Cleveland, and I took a call from some guy who needed a water heater installed. I actually coordinated, gave him an estimate, and completed that job 5 minutes before my mother’s funeral. I took another phone call at the wake. Some people would say I’m crazy, others would say I’m customer-oriented to an extreme. There is a work-life balance, though.

Michelle: Yeah, he takes a vacation once a year. That’s why I always suggest a cruise because they can’t reach him by phone there!

1-Tom-Plumber is available by phone 24/7. If you ever experience a plumbing emergency, please do not hesitate to call 1-866-758-6237.

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