Pimlico Plumbers Charlie Mullins on the power of repeat business [Video]
Charlie Mullins explains that if you get it right, customers will stay with you until you get it wrong
Over more than 30 years, Pimlico Plumbers achieved its extraordinary success largely on the back of an army of loyal, satisfied customers, and as founder Charlie Mullins explains to Startups in this video, “there’s nothing better than repeat business”.
Mullins reveals that around 80% of Pimlico Plumbers’ estimated 1,400 jobs per week come from repeat customers. “I noticed a change in the early ’80s for Pimlico Plumbers, in that we were getting a lot of repeat business,” Mullins recalls. “People were still coming back to us and still using us. Most customers never go back to plumbers – they use them once and never go back again – but we’ve still got customers from when I was still on the tools, almost 30 years ago now.”
Indeed, Mullins says that securing repeat business is at the very core of Pimlico Plumbers’ ethos. “Now, when we take a job on, we look at that customer as if they’re going to be a Pimlico customer for life,” he says. “So we need to work with them to maintain that.”
The Pimlico Plumbers founder explains that repeat business is so crucial because you never have to spend on advertising and marketing to maintain customers. “If I’m being honest, you only lose a customer when you mess up with something, when you’re unreliable, or you haven’t done the right job,” he says. “It’s your mistake – if you get it right, they’ll stay with you until you get it wrong, basically.”
Founder of Pimlico Plumbers Charlie Mullins knew he wanted to be a plumber from the age of nine. After admiring the great lifestyle and money his local plumber had, he started skipping school to work for him.
After leaving school at 15 (a mistake he says, he should have left at 14) and completing a four-year apprenticeship in plumbing, Mullins started his business in 1979 from an estate agent’s basement, with a second hand van and a bag of tools. From there he set out to change the industry’s image of rusty old vans, bad workmanship and ripping off the customer.
Pimlico is now London’s largest independent plumbing and service company, employing more than 200 people and with an estimated turnover of £20m. The company has a strong focus on apprenticeship and Mullins is a patron of The Prince’s Trust and a sponsor and fund-raiser of The Rhys Daniels Trust.
Mullins is a controversial and outspoken businessman, and has built up a strong media presence over the years, appearing on shows such as Daily Politics, Panorama and Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire – as well as having regular columns in business publications and websites.