Number of Locations
Roto-Rooter has 100 company-owned branches and 600 franchises throughout North America. Roughly 90% of the United States population is served by a Roto-Rooter branch. On top of this, Roto-Rooter operates globally, in countries such as Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, China, and the Philippines.
Roto-Rooter is most famous for its plumbing services, although they do have a broader range of options than simply dealing with leaks and floods. The services Roto-Rooter offers are:
Thr company provides a 24-hour callout option for plumbing, demonstrating that many of its services center on emergencies.
However, it also offers additional plumbing services:
WATER HEATER REPAIR AND REPLACEMENT
Although connected with plumbing, water heater repair is a slightly different service. Indeed, many customers may not instinctively think of Roto-Rooter in case of water heater damage, particularly if it doesn’t involve leaking water.
However, Roto-Rooter offers the following:
WATER DAMAGE RESTORATION
Along with operating in the field of plumbing and provision of service technicians, Roto-Rooter also operates in the field of manufacturing. In its Des Moines, Iowa plant, it employs manufacturers and factory technicians.
There it builds its own proprietary Roto-Rooter sewer and drain cleaning machines, as well as the cables and blades that are used in the drain cleaning process. This is an example of vertical integration, as well as a key competitive advantage in the marketplace.
RATINGS AND REVIEWS
BBB RATING: A+
The rating the Better Business Bureau gave Roto-Rooter is A+.
PROS AND CONS OF USING ROTO-ROOTER
Roto-Rooter is one of the best-known and recognizable brands in the drain cleaning marketplace. Clearly this has been underpinned not only by strong marketing but also by a good operational structure.
However, it is worth examining why a prospective customer is better off calling Roto-Rooter than a local plumber. As the barrier to entry for plumbing companies is (relatively) low, it is a constant struggle for larger chains to prove their worth in the business environment.
A brand as recognizable and ubiquitous as Roto-Rooter clearly has some strategic advantages compared with other plumbing companies. However, it is difficult to know whether Roto-Rooter is an example of a successful operation or successful marketing. Utilizing Roto-Rooter’s services gives the following advantages:
As the pros suggest, many of the advantages of using Roto-Rooter stem from its branding, rather than its service per se. That certainly seems to be born out by some of its customers. In terms of limitations, many reviews of the company are not as strong as may be expected. As such, the cons of Roto-Rooter are:
Using our five-point scale, it is difficult to rate Roto-Rooter as anything other than Average:
Although the cons in the section above may suggest a major failing in the company’s operations, particularly with regards to its own employees, in fact, Roto-Rooter is being judged against the strength of its own marketing.
For a company to have achieved the level of brand recognition as has Roto-Rooter, one would think that the operation would be extremely slick, especially in terms of its employees and customer service.
That is not to say that Roto-Rooter offers a bad service. Clearly, it would not be the size and scale as it is today were that to be the case – instead that it fails to meet its own high standards. To put it another way, Roto-Rooter clearly has excellent marketing and branding and less successful operations. To split the difference here gives an overall review of Average – a perfectly workable product, albeit one that may be oversold.
This history of Roto-Rooter is the story of an inventor. In 1933, Samuel Blanc of Iowa toiled away at home and, using household implements, created a brand new device. He used a HP Maytag washing machine motor, wheels from a pair of roller skates, and ⅜-inch cable to turn the blades.
The machine was designed to remove roots from sewer lines without the need for digging. Instead, the device would be inserted down a sewer and would chop the roots from inside the pipe. The prototype device soon became nicknamed the ‘Roto-Rooter’ and its success led to the development of a company offering sewer cleaning solutions.
After founding in 1935, Roto-Rooter became the largest provider of plumbing, drain cleaning, and water cleanup services in the United States and Canada. The Blanc family controlled the company from 1935 until 1980 when it was sold to the Chemed Corporation. Roto-Rooter moved its headquarters to Cincinnati, Ohio. However, the Blanc company maintained control of the manufacturing side of the business, which remains in Des Moines, Iowa.
HOW ROTO-ROOTER OPERATES
As mentioned above, Roto-Rooter has done a great deal of work when it comes to brand recognition. The scope of their advertising has made its brand one that is extremely well-known throughout the United States, to the extent that most Americans would include Roto-Rooter on a list of companies to call when faced with a plumbing emergency.
Where this has been problematic, however, is in broadening the range of services.
As such, since the end of 2017, Roto-Rooter has been trying to demonstrate to customers its water damage cleanup services. Its TV commercials since then have centered on the idea that ‘We Do Both’ (i.e. plumbing and damage cleanup). This marks a shift in the company’s branding and a sense that perhaps the ubiquity of the Roto-Rooter brand may be a limitation in some respects.
Unlike other businesses in the industry, Roto-Rooter has a ‘mixed’ business model, operating a combination of franchisees and company-owned branches.
Most competitors operate on a strict franchise basis, although the mixed model is a legacy of the company’s origins in manufacturing, combined with the proprietary technology that Roto-Rooter uses.
ULTIMATE SELLING POINT
The biggest USP that Roto-Rooter offers is its proprietary technology. This gives the company the ability to use technology not available to many of its competitors.
While this is perhaps of little interest to the consumers (who presumably are ambivalent about the specifics of the equipment being used as long as the job is completed), it demonstrates that Roto-Rooter is a serious company that is interested in the technology and design of its products. To put it another way, it shows that Roto-Rooter invests in R&D, which reflects well on the company as a whole.
On top of this, the brand recognition that Roto-Rooter enjoys is, in itself, an ultimate selling point. Product placement in movies and TV shows, combined with more traditional advertising, has made it stand out from its competitors. However, as mentioned above, this is only of value when supported with strong, consistent performance.
Ultimately, Roto-Rooter has demonstrated over the last 90 years that it can provide an excellent and expert service, driven by innovation and strong branding.
However, as the market becomes ever more saturated, and its competitors broaden out the range of services (and new services are constantly required), this competitive advantage is constantly being weakened. For a customer, Roto-Rooter is absolutely a great company to call, albeit perhaps less so than was the case in the past.