Why home service needs to ditch the pen-and-paper to keep up with consumer expectations
Companies across industries are increasingly adopting technology to keep up with changing customer needs and expectations. In this interview, Sam Pillar talks about how technology can benefit home service businesses.
Customer expectations of speed and high-quality service are greater than ever thanks to a world where many goods are a click, and same-day delivery, away. To keep up with customer demands, there’s been a noticeable shift toward technology adoption in the home service category in recent years. This transition has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, customers expect a professional, convenient, technology-enabled service experience.
I recently spoke to Sam Pillar, co-founder and CEO of Jobber, the leading provider of home service operations management software, about how technology is helping small home service businesses connect with customers, keep up with booming demand, and compete with larger corporations.
Gary Drenik: How would you characterize the current market opportunity for home service businesses?
Sam Pillar: Based on what we’re seeing in our data and from speaking with customers I’d say now is a perfect time to consider a career in home service. Through the pandemic and continuing today, businesses in the home service space are showing incredible strength and resilience. While many other small businesses, especially brick-and-mortar retail, and restaurants, struggled during the pandemic, consumer demand for home services actually increased year-over-year compared to pre-pandemic levels. Instead of spending on vacations or other activities, consumers invested in home improvement, and we’re seeing this trend continue in 2022. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, 8.4% of respondents have a major home improvement or repair planned in the next six months, a similar figure to 2021 when we all saw friends and family upgrading their homes and yards. Plus, many home service industries are essential and largely non-discretionary in nature, which makes them more recession proof.
Prosper – Major Purchases Planned
Prosper Insights & Analytics
The increased demand for home services also means the need for skilled-trades workers is outpacing the supply of qualified workers. Entrepreneurs entering these fields have an opportunity to fill the labor gap. You’d be more likely to struggle managing a busy schedule and fitting jobs in, than encountering a work shortage.
Drenik: What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that home service businesses are facing in today’s landscape?
Pillar: Some of the biggest challenges we’re seeing are rising material and fuel costs because of inflation and ongoing supply chain issues. As I mentioned, there’s also a labor shortage, so hiring and retaining employees is something to be mindful of.
I think the opportunities outweigh these challenges. In addition to high consumer demand for home services, technology adoption in these industries is still relatively new. There’s an opportunity to differentiate from businesses that still use pen and paper by offering online booking and payments, and automating customer communications, quoting, and invoicing. Technology increases efficiency and provides a more professional, convenient, and personalized customer service to help businesses stand out and meet the increased expectations customers have today.
Drenik: Consumer expectations are evolving faster than ever, but home service is one of the last major categories to widely adopt technology. How can these businesses realistically catch up?
Pillar: This is a problem that Jobber aims to solve. We’ve seen businesses try to piece together multiple tools and software that weren’t built for home service businesses or to work together. They receive job requests over voicemail, have to copy customer information into spreadsheets, look up locations in their map app, and then open a calendar to check availability and schedule teams. Separately, they reach back out to customers to confirm, get quotes approved, and receive payment. Finally, they copy information into their accounting software. This is inefficient and won’t grow with the business. Operations management software, like Jobber, brings the tools you need together, from the customer’s work request to payment, to make the entire job and customer experience seamless.
With the right tools, catching up is easier than you might think, so business owners shouldn’t be intimidated. Other entrepreneurs are often open to sharing their knowledge, and there are many resources you can use to research technology solutions, including online forums, podcasts, and even following industry thought leaders on social media. Stanley “Dirt Monkey” Genadek and Roger Wakefield are just a few to check out. Our Jobber Entrepreneurship Group on Facebook is another place where you can connect with other home service business owners. I also recommend taking advantage of product trials to explore all the features a software solution can provide. Consider the features that will meet your immediate needs, what you’ll need in the future, and what product coaching and support is available. Many people who come to us start by needing help scheduling and organizing their teams. As their customer list grows, they look into adding automated communication to send invoices and reminders. Our team is there to help them find the right solution and give support throughout the process.
Drenik: Home service has caught the attention of larger enterprises over the past several years. What steps can small home service businesses take to compete against big players?
Pillar: Home service businesses are invited into our homes to maintain and repair a very personal space, so start by focusing on providing exceptional customer service. Take the time to get to know your customers and provide a personalized experience that they wouldn’t get with a large company. Small touches, like taking a few minutes to clear a client’s walkway, make a huge difference. Leveraging a technology solution like Jobber helps you keep track of all your client notes and reminders, in addition to making you look more professional, improving customer communication, and providing more convenient options, like online payments. Good relationships with your customers will build a positive reputation and lead to more business through word of mouth.
Drenik: Gen-Z is making itself known as a generation of want-to-be entrepreneurs due to a desire for a debt-free, controlled, and purposeful life. Would you encourage them to look to home service as a viable business option?
Pillar: Absolutely. According to the same Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey I mentioned earlier, 9% of Gen-Z respondents planned to start their own business in the next six months.
Prosper – Life Events In The Next 6 Months
Prosper Insights & Analytics
Starting a home service business is a great option for several reasons. For one, they can be very profitable. For example, our customers and recent Jobber Grant recipients Jason and Joelene Sturm of Sturm Plumbing Inc. in Harrison City, Pennsylvania currently employ six people and are on track to earn $1M+ by the end of 2022.
In addition to the high demand for home services, and these careers being resilient and recession proof, many career options in home service have a low barrier to entry. Startup costs are low, and little to no experience is needed to get started. For careers that require training and education, you often work as an apprentice while in school, so you’re more likely to graduate with little or no student debt. On average, an apprentice electrician or plumber earns more than $35,600/year.
Gen-Z is also more tech savvy than previous generations, which gives them an advantage in adopting technology to compete with businesses still using pen and paper.
Drenik: Thanks, Sam for your valuable insights on the opportunities in home service and how technology can help these businesses improve operations and compete in today’s market.