To the Point Home Services Podcast

The Home Services Podcast That Gives Back

Episode 86: Transforming the Trades Through Technology

September 14, 2021

Episode 86: Transforming the Trades Through Technology

Published: September 14, 2021
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Now serving over 80,000 home service industry professionals, Housecall Pro is just one example of the many ways technology continues to change the way the home service industry operates and grows. Roland Ligtenberg is a co-founder of Housecall Pro, and has seen firsthand just how technology can and does continue to evolve the home service industry for the better. Especially during the pandemic, technology has allowed contractors the ability to continue to connect with their customers, and we’ve seen an exponential increase in companies using newer technology to ensure they are offering the best possible experience.

Discovering a Need

Roland grew up in the Bay Area of California. His dad was in the tech industry, and so Roland was surrounded by technology from an early age. While he paid for college by knocking door to door to paint homes, he would enter the tech industry like his father before once finishing his education. While working, Roland and his future Housecall co-founders were discussing how hard it was to find a good plumber or technician. This birthed the original iteration of Housecall, which was designed to connect people with trusted local professionals. During their process, Roland and co. learned that many of their Pros didn’t have the modern tools and technology they were accustomed to. So, in 2015, Housecall Pro was officially launched as a mobile app, which the web platform would be built on top of later on.

Housecall Pro

Today, Housecall pro serves over 100 different trades, but the core is HVAC/plumbing/electrical. It’s mainly for the trades, and that’s exactly what Roland and his team are focused on. Roland is quick to admit that in the beginning, the first iteration of Housecall Pro was lacking. It only had three fields to create a customer, create a job, and accept a credit card. No calendar, and certainly not the integration and customization that it provides today. It was more of an “invoice to-go” tool. As they spoke with their customers, Roland kept hearing things like “hey, we need a calendar”, so they added a calendar. Then it was the need for dispatch, multi-users, and so on and so forth. Almost all of Housecall Pro’s features are a result of speaking with their users and doing ride-alongs; sitting in the truck and learning from the people actually using their technology!

Serving Your Customers by Adapting to Needs

What has made Housecall Pro successful and what makes many great companies successful is being in touch with their customers and providing them with what they need. There are millions of jobs happening on Housecall Pro during any given month. They utilize an effective feedback loop through their cultured community which allows them to interact and understand their customers on a personal level. From their Facebook group where many Housecall ideas are born to their blue chat bubble, they have crafted simple ways to take feedback in and evolve their software to serve more industries in more ways.

Contractors should take this approach with their services. What do your customers want, and what do they expect? Are you able to stay in touch with your customers outside of being in their homes? Do you have a system that allows you to hear their feedback, and a means of implementing changes to your strategies to meet their ever-changing needs?

Convenience and Technology

For example, most people are used to ordering things online in every industry…except for the home services industry. There’s unmistakably a level of salesmanship to the process, but if a customer is already on your website, they probably already trust you and are planning to buy from you. You don’t always need to sell them any further. Perhaps it’s a busy mother of three who just wants to check a box and know a technician is on the way. Why are we making things difficult for our customers? The process can and should improve. Software can track and understand things like schedule, availability, a technician’s ability, and more, so why isn’t it easier for someone to select a time, click a button, and call it done?

If you’re doing your marketing right, people are going to find you on Google. You have to create a process flow that allows your customers to find you at the top of search, then use the same flow to contact you how they want, not how you want to be contacted. Perhaps that’s the tried and true phone call, maybe it’s a contact form, or perhaps they just want to be able to check a few boxes. Remember, you’re going to be talking to them at some point or another. Getting them in the door should be the easy part. Are you making it easy?

Future of Housecall Pro…and the Trades

With concerns about financial rates, M&A, artificial intelligence, and new players in the trades, there’s always an ongoing discussion about what the future of the service industry holds. Housecall pro just wants to be able to allow skilled professionals to do with they are good at, and that’s the service itself and making sure the customer is happy. Housecall Pro and other technologies can do things like smart dispatching, scheduling, customer reminders, texts, and the other monotonous things. What’s left is the truly skilled part of the trades.

No robot or AI is going to replace going into the crawlspace and putting an air handler up in the attic. Still, in the next 5-10 years we’ll likely be looking at things through the lens of what can be done by machines and what humans need to do. Empathy, craftsmanship, and customer connection is probably always going to be there. We’re already seeing smart technology telling a homeowner when they need a technician, when maintenance is due, when to replace a filter, etc. What you need to worry about as a contractor is the parts of your business that machines can’t replace. That’s the human component of the work. Just make sure these parts of your business are compatible, scalable, and tech-forward.

Roland wants to make it so that his technology can handle everything else besides the skilled part of the job to make the user’s life easier. There are lots of other great technologies out there, and Roland mentions Service Titan as another great tool, especially for some of the larger contractors out there. He sees Housecall Pro as a great option for that mid-sized shop in the 15-20 employee range, which is where about 90% of all work gets done.

Zero to One

Roland loves Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One. The concept of Zero to One is pretty simple; it’s making something out of nothing. As we ponder where disruption will come from in the trades, it’s clear that it will come from a variety of sources. It will likely be a mix of contractors, marketing companies, manufacturers, and more. Are you going to be a disrupter? Zero to One is the first and hardest step in disruption, and takes a lot of effort. One of Housecall Pro’s core values is relentless innovation, and it’s a great core value for any business to implement. It could be as simple as making a new line of business, a new process, or a new way to sell things. You don’t necessarily have to invent something, but you should be looking at ways you can utilize innovation to stay ahead of the competition.

If you’d like to connect with Roland or learn more about Housecall Pro to see if it’s a good fit for you and your business, let him know you heard him on To The Point and shoot him an email at [email protected]!