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Housecall Pro blog

Everything you need to succeed as a Home Services company in a digital world.

INDUSTRY: Small business

Which Review Sites Matter Most for Your Home Service Business? Start by Focusing on These 4 Websites

December 17, 2018 • Online reviews play a huge role in building a successful home service business. After all, homeowners want to hire professionals they can trust to come into their home and get the job done right. Whatever your field of expertise, every home service business owner needs to think about where and how to get customer reviews that matter. That’s why it’s so important to establish a presence on popular review sites. The more reviews you get, the more people will discover your business online and read reviews that convince them to hire you. Which sites should you start with? While it’s good to diversify, there are a few key players that deserve your focus. But before we talk about which specific websites matter most for your home service business, let’s talk about why you should care about online reviews in the first place. Why Online Reviews Matter So Much for Your Business 1. Reviews Help Customers Find You Online Reviews help build your online presence. The more customer reviews you get on popular websites, the more visibility you receive and the easier it is for new customers to discover your business online. 2. Reviews Build Trust Customer reviews are the ultimate form of social proof. It always sends the right message when your customers are willing to publicly vouch for the quality of your work and professionalism. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. 3. Reviews Drive Sales By the time someone is checking out your customer reviews, they’re actively looking to hire a home service business. BrightLocal found that 92% of customers read online reviews when researching local businesses and 68% trust your business more after reading positive reviews. 4. Even Bad Reviews Have Benefits It’s always a bummer to get a negative review. But here’s a silver lining: people view positive reviews as more believable when there’s a negative comment in the mix. Leaving up bad reviews shows readers that your reviews are unbiased, which instills a greater sense of trust in potential customers. The Top 4 Trusted Review Sites for Home Service Businesses There are tons of places to ask for reviews online, so how do you decide where to focus your efforts? Start with these four review sites that matter most for home service businesses. (Note that these are listed in alphabetical order, not ranking.) 1. Angie’s List Over 6 million people across the country use Angie’s List to connect with trusted local service providers. The site collects and displays detailed customer reviews for over 720 different services. Angie’s List goes out of their way to ensure the legitimacy of their reviews. For instance, reviews cannot be made anonymously as users must create an account before they can participate. To protect businesses and customers alike, each user can only review a particular business once every six months. In addition to leaving reviews, customers can assign your business a grade from A to F. So, even if someone is just skimming reviews, they can get a sense of how previous clients feel about your business. 2. Facebook There are plenty of reasons to create an official Facebook page for your business – including the opportunity to collect tons of customer reviews. The site is a marketing goldmine for home service business owners, especially because most of your customers likely already have accounts. It’s easy for homeowners to ask for recommendations, research, and contact local businesses directly through Facebook. So, it’s important to encourage happy customers to write reviews and rate your business. And since anything posted on Facebook is attached to the user’s account, there’s an extra layer of credibility and transparency built into customer reviews. 3. Google My Business For most of your potential customers, Google is the go-to search engine for just about everything. That means they’re turning to Google when they need to find local home service professionals like you. So, not only do you need to create and claim your Google My Business profile, but you should also encourage customers to leave reviews here. 4. Yelp We can’t talk about customer reviews without mentioning Yelp. The site publishes a whopping 26,000 new reviews per minute. So, it’s no surprise that many homeowners use Yelp as a trusted source of information about local contractors and businesses. In fact, 82% of the people who visit Yelp do so once they’re ready to make a purchase or hire a service provider. You can also reply to customer reviews on Yelp, either privately or publicly, which makes it easier to address negative comments and thank positive reviewers for their kind words. This helps you build stronger customer relationships and prevent readers from being swayed by unfair comments. Honorable Mentions: What Other Review Sites You Should Care About? Once you’ve established a healthy presence on the core sites mentioned above, you should consider expanding your focus to even more review sites. 1. Thumbtack Not only can you grow your business and connect with customers on Thumbtack, but it’s also a good place for home service businesses to collect reviews. After a job is completed, customers can leave public reviews on your profile – which can boost your credibility and help you land new work through Thumbtack. 2. Your Business’ Website Another option is to ask your best customers for testimonials that you can share on your own website. You should also pull and display reviews from the sites listed above. This allows anyone who checks out your site to see what customers are saying about you across the web. 3. Local Review Sites Do a quick Google search to see what sites show up when someone looks for local HSBs in your area. For example, you can search for “Sacramento plumber” and see what comes up. The top results give you a good idea of where your business needs to be listed and which review sites you need to build a presence on.

Emily Bauer

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Everybody Wins With Recurring Service Agreements

November 20, 2018 • Recurring service agreements are a great new way for you to generate dependable revenue for your business, strengthen your employee relationships, and increase your customer loyalty. They allow you to develop revenue streams to help smooth out those seasonal variations in your business while keeping you well-connected to your best customers. HVAC, plumbing, and electrical companies have been using recurring service agreements to help grow their business, especially during the times when the incoming calls slow down. Businesses aren’t the only ones that win by offering recurring service agreements. Both your customers and your employees benefit from them too. Customer Benefits Preventative care Most homeowners don’t realize that HVAC, plumbing and electrical emergencies could be prevented with simple upkeep and continued maintenance. By participating in recurring service agreements, your customers can save themselves from the unnecessary stress that comes from a pipe bursting, or an ac unit crashing in the heat of summer. Value of home The longer your customers have lived in their home, the more wear and tear they’re doing. By automatically maintaining the infrastructure of their home on a regular basis they will be able to increase their resale value without having to do any major work. Lower costs Recurring service agreements are often offered at a discounted rate, but that’s not the only way your customers save. By regularly having preventative work done on the foundation and utilities of a home, your customers will avoid unplanned emergency expenses. Plus - they save on utilities when they keep their plumbing, electricity, and HVAC unit running efficiently. Maintain warranty Most long-term warranties require frequent maintenance in order to keep their validation. By participating in a service agreement, your customer will put that maintenance on auto-drive. Employee Benefits Quick and reliable jobs Because recurring service agreement jobs are frequent your employees know what to expect. These quick, predictable jobs make for a pleasant experience for both your customer and your employee. They know that they’re doing what’s right for the customer and can always leave on a positive note. Steady work Not only are the jobs easier, but they’re consistent. Sometimes, it’s hard for your employees to feel valued during the slow season when there aren’t as many jobs to keep them busy. Recurring service agreements allow them to feel secure in their job, knowing they will always have work to be done. More money Consistent jobs mean a reliable paycheck, but that’s not the only way your employees can benefit financially from recurring service agreements. Most companies that offer recurring service agreements also incentivize their employees to sell them to new customers, for a commission. This allows your employees to feel even more involved in the benefits of recurring service agreements and driven to increase the number of contracts you have. Company Benefits Reliable revenue In any industry, businesses have to deal with financial ebbs and flows of their market. That’s why money management has become such an important focus for maintaining a healthy and stable company. Recurring service agreements allow businesses to have dependable income throughout the year, giving some relief during those slower seasons, and making it possible for business owners to continuously invest in their growth. Customer loyalty We cannot stress enough how valuable recurring service agreements are to your customers. By maintaining the structure of their home, providing a positive customer experience, and saving them money, you’re building a trusting relationship that’s sure to bring reviews or referrals. Resale value Recurring service agreements can help increase the value of your customer list when you're ready to retire and sell your company. A list full of recurring service agreement customers is far more valuable to a potential buyer than a long list on one-time customers. Make it easy In order to reap the most benefit of service agreements for everyone you want to make sure you’re keeping your schedule organized, your payments automated, and your communication streamlined. Learn how you can start automating service agreements with Housecall Pro here.

Kindra K., Marketing Coordinator

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How to Ask for a Testimonial: A Guide for Home Service Businesses

November 5, 2018 • Choosing a business for an in-home service isn’t easy. There are so many different businesses to choose from. From carpet cleaning to garage door repair to electrical work, how do you know you’re going to get quality work at a good value from a trustworthy professional? If only there were a way ask a friend, someone with experience in the industry of the service you need. That’s how testimonials have the power to help you increase your business. 92 percent of consumers read online reviews and testimonials when they’re considering a product or service. 88 percent say they trust those online reviews and testimonials just as much as they would trust a friend or family member. And 72 percent of consumers say good reviews and positive testimonials make them trust a business more. It’s clear that if you aren’t using testimonials as part of your marketing strategy already, you need to start. But unfortunately, getting those great testimonials will require a little action on your part. Customers are pretty unlikely to leave a testimonial unless prompted, which means it’s on you to ask for one. If you’ve never asked your customers for testimonials before, it can feel like a daunting task. But asking for testimonials isn’t as hard as it seems. Here’s how to ask your customers, and how to put their testimonials to the best use to bring more customers to your business. Ask for a testimonial after receiving praise from a customer If a customer has already given you some glowing feedback, congratulations! You’re in the best possible position to ask for a testimonial. Since you already know the client has good things to say, simply ask if they’d be willing to share those thoughts with other prospective clients. Most likely, they’ll be happy to. It’s that simple! Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm. Even when customers have great experiences, they don’t always go out of their way to tell you that. So you may have to ask for a testimonial in another way. Don’t worry, you still have a ton of options. Try to have a conversation with every customer Before leaving a customer’s house after finishing a job, if it’s appropriate, have your technicians  strike up a conversation. A friendly comment about an upcoming holiday, a weather change, their home decor — anything can open the door for the customer to mention how much they appreciated their experience. And that’s the perfect time to ask about a testimonial. Follow up with your customers via email If an in-person opportunity to request a testimonial doesn’t come up, hope is not lost. You can still follow up and make the ask. A great way to do this is to email your guests a thank you for choosing your business. Somewhere in the email, in a prominent font, you can include something like, “If you had a great experience with us, help others find our services by sharing a testimonial for our website.” Link to a form they can fill out with their testimonial information (more on this below). But it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. The happy sentiment customers have after a positive service experience fades quickly, so if you don’t follow up quickly, they’ll be less and less likely to leave you a testimonial. Keep that in mind, and try to send out your thank you emails as soon after a service call as possible. If you can’t follow up by email, regular mail works too There are going to be situations where you don’t have a customer’s email address. If that’s the case, you can follow up and send a thank you by regular mail, instead. Keep in mind, though, that this puts you at an automatic disadvantage because of the time it will take a mailed card to get to your customers. After that much time has passed, you may want to offer them some kind of incentive for providing a testimonial, like a discount off their next service or a gift card to a local restaurant. Aim for video testimonials While written testimonials are powerful, video testimonials are even more so. Ask your customers if they’re comfortable giving a video testimonial. Some won’t be, but others may be fine with it. It never hurts to ask. Once you have the testimonial… Once a customer has agreed to give you a testimonial, your work isn’t over. Here’s what you should do next. Help your customers with what to include Since most of your customers aren’t writers, they might need a little guidance about what they should include in their testimonials that will really benefit your potential future clients. For example, potential clients want to hear about the experience — what it’s really like to work with you. Your happy customers need to know to include that. So it might be helpful to provide customers who have already agreed to write testimonials with a form that prompts them to explain exactly what the experience was like and why they would recommend it to others. You can link to that form in an email asking for testimonials, or include a hard copy to be filled out (along with a prepaid, addressed return envelope) with mailed requests for testimonials. Edit your written testimonials Not everyone is a writer, and that goes for your customers, too. Edit their testimonials to correct any mistakes in grammar and usage. If these testimonials are going to persuade new customers to choose your business, they need to be clean and professional. Include as much information about the customer as possible Testimonials should be made to seem personal to your potential customers, so you should aim to include as much information as possible about the customers who supplied them. Ultimately, it’s up to the client what they want to include. But you should try to have, at a minimum, their full name, their business name (if it’s relevant), their location, the date you provided them with your service, and their headshot or business logo. Include all of this on the testimonial form, and make sure you explain to them that any information they provide you with may be used for your marketing later on. Display your testimonials in the right place Finally, it’s time to put your testimonials where they’ll have the most impact: In front of the eyes of new potential customers. There are a lot of options for where you can place them on your website, but one thing is for sure: They need to be prominent. That’s why your homepage may very well be your best bet. That’s the most visited page of any website, after all, so it’ll get your testimonial in front of the most possible eyes. Another option is to put testimonials on a dedicated testimonial page. As your testimonials grow in numbers, this is a good option because it gives you a place to put them all without overwhelming your homepage, where you need to convey other information. You can always continue to include the best few testimonials there. You’re well on your way to collecting the testimonials that will help you take your business to the next level. All it takes is to ask, and with these tips, you’re ready to make the request.

Paul

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How Recurring Revenue Helps Grow Your Home Service Business

November 2, 2018 • If there’s one thing that’s holding back many home service businesses, it’s uncertainty.  Fluctuations in revenue and cash flow can make it difficult to make investments in equipment, create a marketing strategy, hire new team members, or just plan for the future. There are often many question marks about what’s to come and how to handle it. Home service leaders are looking for new strategies to deal with uncertainty and build a more stable and predictable business. One of those strategies is to structure the business to take advantage of recurring revenue. What if the majority of your work wasn’t dependent upon timing and one-off projects? What if you could build your business on a schedule of regular customers who paid for recurring services on a regular basis? That’s the dream, right? Recurring revenue can help you not just get a grip on your current workload, but it can give you the space, freedom, and confidence that you need to plan for the future. Here are some of the ways that these kind of deals can help you manage and grow your business: Creates lifelong customer loyalty Improves the customer experience Stabilizes revenue and cash flow Simplifies scheduling and dispatch Streamlines workflow Let’s take a look at how this approach works in practice and how you can implement Create Lifelong Customer Loyalty (And a Better Customer Experience) Competition for most home service businesses can be cut throat. If often seems like there are new competitors coming and going every single day. And, it’s no secret that it can difficult to compete--it might feel impossible to stand out in such a crowded market. In hypercompetitive industries like HVAC, garage doors, and appliance repair, this problem can be especially pronounced. But you’re not alone. In fact, some studies have ranked achieving customer loyalty as the #1 challenge for small businesses. Many customers simply don’t have a strong attachment to a particular company or vendor. When they have a problem, they do a quick Google search, compare some options, and decide who to call. But this also means that most contractors are losing out on a huge opportunity to turn a one-time call into a loyal, lifelong customer. Even if you provide incredible service to a new customer, there’s a strong chance they could start their search from scratch next time they have a problem--and they may end up on your competitor’s website rather than yours. So how do you convert these opportunities and create lifelong customer loyalty? Offering packages that include multiple services can make it simple for you--and seamless for the customer. With Housecall Pro, you can easily offer recurring services like maintenance or inspection with customers and schedule out work--and revenue--in advance. Best of all, it provides a seamless and modern experience for your customer, too. Rather than having to remember to call and schedule regular service calls or worry about major, unforeseen problems, your customers can rest easy. They’ll know that they have a professional who will keep an eye on their home or appliances, perform essential maintenance, and identify any needed repairs before they become major problems. With Housecall Pro, you can even save customer payment information and completely automate the process of scheduling recurring service appointments. But let’s not forget that service agreements aren’t just about the customer--they’re also about growing your business. Boost Revenue and Lock-In Cash Flow Most service businesses generate about 70% of their revenue in just a few months out of the year. A big part of that, of course, is inevitable. It’s just the nature of the industry. You’ll always have peak season for services like HVAC and painting. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless when it comes to cash flow. While we can’t change the seasons, recurring packages do help companies make their revenue more predictable and can also provide a bump in earnings and profit. For one, maintenance and service contracts can be an untapped opportunity. It’s estimated that 90% of customers only call home service professionals when there’s an emergency. This means that most one-time customers could be converted in ongoing customers if they’re offered a package deal that would give them some peace of mind. If most of your revenue is coming from emergency service calls, then you could see a huge increase in revenue by using service contracts that will also stabilize your workload. The truth is that while service pros know all too well how important regular maintenance and preventative repairs can be, customers often just need to be told about the benefits and cost savings. Secondly, having a stream of recurring revenue allows you to plan for that future cash flow. You can predict much more accurately what your revenue will be in the future and then make smarter decisions about how to grow your business, make strategic investments, and plan operations. Introducing Service Agreements with Housecall Pro Here’s the thing about providing ongoing services: While they’re great in theory, they can be a huge burden to manage without the right tools. Keeping track of agreements, scheduling, and collecting payments manually can quickly end up being an overhead nightmare. So, even if they may be a lucrative opportunity, many companies simply don’t have the time or capacity to put them into practice. That’s what makes Housecall Pro your secret weapon. With our new service agreements features, we make it simple to start generating more recurring revenue and locking in loyal customers today. Simply schedule a recurring service agreement monthly, seasonally, or yearly and let Housecall Pro do the rest. All you have to do is sign up the customer and collect their information once. When it's time to send a tech out on recurring calls, Housecall Pro takes care of the logistics, schedules the job, and even handles payment from the customer’s credit card on file. Using these new features, service pros can build a hassle-free recurring revenue program. Check out everything Housecall Pro can do here. Or, if you’re already a Housecall Pro customer, read all about service agreements here.

Emily Bauer

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The Benefits of a CRM for Contractors: 9 Reasons Every Home Service Business Needs a CRM

October 29, 2018 • As a home service business owner, you’ve almost always got your hands full. Thankfully, there’s plenty of technology available to make running your business a little bit easier. Just as you use home service software for handling your day-to-day business needs, you should consider using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to manage your sales and customer data. A CRM platform is a tool that makes it easy to keep track of sales opportunities, including new leads, open estimates, and repeat business. It stores information about your customers and handles all the data, so you can just focus on your growing business. Why should you use a CRM for your home service business? Among its many benefits, a CRM platform helps streamline your sales process, which can mean increased productivity, better customer service, and higher profit margins. Let’s take a look at some of the specific reasons to use a CRM for contractors and home service businesses. 1. Easily visualize your sales pipeline Do you know how many potential sales opportunities you have on-the-go right now? Or exactly how many proposals and estimates your team has given out recently? Or how close any of those opportunities are to closing? A home service CRM puts all of this information into an easy-to-digest visual format that you can understand at a glance. From leads to prospects to repeat customers, you can see who’s at which stage of your sales pipeline, which potential customers are closest to booking appointments, and whether you have enough leads coming through to hit your revenue targets. 2. Spend less time managing customer data As your business grows, it gets harder and harder to keep track of everything that’s happening with your sales process. The bigger your pool of leads and potential customers gets, the more reasons you have to consider switching to a CRM platform. One of the biggest benefits of a CRM for contractors is the ability to keep sales data organized without even trying. Whether you’re currently tracking leads and sales opportunities in an excel sheet or keep an informal list of contacts you’re hoping to turn into customers, you have better things to do with your time than entering sales data into a spreadsheet. 3. Deliver better customer service Since a CRM allows you to track all customer communication in one place, it provides value to your team as well as your customers. A CRM gives you a better understanding of your customers, which improves the customer relationship and creates a better service experience. Furthermore, a CRM makes it easier to share information internally. Everyone on your team can access the same information about the client, which means they’re better prepared to handle every customer interaction. For instance, a CRM allows you to track customer requests from sales call to house call. So, if a lead mentions a specific need on an early sales call, you can make note of it in the CRM so your technicians are aware of it when completing the job. 4. Never forget to follow-up with leads In many ways, sales is a numbers game – and it pays to be persistent. So, always remembering to follow-up with potential prospects means you can land more new customers. If you make the effort to put together an estimate for a potential client, you sure as heck better be following up to ask if they’re ready to book. You can use your CRM to schedule reminders to connect with open estimates if you don’t hear back from them within a certain timeframe. They say 80% of sales take five follow-ups to close (and only 8% of salespeople bother to follow-up that many times!), so a CRM can help you win new business by simply reminding you to follow-up consistently. 5. Forecast revenue more accurately Sales forecasting can be tricky, especially when you’ve got a bunch of potential customers and jobs that could turn into sources of revenue – but you have no idea when they’ll close, if at all. When all of your customers and opportunities are tracked in a CRM, you can visualize the likelihood of each deal closing, which means you can predict future revenue much more easily and accurately. Since forecasting is crucial for budgeting and keeping your business running smoothly, this is one of the most powerful arguments for using a CRM for contractors. 6. Use data-powered insights to perfect your sales process A home service CRM can help you uncover insights about your sales process. Since all of your sales data is stored in one central place, you might recognize patterns that you might not have noticed otherwise. You can see where each sales opportunity is in your pipeline – from new contacts and leads to open estimates and prospects you need to follow-up with to long-term customers. Furthermore, you can easily measure and track important sales metrics. This includes metrics like average close time, average job value, and what percentage of estimates turn into deals, as well as data related to specific customers, service people, and sales reps. Tracking these metrics allows you to finetune your sales tactics to close even more deal in less time. 7. Find ways to maximize your revenue Not only will you gain a better understanding of your sales process, but you’ll also find new ways to optimize customer revenue. Because a CRM provides you will a bird’s-eye view of your sales pipeline, you can see where there might be any untapped opportunities. For instance, you can use the information you have about various customers and prospects to up-sell them on higher-value services, perhaps by increasing the scope of a particular job. Or, you might find an opportunity to cross-sell complementary services related to their original estimate. This might include something like offering a preventative maintenance plan after an HVAC installation. [potential image here depicting cross-selling and up-selling?] 8. Better ROI on your marketing efforts Even if you figure out how to maximize your sales revenue, it’s important to ensure your marketing budget is being put to the best use possible. Since your CRM stores so much customer data, you can identify details like the best times to reach out to make a sale and your most profitable customer types. This gives you a better idea of who to spend your marketing budget on and when to target them with ads for the best return on your investment. 9. Your information is secure yet accessible on-the-go A modern CRM for contractors allows your team to securely store and access your data from anywhere. All of your is data stored safely in the cloud, so your service technicians can find the information they need on their smartphone wherever they happen to be working that day. Employees with access can make notes on a client’s file, adjust estimates, request specific materials, and move opportunities from one pipeline stage to the next.

Emily Bauer

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Responding to Customer Complaints: 11 Tips for Dealing with Unhappy Clients

October 29, 2018 • Dealing with upset customers can be one of the hardest parts of running your field service business. Unfortunately, it’s also unavoidable. Mistakes happen, it’s impossible to please everyone, and sometimes customers are miserable for reasons beyond your control. Whatever the case, you’re bound to encounter an upset customer at one point or another. Rather than treating customer complaints as an unpleasant fact of life, you should look at them as a chance to improve. Even better, if you’re able to go above and beyond to remedy the situation, a bad experience or service issue presents an opportunity to transform an unhappy customer into a long-term, loyal advocate for your business. This is a phenomenon known as the service recovery paradox. When everything goes according to plan, it’s difficult for customers to see or appreciate the amount of effort that goes into the fantastic work you do. The smoother things go, the less of a chance you have to show customers how committed you are to delivering great service. On the other hand, a mistake or service failure creates an opportunity to improve the customer’s experience, demonstrate your dedication to your craft and your customers, and, strengthen the customer’s loyalty. However, you can only take advantage of the service recovery paradox if you know how to recover from a service failure. The tactics listed below will allow you to respond to upset customers in a way that turns negative experiences into long-term customer relationships. 11 simple yet effective tactics for handling upset customers 1. Be responsive Your first goal is to de-escalate the situation by addressing the customer’s concern. This means acknowledging and responding to questions or complaints as quickly as possible. For instance, if they’ve left an angry voicemail, call them back as soon as you can. If they left an angry review online, respond immediately. The longer a customer goes without hearing from your company, the more frustrated they’ll be when you do get around to talking to them. A quick response communicates that you’re prioritizing the customer’s concerns and are serious about making the situation right. 2. Get on a first-name basis People love the sound of their own name – especially if the alternative is being called ‘ma’am’ or ‘sir.’ Using a customer’s first name is an easy way to make your apology feel sincere and reiterates that you’re just a person talking to another person, rather than a company addressing a generic customer. It humanizes the situation. This is particularly powerful if you’re speaking to a customer on the phone rather than face to face. Saying their name establishes a stronger connection and makes them more likely to sympathize with the fact that you’re doing your best to correct the situation 3. Express gratitude Thank the customer for choosing to hire you in the first place as well as for their patience while you work through the issue. You can say something like: “I really appreciate you bringing this to my attention and can’t thank you enough for your patience and loyalty while we figure this out.” Simply voicing your appreciation can go a long way in strengthening customer relationships. It acknowledges that you understand their frustration, which is why you’re so grateful for their patience. 4. Practice active listening Oftentimes, the best thing you can do for an unhappy customer is to hear them out. They want to know that their concerns are being heard and acknowledged. So, when they first contact you with a complaint, give them a chance to vent. Don’t interrupt or try to present a solution right away. They need an opportunity to voice their frustrations before they’re able to shift their focus to thinking about possible solutions. If you feel the urge to interject before the customer has finished explaining their concerns, you can even put yourself on mute. This forces you to sit and really listen to what a customer is saying. 5. Repeat the issue back to them If a customer is emotional when they contact you, it can take a bit of digging to find out what the root of the issue actually is. For this reason, we recommend that you always repeat their concerns back to them before attempting to respond with a solution. Calmly state what the issue seems to be so that the customer can clarify if need be. This ensures that you know what they’re actually upset about, shows that you’re listening, and helps calm down a stressed-out customer. Plus, it gives you a starting point when it comes time to present a solution. 6. Show some empathy Sometimes all a customer wants is to have their feelings validated. So, empathize with their experience and emphasize that you understand their concerns. For example, you might offer: “I understand you’re still waiting on flooring samples that were scheduled to be delivered last week. I know how frustrating this must be for you, especially since you’re renovating on a tight schedule.” Once you’ve established that you empathize with the customer’s situation, it’s time to apologize so you can shift the focus towards solving the problem. 7. Say sorry (and mean it) A sincere apology is key to mending customer relationships. In fact, saying you’re sorry can make a bigger impact on how a customer feels about the situation than offering credit or discounts on future services. More specifically, a genuine apology can double customer satisfaction with the outcome of service issues. According to Nicereply, a study from the Carey School of Business found that only “only 37% of upset customers were satisfied when offered something in return for the issue. However, if the business said sorry on top of the credit, satisfaction increased to 74%.” The secret to an effective apology is that be specific to the individual customer’s situation. That means acknowledging why they’re upset, accepting ownership for the problem, and then offering to fix it. 8. Present a path forward Now that you’ve established a common ground by identifying the issue and started to rebuild your relationship by apologizing, you can start to talk about next steps. Before you propose a solution, consider what your customer is most looking to get out of this situation. For instance, if they feel they didn’t get enough value from the transaction, you could offer them a discount for future services or throw in a freebie to help mend the relationship. Or if a customer is unhappy with the end result of work done by your company, you should offer to evaluate the situation in person and (unless they’re being unreasonable) you could offer to re-do the job so it’s up to your professional standards and they’re happy with the result. 9. Provide multiple options When presenting potential solutions, you can give the customer control by letting them choose from a number of viable choices. For instance, you could say: “I have a few ideas for how we can make this right. Let’s talk about some of these options together, so we can choose the best course of action together.” If they continue to reject every solution you propose, you should ask the customer directly what would make them happiest. Either way, you’ve managed to turn the situation from a combative you-vs-them dynamic to a collaborative effort focused on reaching a resolution. 10. Turn negative feedback into positive change Just because you’ve resolved the issue this time, doesn’t mean it won’t crop up again with another customer. That is, unless you use the negative customer feedback received from this experience to fuel change within your company. Start by pinpointing the exact cause of the issue. Where did it start? Who was involved? Once you identify what went wrong and how the situation could have been avoided, you can use that information to minimize the chance of a similar problem occurring in the future. For instance, if the problem was related to customer service, you could consider additional training for your field techs or look for ways to improve employee onboarding. You could also encourage your team members to discuss tips for handling or preventing common customer service issues. 11. Follow-up and share any improvements When all is said in done, you should check in one more time to make sure the customer is satisfied with the outcome. Ask if there’s anything else you can do for them and thank them again for their patience. Following up builds credibility, reassures the customer, and increases the chances that they’ll become a loyal client and potentially an advocate for your business. It’s also a good idea to walk the customer through any changes you’ve made to prevent it from happening again. The more details you provide about the steps you’re taking to fix the issue, the more clearly the customer will see how hard you’re working to deliver amazing service.

Emily Bauer

Responding to Customer Complaints: 11 Tips for Dealing with Unhappy Clients

5 Hiring Mistakes Field Service Business Owners Make

October 10, 2018 • So, business is booming and you’re looking to grow your team? That’s great news! But don’t stop to celebrate just yet. While having so much work you need to expand your team is certainly a worthy achievement, you’ll soon discover (or, more likely, already have) that hiring field service technicians comes with a whole new set of challenges. If you’re having a hard time finding and hiring talented technicians, you’re not the only one. According to a survey from the Service Council, 32% of field service businesses are grappling with a talent shortage – and that statistic is expected to rise to 71% over the next decade. A survey by Aberdeen found that only 59% of service businesses were meeting their employee turnover goals. That means the other 41% are struggling to hang onto their field service technicians. The unfortunate lesson here? Hiring great people – and keeping them on board – can be hard enough without shooting yourself in the foot. If you want to hire talented techs who will stick around and perform up to your standard, avoid the common hiring mistakes discussed below. 5 Mistakes that Kill Your Chances of Hiring Great Field Service Techs 1. Hiring someone just because they’re family It’s one thing to hire your family member if they’re a talented professional in your field. It’s something else entirely to hire a relative solely because they’re related to you. Whether they’re your second cousin, sibling, or in-law, hiring family members can complicate your workplace situation and strain your relationship in ways you might not expect. For instance, family members might feel entitled to special privileges, like the best shifts or more frequent raises. This sense of entitlement can create tension among the team and resentment from your other employees. Another concern is that, if you hire a family member who turns out to be under-qualified or a poor fit for your business, firing or reprimanding them can lead to a ton of avoidable drama. As a general rule, you should only hire people who you would be willing to fire if necessary. If you do decide to hire a relative despite these risks, set clear expectations from day one.  Communicate that their job security is dependent entirely on their performance and has nothing to do with their blood relation to you. 2. Using a generic job description If you don’t clearly explain the job requirements and duties in your listing, you won’t attract the right type of candidates. So, instead of copying and pasting a generic job description, take the time to think about what skills are necessities vs. which are simply nice to have. This will help you be as specific as possible when outlining desired experience, knowledge, and qualifications. If you want to go a step further, consider that adding a personal touch is more likely to resonate with potential candidates and get top field techs excited to work with you. You should include a few details about your business and the types of customers you serve. This will encourage top candidates to apply as well as incentivize them to put more effort into their applications, so you get a better sense of what they have to offer. 3. Skipping over the technical test Just because a job candidate looks great on paper, doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they’re talking about. Sooner or later you’ll run into a candidate that has trouble applying their knowledge in practice or pads their resume with skills they don’t actually have. The good news is that a simple written or on-site skills test can give you a clear picture of someone’s actual skill set and abilities. A technical test can also help you narrow down the pool of applicants in two ways: only those who are serious about working for you will bother to take the test and the results will allow you to identify the most qualified applicant. This is a crucial part of the hiring process for field technicians, especially if you don’t have the time or resources to provide on-the-job training before sending a new technician out on their first job. 4. Focusing only on technical skills Technical know-how and experience are likely at the top of your wish list for new field service techs. But here’s the thing: with the right candidate, technical skills can be taught and improved with time. However, someone’s personality traits, soft skills, and willingness to learn are unlikely to change. So, if you have the time to train and mentor a novice technician, you should weigh their hard skills (like industry knowledge and specific technical abilities) against their soft skills (like communication, empathy, and ability to think on their feet). Most importantly, never ignore red flags because you’re smitten with a candidate’s skill set. Remember, whoever you end up hiring is going to represent your business when interacting with clients. The way they handle themselves, the level of service they provide, and the quality of their work will all reflect directly on your business and your livelihood. 5. Overlooking the value of culture fit Culture fit is one of the most important indicators of employee satisfaction and loyalty. And since recruiting technicians can be quite time consuming, the longer a new hire stays with your business, the better your return on investment. Not to mention that it can be difficult for everyone if you hire technicians who clash with your existing team members. Even if your techs typically work independently, it’s crucial that their approach and work ethic align with your expectations. Someone who respects their coworkers is more likely to stick around for the long haul, even if your business is going through a rough patch or dealing with an unexpected rush.

EJ Brown

8 Ways To Get Free Exposure For Your Home Service Business

October 8, 2018 • When you’re a small company it’s not easy to put money into advertising. You want to grow, but you need that money to pay the bills. So how do you get customers on a shoestring budget? You get creative. Here are eight tactics to get free exposure for your home service business. Join Local Facebook Groups Look for active local Facebook groups. Just search the names of cities, towns or neighborhoods in your service area. If you have trouble finding one, ask your customers what groups they use. In these local groups people will ask for their neighbors’ recommendations, and your service is sure to come up. Be available to answer there questions and offer to help. Create A Facebook Group If you’re not satisfied with the choices of local Facebook Groups, why not create your own? I’ve seen several businesses do this successfully. It could be a general discussion page, or one specific to homeowners and home service providers. When you provide the place for recommendations and connection, you become a valuable member of the community. Join Nextdoor Nextdoor is a social network for neighbors. Many Pros have reported getting work through Nextdoor. Members can recommend local businesses, and ask for recommendations from their neighbors. I recommend setting up both a personal and a Business account. The Business account is not neighborhood specific, so you can see your recommendations across your local area. Your personal account will allow you to proactively post or reach out to neighbors who ask questions. Cross-Promotion Connect with other businesses who serve your customers, and cross-promote each other's business. Send out an email or postcard promotion, or pass out business cards to customers. By giving your customers a recommendation for another trustworthy service provider, they’ll trust you even more. With Housecall Pro, you can even provide direct referrals using the Send-A-Job feature! Instagram Of all the social networks, Instagram makes it easiest for a business to build a network and reach new customers. Post quality content with local hashtags, and watch as the likes and follows trickle in. Or seek out and follow your potential customers to like and comment on their posts. Build that relationship before they’re ready to buy. Better yet, use Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 Instagram Strategy. Choose 10 hashtags your customers are following, and leave a thoughtful comment on the 9 Top Posts each day. In this way, you’ll build connections with influencers, and you’ll also be seen by your customers when they view and comment on those posts. Create A Local Resource One huge source of untapped potential is what I call the local resource. For one company, I created a list of the Top 30 local plumbers. For you, it might be a guide to good fishing spots, best coffee shops or 10 local people you should know.  The key is to provide valuable insight into something that your customers care about. Post it on your website or blog, then share it with your friends, neighbors, and customers. Interview With Local Media A lot of business owners think of media coverage as getting lucky. In reality it’s much more straightforward than that. Your local newspaper, radio or TV station needs to fill space and airtime. They’re hungry for interesting, local stories. However, just because they’re hungry doesn’t mean they will come to you looking for the story. By doing a little work up front, you can provide them with a story that writes itself. Whether you’re new in town or the old guard, booming or struggling, give local journalists a story that will catch their imagination. Reach out to your local paper today and offer to be interviewed. You might be surprised at their response. Your Email List Last but not least, you’ve got your current customers. They already know you, and (if you’re doing your job right) they love what you do. All you need to do is give them an excuse to talk about you. If you’re a Housecall Pro user, you can sync your customer database to your email marketing software with Zapier, and start by asking for a review. If you want to reach a specific group of people, ask them for referrals to that group. “Do you know any real estate agents who I should talk to?” tells the customer who you’re looking for, and helps to bring those people up in their head. These are only a few of the many options available to your home service business. Marketing doesn’t always require big budgets and complicated systems; sometimes it’s as simple as asking your customers for help.

Isaac Holmgren, CEO at Labtorio

8 Thumbtack Competitors to Help You Pick Up More Work in Your Field

October 5, 2018 • Running your own small business isn’t easy – especially because finding new clients can feel like a job of its own. Whether you’re seeking out new long-term customers or are trying to replace a last-minute cancellation, you need to know where to look for leads. And even then, turning leads into customers often requires a great deal of time, money, and patience. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and platforms built specifically to help you find leads as quickly and easily as possible. One such platform is Thumbtack, an online marketplace that connects local businesses with customers looking for their services. How Does Thumbtack Work? Potential customers describe the type of service they need and set parameters for how far the company can be from their home. This ensures they connect with the most relevant local businesses. Thumbtack then emails information about the lead to service providers who offer that service within the selected area. When you receive an email like this, you have access to the details you need to decide whether you or not want to apply for the job. Service providers pay a fee (which varies by industry and goes up to $15) to send the potential customer response with their contact information. Basically, Thumbtack just makes it easy for anyone to find the best local talent for a given job – which, in turn, makes it easier to for you to find and connect with hot leads. Tips for Getting the Most Out of Thumbtack We’ll talk about some of your other options in a moment, but since Thumbtack is one of the most popular platforms, here are a few tips for making it work for your business: Get noticed by replying to clients ASAP: When it comes to standing out on websites like Thumbtack, timing is everything. If you take too long to respond, it won’t matter if you’re the best person for the job – because someone else will have beat you to the punch. So, make sure you receive emails from Thumbtack on your phone and reply to promising leads as quickly as possible. Save time pre-written messages: When you’re already multitasking all day long, responding to every incoming Thumbtack request can seem like an extra burden. Fortunately, you can write and save prepared replies, so you have always a response ready to go. Craft a friendly, professional message that you can send out when you get a notification from a potential customer. Track your success: Keep track of how many leads you earn through Thumbtack and the amount of revenue they’ve provided to your business. This allows you to ensure that your investment is worth it. If you’re not seeing a healthy return from the time and fees you’re spending on the site, you may need to revamp your profile and rethink your strategy for messaging potential customers. Though it’s one of the most popular platforms in the gig-economy, Thumbtack isn’t the only place you can look for leads online. There are quite a few other options you can try – and why wouldn’t you? Searching for leads in multiple places will increase your potential for scoring new customers. So, let’s take a look at some of the best alternatives to Thumbtack. 8 Thumbtack Competitors to Help You Grow Your Business 1. Gentask Gentask is an on-demand service marketplace that works very similarly to Thumbtack. Customers log into the mobile app or website and explain what type of service they’re looking for. Then professionals can submit quotes and the customer chooses which professional they’d like to hire. As an FSB owner, you can register and specify the types of services you provide. Then, when a customer posts that they’re looking for a business like yours, you have an opportunity to respond to their request and potentially get hired. 2. Shiftgig Shiftgig is a mobile marketplace that allows you to connect with individuals and businesses looking to hire specialists for all sorts of odd jobs. Once you’re registered as a Shiftgig Specialist, you can use the mobile app to apply for short-term jobs that make use of your skillset. Since you get to choose where, when, and how often you work, it’s perfect if you or your team has extra availability for a limited time and needs to pick up a few quick jobs – without the hassle of seeking out leads on your own. 3.  Bloomchase This is another site designed to help professionals like you find and connect with local customers. It’s a great option for service providers across a large range of industries, including everything from home improvement specialists to pet care to life coaches. Once you’re verified as a trusted professional, Bloomchase matches your skillset to a customer’s specific needs. Potential customers can search Bloomchase for the type of service they need, view your profile, read reviews, and ask for a quote before booking you. 4.  BidWilly BidWilly is a task management website focused on homecare services like maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and lawn care. Its purpose is to make it easy for homeowners to easily find high-quality professionals who fit their budget. So, whether you’re an independent contractor or small business owner, you can create a profile to tell homeowners about the services you provide. Since customer ratings influence your success on BidWilly, make sure you ask satisfied customers to leave a favorable review once a job is complete.   5.  NeedTo.com This site makes it simple for businesses and people to find help for just about anything they need to get done – from landscaping and home maintenance to furniture assembly and other odd jobs. While some of the listings are for casual, short-term requests, you can also find opportunities with the potential to become long-term customers. Simply browse through customer requests to see if anything matches your skillset. 6.  TaskRabbit Though it’s not tailored specifically to FSBs, potential customers use this task management app to hire skilled Taskers for a variety of jobs. Popular task categories include handyman, cleaning, and moving. When you join TaskRabbit, you’ll be notified of nearby jobs that match your service offerings. You can choose which ones you’d like to accept, confirm details with the customer directly, and submit an invoice through the app. 7.  Wonolo Like many of the resources listed here, you can use Wonolo to search for hourly or daily jobs that fit into your schedule. However, the thing that makes Wonolo stand out is the fact that it caters to businesses and brands, rather than individual homeowners. Businesses use the site to hire talent on-demand for a number of different industries, which makes it an awesome resource if you’re looking to work with bigger companies. 8.  Staffy Staffy is an app that can help you find new clients and jobs that fit into your existing work schedule. It connects with hospitality businesses that need skilled contractors for a range of different jobs, both long-term and short-term. Since Staffy promises to provide on-demand staff within 90 minutes, it’s a good option whenever you’re looking for work on short notice – or simply looking to connect with customers who are looking for your exact skill set and availability.

EJ Brown

Here’s How to Find the Perfect HVAC Software to Grow Your Business

September 30, 2018 • Heating and air conditioning businesses have a lot of moving parts--both in the office and in the field. HVAC software automates your workflow so that you spend less time on tedious, time-intensive tasks and can focus on the big picture. With so many cost-effective solutions on the market for businesses of all sizes, adoption of these tools has soared. HVAC companies are using software to manage and streamline their business, from estimates to invoices and everything in between. Operations that aren’tusing management software to optimize their businesses are at a serious competitive disadvantage to those that are. In this guide, we’ll walk through what you should look for when it comes to choosing the right HVAC software and how to evaluate a tool to see if it’s right for you. Download Field Guide: How to Hire & Grow HVAC Your HVAC Business Without the Headache Types of HVAC software When it comes to choosing the right tool, you should first consider what type of software you need for your business. There are few solutions specifically designed for the heating and air conditioning industry. Most field service software is designed to work with any trade or service business (plumbing, HVAC, lawn care, etc.) But that doesn’t mean every option is the same. There are two primary divisions of software designed for small to medium-sized field service companies: Software tailored for a specific function All-in-one solutions that benefit a company in many areas of business Let’s start by comparing these two options to see which one may be what you’re looking for. Software tailored to a specific function You’ll find lots of software on the market specifically designed to accomplish or simplify one part of your business. If you’re looking for a way to make one small part of your business better or if you have other solutions and you’re just looking for a piecemeal option, these can be good options. For instance, some software is designed specifically to do something like creating and submitting job bids. Other software is specialized for invoicing, scheduling, or online booking. Each of these features is helpful on their own. It may be the case that you only need a specialized piece of software to handle, for example, invoicing. But, chances are that you will eventually want or need to add on additional tools that help with other areas of operation. If you’re looking to sync all of your workflow and business processes together, you can look for an all-in-one solution that will help you do all (or most) of the day-to-day activities it takes to run your business. All-in-one solutions Full-service management solutions cover your entire workflow from service or estimate request to scheduling, dispatching, and even collecting payments. For most HVAC business owners, this is the ideal solution. Not only does having an all-in-one HVAC software give you all of the tools that you need to run the business effectively, but you also won’t have to worry about cobbling together different tools or paying for a bunch of different software. Another major advantage of an all-in-one solution is that it can grow with your business. Even if you only need one or two core features to start, you should be able to begin using additional features (like dispatching or location tracking) as your business grows. This also means that you won’t need to spend time looking for a new piece of software every time your business expands. Evaluating HVAC software Once you’ve decided which type of software you’re looking for, you still have some decisions to make. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are likely several options on the market and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. So it’s important to give some careful consideration to each one and then choose the software that’s best-suited for your business. When evaluating different software, keep in mind how it might fit within your own company’s existing workflow. The best solution you won’t force you to dramatically change your process--it will work the way that your team already works. Here are some other things to consider when you’re comparing HVAC solutions. Feature list Ease of use Software/solution integration Pricing Features and functionality As mentioned above, there are usually two classes of HVAC software that you might consider. And these two classes likely have differing features. A specific or targeted software (like bidding or scheduling) will likely have narrow but deep functionality. If you’re thinking about an all-in-one solution, then you should evaluate whether the tool has the broad set of features that you want to run all of the important parts of your business. For the sake of comparison, let’s assume that you’re looking for an all-in-one solution. In order to find the right tool, you’ll want to do a side-by-side evaluation of each option. Features that you’ll likely want include: Quotes, estimates, and invoices Scheduling and dispatch Field communications and location tracking Online booking and chat Payment processing Accounting integration When you’re evaluating a software solution, take careful note of which features are included--and which ones are left out. Some important questions to ask before springing for a particular solution: What processes are covered with this software? What processes are not covered? Do other software solutions handle processes not covered by this solution? Will you need a separate tool to handle that part of the process? Does this software easily integrate with other tools you would need? Is there any particular functionality that is critical to our operation? Software Integrations Next up, you’ll want to consider what other tools you are currently using or plan to use and how well this solution integrates with other software. For instance, are you using Quickbooks? Does this HVAC software allow you to easily track invoices and expenses? If the software doesn’t integrate with other tools, it may actually end up creating more work. Or, worse, you’ll have to hire someone to build a custom tool to connect one piece of software to the other piece of software. Questions to ask: What software are you currently using that you will continue to use? What software or tools may you use in the future? Based on the features of this software solution, will you need additional tools to manage part of your operation? If these integrations aren’t available, how difficult would it be to create or build a solution? Ease of use Second to features and integrations is the importance of workflow--ease of use. In the ideal world, your HVAC software should work the way that your team works. You shouldn’t need to change your operations or processes in order to accommodate the tools. Another important aspect is the experience that your customers receive. The right software can help you provide better service, make booking easier, and allow for quick and pain-free payment processing. How to evaluate HVAC software on ease of use: Does this software offer the kind of communication that the team currently uses to stay in sync? Will the software make it easier or more difficult for your team to send and share important details? Using the software, will you to add new steps to your existing processes? Is the software mobile friendly and/or can it be easily used by techs in the field? Will the features included in the software help you also provide a better customer experience? Software pricing Last, but certainly not least, you should consider the price of the software. As with most purchasing decisions, a lower price may not always be better. And some options may have additional costs that go above and beyond the sticker price shown on the website. There are two things to watch out for. One is any additional costs that may come on top of the software or subscription itself--setup fees, consulting, training, etc. Second, you’ll want to consider how much the software may cost as your business grows. Some solutions may have a dramatic increase in cost once you reach, say, 20 total employees. Be sure to evaluate the price in comparison to other factors that go into your decision. You may find that it’s better to pay a bit more for software that includes more features or will save you money in other ways. Here are the questions you’ll want to ask: How much will this software actually cost over the course of a year? Are there any additional costs beyond just the price or monthly subscription fee (e.g., setup fees)? Will the costs grow as the company grows? If so, are those costs reasonable and sustainable for the business? How does the cost of the software compare with the time/cost savings associated with using it? Making your final decision With these important questions in mind, it’s time to choose the best solution for your company. Keep in mind that it probably won’t be one single consideration that helps you make your final decision. You’ll want to evaluate each option on all of the factors that matter to your company and make an informed purchasing decision for both your immediate needs and the future growth of your operation. Why our customers choose Housecall Pro With the highest user-friendly rating and the most reviews in Capterra, HouseCall Pro is known as being the most intuitive field service management platform. It offers many of the standard features, such as scheduling, dispatch and routing, automated estimates, and invoicing. It also has a unique customer service focus with features like a client portal offering online booking. Technicians can invoice on-site with credit card processing through Stripe. Integrations with Facebook and Yelp allow customers to book your services wherever they find you. Housecall Pro offers an all-in-one solution that can help your company get to the next level. Whether you’re an owner-operator looking to make your first hire, or you’re looking to streamline your operation to expand into new markets, Housecall Pro can help you get there. Book a free demo to learn more about Housecall Pro .

EJ Brown