2 Major ways 2020 changed how home service businesses operate

While many industries were hit hard during the pandemic, in fact, many home service businesses found a way to thrive and some even had their best year ever. Across the board, the events of 2020 brought big changes to plumbing, HVAC, electrical industries, as well as other home service markets.

We asked two home service experts for details.

Being “essential” has changed the way businesses see themselves 

“They’re changing the way they go to market,” Joe O’Grady at the Service Profit Group, explained about home service businesses he works with.

For years, O’Grady has been trying to get more businesses to break away from what he calls a “broke/fix” business model.

In this model, owners train their technicians to simply fix what’s broken. Then, to increase profit, the tech is forced to try and upsell different perks or services.

“We’re trying to get the industry to stop upselling; instead, find the cause of the problem and solve that; therefore, you no longer have to sell anything,” he said.

By finding the source of whatever problems customers are encountering, techs are no longer in the awkward position of salespeople. They are better described as educators and industry experts able to act on their customer’s best interests.

Here’s what that looks like to O’Grady: “We teach technicians to create a relationship and understand what’s going on in the home, do a full inspection and then give them options that will enhance their life instead of just fix their problem.”

It’s been a battle to get companies to make these small, but important perspective switches. But the events of 2020 forced business owners to start reconsidering how they were interacting with customers.

Unfortunately, the motivation for this change was fear. Many businesses realized they’d need to adapt in order to survive the changing market.

Customers weren’t looking for the same things, because their lives had changed. And, as a result, so had the conditions around who they’d let into their home and why.

In response, O’Grady told his clients, “Let’s change the way we go to market. Let’s literally enhance the world.”

Folks who were all-of-a-sudden spending more time and even working from home had new needs.

“People were locked in and overusing their systems in a way that HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems weren’t designed for,” O’Grady explained. He saw this overuse drastically decrease the lifespan of equipment.

Home service industries truly were essential last year, and continue to be in 2021. But, more than that, they are in a unique position to offer services that can help keep people safe with cleaner air and water. 

This has helped change companies’ perspectives about how they approach their customers.

For instance, last year, O’Grady encouraged his electrician clients to recommend USB outlets when they’re on a service call. Since more people were working from home, techs could recommend USB outlets as a way of protecting their customer’s equipment while adding convenience.

Sure, you could see this is an upsell, but technicians don’t have to position it as such. Instead, it’s something more and more homeowners need that they might not realize they need — a subtle difference in perspective.

Virtual services are going to stick around

This February, Joe Quero sold his business Absolute Duct Cleaning after an 80% increase in year-over-year revenue in 2020. Quero is also the owner of JQ Business Coaching and helped other businesses grow last year, as well.

One of the things he did for his own company, and recommended to others, was begin to offer virtual estimates and walkthroughs as a way of limiting physical contact between techs and customers.

He believes these virtual services will stick around.

One reason is continued safety concerns.  Quero researched the impact of the last large pandemic we saw in the country: the Spanish flu. “I noticed that there were certain things that stuck around for about five or ten years, like people continued to wear masks.”

While not everyone, Quero believes there will be a percentage of your customers that will continue to be hesitant about letting people into their homes and will be more likely to book a business that offers virtual services.

But the other big reason virtual services will stick around is that customers are getting used to them. 

“I believe that Amazon changed the playing field for every single business out there. When they were able to figure out how to put a product in front of my door in a day or two and I didn’t have to go to the store, that changed people’s mentality everywhere.”

For Quero, this isn’t just about virtual estimates and walkthroughs, but also digital conveniences like online booking.

Last year, the closing rate for online booking on Absolute Duct Cleaning’s website increased by 30% because more people were at home online and looking for that convenience.

“We made people realize how much they wanted convenience rather than the old school way of doing things.”

How Broadly can help

Some of the conveniences customers and prospective customers are looking for are the ability to make contact with a company wherever they find them and ask questions any time of day without picking up the phone.

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