Right Time, Right Topic: Technology for Contractors
authors Scott Siegal
Earlier this summer, we [CCN] hosted a technology conference, and it was a hit. It came together because the time was right for such information. A few years ago, contractors may have suspected they need to embrace technology, but most were reluctant to do so. Today, they know they need to be—and are open to—embracing it. They just don’t know what or how.
Technology has already reshaped contracting. For instance, when I bought my roofing company 28 years ago, we didn’t have a computer. We wrote down information from incoming calls, called homeowners back to confirm appointments and tracked job progress in a book. Today, CRM software automatically confirms appointments via email. Our production guys take smartphone photos and upload them with an app, so that by clicking on a link homeowners can see their job progress. They can sign and pay for change orders online.
Improvements such as these have had the effect of raising contractor professionalism. They happened because people’s expectations have changed. For instance, if you go on Amazon and buy something, you expect an email confirmation within seconds. These types of retail practices have set a standard for how a professional business operates. You once stood out if you engaged in them. Now, you stand out if you don’t.
You cannot operate today the way you did 10 years ago. And the rate at which functions are transformed by technology from something manual to something digital is accelerating—as are consumer expectations. For instance, a growing number of people come to contractor websites from their phones (the latest numbers show about a third). That means if your website isn’t mobile responsive, whoever is searching for a contractor in the area will be unable to read the text or right-size the images, and click away.
Lots to Find Out
One thing I realized from listening to conference speakers is that there are a lot of contractor software products out there. Also, it’s possible to have several that essentially do the same thing. For instance, we use Microsoft 365, but after watching the presentation on that product at the conference, I realized we haven’t implemented 90 percent of what it can do. If we did, it would replace many of the functions of other systems that we’re paying for. This insight turned out to be worth several thousand dollars because we spend a ton of money on go-to-meeting software for webinars when that function can be done by Microsoft 365, which has the same capabilities.
A Tech Investment Strategy
People came to the conference to find out what they need to know about technology so they know how to invest in it for their businesses going forward.
My guess is that it will be different with every company. For instance, if you’re a sales and marketing organization and don’t do any of your own installations, you’re thinking about how to make those two parts of the business more efficient. This can be done by establishing more touch points with customers from the first call to post-sale, or by generating tons of new prospects via data mining. Technology will have a big impact on lead generation because you’re able to see real-time ROI on lead sources and redirect marketing dollars into activities with a greater return.
Your Competition Is There
Investing in technology is a strategic decision, one that will make a big difference in how your company performs. The best approach, as suggested by one of our speakers, may be to make a list of the functions you would most like to see improve and then research available software products.
It’s wise to do this now, not only because consumers expect it and the ROI is immediate, but also because your competition is doing it—and that’s not just the contractor in the next town over. We are all really concerned about big guys coming in and taking market share. And by big guys, I don’t mean the big box retail stores. They’re already there. I mean the online giants—Google and Amazon—who may find a way to sell home improvement projects online or at least control the sale of those projects.
Whether homeowners will buy a home improvement project online remains to be seen. The fear is that if they did, it would wipe out much of this industry.
One sponsor I spoke with at the conference told me that the eyewear industry, where he worked some years back, once had the exact same concern: that people would buy all their prescription glasses and lenses online, putting frame shops and optometrists out of business. Well, they’re all still pretty much here. But buying new glasses at one of those retail establishments is a different, faster and better process because of technology. |QR
Scott Siegal is owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website contractors.net.