Just as many contractors were ramping up for the spring and summer remodeling seasons, almost the entire country went into emergency lockdown. Mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced industry professionals to change the way they’re doing business—or risk losing out when the country opens up again.
Stay-at-home orders and “essential worker” designations vary, with some states, such as Michigan, declaring construction work non-essential and others, such as Iowa, not closing down at all. Even states that list construction as essential have varied guidelines for who can be on-site, how closely they can work, and which precautions they need to take to ensure the health of their workers and clients. For this reason, many businesses have had to shift some, or all, of their client interactions online.
With this in mind, we asked our readers which software they use to continue generating leads, keep in contact and remain accessible while complying with physically distanced guidelines. For those whose projects wouldn’t translate easily over the phone or via email, videoconferencing has taken center stage.
A few months ago, Zoom was a lesser known conferencing and video chat app, used primarily in educational and some business settings. These days Zoom is ubiquitous, used for anything from webinars to tele-health consulting. It is reflected in the remodeling industry as well, with almost 40 percent of our respondents mentioning using Zoom to talk with clients.
A high-resolution picture, screen sharing, chat logs, and file sharing all come together on the Zoom platform. Zoom boasts an easy-to-use interface, which is accessible on the web or through its mobile and desktop apps. This interface is intuitive and needs little-to-no training, making it easy to connect with clients who may be older or less technologically savvy.
Zoom is available free for one-on-one meetings and progresses up to $14.99 and $19.99 per month per host with additional features. Visit zoom.us for more information.
Popular in large part due to its integration with Microsoft 365, Teams is a collaboration platform as well as a video conferencing tool. Like Zoom, Teams has video, chat, calls, screen sharing, and file sharing, making it a convenient one-stop-shop, especially for businesses already using the Microsoft ecosystem. One terabyte of storage per user is included with a user account, allowing users to store and exchange documents with ease across the Microsoft system.
Teams allows for video chatting with up to 250 people, or live presentation to 10,000 in addition to adding external guests who do not have a Teams or Microsoft 365 account. This makes it easy to coordinate with clients by sending them secure, private email invites to conferences without them needing to download the phone or desktop app.
Microsoft Teams is included with a commercial Microsoft 365 subscription. A limited, free version of the software is available without a subscription, and the complete Teams is available starting at $5 a month. Visit Microsoft.com for more information.
GoToMeeting, from the web conferencing service LogMeIn, functions on much the same level as Teams and Zoom, with the added ability to join calls via audio from anywhere with a conference number and PIN password. The external Call Me feature also makes it easier to add external contractors to calls and meetings without them needing an account.
In addition to video conferencing abilities, chat features, screen sharing, and a virtual whiteboard for communal annotations, GoToMeeting offers unlimited cloud storage for recordings and can auto-create transcripts, allowing users to record and share meetings. This feature is especially helpful for presentations and webinar-style meetings, where information can be disseminated to subcontractors and other members of the team.
The platform’s user interface is less suited for casual users, such as clients, and especially those who are not as tech-literate; but within the business setting GoToMeetings works well, with added security encryption other platforms do not have.
GoToMeeting starts at $14 a month for the standard business version. A free option is available that can host three participants. Visit gotomeeting.com for more information.
Video conferencing and physically distanced lead generation have not been easy for those in the remodeling industry. A number of our readers responded by expressing the difficulties of explaining more complex, multifaceted projects to clients, or assessing changes to layouts without seeing the existing conditions on-site.
However, the remodeling industry has shown a persevering spirit and a willingness to adapt. “My client demographic is generally older, and they had fought against technology,” said Leo Lantz, president of Leo Lantz Construction in Glen Allen, Virginia. “Now in the downtime of the pandemic, they have had time to sit down and adjust to the technology. We will definitely be incorporating technologies such as Zoom and DocuSign into our business model going forward.” Many respondents echoed this sentiment, expressing a plan to continue using these new tools after the pandemic is over for their day-to-day operations. QR