Can a little known Aussie start-up take on the might of Google, and win?

by FM Media
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The traditional paradigm for finding a tradesman has been to start with a Google search; however, there are significant limitations to this method. While Google can understand the intent of the customer, it can’t know the specifics – for example, whether a link to a handyman’s website will connect a customer with a handyman that is available today, at the right price, to do the job. Google does not allow you to search for ‘available’ businesses (how can it know?), cannot quote you a price on a job or offer the opportunity to speak to a real person online. Google does simple indexing based on keywords and phrases, and then lists results.

Ten years ago a small Australian start-up, located above a French patisserie in Darlinghurst, launched with one goal in mind: to automate local services and make the process of researching and hiring service providers (like plumbers, electricians, house painters and plumbers) seamless. To provide a method that is easier and and more efficient than a Google search. The vision was simple: to provide an alternative to clicking links through Google and calling a tradie to find that they are too busy, charge too much or don’t answer their phone. Enter ServiceSeeking.

ServiceSeeking has moved closer to its goal with the launch of ‘Instaquotes’ on the website, a new feature that allows businesses to submit a standard quote on every lead that matches their settings automatically, and deliver customers a perfect connection with a tradie or local business that is free to do the job.

It’s a process somewhat like Google AdWords. Each business can choose to connect to every customer who lists a job that matches their skills on the website. After specifying your skills and price, the marketplace matches the business to the customer automatically. Like Google, the marketplace typically charges the business to advertise, but until Instaquotes was released there was an additional hidden cost in using these platforms, which was the outlay of time required to read jobs and quote on them.

ServiceSeeking homepage © ServiceSeeking

ServiceSeeking homepage © ServiceSeeking

CEO of ServiceSeeking, Jeremy Levitt, says: “It has taken us over 10 years and over $10 million of engineering resources, but we are getting close to our vision of automating local services. The most important thing I’ve learned from my time at ServiceSeeking is the need to completely understand the problem before considering the solution.

“Customers search for tradies with an expectation of immediate service, yet those same businesses are often in the middle of a job when they are contacted about their next job, making it hard for them to answer straight away. The solution was an automated algorithm to match customer and business, and with more than a billion dollars in work won through our website, we are definitely on the right path to beating Google at its own game,” he says.

In an October survey of over 1700 website users, the majority answered that ServiceSeeking was significantly better than a Google Search (delivering the company a net value score of 75 versus a Google Search). It sounds like its solution is working; with more than two million jobs posted through the website, its changing local services for the better.

Levitt feels that while the company has made great strides toward its goal of offering a better, more convenient service, he notes that the company still has more to do. Instaquotes has made it much easier to immediately connect with a tradie instead of calling multiple tradies one by one. Once you’re done listing your job, ServiceSeeking will instantly return a plethora of quotes from professionals in your area that are available to do the job. You can look at all of them, read reviews and decide which one best fits your needs. When you find a professional you like, you can message them within the app to set up an appointment for the service.

“Really what ServiceSeeking is doing replacing the ‘click and pray’ process that every customer undertakes on Google when trying to find a business to do a job,” says Levitt. “There is no more ‘Hey, here’s what I need. Can you do it? And if so how much are you going to charge?’.

Jeremy Levitt, CEO © ServiceSeeking

Jeremy Levitt, CEO © ServiceSeeking

The platform saves tradies plenty of time too. Previously, a professional would have to look over the job details and decide how much to quote you. Now, it’s instant. ServiceSeeking streamlines the whole process by eliminating the need to find out if someone is available or how much they’ll charge for your specific job.

It’s also good for professionals. Tradies on the platform are making a killing as the service introduces ready-to-hire customers – and with automated quotes businesses are finding new customers without much effort at all.

“Our automated quotes engine represents, I think, the biggest step forward that the trillion-dollar service industry has taken in its entire existence. We have brought trades and services into the modern day,” Levitt says.

Asking for quotes from professionals is free for customers. Businesses pay a simple monthly membership, starting from $10 per month, making it economical to win new customers and grow a business. There is no pay-per-lead fees or commissions.

“The average job on ServiceSeeking generates four quotes and takes around 20 minutes to fill. Our Instaquotes product cuts this time down by close to 100 percent. An instant connection between customer and business means you can organise an end-of-lease clean or house painting as fast as buying a product on The Iconic. In fact, we have anecdotes of three hour fulfilment of many jobs, if a tradie is in your area at the time of job posting,” Levitt says.

“Customers want their job done well and instantly, for the right price,” he confirms. “They want to see reviews and they want to hire the right business with confidence. We’re are transforming the whole service economy and beating Google at its own game.”

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Lead image: whitestorm ©

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