SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Residents living in this area who have access to the Internet at home or office, can now schedule hvacr service calls from their computer.

PointServe, an Austin, TX-based company which provides on-line scheduling solutions, has been test marketing its newest venture in the Salt Lake City, UT area. Customers who want to schedule a service appointment for a furnace check-up, filter changeout, or other home services PointServe provides, can visit the company’s Web site (, register as users, and find the provider who will perform the service work at a convenient time.

Users can also add comments to their schedule requests. If service is not available in that area, PointServe will inform the consumer immediately.

“The consumer can schedule an appointment at their house on a Thursday at 6 p.m., for example,” said Rick Briesch, vice president of marketing for PointServe. “They can also request providers who have low prices and have a reputation for quality work.”

Because the site has only been up and running since November 1, hvacr contractors contacted by The News said they had not received many inquiries. However, one owner sees this service’s future value.

“We’ve received a few calls,” said Ladd Huntsman, owner of Huntsman Quality Heating & A/C, Salt Lake City. “It looks real promising.”

Providing convenience

PointServe says it has a two-part strategy:

1. To enable consumers greater ease in finding service providers and scheduling appointments; and

2. To give service providers the opportunity for increased revenue, customer loyalty, and company growth.

PointServe asks providers to list three criteria about their company: costs, quality, and timeliness. Consumers then have the opportunity to evaluate the service work and add comments on providers to the Web site.

“There are no up-front costs,” said Briesch. “Providers can download a Wizard from the Web site to get to the on-line scheduling. Customers are charged $5 for a static visit [bringing repair work to the provider] or $15 for a mobile visit [provider comes to customer’s location].”

Fees to providers are based on the type of service work scheduled. If an existing customer schedules a new appointment, PointServe charges the provider $1.50 per visit.

“The customer pays the initial charge of $15 and if they back out of the appointment, the fee is split between the provider and PointServe,” Briesch said. Dan Farley, owner of Servco Heating & A/C, Salt Lake City, said that although response hasn’t been “explosive,” he is getting calls.

“We’ve scheduled some routine maintenance calls,” he said. “The interesting part is that PointServe was planning on running an introductory ad in the local newspaper but the newspaper turned them down. They probably think people will start advertising more on the Web site and less in the paper.”

Rocket science

One of PointServe’s founders has an unusual background for this new program.

“Ed Powell has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and works for the space program,” said Briesch. “He felt that artificial intelligence could be applied to business problems.”

Using the knowledge of artificial intelligence, the site’s founders set out to employ “satellite command and control systems, space-based surveillance, predictive modeling, and real-time estimation to solve the problem of managing mobile workforces.”

In addition to scheduling service, maintenance, and installation calls, PointServe claims it can also help improve the efficiency of each provider’s routing system.

For example, the company recently did a study involving an Austin ServiceMaster contractor. PointServe studied service routes on a typical day and by rerouting stops and assigning drivers to scheduled stops close to their home, reduced the number of miles traveled in the day from 790 to 300.

Nearly 200 service companies in the market signed up for the regional launch. An expansion is planned for Dallas and Austin, TX; Portland, OR; and Phoenix, AZ by the end of the first quarter 2000.

The eventual goal is to roll out the service nationwide, although no timetable has been set.

PointServe said it also will be available to consumers and businesses nationwide via Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch portals early next year.

Contractors who are interested in joining the list of providers can sign up on the Web site or call 512-617-5300.