For as long as I have been covering the HVAC industry, there has been concern that someone from outside the industry is going to step in and mess up how contractors go to market. There have been boogie men like Home Depot, Home Advisor, and Amazon.
However, in the last year or so, everywhere I look, there seems to be someone within the industry trying to revolutionize how the industry goes to market and gets into the customer’s home. And, really, isn’t that how it should be? Someone who has been in the market and knows the industry inside and out should be the one taking it to the next technological level.
The latest to be on my radar is Atlanta contractor Doug Zweber, who wants to bring the Uber technology to the HVAC industry. Uber, of course, revolutionized the taxi business. Zweber wants to accomplish the same thing with his company.
The contractor started in the business about 40 years ago and currently runs All Pro Mechanical Services, which does both commercial and residential business.
“It all started for me when Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor came into the market,” Zweber said. “It was a model that got my attention. I toyed with the idea of adding an on-demand service in Atlanta and selling that service to air conditioning, electrical, and plumbing contractors.”
Zweber eventually decided to think bigger and hired a couple of engineers from Uber to build software that would become a nationwide app called All Pro Tech Locator. Think of it as Uber’s cousin for the HVAC industry. It works much the same way. Homeowners download the app when they are in need of service and register accordingly. When they open the app, they select from air conditioning, electrical, and plumbing — whatever their need is at the time. The app finds registered techs on a Google map and shows the tech and homeowner’s location. The consumer hits a button to send a request of service, and the technician is contacted. The hourly rate for each technician is posted along with a photo of the tech and the company logo. The homeowner has the ability to pay within the app or pay the technician after service is rendered.
BUILDING A NETWORK
Now comes the hard part for Zweber — building an HVAC contractor market and making the public aware of the app. He is starting in his home city of Atlanta but hoping to build this out nationwide fairly quickly.
“The plan is to launch this like a shotgun,” Zweber said. “I have a ground force calling on contractors and am looking at a direct mail campaign and email blasts. We are looking to turn the a/c business on its head. I realize this will let the genie out of the bottle. We all saw what Uber did basically overnight. We are looking to do the same thing.”
In Zweber’s opinion, this is a great opportunity for contractors. Not only are they receiving leads, but contractors believe it is a great marketing tool.
“Contractors will be able to blanket the market. For example, let’s say they have 100 trucks in their fleet. Those 100 techs represent 100 billboards on the road. The problem is, customers can’t see those billboards. With this app, they can see those billboards,” Zweber said. “Each company will have their rules for how they use this and setup their day. But, as a contractor, I know that often you have a plan for the day and everything goes awry. Customers are not home, someone cancels an appointment, etc. I am not saying this is the perfect solution, but it is a way a company can increase its digital footprint from one point of contact at their main office to a hundred points of contact with every truck in the field.”
Zweber might be right when he says this is not the perfect solution. I have a few questions about its viability. How do you keep up quality control? You do need to prove you are a licensed contractor, which I like. Will homeowners use this app? I use Uber a few times a month but most customers probably will only have a use for this app every couple of years. Does this make HVAC a commodity when homeowners are not differentiating between contractors and instead are purchasing based on proximity, availability, and price? Uber drivers are pretty interchangeable, I don’t think HVAC contractors are. Some are great, some are good, and, yes, some are pretty bad. Instead of just an awkward car ride, you have somebody messing with the comfort of your home.
But when Uber started, I am sure many had different but equally important questions about that service. I believe the fact that Zweber has great industry knowledge gives him a huge leg up when trying to pull this off. It is that type of forward thinking that this industry needs.
“People spend more time on their phones than their computers,” Zweber said. “We will see where it goes. I think it will be well-received once a few companies have it in their hands, and it is working. I think this will break ground with a number of companies.”
For more information on All Pro Mechanical Services, visit www.allproservicenetwork.com.
Publication date: 6/12/2017