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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Everyone should have gone through this at one point.


I just joined today, and have no particular idea about the Demographics of this community but I love Joel's blogs. So I thought best to ask for help here.

My question is fairly non-technical. It's about you needing services that most likely would be provided by your local provider. Anything from plumber, to say carpet cleaning.

What I would love for you to respond with is: what was the last few of these kind of services that you happen to feel a need for, and how you went about going to solve that problem. Whether it was pest control, or to find a new contractor to fix your leaking roof.

Please respond with the type of service that you happen to need, and whether you used, google, or Yellowpages, or the Yellow "Book". And if you are feeling extra generous, how was the process. If any complaints, please mention those, or if you feel the process could have been somehow made easier - I would appreciate that information as well.

Thank You in advance,

JJ Send private email
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Hi JJ, well, last time I got a plumber it was using a referral from our condo HOA. So, I think the ideal way to find anyone is word of mouth from someone you know.

Second choice would be to use a referral service but I dont trust those. I never use yellow pages. I have once used the Web and Google and after I went to their website, I did give them a call and got ok results. After they fixed the plumbing they didnt bother to tighten the joints so they leaked until i did it myself. So still no better results.

If you are fishing for information to help you with a possible online service solution, I would say consider this. Most people can get all that information now using the Web and Google Maps. etc. for free. It still will never replace word of mouth from friends who have used a service and tell you about it. The only way to beat those two systems would be some huge cost savings deal tied to a huge network of servicers, then that tied to Google maps with referrals and the large discount with maybe a coupon code or cookie when they click the map on your website. So, users can go to their local area Web maps, and see 50% off on superior plumbing repair on a map near their home and quickly call the service. The price pressure to me would be the only way to beat the trust and immediacy of a friend referring someone directly they have used in their local area.
Website Photo Gallery Guy Send private email
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I've been dealing a lot with this lately. I've tried web recommendations, telephoning everyone in the yellow pages, checking BBB records, asking friends and neighbors for recommendations, and getting recommendations from other professionals.

None of these methods work. None. In every conceivable service, the first half dozen people I hire, regardless of recommendations, are severely incompetent, yet arrogant, and do shoddy work that causes more problems than it solves.

The only solution I have found is keep throwing money at the problem and hiring one person after another until you find the 1 out of 20 trade "professionals" that is honest and competent.

This is where price is not a problem too, I have no problem paying more for quality, but oddly I've found the best people often charge a median price.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
"50% off on superior plumbing repair"

One problem with that is only the incompetent ones, or people just starting out in a new area need to advertise or attract clients.

The good ones are always fully booked. That's why it's hard to find recommendations for them, they become a well kept secret since their clients don't want people finding out and making the wait even longer.

If someone is in business for 20 year and is running 50% off coupons, they must not be very good.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The only time I can remember getting a plumber through Yellow Pages (I went for the one with the most "professional" looking ad) we ended up calling the police on the plumbers while they were still in our house!

I only ever go by direct personal recommendation from people I know and trust.
Arethuza Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The only experience I've had of something like this recently was getting my home office wired with ethernet. I did a search on Yell.co.uk, found a few local networking companies whose websites said they did work in homes. I asked three of these for quotes giving precise details of the work to be done.

Two replied, one of them had a much lower quote than the other.

After an email the one with the lower quote came round to look at the house then came back two weeks later to do the work (I was very happy with the work he did).

So I guess my answer is I used the yellow pages website then used the websites of the companies themselves / emailed them to figure out who was best for the job.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I am assuming you are gathering information for your next software. I liked http://redbeacon.com for the kind of service you mentioned
it was techcrunch's tc50 winner
Neo Syne Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
It's a great problem - I've been toying with the idea myself. I think referrals are the way to go. I own http://refr.me but so far all I have is a few pages of ideas, problems, possible solutions. If you get it working, please keep us updated! Good luck.
Richard (Tudumo) Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
this is the sort of problem that Angie's List (http://www.angieslist.com) is intended to solve.  We've had mixed results, but I know many people swear by it.  I think yelp.com is a similar sort of service.
Jason Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Thanks to everyone who responded! Great Insight.

One thing to mention is that while there is no "perfection" in this field. There is certainly the capacity to meet say the needs of 80% of the people 80% of the time.  That would in my mind be definitely a respectable metric.

One thing I noticed, a lot of responses included plumbers (which is great!). While plumbers are only something you need rarely - it was to at least gleam some information regarding service providers. To the last poster, I have taken a look at Angie's List as well as Service Magic. While in a way of speaking, my functionality would overlap with theirs, I am trying to prepare a much better offering to meet the metric I mentioned above.

Now I'm wishing, I should have thrown every category so as to get the most amount of feedback. :)

In either case, my idea anchors on the ability that businesses are dynamic. They change pricing according to market needs and demands. (e.g Florists offering 10% off to orders before 9 A.M on Valentine's Day) Those are something that can be captured from the Business and then given to those that need it most: the user. The reason I believe it will work is that, in a way it should foster competition. Every business should make a best possible effort to stand out from the competition. It's something we hear, but not something we get to "witness".

These issues, are mostly never mentioned of Yellow Pages, neither the static (once a year printed) Yellow "Book" and definitely cannot be gotten from a "relative" or in this case, the Referrer.

I'd appreciate more input on this, and possibly a healthy discussion. For I believe, it's something that everyone can use from some Executive to any of you folks.

A small background: One day while vacuuming the carpet, I happen to miss a huge piece of cloth - and it got stuck in my vacuum. Getting the cloth out was easy. But, if have taken a Vacuum apart, you would know they are belt driven. I had unfortunately broken my belt. I used Yellowpages.com first - nothing. (searching for "vacuum belt"). I used google - nothing. Then my dad told me about a shop that did that.

This kind of information is crucial to those who need it. As far as I can personally see - there is absolutely no downsides to this.

If possible, continue this discussion. I have indeed learned a lot from you folks.

Thank You,
JJ Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
We live in a small town and ALWAYS ask friends for a good recommendation. We've done that for:

-New roof
-gutter cleaning
-new deck and other remodeling on our house.

There is NOT substitue for referrals from other people.
Mr. Analogy Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009
My recent new-services:

1) Pest control: Googled for quotes from big companies (Terminix, Orkin: gave firm $100+ quotes), while simultaneously asking the condo president who did the public spaces; that guy would do interior for $60 because he already covered the exteriors and hallways.  Referral and price driven. 

2) Plumbing: used an emergency plumber I've used for several years.  I first used them because they had a paper Yellow Pages ad with a fixed price hot water heater replacement coupon.  With several small jobs and their 24-7 availability, I've been pleased.  Started with Yellow Pages (with fixed price coupon), now based on history. 

3)  Vacuum repair.  I tried a small shop I drive by on my commute.  It was adequate, and if I still have the same commute the next time, I'd use it again.  Exterior signage and convenience?

4)  Bicycle repair.  I use two: one on my driving commute and one that's on my regular ride path.  Convenience driven.

5)  Car repair:  Since I joined BJ's Wholesale Club, I've been getting oil changes, tires and rotations, inspections and any work not involving the emissions system at the attached garage while I shop at BJs.  I guess this is both price and convenience-driven.

6)  Locksmith: only called one time to change locks after a prior move.  used first one listed in Yellow Pages.  Realized I could buy all new locks at Home Depot (they will also rekey locks when you bring them in) for less than half of a service call; I have done that ever since. 

7)  Insurance agent:  since I needed an umbrella policy over landlord liability+auto+home (I have not seen a self-serve website or quote engine that can handle Umbrella + Landlord), and was interested in term life, within the period I was looking, I inquired with three local agents who happened to send direct mail in the several month window, and we went with one who we got along with best (the total rates for the umbrella aggregate were pretty close to each other; the assorted exotic life policy variants were "apples to oranges" obfuscated).  Direct mail leading to audition.

8)  Real estate agent: found one via web search in 2002; compared to many such sites, the website was very "soft-sell", and their expertise was solidly in my target neighborhoods; after meeting one of the junior agents of this office, we got along great, and I ended up using them again last year.  Pleasing website leading to audition. 

9)  Mortgage broker: however, even though I shopped it around, I ended up using the RE agent's associated broker (on the point that it is true the agent had much more "git 'R done!" leverage on the regular broker)  Rates were changing all the time, though we did achive a local low on the rate during the lock in period (which is the big deal), it might have cost me a quarter point or half point to have stayed with the in-house broker.  Referral (prior relationship with other vendor) plus inertia.
keith gerritsen Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
This sounds exactly like what angieslist.com is.  I've never used the service, but supposedly it's a way to recommend service providers.  I've always figured it could be games/spammed like anything else so I've never used it.

Personally, if it's important (house remodeling/painting) I ask friends for referals.  If it's small (pest control/tree trimming) I use the yellow pages or Google.
Doug Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
Keith, thank you for taking the time to answer. I appreciate it 10x.

Doug, you are correct in your statement, in that there is functionality that overlaps between what I shall begin to offer (on Oct 1st - when I step out the door) versus Angie's List.

Functionality overlap, to the same extent it overlaps in Msft "Bing" and Google "Search". Two completely different perspectives.

There are quite a few aspects of this. In that, Angie's list was established in 1995. Few gripes, its a review site which you have to pay a Annual Fee before you get to look at a single contact information. The fee is around $60 dollars plus $15 sign-up fee. Now it's safe to say that those would be reserved for big projects. Afterall, if you read keith's project above, how many of those really needed Angie's list? How many of those would Keith have paid $75 dollar every year - just to read reviews of people whose expectations and definition of quality and tastes are completely different from his.

They make their yearly fee up front, and you can read reviews all day and still end up with a contractor leaving you with cold water in the morning.

The other, Service Magic, is something that charges the contractor for delivering them leads, not to mention you have to spend 15 minutes to fill out a form. That too, the contractor gets charged $40 or so dollars, even if you want just an estimate. They make their money and little improvement in service.

From how I see it, there is a huge gap in this area. Which is what I shall try to fill. Hence me fishing for people's experiences in all walks of life.
JJ Send private email
Monday, September 21, 2009
By coincidence, I stumbled on just such a service yesterday: http://www.whocando.com.au/

The problem is a classic one of critical mass. I couldn't remember the brand name even though I saw the site yesterday, (I checked browser history) so honestly, if I needed some odd service like a new TV aerial or painter, then I would probably ask around, use google or finally the local yellow pages and/or business directory. In six months time, there is even less chance of me remembering/using these sites, unless they come up on Google when searching for a trades-person.

Unless I am going with a personal recommendation, I am also going to go with the most local solution; I am not interested in a random response from a painter or plumber who might be located 200km away. Location based services are still very hit and miss, as most directories only include paying advertisers so you know that they don't include some/most of the potential best people who don't need to advertise so much.

Most services like plumber/builder/lawyer/electrician/mechanic I already have known and trusted people I have experience with, but most other services are so rarely called on, that it often does come down to a gamble. Most recent person I used was an air-condition installer; when we brought the heat-pump, the appliance sales people recommended them as locals.
Grant Black Send private email
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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