Watch Out, Angie's List
Homeowners, listen up. This is a venture you've got to pay attention to. It could change your life.
You know how hard it is to find a repairman or handyman. And it's frustrating. Plus, everything takes approximately three days longer and costs more than estimated. If the task is completed — and properly — it's a miracle.
So when I met Cynthia Neiman, I was intrigued. She's the marketing brains for a startup called ClubLocal, a division of Los Angeles-based ReachLocal. Publicly traded ReachLocal offers digital marketing platforms to small businesses.
Book an appointment via computer, iPad or iPhone app. The technician or handyman is guaranteed to be at your house within a two-hour window that you choose.
ClubLocal is a new division being piloted in North Texas. Dallas was selected as the first test market because it's a top-five media market and business bellwether. We have an affordable housing market, a history of innovation and a slew of 35- to 55-year-olds with houses that need repair.
ReachLocal pools small businesses to provide affordable digital marketing, and ClubLocal will do the same for the home service industry. What this means to us as consumers: a reliable web-based network of home repair providers.
Consumers can find a service professional in one of 17 areas: plumbing, heating and air, electrical, handyman, carpet cleaning, pest control, home inspection, house cleaning, appliance repair, window cleaning, garage door, pool and spa repair, locksmith, duct/dryer vent cleaning, damage restoration, pressure washing, and gutter cleaning and repair.
Dang it, no carpenters yet. But all of the providers have been vetted: They are licensed and insured, and ClubLocal runs background checks.
You can make an appointment via computer, iPad or iPhone app. In fact, you can book online or call, and the technician or handyman is guaranteed to be at your house within a two-hour window that you choose. Plus ClubLocal stores your estimates, payments and warranties in your online account.
Cynthia Neiman says it's better, because it's free to the consumer.
"And you don't have to do all the searching," she says. "ClubLocal sends a pre-screened service pro during a two-hour appointment window that you pick — so no more waiting around all day — and you can track your service pro in real time on your computer or iPhone."
ClubLocal also has a satisfaction guarantee; if things don't go right with your Angie's List guy, your only recourse is a bad review.
ClubLocal also has a satisfaction guarantee; if things don't go right with your Angie's List guy, your only recourse is a bad review. And here is the pièce de résistance: on average, ClubLocal prices are 20 percent below market.
Cynthia Neiman has some Dallas ties. Have you figured it out? She is distantly connected to the Neiman Marcus dynasty — recall that Carrie Marcus married a Neiman.
This Neiman, an LA native, was in the marketing department at Mattel prior to joining ClubLocal. She wants to bring trust and web organization to home services. In other words, she wants to take the experience to a level.
Which is when I drop my nail file. With handymen? Okay. You go, girl. Also, I ask, how much do you really check out these guys?
"Oh, an application is not a given," Neiman says. She adds that 10 to 15 percent are rejected during the vetting process.
ClubLocal's primary concern customer is service, because of the transparency of the experience. These days you can't hide anything — even an affair. A few bad online reviews can really damage your business.
All of this sounds great for the consumer, but what about the guy giving up 20 percent of his fee?
Since ClubLocal launched in July, about 1,000 jobs have been booked, and the service providers say they love it, because ClubLocal essentially handles their marketing. They will never have to troll for clients again, and it will likely increase business volume.
"The best service pros want to work with us and are willing to give us a percentage of the transaction," Neiman says. "We bring customers to them without their having to become marketing mavens while they run their plumbing business."