Many service providers are already aware that Google has begun rolling out their own Home Services program starting in San Francisco, which will directly compete with Amazon Home Services. For now, they’ve begun offering limited services such as locksmith, plumbing, and house cleaning, with the expectation to expand both service offerings and service areas in the near future.
Amazon Home Services
In the Amazon program, all customer communications such as billing, collections, and service provider payouts are routed online through Amazon, which enables Amazon to control the transactions and withdraw their fee first before paying the service provider. Amazon’s fee structure for offering your services to their vast established online market ranges anywhere from 5% to 20% of the transaction, which initially sounds on the high side.
However, when you consider your actual cost for marketing and new customer acquisition, you’ll understand that once you’re signed up with Amazon you don’t have to lift a finger to reach their vast online audience. You can develop your own perception of the Amazon fee impact, and whether or not it’s worthwhile for you.
Google Home Services
Google Home Services’ approach is different in part because all communications and transactions, including collection and payout, remain directly between the service provider and the customer.
Google has its own vast audience, and will utilize their popular search engine to connect customers searching for home services with service providers.
When someone enters a search term relating to home services, the page top results will now feature three service providers who have signed up for this program, and have completed the required background checks and insurance verification. Plus, they will have paid a fee to show up as one of the top three service providers. As of this writing, it is believed that the fee structure charged to service providers is still being worked out.
The three top of page listings on Google will include a brief company description, company review ratings, a photo, services offered, areas served, hours of operation, and of course your phone number. A customer will be able to contact one or all three service providers at once, directly from the search results page. Contacting three service providers at one time directly from the search page results is a new feature added specifically for this program.
Google will track service provider reviews as part of their ongoing service provider screening, and they say that they will even be using mystery shoppers to provide them with direct feedback on actual customer experiences. Customer reviews will be solicited by Google, not the service provider, and then submitted by the customers who’ve hired a Google Home Service Provider from the search results ad. People who didn't hire a service provider through Google's Home Service ads are not eligible to leave a review. Google will even provide a mobile app, complete with training on how to use it, that shows you service requests, reminds you of appointments, and tracks customer correspondence.
This top of page one placement may level the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) playing field between large and small companies. When the program is well established and Google feels there are enough service providers signed up for the program, a potential outcome to watch for is a home services search term bidding war, where companies compete and bid for the same search term in order to land their website on the top three listings of page one. This may even overflow into page two and three because the service provider ad results are currently limited to three, and there is nothing stopping Google from selling three more top spots each on pages two and three.
As it appears right now, Google’s new Home Services program should only impact new customers and the way they arrive at your website. It should not impact your existing customers at all. After that, it’s up to you to keep that new customer returning for the long term.
Google has always been about gathering information and displaying it as search results. That’s what they do best so that won’t change, but with their Home Services Program, they’ll now have the ability to gather and track much more information such as when a customer contacts a service provider, whether or not a sale was made, which service provider was selected, plus any other information the customer includes in their review of the service provider after the sale.
Customers shopping online for a service provider is fine. This Home Services Program is a new way to attract new customers, and it drives home the ever increasing importance of maintaining direct and regular contact with your existing customers. If staying in contact with your customers has been an area that you know you need to improve on, now is the time to go do it!
Time Will Tell
- Will you, as a Service Provider, sign up with Google for this fee based new customer contact-and-connect service?
- What will this mean for page rankings for service providers who’ve already spent a lot of time and SEO dollars getting their company websites to show on page one of Google search results?
- Does this mean small companies won’t need to worry about SEO, and will be able to attain page one top search results simply by signing up with Google?
- Continued customer service and staying in close contact with your customers will be more important than ever in order for customers to remain your customers, and not begin feeling like they are customers of a search engine.
It initially appears as if this program will not be a threat to HVAC businesses. Whatare your thoughts?
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