How do you find someone to fix your roof, seal your driveway or set up your Wi-fi network? How do you find work as a dog walker, drywall repairer or window washer?
A new Internet-based service, ServiceLive, hopes to become that matchmaker, and with more than 35,000 service providers already signed up, appears to have the magnitude to make a good run at dominating this market.
If your interested in a test ride, the first 150 WalletPop readers to sign up can take advantage of a special offer -- see details below.
The service provides benefits to both buyers of services and sellers. Buyers can essentially hold an auction for the services they require. Sellers can accept jobs with the assurance that the money is there to pay them when the job is complete.
I had a chance to talk by phone to the company president, George Coll, about how the company has evolved since I wrote a rather negative review of its business plan a year ago. I had trouble believing that Sears, which owns ServiceLive, could spawn a company with better business acumen than the mother ship; apparently, I was wrong.
How does this work? Say, for example, I need to have my gutters cleaned. I would log onto ServiceLive, register, then fill out the electronic form with details about what I needed done and when. I could choose to post the job at a flat fee I was willing to pay, or I have the option of asking those whom I choose to include in the auction to name their price. For the gutter job, for example, I would expect to pay around $100.
I would, by the way, discourage you from posting a job and asking for bids. Many service providers will automatically highball such a bid. Ask your neighbors what they pay, or, failing that, take your best guess about the maximum you would pay, and post your job shy of that number. You can always repost at a higher price if you don't get any responses.
After I enter my project, the site responds with a laundry list of people who live in my area that have been vetted by ServiceLive and might be willing to bid. This list was salted with members of Sears select provider network, which the company uses for some of its own service calls. From this list, I can choose who I want to ask to bid for my project, and ServiceLive contacts them.
Once I've received the bids and selected the person for the job, I upload the $100 to ServiceLive, which holds it until I am satisfied with the work completed, at which time I release the money to pay the gutter cleaner. If I'm not satisfied, ServiceLive will mediate the disagreement, although if no resolution can be found, it is between the cleaner and me to settle up. Fortunately, according to Coll, this has, to date, been a rarity.
Coll explained that during the beta phase of business development, ServiceLive concentrated on building its vendor list and business-to-business market. While, from a consumer's point of view, the gutter example above is most pertinent, according to Coll the service is also used a great deal by local contractors, national retailers, insurance companies, extended warranty providers and the like to carry out their work. It recently started providing service to a "major retailer...with over a thousand locations...All their services are going through ServiceLive," he said.
For example, say you ask a local one-person garage contractor to bid on building you a new garage. If he/she didn't already have a crew assembled, he/she might use ServiceLive to find subs for the job.
The service is also used by existing companies that need to keep their employees busy during slack times. For example, a HVAC company may have a staff of 20 people. By signing some of them up with ServiceLive, they may be able to bid on work to keep money flowing during down periods.
ServiceLive could also be a useful tool for those wishing to start their own business. Dog walkers, Internet network specialists, window washers, all might be able to find work without spending dough on advertisers if ServiceLive continues to grow beyond the 15,000 + jobs posted per month.
My take? This is a great use of the Internet, and ServiceLive has a head start on dominating this industry. The site is very user friendly, although I did find that I couldn't revise my request when I found I'd left out an important detail, so I had to delete it and start anew. Because it is being used by professionals to find help, this should help provide enough volume to keep the site lively.
One caveat- The success of this concept depends on the company's ability to provide high-quality workers, and time will show just how successful they are in this respect. Coll was emphatic that vetting these people is a high priority.
Nonetheless, ServiceLive is still a fledgling company, so I'll keep an ear to the ground about customer experiences. I'm hoping that the company can meet its goals. It could be the next step beyond Angie's List.
That special offer for WalletPop readers: the first 150 that sign up and add a project in ServiceLive before 6/30/10 can get $25 off of any order of $75 or more by using the code Wallet25.
ServiceLive hooks up homeowners, service providers online