Last year the Denver-based small business SaaS platform Signpost made a decision to focus its business exclusively on the home services category. The allowed it to focus on a set of solutions designed for the unique needs of roofers, plumbers, remodeling contractors, and the like.
The decision to position itself as a vertical platform came soon after new CEO George Bilbrey arrived to take over as CEO from founder Stuart Wall, who remains a Signpost board member.
We spoke with Bilbrey this week, who caught us up on what’s new with Signpost. He also told us about a recent acquisition the company made to strengthen its customer communications offering, which is the direction Bilbrey is taking Signpost. We’ll say more about that and the acquisition of Securus Contact Systems below.
“We came to realize is that trying to be a horizontal-crossing industry application didn’t necessarily give our product team, our marketing team, and other teams enough direction,” said Signpost CEO George Bilbray. “So we’ve decided over the last year to start to focus more on home service professionals, contractors, you know, across a wide variety of industries. But still more specialization than what we previously had.”
Low Tech Adoption + Big Opportunity
Bilbrey explained why Signpost decided to specialize in the home services vertical.
“It already was the majority of our customer base. And it is a very large space,” Bilbrey said. “It’s also one where technology adoption isn’t quite as high as in a lot of other verticals. So we thought there was more green space there.
“In addition, when we did our initial survey of what are the things that an owner of HVAC business or roofing business has to do on a regular basis, there were a handful of jobs that weren’t being done very well, that could be assisted via technology,” Bilbrey continued. “So that’s another form of green space, from my point of view. And we chose to focus on it for that reason.”
As noted, the company is also carving out a new positioning as a “customer communications platform”. The local space is awash in buzz phrases. And “customer experience platform” has been one of the most prevalent of these over the past few years. This trend was driven, at least in part, by a desire to break out of an increasingly commoditized marketing automation and reviews management words.
More substantially, this shift reflects the growing recognition that there is no greater differentiator than customer experience. And many enterprise businesses have sophisticated tools for delivering great experiences. Consider how Dominos has used technology to make it so easy to order a pizza that consumers forget how bad their product is.
CX platforms arrived to do their best to level this playing field.
So What’s a Customer Communications Platform?
Bilbrey said the notion of a “customer communications platform” is all about helping home services pros convert more of their inbound communications into new customers. After all, many of them are too busy fixing sinks to answer the phone. He acknowledged this is more of a vision for where he wants to take Signpost than a description of where the company is today.
But he said the modern consumer’s growing expectations for always-on communication makes the need for such a platform clear.
“Homeowners now expect you to be available on nights and weekends,” Bilbrey explains. “That’s because their favorite eCommerce platform is. And 30% of incoming phone calls or are missing go unanswered. People expect all calls to be answered right away. And they expect there to be availability across channels. And if you’re not there, they take their business elsewhere. Fifty percent of jobs go to the contractor who responds first.”
Appointment Setting to Payment Requests
“If you think about it, there’s a handful of customer communication jobs that need to be done on a pretty regular basis. So inquiries come in, those need to be qualified and booked as appointments,” Bilbrey explains. “Then there are upcoming service events. You may want to send a message out to say, ‘Hey, I look forward to serving you tomorrow’. Or ‘Here’s a picture of the guy who’s coming to your house.’ Or, ‘Hey, we finished the job. Can you give us a little bit of feedback on how we did?'”
A communications platform like this might also embed payment requests. Or a monthly newsletter. Or any kind of communication task.
And this is where the Securus Contact Systems acquisition comes into play.
The Portland-based company provides a virtual receptionist service and live chat platform. The solution assumes plumbers that inbound calls will be answered and properly qualified and directed while their heads are under the sink.
“They have a very detailed conditional script,” Bilbrey said. “So based on feedback from the customer, if the client says this, then you do X. So they can use that to qualify the lead to make sure it’s a good fit for the business. They can do that to weed out nuisance calls. And also they will book the appointment if it’s appropriate.”
So this deal, terms of which were not disclosed, seems to be a critical element in the construction of a “customer communications platform.” In particular, one that meets customers’ demands and concerts more inbound calls into deals.