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Avoid Layoffs: Keep Your Idle Techs Busy Through National Install Networks

ServiceLive, OnForce, Zip Express and InstallerNet can keep integration technicians busy and possibly protect against layoffs.


Geoffrey Oldmixon · June 23, 2009

The CE industry has not been immune to the recession, incurring thousands of layoffs and job eliminations over the past two years.

Layoffs in the integration field tend to come when installation companies’ project pipelines dry up. Companies see no significant way of increasing income and feel forced to cut overhead. That often means jobs.

There are online solutions, however, that could prove invaluable to companies seeking to protect jobs. ServiceLive, owned by Sears Holdings Corp. appears to provide an interesting opportunity for CE pros looking to keep their technicians busy with “hang and bang” projects.

The Web site, which launched last summer, creates a platform for consumers and enterprise customers to post jobs ranging from everything from dog walking services to appliance installation. It recently kicked up its recruiting of consumer electronics installers because it expects CE installation to be a key growth area.

ServiceLive is easy to register for and integrators will find it to be a handy tool in terms of keeping installers busy, Carlos Fojo, divisional vice president of sales and marketing, recently told CE Pro.

Following is some background on ServiceLive and other Web-based switchboards.

ServiceLive

Owned by Sears, the nation’s fourth largest retailer, ServiceLive serves as a portal for connecting legitimate contractors with those in need of services—they being retailers or other trade contractors, end users or entrepreneurs.

With the ServiceLive model, contractors can choose which jobs to accept. Also, buyers select more than one provider, so the first one to accept gets the job.

The process goes like this:

  1. Companies create profiles for their tradesmen. They can be anything from builders, electricians and integrators to IT repairmen or auto detailers. Included in these profiles are credentials, skill scopes and insurance information. ServiceLive pays for the companies to undergo background checks. “Because you represent that you have insurance,” explains Carlos Fojo, divisional vice president of marketing and business, “you prove that you’re a legitimate business.”
  2. Registered companies become searchable, once approved, by consumers (businesses, municipalities or end users) as well as sorted by service offerings, consumer rating or location.
  3. Once a consumer has selected a tradesman, a proposed date and price for the work is sent off. “We allow the buyers to name the time and date as well as the price for that job,” Fojo says. (Consumers can also post their own projects for a $10-per-post fee.)
  4. Upon receiving that proposal, the administrator of the selected contractor company can reject, accept or counter the offer.
  5. Once a job is agreed upon, an online agreement is generated. ServiceLive provides a tracking center that monitors the state of the project — whether the truck has rolled, where the project stands, etc.
  6. The consumer pays an online “ServiceLive Wallet,” says Fojos, which generally doesn’t transfer funds to the contractor until completion of the job.
  7. ServiceLive collects 10 percent of what contractors earn on project.
  8. Consumers then review the contractors’ work, providing the feedback by which future consumers will select their project’s contractor.

Fojos calls ServiceLive a “great equalizer.” He says, “We really level the playing field for the mom & pop shop because your customer satisfaction rating is what raises you to the top of list, not your advertising budget.”

InstallerNet

Based in North Andover, Mass., InstallerNet works with retailers and e-tailers that sell home electronics, such as flat panels or home-theater-in-a-box products. Acting as a middleman, the Web site connects those retailers with qualified installers, providing “turnkey” installation services to their customers.

But let’s not forget what that might mean to integration companies: saving jobs. If an integrator can contract out installers that might have otherwise been costing thousands without value, those jobs can once again be considered integral to cash flow generation.

Zip Express Installation

This Minneapolis-based installation network of independent contractors markets itself has having installers in all 50 U.S. states and Canada. A marketing message like that requires plenty of backup in the field.

Zip says it recently experienced a boost as a result of the DTV transition. It ran a $349 antenna package promotion and reported over 1,000 antenna systems leading up to the DTV transition date of June 12, 2009.

OnForce

This Lexington, Mass.-based online marketplace, which connects IT technicians with consumers and commercial clients, started making significant in-roads into the consumer electronics (CE) industry a couple of years ago.

CE Pro recently reported on John Rice of Rice Technology Solutions in Las Vegas as an example of an OnForce provider who has completed nearly 700 work orders through the marketplace.

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ServiceLive connects consumers with integration service providers. This could be the project pipeline-filling opportunity that spares CE pros from laying off talented employees.



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