In Electrical Estimating, Building Trust Is Key to Increased Sales

Michael PersingerFebruary 12th, 2020
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The electrical service call could be routine, with a residential customer wanting an electrical estimate for a common problem, such as meter service, a problem with a ceiling fan or a non-working outlet.

It’s easy enough to send an electrician to fix only the reported problem. But is that the best way to decide how to price residential electrical work? It isn’t for Ron Lutwiller, chief operating officer at The Roby Family of Companies in Charlotte, N.C., because it ignores a key factor: safety. 

With the potential danger involved in electrical work, especially in an older home, inspecting the electrical panel is an essential part of the hazard evaluation and electrical estimating that Roby’s technicians perform on each service call, Lutwiller says. 

“If you’ve got a 40-year-old house and your electrical panel is extremely outdated and the fuses are corroding, it’s a responsibility on our part to make sure (you) know that,” Lutwiller says. “If you call me about a light that’s faulty, I still want to (inspect) your electrical box. If you have a fan that’s not working properly, I still want to (look at) your electrical box. 

“That’s extremely important for us. It opens up a lot of opportunities.”

Those opportunities, though, won’t come at the expense of the reputation Roby built since 1950. That means directing his electricians to not upsell unnecessarily when preparing electrical quotes.

“If it’s not a problem, we’re not repairing it,” Lutwiller says. “If it’s not a problem, we’re not recommending that you repair it.”

That protects the Roby name. 

“We’re not going to do anything to damage that reputation,” Lutwiller says. “The purpose to get there is just to make sure things are up to code, and at the end of the day the customer can come in and decide if they want to pursue that.” 

That focus on the customer builds trust. 

The other changes Lutwiller instituted at Roby since joining the company in 2018 have built something else. 

Momentum.

Making changes to supercharge your electrical business

Lutwiller was hired at The Roby Family of Companies to make operational system changes. A “true operations guy,” Lutwiller needed freedom to move the company forward. 

Owners Trent and Travis Haston, grandsons of Roby’s first employee and later the company’s owner, gave him complete autonomy. 

“They weren’t going to call me in expecting me to do something and then tie my hands,” Lutwiller said. “I pretty much had free rein on what we wanted to do.”

On the service side of the company, the electrical, plumbing and HVAC operations, that meant some big changes. 

Essentially, Lutwiller changed everything.

A new billing structure: Moving from a time-and-material model to a flat-rate pricing system had been something Lutwiller resisted. 

“I was a huge opponent of flat rates,” he says. “I thought people would kind of balk at the idea, you’re only here for this long but you’re charging me this?”

But instead of complaints, he found benefits. 

“What it does is it takes the nit-picking out of it,” Lutwiller says. “With time and material, inevitably the customer is standing over our technician and looking at his watch. That doesn’t happen with flat rates. 

“They understand what the price is and to a certain extent they really don’t care how long it takes you. You’ve already given them a price and there’s no surprise to it.” 

Emphasis on memberships: Service contracts had not been a big emphasis for Roby before Lutwiller joined the company, but they now represent a significant source of revenue, and something he requires his technicians to offer with every quote. “Memberships have been huge for us,” he says. 

More accountability for technicians: Televisions in the office display current performance statistics for all to see, from the techs to their bosses. That move, Lutwiller says, creates a lot of friendly competition. 

Where Lutwiller saw less accountability and discipline among technicians before his arrival, he used analytics and persuasion to change the culture. 

Using analytics, Lutwiller emphasized more accountability, even if it created turnover. 

“When you start putting pressure on people, they either assimilate to what you want or they go away,” he says. 

Creating that accountability required analytics at his fingertips, either in custom reports or through software templates that provide the statistics Lutwiller needed. He found the best analytics by switching over to ServiceTitan software for electricians.

Signing on with ServiceTitan, perhaps the biggest move of all for The Roby Family of Companies, made many of the other changes possible.  

“I was brought in with the intent of finding an all-inclusive software for the business,” Lutwiller says. “We probably vetted four or five different companies. We could see that ServiceTitan was regarded as one of the best, if not the best. We could also see that it wasn’t going to be cheap, based on what we were paying. 

“But with the Ferrari, you’re going to pay more. It offers more, it’s faster, it’s sleeker. I think to a certain extent people actually enjoy using it.”

How do you pay for the Ferrari? Lutwiller found an answer in the software itself. 

One move boosts electrical service bottom line 

For Lutwiller and The Roby Family of Companies, ServiceTitan software has increased efficiency, employee engagement and accountability, and provided better analytics. 

But what about the transition to a new software for his workers? Lutwiller says his technicians made it with ease.

“Quite frankly, it has been easier for the field technicians than office personnel,” Lutwiller says. “They had fewer training sessions (and) I’m still amazed at how quickly they picked it up. 

“That’s the first thing people think, ‘Oh, your technicians, are they struggling?’ No, they’re really not. I do random sampling of invoices that come through, and I’m still amazed at some of our new technicians, how much they are actually doing in the system with so little time under their belt in regards to working with ServiceTitan. 

“It’s actually been a little refreshing.” 

One more thing: At Roby, the software has paid for itself through one product, offered by technicians with touch-screen ease on each visit. 

That product? The membership. 

“On all three sides, electrical, plumbing and HVAC, a big thing is with our memberships,” Lutwiller says. “We really didn’t sell memberships at all (before the change in software). When we flipped the switch to ServiceTitan we had nine memberships. We now have 330-something.   

“With that revenue, we’re paying for ServiceTitan.” 

ServiceTitan Makes Estimating Easier 

Gone are the days of scribbling electrical estimates on carbon paper or building them on spreadsheets. Nowadays, an electrician can use any of a number of mobile-friendly electrical bidding softwares, electrical estimating apps or electrical cost calculators, including ServiceTitan. 

Among the specific benefits of ServiceTitan:

  • Integration for an outstanding customer experience, from their service history and the initial phone call to dispatch and electrical estimate to acceptance of completed work and billing. 

  • Automation throughout those processes that increases efficiency and revenue. 

  • The ability to create multiple estimates that give the customer choices at different price points to aid in their decision. These choices mimic the online shopping experience so many of us are accustomed to.

  • For electricians in the field, the software provides easy, touchscreen production of estimates on a mobile tablet, with items arranged by category.

  • Features that help electricians explain, complete with pictures from the visit, the problem and possible solutions.

  • The ability to run your business anytime, from anywhere, and create more accountability for everyone from CSRs through service call recordings to close rates to making sure service options and those memberships are consistently offered in the field. 

In short, it’s an all-in-one software solution for your electrical services business.

Electrical estimating for comparison shoppers

Lutwiller has transitioned Roby to flat-rate pricing, but not every electrical contractor uses that billing method. Knowing how to price residential electrical work is key to keeping the business thriving. 

Take these things into account when building electrical services estimates:

  • No matter your billing method, consider a fee for a service call, perhaps $49, to weed out customers simply looking for the lowest price. If you get the job, discount the fee from the total. Also, consider never charging the fee, whether you get the job or not. Leave  without collecting the fee if the customer mentions “scammers” or something similar. Your reputation is worth more than $49. 

  • Always visit the job site for electrical estimating, rather than doing an estimate over the phone. You never know what you might run into, or how else you might be able to help the customer stay safe. 

  • With a focus on safety, provide the customer with options that help them prioritize other items or services they might consider. Good-better-best options, and the corresponding prices, are helpful as well, and work to build even more trust. 

  • If a service membership is available, offer it as an option and be prepared to explain the benefits.

  • Always overestimate the time you think a job will take, especially on bigger orders. Coming in under the anticipated cost is always welcomed by the customer. 

  • Consider the difficulty of the job. Will parking be tough because of the location, or is extra travel time necessary? Is the age of the structure likely to cause problems you don’t expect? Will any facet of the electrical job need to be subcontracted? 

  • Consider the cost of any extra items such as permits, rental equipment or concrete work.

  • Remember that educating electrical customers in the process of building a service estimate builds the bottom line through trust. 

  • And, if yours isn’t the winning estimate, don’t lower your price to get the job. Not every opportunity is the right one.


ServiceTitan is a comprehensive electrical contractor software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

Ready to learn more about what ServiceTitan can do for your business? 

Contact our team to schedule a demo today.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive electrical business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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