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Is Your Service Company Prepared to Make a Profit in a Slow Economy?

Diana Lamirand
January 24th, 2023
10 Min Read

Economic downturns can wreak havoc on the best-planned company budgets, especially when your bottom line is blindsided by the unexpected. But rather than trying to scale back and prepare for the worst yet to come, exceptional companies know how to power through—and some even ramp up their operations—in anticipation of the coming highs and lows.

That’s what a fellow service business owner told Tom Howard when he expressed concerns over buying another business with a possible recession looming.

“He said, ‘Tom, I don’t know why everyone’s so worried about that. I made most of my money during these downturns,’” says Howard, owner of Lee’s Air and Vice President of Customer Experience at ServiceTitan. “‘That’s the time when people are shutting their doors or cutting off their advertising. You have all of these opportunities out there. You just need to run a solid business through that recession.’”

To run a solid service business amid tightening financial conditions, contractors must know how to leverage the best tools at their disposal to stay on top of and respond appropriately to current economic trends. In a recent poll of ServiceTitan contractors, for instance, the number of customers choosing to finance big-ticket items is declining, Howard says.

“We're seeing a slowdown in consumer behavior,” Howard explains. “We're seeing more people doing repairs, and postponing system replacements, either water heaters, air conditioners, or even electrical home upgrades.”

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For Amanda Triolo, CEO of Grasshopper Heating & Cooling in New York, the past two years have been focused on rebranding to residential services after losing a large amount of commercial business during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Despite the slow economy, Grasshopper continues to make territorial gains, she says, increasing revenue from $3.7 million in 2021 to nearly $10 million this year.

“So, we are not experiencing a slowdown, but what we are experiencing right now is a lot more questions, and a lot more of the scarcity mindset when it comes to financing or spending money,” Triolo says.

In a ServiceTitan interactive webinar, Howard and Triolo walk through best practices to implement inside your ServiceTitan dashboard that can help you unlock profitable business practices and positively impact your bottom line. 

Here’s what you’ll learn:
  • How to use TitanAdvisor as a tool to implement best practices

  • How to take advantage of ServiceTitan features to boost profitability

  • How Grasshopper Heating & Cooling goes further with Marketing Pro

How to use TitanAdvisor to implement (and ✔️) best practices

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First, you may need a refresher on where to find TitanAdvisor on your ServiceTitan dashboard. Look for the little rocketship icon in the upper right-hand corner and click on it. Then go to “Selling and performing work.” You’ll find four stages to progress through: Launch, Acceleration, Optimization, and Mastery. Click on Acceleration.

Under Acceleration, you’ll find three options for understanding how your team implements best practices when creating, leaving, or presenting estimates (your opportunities for sales!) in the customer’s home:

  1. What percentage of time are you creating at least one estimate in the home?

  2. What percentage of time are you leaving multiple options?

  3. What percentage of time are you actually presenting options to customers?

For Fuller Electric, one of several companies that volunteered their real-time data for the interactive webinar, its TitanAdvisor score showed the following:

  • 23% of the time, they create at least one estimate in the home

  • 20% of the time, they leave multiple options

  • 51% of the time, they present options to customers

“When I look at this data on almost everyone's account, it's almost always shocking to them when we pull it up,” Howard says. “Fuller Electric, thank you so much. You’re way higher than I was at my company. 

“I think we were only at 6% or something on the presenting button, and I was like clutching my chest, sweating, and about to lose my mind when I saw the data,” Howard says. “I'm seeing the present piece at less than 10% almost every time.”

Why are these numbers so important to boosting your bottom line?

“If you're not leaving estimates in the home, you're missing out on a huge opportunity,” Howard says. “One is leaving an estimate, period. And number two is leaving multiple options.”

>>For contractors on ServiceTitan, who use estimate templates and leave multiple estimates in the home more than 30% of the time, we see a 10% increase in revenue.

“That’s without spending a single dollar on extra marketing and without having to hire another person,” Howard says.  

While Triolo agrees it’s important to leave estimates and present options to customers, she says it’s equally important for service technicians to perform excellent customer service and educate customers about what’s working or not working in their home’s mechanical systems. For instance, they may not know the importance of surge protection for their electrical system or the benefits of using a high-quality HVAC filter.

“The importance of what we do in the home gives you the ability to leave upwards of five-plus estimates, if that's what's necessary based on your conversations with that client,” Triolo says. “But you've got to build the relationship with the home and the customer, involve them in their own reality.”

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How to utilize ServiceTitan features to boost profitability

Leave multiple estimates in the home. Easy, peasy, right? Not necessarily, says Howard.

“Most people are going to say, ‘I’m trying to leave multiple options. I’m trying to get somewhere, but my people in the field are not going to spend 20 minutes filling out an estimate,’” Howard says. “And I completely agree. They are always going to take the path of least resistance.”

ServiceTitan helps solve that problem with pre-built and customizable estimate templates. You can create your own or adapt one to suit your needs, save them, and your service technicians can simply click on the template they need.

At Grasshopper Heating & Cooling, Triolo pre-builds multiple template options for her HVAC technicians to choose from with a few taps on their mobile tablets. Some estimate template examples include: A/C flat-rate repair, heating flat-rate repair, maintenance flat rate, as well as options for various pieces of equipment.

“In New York, we have more than just furnaces, air handlers, condensers, and heat pumps. We have a bunch of hydraulic systems as well,” Triolo says. “So, we try to make estimate-building easy.”

With drag-and-drop features in ServiceTitan, Howard says it’s simple to build an estimate template based on specific pieces of equipment already priced in your pricebook, then simply drag all of the options you select onto your estimate proposal.

“You can call it good-better-best, or good-better-best-bestest. You can have five options, six options, whatever you want,” Howard explains. “I definitely recommend doing this if you haven’t done it. A huge opportunity there.”

>>15% of ServiceTitan customers have built templates and use them on a regular basis.

Webinar Screenshot | Good-Better-Best

When presenting multiple options for customers, Triolo says using the integrated financing feature in ServiceTitan allows you to show customers a manageable monthly price for all three options.

“When you are creating the basic-deluxe-premium upgrade option, it's a game-changer,” Triolo says. “When they see how close in margin each monthly payment is, nine times out of 10, in our experience, they're going with that middle-of-the-road package because it's not as crazy expensive as the premium upgrade, and they get a better package for just a little more from the basic.”

Howard says ServiceTitan contractors get results when they implement integrated financing, currently available only through GreenSky and Service Finance.

“We have tons and tons of data around what happens when we use financing,” Howard says. “We typically see a 17% increase in revenue, an 11% increase in average ticket size, a 5% better close rate, and a 19% increase in technician adoption.”

For contractors worried about having to pay exorbitant dealer fees for integrated financing, Howard says ServiceTitan has worked to negotiate reduced fees despite high interest rates.

“It’s a lot easier for a technician to be able to offer those multiple options and see the monthly payments right away. I would much rather have them doing that, and at least getting some of the financing jobs and seeing those increases in revenue and average tickets, rather than trying to save half a percent, three-quarter percent on a dealer fee and not getting them to finance,” Howard says.

How Grasshopper Heating & Cooling goes further with Marketing Pro

Triolo did some interesting experimenting with her Marketing Pro account.

“I wanted a campaign that was smart, that would continually put us in front of the client even after the fact. So we created what's called the Unsold Estimates Follow-up campaign,” Triolo says.

Here’s how it worked in the beginning:

  • 4 days after the technician leaves an estimate in the home, any customer with an unsold estimate for $500 or more triggers an email with a 5%-off coupon valid until the end of the day.

“It gave us a reason to be able to pick up the phone,” Triolo says. “Who does your follow up? Our CSRs do them, and we give them commission toward any estimates they're able to sell.”

Armed with information about how much they can save by scheduling the job now with 5% off, the CSRs call and try to answer any questions, but build a sense of urgency for action. 

If the customer still took no action with the 5% coupon, Grasshopper sent them a coupon for 10% off three days later.

“Some would move on the 5%, but not all,” Triolo says. “They'd move for the 10% off most of the time, if they hadn't already chosen other companies.”

Triolo then studied the data, and found that many customers chose other companies within just four days. So she changed the game plan to close more deals.

Here’s how it works now.

“We got rid of the 5% discount and went right to the 10%, and we narrowed that time window down to two days after we were there,” Triolo says. 

And like clockwork, her CSRs armed themselves with savings information and new monthly prices for those customers, made follow-up calls, and closed deals.

“You'd be surprised by how much business you're able to regain. When we launched this email campaign, we closed out $186,000 in the first 30 days,” Triolo says. “It's been a complete game-changer to have the availability for second and even third money in some cases.”

And Triolo doesn’t view offering customers discounts as discrediting the brand, but rather it’s about knowing your margins and building a reputation of value and superior customer service.

“Some people say 10% off is a lot of money. Well, if you're priced accordingly and you've got the play in your margins to be able to know what you're going to make, even with offering 10% off, it really shouldn't be a problem,” Triolo says. “We've worked really, really hard on improving our experience when it comes to the value and the service we provide.”

She also trains her HVAC installers to inspect the entire system and show any problematic issues directly to the customer.

“My installers have a chance to make second money because they're showing customers the ductwork that's disgustingly dirty. We're talking about air scrubbers, duct cleanings, surge protection, and a medium filter versus a flimsy one-inch filter. 

“And so that 10% that I just gave up, I already made it back. Because my installers are always presenting options in the home, just to let the client know what their situation is and what options we have to help them.”

ServiceTitan Software

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.

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