One of the more challenging areas of running a software company is anticipating the legal and tax laws, which can change rapidly. My partners and I have often put ourselves at a disadvantage in this area. We ensure we adhere to these rules and prioritize them over our personal benefit. Many of our competitors play by different rules; They take legally risky bets and pay up when they have to. ServiceMonster can’t do that - I don’t have a $2M ‘in-case-we-get-caught’ legal fund.
One good example is the state-by-state tax law known as Sales Tax Nexus. It defines the level of connection between a business and a taxing jurisdiction. When a nexus determination is made between a state and ServiceMonster, we are responsible for collecting and paying sales tax on our services. Some states don’t have nexus. Others might want to charge us only for ServiceMonster CRM or our direct mail services (FillMySchedule), while other states may require sales tax on both.
States see their population as a commodity. If we gain access to that market in any meaningful way as defined by the state, and the state has nexus determination events, we could be required to collect sales tax from our clients in that state.
Until recently, we have steered clear of nexus determination, which has limited our growth in many ways. A common nexus determination can happen if we pay a non-employee (commonly referred to as an affiliate) for leads or sales to the state in which the affiliate lives. Keep in mind that it has nothing to do with sales of ServiceMonster related to the affiliate. When a state makes a nexus determination, we must collect taxes for all the revenue in that state.
For the last 20 years, ServiceMonster has had nexus in only one state: Washington, where our business is legally registered. For the last 20 years, we have paid sales tax for our Washington state customers on their behalf. Rolling state-by-state sales tax into our operating expenses is not a sustainable model.
ServiceMonster is pushing several growth initiatives in 2023, including adding an affiliate network (if you want to get paid for bringing us ServiceMonster clients, let’s talk). Last year I asked our development team to make all the necessary changes to identify nexus state-by-state, locate the correct sales tax for a client’s jurisdiction, and apply that sales tax to monthly or yearly charges for ServiceMonster services.
What does all this mean for you? As I’ve said, currently, we only have nexus in one state, Washington. Washington state clients will soon see a change to their bill reflecting the sales tax we collect for the state. Most of our clients will see a new line item on their bill for sales tax, which will default to $0 and 0%. If a state declares nexus with ServiceMonster, your invoice will reflect your sales tax responsibility at your local rate.
Should we have done this a long time ago? Probably. Unfortunately, the tools required to make this a simple administration task, like knowing the tax rate in every jurisdiction we have a client, are relatively new. Should we have gone with a riskier ‘growth-at-all-costs’ attitude? I guess this is just one of those areas where I’m not a very good CEO. For me, the regulations under which we operate are non-negotiable. The laws, employees, and clients have always come before growth or profits. I know I’ve left money on the table for this idea, but unearned profit is often poison. That’s not how ServiceMonster does business. Our 20-year history with zero lawsuits, zero judgments, and zero audits allows me to sleep well at night, nexus or not. These changes ensure that we will continue to operate with the utmost integrity in every state.
What do most people do when they need someone to perform a service, such as carpet cleaning? They google it! In a sea of competition, you’ve got to make sure your business stands out from the rest. Having a clear and easy to read website is one of the best ways to stand out and make yourself the obvious choice. It’s one of the most valuable sales tools you can have! This is where having certain elements on your website to drive those sales becomes critical. Luckily, there are a few very simple - and easily executable - things you can do yourself to make your website the best it can be without having to go out and hire an agency.
With that in mind, here are some essential website features that will make you the easy choice for whoever’s surfing your site looking for their next cleaning.
Seeing is always believing and if you're in the cleaning business, there's no better way to convince potential clients to hire you than by showing them photos of your work. Also, there's something oddly satisfying about before and after pictures, especially when it comes to cleaning transformations! All it takes is a few simple snaps before and after and you can highlight your past jobs and craftsmanship.
Pro Tip: Pro Tip: If a customer insists on bargaining, learn how to overcome their price objections here.
For most cleaning pros, this will likely be a button or a link that takes a customer to a contact form, scheduling screen, or contact number/email. Whatever shape this call to action takes, it should drive them directly to you in as few clicks and steps as possible. Your goal with the call to action doesn't have to be just to book new clients, either. You can also use them to gather potential new customers’ information so you can market to them later.
A good call to action is clear, concise, and it should be obvious to the reader what actions you want them to take. Call to actions can be buttons that say “Contact Us Now” or “Schedule a Cleaning Today”. These call to action elements should be consistent in their design (color, fonts, size, etc.) and placed in key areas of your website (near the top, after any major sections) and definitely at least once on every page.
Nowadays, reviews are one of the first things someone looks at when choosing a business. If you put a lot of time and effort into providing great customer experiences and your clients are letting you know, don’t be afraid to ask them to post written feedback for you. Platforms like Google and Facebook do a great job of showcasing reviews of a job well done, and you’d be surprised how much attention potential customers pay to them.
Pro Tip: Make followup easy and automate communications with your clients after each job: Automate and engage users with pop-up widgets like those you can get from the free Engage tool by NiceJob.
Make sure your website features a good variety of client testimonials. Your reputation says a lot, and by letting your past clients speak to your professionalism and quality of your service, you’re going to increase credibility. You can not only feature client reviews, but also any industry awards you’ve received or quality guarantees.
Feature your customer testimonials in multiple areas. Highlight them on various sections of your website between major blocks of content. Once you've gathered enough, dedicate an entire page to house all of your reviews. If you're new and in the early stages of your cleaning business, focus on building credibility and go the extra mile.
Everyone loves a good story. Even if it isn’t thrilling to you anymore, most potential buyers on your website will be interested in learning about your team and and how your company came to be. You can use it to talk about your company philosophy, where you're based, and how your company came to be.
To introduce your team, all you really need is a picture of each employee with a short bio about them. That’s it! What’s key is to just show potential customers the faces of the people doing work for them.
Pro Tip: Another great way to add trustworthiness and let your potential clients know more about your team is with ID badges from The Seal. They provide a photo and 3rd party proof of verification of background check, are an excellent way to show clients that you’re reputable.
This mostly applies to companies that offer more than one service, but it’s a good thing to think about for any business, regardless of your scope of work. Say you’re an exterior cleaner who offers soft washing, window cleaning, and roof/gutter cleaning. In most cases, a potential customer will be searching for one of the services you offer, not just general exterior cleaning.
A great way to boost your ranking for your relevant search terms is to have a specific landing page for each service you offer. The end result is that when a potential customer searches “window cleaners in [insert city]” on Google, you have a higher likelihood of showing up for that specific service. While your main page should highlight everything that you do, it will definitely help you to have specific pages that go into more detail on each service you offer.
While this may be similar to the call to action element for you, it’s worth revisiting. Having clear and easy-to-find contact information on your website is CRUCIAL. People need to know how to contact you as soon as they are on your site, as well as on any page after that.
Make your contact info easy to find and intuitive. There’s nothing worse than making someone hunt and search to find out how to find or contact you! Put your phone number, email, and in some cases your physical address, in the footer of your site, on a “Contact” page, and within any sort of call to action. Many cleaning businesses even put their phone number in the header of their website so it’s clearly visible at all times.
Pro Tip: Learn how to connect to potential customers by using your website as a sales too here.
The vast majority of website building is done on a desktop computer, and because of that it’s shockingly easy to forget about what your site looks like on a mobile device. A lot of recent data suggests that about half of all internet traffic is from a mobile device. So it’s safe to assume that about half of your website visitors will be on their phones. This is why it is so, so, SO important to have your website optimized for mobile.
If you do your web design yourself, make sure the platform you’re using has a good way to optimize specifically for mobile. If you hire out, make sure that whoever you hired is spending just as much time on the mobile version of your site as they are on the normal desktop version.
Having an FAQs page will not only help give your potential clients a better experience, but can also save you and your employees time in fielding phone calls or emails about simple yet frequently asked questions. If you've got techs or a sales team, they're sure to come across questions from clients that pop up again and again. Talk to them and let their feedback help you compile a list of the most often asked questions to include on this page.
The FAQs page can also help your website visitors with information to help guide their purchases. In addition to providing more info to sell to potential clients, having a comprehensive FAQs page will also help boost your visibility on Google and other search engines.
Again, your website is one of your most valuable sales tools. Give it the proper time, attention, and resources that you have to make sure it stands out from among the competition. Your potential customers will get a good sense of who you are as a business within the first 30 seconds of landing on your website, so it's important that you leave them with a good impression! Make sure to include these 8 elements on your cleaning business website and you will be set for success.
In part 1 of Pete Happy’s story, we introduced to you how ProShine had its humble beginnings to grow into a thriving company. Pete talked in our interview about the reasons why he needed ServiceMonster to come in and help his company’s operations. There were so many elements that led to his company success that we wanted to continue it with this next series.
We’ll talk more about how ProShine worked through its growing pains and put tools to the task to make their business more efficient, and about how they ultimately were able to leverage their findings from a SWOT analysis to grow despite the challenging times.
QuickBooks obviously isn’t a CRM, but it’s not uncommon for small businesses to use it as their first CRM. Pete was no different. QuickBooks was his main tool for managing customer relationships from very early on because of its capacity to let him easily write estimates, convert those invoices and get payments. It worked great for a time but as the company grew, Pete recognized very quickly that things might start falling apart if he didn’t make some changes. Couple that with the fact that Pete was moving off the trucks and into sales - he wasn’t too keen on the idea of employees having unfettered access to his sensitive accounting data either.
Pete needed a buffer between his employees and the business accounting, and introducing ServiceMonster as his CRM helped establish that. Now he was able to give his team the tools they needed to be able to go do their job, but not put them in a place where there was the possibility of accidentally altering any crucial accounting statements.
When it came down to making the move, ServiceMonster’s QuickBooks integration made the switch simple and easy! All it took was an invoice history import and everything was there at Pete’s fingertips. Now, he could get the support he needed for multiple worksites, and get a robust snapshot of each customer's history with a newsfeed while being able to process payments online all under one umbrella.
And QuickBooks wasn’t the only application that he added to the mix. A few of the applications Pete already had in place that could be used within ServiceMonster were:
ServiceMonster has many other integrations to help boost your company’s performance, too. To learn more about them and to find out if we have an integration for any of your existing business applications, visit our MarketPlace.
When Pete was getting off the truck and adding more employees to expand his business, he needed to make sure his dispatchers and techs also had a seamless experience with the new software. Luckily, ServiceMonster was very user-friendly and one of the easiest things for his employees to learn when it came to training. Here are a few things techs have to make life easier:
Having ServiceMonster as a software keeps ProShine employees from waiting on answers and lets them better focus on their jobs. It's a great tool to help set them up for success from day one.
Ultimately, I don’t really believe we sell window washing. I don’t really believe that we sell pressure washing. We sell an experience.
Covid changed the trajectory of many service businesses. One of Pete’s biggest struggles during that time was with staffing. With new work-from-home measures, ProShine saw a high increase in requests for their services to accommodate more outdoor activities. The flip side to the rise in business, however, was that there were not enough employees to get the work done. How did ProShine combat this? They raised prices to try to lower the amount of people that would be accepting their bids and to cover additional expenses.
Though necessary, raising prices can be a daunting task for small businesses because it might mean a decrease in sales. But in Pete’s case, the loss in sales turned out to work in his favor. It reduced the demand during the pandemic to a level his workforce could now accommodate.
But there was another missing piece to this equation. Pete knew that potential clients could easily hire any other provider to get the same job done for less money. So what made his clients choose to pay a bit more for his services?
Pete and his leadership team had done a SWOT analysis and found that hiring was one of their weaknesses. They were struggling internally and during covid, especially, there were literally zero job applicants. So they made a push to attract and hire top talent, and it ended up paying off in spades. Clients love his team, and because of that they return again and again. Pete understood that hiring a good team would be better for the bottom line, and what came from it was an impressive 74% residential repeat rate. Client retention and repeat business played a large part in the overall growth of his business.
ServiceMonster is #1 reason why we can fulfill that value of being responsive
Alongside other key factors such as making company-wide changes to benefits and to attract top talent, ProShine devised an acronym that better reflected their mission and values: ROOTS.
The acronym stands for:
And Pete attributes one of those key values - responsiveness - to the support he gets from the ServiceMonster team. He or any one of his techs and call on the phone and talk to someone from the team every time. They can give immediate answers or if not be relentless in figuring it out. Pete knows that, as the owner, if his dispatcher has an issue they can pick up the phone or shoot an email and there will always be a friendly, knowledgeable person on the other side ready to help.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Pete. We appreciate you too!
The ServiceMonster team will be out of the office on Thanksgiving day. We wish our customers a happy Thanksgiving, and our support team will be back with limited hours on Friday 11/25 from 8am-1pm PST. Normal support hours will resume on Monday.
Back in 2013, and with only $180 worth of hand tools, Pete Happy decided one day that he would create his destiny - even better, to be his own boss. His seasonal gigs at Mt. Hood ski resort meant that he'd need to figure out quickly what to do with his summers, so with big ambition and some ingenuity, his window-washing business, ProShine, was born.
Nearly five years into bootstrapping the Pacific Northwest-based cleaning business with hard-earned cash, Pete was able to add an additional service vehicle and expand his services menu from purely windows to everything related to exterior cleaning - from roof cleaning, gutters, and solar panels to decks, driveways, and patios.
The growth was exciting, and shifting into becoming a more grown-up business was more than a welcome event. Yet it started to become clear that the expansion would add some complexities to operations that couldn't be handled with the few existing tools they currently had.
Until 2017-2018, it was one truck with Pete doing everything. He was using Google calendar to schedule things, and QuickBooks was his only software to manage estimates, invoicing, and payments.
Using the Google calendar for scheduling jobs worked fine when it was only him. However, as Pete started adding more vehicles and services, things quickly fell into disorder and disarray, with random notes piling up everywhere and a calendar that couldn't handle multiple jobs and sites. He knew he needed some type of extra support for handling that, or else things would quickly go downhill. That's when ProShine made the switch to ServiceMonster.
"Notes were all over the place, you're using Google calendar for scheduling things…it was really just kind of a mess. It worked ok for just 1 truck but when we started adding additional vehicles it was going to fall apart."
ServiceMonster handled the more complex scheduling requirements that ProShine needed for its multiple worksites. In fact, ServiceMonster is a scheduling platform first! But beyond just scheduling, there were many other things that ServiceMonster helped with while Pete was navigating through his business expansion.
"Being able to attach photos and review that history was another key piece…"
Pete was excited to be able to communicate info easily with his techs and have them see all their customers' info at a glance. They were no longer scrambling around and trying to make sense of random notes! They could also easily pull up info on their mobile devices.
While inside customers' accounts, ServiceMonster's newsfeed gives them a full view of everything that's happened between you and the customer - including all communication history and work done. Employees could attach photos to the work order, review the scope of work with the homeowner, and see all of ProShine's previous jobs - all from out in the field and under one umbrella.
"No one answers the phone. It's the least effective way of getting anything on the schedule."
Before ServiceMonster, Pete's marketing system involved:
The phone calls were a personal way to reconnect, but he found it to be the least effective way of getting anything on the schedule. No one ever picked up the phone! In Pete's words, it was 'extremely labor intensive and really depressing.'
ServiceMonster helped automate ProShine's marketing with straightforward drip campaigns that follow up with customers every time after the work is done - all done at a combination of different touchpoints and channels.
Pete was looking for a more efficient way to market to his existing clients, and he understood that when he ran an email marketing campaign, only about half of the recipients opened their emails. Enter FillMySchedule (also known as FMS). With FillMySchedule, ServiceMonster's in-house automated direct mail marketing service, ProShine could automatically send out cards so those not checking their emails would get something in the mail.
And because it's automated, it's easy and consistent. And we all know that consistency is king when it comes to marketing!
"If there's one thing you can't screw up, it's someone's pay."
Pete's life got easier once ServiceMonster could help with providing automated marketing campaigns and support for his operations, all under one umbrella. But in addition to cutting down on time spent on tasks, ServiceMonster software provided another valuable and critical source for his business: Reports.
Before using ServiceMonster, Pete had no idea what his residential or commercial repeat rates were. Today, Pete can happily say what his repeat rates are (72% and 77%, respectively)! Repeat rate was a metric they didn't even know about until ServiceMonster entered the picture. If you know where your business stands, you know where you need to make adjustments.
Another ServiceMonster reporting game-changer for ProShine was being able to track employee performance pay. When it's time to run ProShine's payroll, Pete can easily pull a report to see how much each technician receives for their production bonus based on their production rate. It's an effortless way to track employee commissions while keeping things accurate. And if there's one thing you want to be accurate, it's someone's pay!
You've just read the first part of the story of ProShine's journey to becoming a growth hero. There's still a lot more to share! In next week's post, we'll talk more about how ProShine made a values-led decision to focus more on employees during covid, and how, while many service businesses struggled, they were able to work through the challenges and end up thriving.