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Are Home Services Immune to the Coming AI Revolution?

Team Acquira
-  April 25, 2023
What You’ll Learn:
  • What positive impacts AI will have on SMBs particularly home services
  • The negative effects of AI on small businesses
  • How AI can provide HVAC and plumbing companies with digital marketing opportunities
  • How businesses can prepare for the coming AI revolution

The impact of AI on small businesses – like many other aspects of society as a whole – will likely be widespread as the technology is implemented in various ways.

The good news for many small businesses is that AI excels at completing repetitive tasks like invoicing, data entry, and scheduling – something that will surely ease the burden on many small business owners with a lot on their plate.  

Although this will likely lead to job losses in businesses that deal in content creation, like copywriting or social media marketing, says Hayden Miyamoto, CEO and co-founder of Acquira.

“So what that means is, in the short term, the companies that use AI to do these things will be extremely productive — probably two to three to four times more productive than their competition. Meaning that if they want to, they will either become extremely profitable, or they'll be able to drive their cost down and put competitors out of business,” he says.

More labor-intensive industries in the home services industry, such as HVAC or plumbing, will likely see efficiencies on the accounting or operations side. Still, we’re not quite at robot technicians yet.

One of the biggest benefits, especially concerning home services businesses like HVAC and plumbing, is quickly generating marketing content such as advertisements or blog posts.

Let’s look at the impact of AI on small businesses, with a particular focus on the home services industry.

What Positive Impacts will AI have on Small Businesses?

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Implementing AI presents several advantages to small businesses, automating repetitive tasks, personalizing customer interactions via chatbots, and analyzing large volumes of data.

Here’s how AI could help small businesses.

  1. Increased Efficiency: AI-powered tools can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing employees to focus on more high-value work. For example, an AI-powered scheduling tool for a home services business like HVAC or plumbing can optimize technician schedules based on location, availability, and skill set. This will ensure that every truck is earning the maximum revenue it can.
  2. Improved Customer Experience: AI can help businesses personalize customer interactions, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. For example, an AI-powered chatbot can provide instant and accurate responses to customer inquiries and support requests 24/7. An AI chatbot could quickly connect a customer experiencing a clogged toilet to a maintenance team. It could also deal with the initial consultation for someone looking to hire a plumber for an upcoming renovation.
  3. Enhanced Data Analysis: AI algorithms can quickly analyze large volumes of data, providing insights to inform business decisions. For example, an AI-powered analytics tool can help a small business in the home services industry identify trends in customer behavior and preferences, allowing them to tailor their services and marketing efforts accordingly.
  4. Cost Savings: AI can help small businesses reduce costs by automating tasks that would otherwise require human labor. For example, an AI-powered inventory management system can optimize stock levels, minimizing waste and reducing the need for manual tracking and ordering.
  5. Improved Safety: AI can help improve safety in the workplace by identifying potential hazards and providing real-time alerts to employees. For example, an AI-powered safety monitoring system for a construction site can detect unsafe conditions like falls or hazardous materials and alert workers to take appropriate precautions.
  6. Marketing: Acquira is already building AI-powered marketing tools that would allow companies to automate much of the marketing process, including social media management, content creation and promotion, and design. More on that below.

What Impact will AI have on Home Services?

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Although AI will likely lead to job losses for office staff in the home services industry – AI-powered accounting or scheduling teams, for example – it’s unlikely to replace most frontline workers.

It is just software, and there are no robot workers to do the work (not yet, anyway).

AI does not have the ability to replace the necessary practical skills or experience required to complete most of these jobs – even paired with advanced robotics.

These industries require a human touch and problem-solving skills that AI technology has not yet fully replicable.

This would include HVAC, plumbing, and home renovations.

However, certain industries like lawn care or painting might see the implementation of robotics sooner than some would think, says Hayden.

“If it's replaced with robotic labor, it's basically a capital question, right? Who has more capital to be able to afford the robotic labor or train the robotic labor.”

Customer Service Representatives

Customer service representatives are important to many businesses within the home services sector. These professionals are often the first point of contact between a customer and the business, and they are responsible for providing support and assistance to customers before, during, and after a service is provided. CSRs are essential in ensuring that customers have a positive experience and feel satisfied with the services they receive.

While some may fear that AI will replace customer service representatives (CSRs), the truth is that in the short term, technology will heavily augment their work. According to a recent article from Harvard Business Review, generative AI will likely enhance, not erase, the work of CSRs. In the short term, AI will be used to support the work of CSRs by handling routine tasks quickly and efficiently, allowing them to focus more on complex issues that require a human touch. However, over time, it is likely that AI will gradually take over more of the work of CSRs, leading to a reduction in the number of jobs in this field.

Estimation & Bidding

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on estimating and bidding within the home services sector is expected to be significant. With the ability to analyze large volumes of data and make accurate predictions, AI can revolutionize how home services businesses estimate project costs and prepare bids. AI-powered tools can help businesses gather data on project requirements, materials, and labor costs and generate accurate estimates in a matter of minutes. This can help businesses save time and reduce the risk of errors, resulting in more efficient and competitive bidding processes.

Moreover, AI can help home services businesses identify cost-saving opportunities and optimize their pricing strategies. AI can help businesses identify patterns and make data-driven decisions on pricing and bidding strategies by analyzing historical data on project costs, customer behavior, and market trends. AI can also help businesses adapt to changing market conditions and adjust their bids and estimates in real time. This can give businesses a competitive edge and help them win more contracts while maximizing profitability. The first companies to use AI to do this will be able to get many more bids out, allowing them to ultimately do more work or get the same amount of work at a higher margin.

How Could AI Marketing Help Home Services Businesses?

One of the biggest benefits to many home services companies is access to inexpensive digital marketing, particularly on social media.

Many home services businesses are owned by baby boomers, who are generally not particularly social media savvy.

Acquira is currently working on an AI-based marketing approach that will use AI to generate personas that could automatically generate unique social media posts to promote businesses across multiple platforms.

“A lot of good marketing, like social media marketing or content marketing, is about consistency. And so, the best marketers consistently post 10 times a day across multiple platforms, and that's expensive when done by humans,” says Hayden.

Using AI-generated content would be much less expensive. It could be used to promote an HVAC company with a relatively small social media presence quickly and efficiently.

On the other hand, if every company has access to cheap marketing, it’s unclear whether there will simply be too much content to grab potential customers' attention.

The access to relatively inexpensive marketing paired with the long-term need of requiring frontline workers means that home services businesses might be uniquely qualified to excel in an AI-powered world.

What are the Negative Impacts of AI on Small Businesses?

Apart from some of the job losses described above, there are several potential negative impacts of AI on small businesses, including:

  1.  Cost: Implementing AI technologies can be expensive, and smaller businesses may not have the financial resources to invest in such technologies. For example, the cost of purchasing and maintaining an AI-powered chatbot for customer service could be a challenge for a small business.
  2. Dependence on Technology: Small businesses that rely heavily on AI may become overly dependent on the technology, which could be problematic if there are issues with the technology or if the business can no longer afford to maintain it. For example, if an HVAC company relies on AI-powered diagnostic tools, a malfunction in the technology could leave them unable to service customers.

    Many companies today rely on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to manage their telephone systems. Essentially, their inbound and outbound calling is all managed over the internet. If the internet goes down, they can't make or receive calls. It could be a similar situation for businesses powered by AI.
  3. Lack of Personal Touch: AI technologies can sometimes lack the personal touch that customers expect from small businesses. For example, if a plumbing company uses AI to handle customer service inquiries, customers may miss the personalized approach of speaking to a live representative.

How can SMBs prepare for the Implementation of AI?

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Small business owners can take several steps to prepare for the integration of AI in their operations.

First, they can invest in infrastructure, such as cloud-based computing systems and data management software that can support the use of AI.

For instance, an HVAC company can invest in smart thermostats that use machine-learning algorithms to optimize temperature settings. In contrast, a plumbing company can invest in AI sensors to detect leaks and prevent water damage.

Second, small business owners can develop employee training programs focusing on the skills required to work alongside AI tools. This includes training employees on how to use and interpret AI-generated data and providing them with the necessary technical knowledge to operate AI-powered tools.

An HVAC company can train technicians on how to operate and troubleshoot smart thermostats, for example.

Third, small business owners can collaborate with industry associations and experts to stay informed about the latest advancements and best practices in AI integration.

This can include attending conferences, participating in online forums, and seeking out mentorship from experts in the field.

By doing so, small business owners can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that they are integrating AI to maximize efficiency and profitability.

Conclusion

AI will have a huge impact on small businesses in myriad ways.

It will change how businesses schedule and promote themselves, interact with their customers, and keep track of their finances, to name just a few. 

Home services businesses will likely see changes in their operations and accounting departments, but robot HVAC technicians aren’t coming anytime soon. 

This offers a unique opportunity for small business owners to embrace the change and get ahead of their competition. For our part, Acquira is already taking advantage of these changes by developing our own marketing tools to help our partners manage their marketing endeavors and social media platforms. We will eventually make these tools available to partners who complete our Accelerator Program. To learn more, schedule a call through the form below.

Key takeaways

  • AI will help with efficiency, customer service, data analysis, and improve safety.
  • Content creation industries will likely be heavily impacted
  • Home services might be uniquely qualified to excel in an AI-powered world
  • SMBs should invest in AI technologies that work for them sooner rather than later
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