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Thoughts to ponder

Occasionally we find something potentially useful to share with others, especially regarding integrity, transparency, and accountability in the field of services. Health care, elder care, child care, pet care, home maintenance, lawn care, property management. The common theme is that people do things for other people millions of times every day. And today more than ever, we need to share what we learn with each other.

 
     
Tools for finding services

Tools for finding services

May 08 2014

One of the Internet's greatest benefits is the ability to help people find, evaluate, and hire services. (And yes, now with TaskAssure, verify services!) Today, whether you are looking for home care services such as lawncare, repairs, plumbing, or cleaning; or more personal care for your loved one including elder care, child care, pet care, or home health care; or just about any other form of service you can think of, there are now tools that can help you find the best match, hire, and pay them. In this article, I want to share some of the alternatives. In a future article, I will offer some comparisons to help understand the pros and cons.

This is not a comprehensive list. If seeking services, often your first best choice may be to use your favorite Internet search tool. These days, the search engine is able to detect the region that you are in, and provide relevant local organizations. The list below is selected national organizations that you may also want to consider. (We have no relation or incentive of any kind with any organization listed in our Blog, unless clearly stated.)

Home Improvement Services

If you are seeking maintenance, repair or remodeling services for your home, you will find some large, established organizations, as well as some "up and comers". Here's some that we are tracking:

  • Do It Yourself Network if you want to do it yourself, you might check here for advice first.
  • Home Advisor (formerly Service Magic) probably has one of the biggest network of service pros.
  • Angies List is one of the first and the current "biggie" in the Internet home repair service marketplace.
  • Club Local, Zaarly, Red Beacon are examples of a new crop of Internet services that try to match you with home improvement pros. (Limited regions but growing.)
  • Home Depot, Lowes and other national home retailers now offer install and repair services.
  • The Home Service Club a different way to go in some cases is to purchase a home warranty that includes a network of service contractors.

General Service "Marketplaces"

Looking for more personal care for yourself or a loved one? This is a hot market now for organizations that have identified our need to be able to find and evaluate good service professionals in these areas. 

  • Care.com is the absolute biggie, and you have probably seen their cute commercials with kids talking about baby sitters. They've branched into all sorts of care.
  • Angies List started in more "hard" services like plumbing, roofing, and painting, but they too see the need for personal care services, and are trying hard to expand.
  • Yelp is something you might have heard of for restaurant reviews, but they have been around for a long time and you will find many local businesses. Some people complain that the reviews on Yelp are too often created by friends of the business, or people paid to provide a positive review. After you find a potential organization on yelp, I recommend entering those organization names into your search engine, possibly including the term "complaint" and see what pops up. Keep in mind, not all complaints you read are valid either. Do your homework.
  • Umm, CraigsList? I list this site here only because to not do so would be an oversight. But PLEASE, keep in mind that in addition to being a source for potentially trustworthy services, there are many scams and unscrupulous people using CraigsList. Do your homework! Use credential and background checking tools, ask for references, interview candidates in public places with a friend or family member.

The New Way: Post for "Instant" Services

Need a meal picked up when you are at work and can't stop? Or reorganize your closet? What if you could post your small task or errand for other people to see in your region, and let them offer a quote to perform your task? In the last few years this has become a reality. Availability may still be a bit limited in smaller communiities, but the major players are working hard to achieve national coverage. As in other categories, these organizations provide similar services, but offer slightly different approaches. Here are a few examples, and an observation or two:

  • Thumbtack
    Perhaps the largest company in this category, Thumbtack lists a broad range of services across the U.S. with primary groups for "Home", "Events", "Lessons", and "Wellness". Behind the scenes, Thumbtack provides a web page for each provider to describe their capabilities, provide photos, and answer questions. This can help you dig through what otherwise can be a cluttered world of provider web pages. When you start the process to post a service request, Thumbtack presents a custom questionnaire to help create a request for that type of service. So, if you are seeking house cleaning service, you can specify the type of home, number of rooms, and special items such as whether they should clean the windows. But if you are seeking landscaping, then it asks for information such as which part of the yard, square footage, and specific services such as flower beds, outdoor lighting, or walkways. Then Thumbtack shares this with providers they have selected in your area, and you get up to five bids. The rest is up to you. You don't pay anything for Thumbtack's matching service, as they receive fees from providers for delivering leads.

  • TaskRabbit
    TaskRabbit remains smaller than some of the others, but is growing. At the time I'm writing they service 18 major U.S. cities. While some companies only help you find and select service providers, TaskRabbit also handles the payment process for you. One reason for this is that TaskRabbit takes a 20% service fee from every completed task. Is it worth it? Many people seem to think so. You only pay the amount that you agreed with the service provider, but they share 20% with TaskRabbit. The other reason they handle payment for you I suppose is so that they have a stake in your satisfaction. (They "guarantee" satisfaction.) TaskRabbit checks out the providers they list, including criminal background check. If you want the entire transaction taken care of, with the benefit of a "guarantee", and if you are in one of TaskRabbit's cities, they are worth considering.

  • New choices, such as Task Hero (San Diego only) are popping up nearly every day. Look for them in your region by searching for "services".

Trust, but Verify those Tasks!

Yes, I want to remind you that no matter what service you need, or how you find them (even a family member or friend), in many cases if you won't be there to watch while the task is performed, you might feel more at ease by receiving email or text message notifications that activities have been verified. That's the purpose of TaskAssure, and there is nothing like it. While you are interviewing your candidates, let them know that a condition of your hiring them is to use TaskAssure. It won't cost them anything, and it will make it easy for them to keep you informed, (Because TaskAssure does most of it for them.) If they refuse to use TaskAssure, you might ask yourself why.

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