An Enormous Change Is About To Hit This $15 Billion Industry - Forbes

An Enormous Change Is About To Hit This $15 Billion Industry - Forbes

Leaky pipe? Toilet running? It’s time to call the plumber. But wait. Before you do, you better pull out the Rubik’s cube. Dust off that Donna Summer LP. Put on some clogs. You need to be ready. You’re about to take a trip back to the 1970’s. Here we go…

You call the plumbing firm and a middle aged lady named Miriam answers the phone. You ask to schedule an appointment. She checks the calendar. She tells you that a plumber can come out on Tuesday anytime between 1PM and 6PM. You agree. The plumber arrives that Tuesday afternoon at 3:37. He performs the work. You are pleased. He fills out a work-order. You sign the work-order. He leaves the work-order with you. Two weeks later you send a check with the work-order. Job over. You never hear from him again. Until the next problem.

This is what it’s like for most of us to use a plumber in 2014. It’s also what it was like to use a plumber in 1974. Nothing’s really changed. It’s not just the plumber. It’s the landscaper too. The painter. The company that installs the new water heater and fixes your air conditioning system. The service firm that replaces your garbage disposal, cleans your gutters, washes your windows or sweeps your chimney. It’s a $15 billion industry made up of millions of service providers around the world and you know what? Most of them are still operating like they did 40 years ago.

There’s no online scheduling or availability. There’s no email or text confirmation. Your plumber does not have an iPad to check his schedule, order parts or complete a work-order. You do not sign off electronically. There is no financial transaction until the job is manually entered back in his office. There is no cash exchanged until the check is received and the money clears the bank. More importantly, you hear nothing from your plumber ever again. No check-ins, no emails, no updates, no plumbing advice or information about potential services that could be of interest to you. Your next communication with your plumber is when you call Miriam because there’s another problem.

“The field service industry was once a leader, but now it’s a laggard in mobility,” says David Mount, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the venture capital firms who just this month plowed $71 million into a cloud based service application called ServiceMax. “But that’s about to…