Why would a home improvement franchise use texting? Ask Marci Kleinsasser, vice president of marketing at Handyman Connection. The text volume of their 65 franchise locations has seen tremendous growth in a matter of months, saving time and money and increasing customer satisfaction. Hear the details of Handyman’s business texting use cases and best practices across their franchise system.
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Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, and thanks for tuning in.
Scott Heimes: Franchise systems of all types are using business texting more and more. Take Handyman Connection, for example, their 65 franchise locations can easily and quickly communicate with both their contractors and their customers, saving time and money and increasing customer satisfaction. Join us as we speak with Marci Kleinsasser, vice president of marketing at Handyman Connection. She’ll go into detail around Handyman’s business texting use cases and best practices across their franchise system. Stick around to learn more.
Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, Marci.
Marci Kleinsasser: Thank you. Thrilled to be here, Scott. Thanks.
Scott Heimes: It’s great to have you here. So tell us about the Handyman Connection. What is it all about and what do you do there?
Marci Kleinsasser: Handyman Connection is a home improvement franchise and we serve its customers in the small to medium home improvement size for anything they might need, to installing a ceiling fan anywhere up to a bathroom or kitchen remodel.
Scott Heimes: Nice. And so what’s your role at the company?
Marci Kleinsasser: I am in charge of marketing and branding for the company.
Scott Heimes: Perfect. Well, how many locations are there around the U.S?
Marci Kleinsasser: We have just over 65 in North America.
Scott Heimes: That’s a lot. And so how many customers do you have? Tell us about your customer analytics?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah, so we’ve performed upwards of over two million projects for customers all over North America. And in any given year we can do upwards of thousands of projects in our market. So we tend to find customers or customers find us from anything from digital marketing to referrals. And we want to make sure that we can be in our customers’ homes anywhere from one time to five times a year, helping them with everything they need around their home or in their business.
Scott Heimes: And so how does it break down in terms of consumers using the service versus businesses using the service?
Marci Kleinsasser: Our primary target is residential customers, but we also do have business customers who want us to come in and help them with projects in their businesses as well, property managers and managers of business entities as well, but our primary target is residential.
Scott Heimes: Got it. So Handyman Connection is a customer of Zipwhip. Thank you very much for your business.
Marci Kleinsasser: You’re welcome. We love Zipwhip.
Scott Heimes: How do you use Zipwhip? How do you apply texting for business in your communication flow?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah, so for us, Zipwhip was a really great addition in that we have a brand experience model, and our focus is really to help our consumers in a way that they can communicate how they want to communicate with us to ensure that they have a fantastic experience. We wanted to make sure texting was an easy process, not only for the customer but for our franchisees, as well as our craftsmen. So when we decided to partner with Zipwhip, it really was an easy choice in that our franchisees were telling us for quite some time that we needed to have this as a communication channel, not only for our franchisees to communicate with their craftsmen but for our customers.
Marci Kleinsasser: So our customers can now text on our website. They can communicate one-to-one when they’re trying to communicate their need for a specific project. And on the other side of the coin, it is communicating with our craftsmen, and that’s been a huge operational efficiency gain for us in that craftsmen don’t need to come into the office as much. They don’t need to stop what they’re doing and communicate to the office on a specific need for a project. They can stop and send a quick text to a customer service rep or the franchisee owner. And that has again given us huge operational efficiency gain for the texting platform.
Scott Heimes: Yeah, I suspect that especially the craftsmen who are mobile and on the road all the time just must have really been a preference for them to be able to communicate via text. So that’s exciting. So what’s your sense of the features that your franchisees are loving the most? What capabilities inside of Zipwhip are really resonating?
Marci Kleinsasser: So one thing I will tell you that for us, we use a CRM platform. We use Microsoft Dynamics CRM in our franchisees. Many times we’ll go into the system, whether they have a CSR working on a project or communicating with a customer on their particular project. I know I’ve received feedback that they love is that within the Zipwhip platform that we’ve now integrated into our CRM system is that one DSR can be working on a project and another CSR can come in and immediately pick up on the communication via the Zipwhip platform. That’s been fantastic. And again, the operational efficiencies and how our CSRs can effectively communicate with the customer on what’s happening on their project is a really good game cross.
Marci Kleinsasser: In addition, our franchisees love the fact that they can use the Zipwhip platform for lead gen. They can actually send out a group text messages, and let’s say they want to promote the fact they have a promotion going on, or a deck they’re building this week, this month have you, they want to work on outdoor projects. And that’s been huge for us, certainly during these changing times that we’re in. And when we had to go into quarantine types of circumstances in March and April, our franchisees were focused on outdoor work. That’s just an example of how our franchisees are really took to the texting platform and say, “Hey, let me take advantage of the opportunity to text some of my customers with group messages and let them know that we have craftsmen available to do these types of services.”
Scott Heimes: Interesting. What’s the franchise experience inside of Microsoft Dynamics? Is there a button that you can click to pop open Zipwhip or what’s the integration like?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah, so basically they just have Zipwhip open all the time on their system. And then it’s basically integrated right into the customer contacts as they’re booking work or as they’re bringing in information about a particular project. Everything that’s happening Zipwhip, there’s fields that are integrated right into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Both are basically open at the same time and it’s just very seamless for the CSR to work within both platforms.
Scott Heimes: So what drove Handyman Connection to explore and implement a business texting solution? What were some of the business drivers for you?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah, so for us, like I mentioned, we have a brand experience model and one of the key drivers within that model is that we want to make sure that our customers can communicate with us how they want to communicate. And we were missing that texting piece. We know that we were missing the opportunity, we didn’t have our phone number. Our phone numbers are locally marketing numbers were not text-enabled. And so for some time we realized that we were missing the boat there. And so we realized that we need to have that ability.
Marci Kleinsasser: One of our core strategies is technology leadership, and that was a piece that missing. But we needed to learn, not only the tech leadership piece but also the marketing panel of texting. So we, on Zipwhip, through our exploration of companies out there, we loved what Zipwhip had to offer.
Marci Kleinsasser: We loved that Zipwhip had already kind of developed a blueprint for franchisors that we could easily deploy this to all of our franchisees. It was a very seamless process to get a blueprint created for Handyman Connection. How we could make a somewhat, not only simple, but adaptable to our brand, as well as have it be customizable at the local level for the franchisees to implement this how they wanted to at the local level, and that’s been very well received. The adoption rate when we launched this system-wide was pretty much immediate. It was a mandatory use, Zipwhip, but how they wanted to use it in their local market, we gave them a little bit of freedom around.
Scott Heimes: Has usage grown since you launched?
Marci Kleinsasser: Totally grown, yes. We have seen kind of the number of packs by office grow every month since we launched. We rolled out the texting platform at our January conference. We did a little bit of piloting November, December-ish, as we were kind of getting this ramped up on the tech side, as well as kind of the marketing side of things. We launched at the end of January at our conference. And then we’ve seen that totally ramp up ever since. And I don’t think that’s going to stop.
Scott Heimes: Well, usually doesn’t. So how about any success stories across your system. Any of your franchisees that have told you some inside story about how texting has helped them drive growth in the business or satisfied a customer?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah. Yes. I’d love to share some. There’s one franchisee. He sits on my marketing committee, I have three franchisees that support what we do from a brand level and local marketing development perspective. And he’s up in our south shore, Massachusetts area franchise. And he actually developed, right when kind of COVID hit, he helped our franchise system develop some system-wide texts that could go out. They were localized, but he developed them for the system, help keep in touch with his craftsmen, make sure that his craftsmen were healthy and were educated on the protocols that we were developing do stay, keep our customers abreast of what we were doing from a safety precaution perfected.
Marci Kleinsasser: So he was really excited that we had the Zipwhip platform and he basically became the train the trainer of our franchise system in that he developed the text messages that were going out and how to deploy them. And they were basically like a one, two, three texts the craftsmen had to every morning respond to the text. Are you healthy? Answer these few questions and then each franchisee could then put them in the system to schedule them for work. So he kind of championed that and had we not had the texting platform it would have been much more complicated in our system to pivot within the whole COVID situation, make sure that our whole production process could be efficiently and effectively deployed during those times. That’s really one example where I think the whole Zipwhip and texting platform really helped our business adapt during the COVID times.
Scott Heimes: Wow. That’s a great story. Going back to the beginning of your texting program, it’s always interesting for us to kind of understand how did you get to the point of selecting Zipwhip? What was the sort of process that you went through to decide to become a customer?
Marci Kleinsasser: Yeah. I would say so myself and Dan Sage, who’s our CIO and Director of Technology, we sat down and said, what are the must-haves and what are we looking for? But I started looking at companies probably at an International Franchise Association convention, and there’s like 900 companies on the trade show floor. I started looking at who was in the space and I talked with you, but I really narrowed it down to two companies that I felt were innovative in this space, seemed to know what they were doing, had some table stakes platform that looked to align with what we’re doing, said they could integrate with Microsoft Dynamic CRM. But to be perfectly honest with you, Scott, it came down to who really kind of aligned with our values, who proved that they were doing this well in the franchise space.
Marci Kleinsasser: I happened to know Tim who was and is running kind of your franchise sales process and helping us really understand how this was going to work procedurally with the implementation of texting in … I’d say that the text platform was kind of … because I understand that you need have a platform and you need to have the technology piece. But a lot of companies were saying that they had that. What was missing with some of the other companies, I think was that forward thinking, that understanding our business and how we can implement texting at franchisee level. And not every company, they say they understand franchising, they say they understand small business, but when you really sit down and you start talking about it, you realize very quickly that they don’t necessarily do. So what we really enjoyed about having conversations with him and some others on your team was that they really did understand small business owner and really developing the program and the launch plan at their level. So that’s really what I think for Dan and I helped us to make a decision to really try and sign the deal with Zipwhip.
Scott Heimes: Well, I think everybody knows Tim across the franchise industry.
Marci Kleinsasser: I will tell you, Scott, I’ve known him, okay, two lifetimes ago, so I’ve known for many years and he’s a great guy. And I knew that when I, yeah, everybody knows Tim. He’s a good guy. I can tell you stories another time.
Scott Heimes: Well, as you think about the future, what’s next for you guys? Do you see continued evolution of the program or is it more about just scaling and finding more use cases?
Marci Kleinsasser: Well, it’s funny you asked that. I was thinking about that just before our call together. And I think we’re just scratching the surface. We have seen such exponential growth every month of the number of texts for our up to 65 locations and some locations are sharing some of the numbers, so we have little bit of less numbers of locations using the texting, but regardless we have so many opportunities to continue to offer. Not only for use cases for texting but the integration piece. So we have the integration so the offices complete the one to one texting, but there are so many more opportunities for us to integrate for marketing use cases, for automation in terms of automated responses to our customers, automated responses for our craftsmen.
Marci Kleinsasser: I see a lot of opportunity for us to continue to work together, to help our franchisees be more effective, help our franchisees grow their business and to help our franchisees even reach out to more craftsman and help their craftsmen be more effective. So I think there’s opportunities in all areas of their business to continue to look at this. And we’ve just begun, just launched this year. And I think we wanted to get the franchisees used to this and used to how they could effectively integrate texting within their businesses. So I think we’ve done that really well. And now it’s kind of getting the next step, next level with them.
Scott Heimes: Well, I have to say the future sounds pretty bright. Marci, thanks so much for joining us today, and thanks for your business as a customer and hope to have you on the Zipcast again soon.
Marci Kleinsasser: Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I very much enjoyed talking to you, Scott, and I would love to come back again. Thank you.
Scott Heimes: Thanks for joining us. Now if you’re like me, you enjoy nerding out on texting data and industry predictions. So go ahead and download our new 2020 State of Texting report. You can find this at zipwhip.com/SOT2020. And make sure you subscribe to the Zipcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen, so you get the latest episodes. And feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just send a text to (347) 772-3529. Until next time.