How is it that Scott Curley, president of So Cal Water in Temecula, Calif., can run a business with only five employees? Plain and simple—he generates his business through quality service.
In an industry built on referrals, Curley knows that doing quality work and treating customers (and employees) well is the key to keeping a business running. Offering water systems for thousands of dollars less than the big dealers also helps.
The Magic of Good Service
Being licensed tells customers that your company's work is carried out at a higher standard. As a primarily referral-based business, So Cal views customer feedback as the artery that feeds the company's heart. For them, lead generation stems from the glowing reviews of customers—and an online business called ServiceMagic.com.
The website links potential customers to service companies—offering services ranging from housekeeping to roofing—through a questionnaire-style search engine. In order to sign up for the service, companies must pass a 10-point screening, which includes a trade license verification, criminal records search and identity verification.
ServiceMagic's search engine is based on an e-Bay-style rating system. After receiving service, the customer heads to the website to fill out a "Ratings & Reviews" survey. Curley has found a lot of success from this site. "We currently have 80 ratings on there, and they are all very high," he said. "We have a five-star rating. The cost is minimal—about $10 to $15 per lead—and we close on about 80% of those leads."
Home Free in the Housing Market
Most of So Cal's leads are homebuilders. The company works with six major homebuilders—K. Hovnanian Homes, Barratt American Homes, William Lyon Homes, Shea Homes and McMillin Homes—to provide water treatment options.
In many ways, these builders have kept So Cal Water afloat. "The housing market is our biggest challenge," Curley said. "Consumer confidence is down so much, credit is down and financing isn't easy. People aren't worried about their water systems—they have bigger issues on their minds. Lately, we've been slow in residential sales, but seen an increase in homebuilder sales."
Curley explained that homebuilding is the market most dealers strive toward because of its security. Every homebuilder must deal with water, and in one case, the builder has even offered a whole-house filtration system as a premium perk.
Underselling the Giants
"Typically, all the big dealers—Culligan and the like—have salesmen that go out and do demonstrations, water testing and other processes," Curley said. "Their systems are usually really expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $7,000. Our price is usually half of what those dealerships charge. I just go out and talk to people, and we primarily have a referral business. I usually go out and talk to the customers directly, do basic water testing, explain the installation and that is it."
Curley keeps the price down by having his staff do all of their own installations rather than hiring subcontractors. The company has only five employees, but it keeps three service trucks on the road at any given time.
Premium is a fitting word for Curley's business, as evidenced by his five-star customer service rating. That, combined with pricing that makes competitors cringe, is the secret to how he maintains a successful business.