Nick Began thinks he has the next big thing in the home-service industry: a tool for better communication between customers and their contractors.
The longtime granite countertop fabricator and installer has developed a mobile app called Pinpoint that he said will connect homeowners and their service providers in a meaningful way. Some who’ve seen and used the product say they believe him, including one of the investors in Began’s company, Pinpoint Technology.
“They have a lot of opportunity ahead of them and asked us to jump in, and we did,” said Marling Engle. “That thing’s getting ready to take off.”
Engle is founder and CEO of Akron’s Metisentry software development firm and its holding company formed late last year, the SaaS Factory. After hearing Pinpoint’s concept and business plan, Engle said he and his team helped Began develop the app, and he’s now an investor in Pinpoint as well. Began works partly from Metisentry’s offices downtown.
So far, Pinpoint is only available to a select few contractors who are members of an industry trade group called Rockheads. They currently get it for free and serve as Began’s testing group.
Rockheads is an entity Began formed in 2015, the year before he sold his Bedford Heights countertop business, Stoneworks. Rockheads now counts about 100 contractors among its members, who turn to it for best practices, service standards and group purchasing efforts.
Began said he knows a thing or two about the challenges faced by contractors and their customers. He recalled running nearly 100 crews — who were constantly on the road doing measurements, installation and sales work — from four Stoneworks locations.
“It was so difficult to get blue-collared workers to engage the homeowners. … It was our biggest frustration in the company,” Began said. “Then, when I remodeled my own house with contractors, I realized it was a universal problem. … It’s a mess everywhere.”
The app is a bit like what Amazon uses to let customers know when its deliveries are coming. It shows a homeowner exactly where their contractor is, how many stops there are before the contractor gets to them, and the estimated arrival time.
But Pinpoint takes it much further, Began noted. Once a contractor logs an activity or departure, the system automatically texts his remaining customers for the day and updates arrival-time information, even if the homeowner hasn’t downloaded the Pinpoint app. Pinpoint also prompts a contractor or crew to notify customers when a job is finished and allows contractors to alert customers if they are running late. Contractors can also check that the customer has what they might need, such as a paved driveway or a door opening wide enough to accept a delivery.
Improved customer service is Began’s main selling point, he said, but he also touts Pinpoint as a management tool. Companies get instant feedback from customers about the crews they send out and can monitor their entire workforce in real time.
“If I’m a granite company or other contractor, I’ve got a full dashboard,” he said. “I can see every location where my drivers are, and I can see every communication between the homeowner and the service provider. So, if Mrs. Jones says, ‘I was there at 12:30 and your guy wasn’t there,’ I might see that no, she actually said she’d be home at 12:45 and that’s when my guy got there.”
One local Rockheads member who has been using Pinpoint since last fall said he’s already seeing positive results.
“A lot of our business is meeting homeowners on site to either measure or to meet them to install their countertops,” said Chip Gleine, owner of Crafted Surface & Stone in Bedford Heights.
Crafted Surface is a former Stoneworks location once owned by Began, so the two know each other well, which is one reason Gleine became a test user for the system.
“With Pinpoint, it drastically reduced our phone calls,” Gleine said.
Gleine said the system works well and is simple, easy to use and quick. Like Began, he thinks it’s going to help improve his customer service and hopefully his bottom line.
“I honestly think it’s going to be a good sales tool for us, too. Because we can know where our guys are at all times and, now, so can our customers,” Gleine said.
As for Engle, he said he invested because he sees Pinpoint as a product that provides a defined market with new and needed tools that are perfectly delivered via an online app. He added that Pinpoint is easily scalable.
In December, Pinpoint unveiled its latest version of the app, which includes new features such as one that shows homeowners a photo of the contractor they should expect.
In February, Began will begin offering the product to service providers across the country on a subscription basis for about $30 per month per user. Each crew at a subscribing company represents a user, he explained.
He’ll start by expanding within Rockheads. But the golden goose Began wants to catch is the big-box arena, where companies such as Home Depot and Lowe’s employ thousands of contractor crews to deliver and install appliances, flooring, cabinets and all sorts of other home-improvement items.
Began said that while he can’t name the company, he’s close to a deal with one such business. That’s why Engle thinks Pinpoint is ready to take off.
“We’re close,” Began said of the potential deal. “The big-box stores — the Menards, the Home Depots and Lowe’s — they know how important this is. They look at their customer services metrics daily.