Owned and Operated #100 - Using AI in Home Service Businesses

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John and Jack exchange views on integrating Artificial Intelligence into their home service business. John elaborates on their utilization of AI for various tasks such as data analysis, marketing, communication, and improving written estimates for customers. They both share experiences with AI, emphasizing its role as an enhancer rather than a complete solution.

Episode Hosts: 🎤
John Wilson: @WilsonCompanies on Twitter
Jack Carr: @TheHVACJack on Twitter

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John Wilson, CEO of Wilson Companies

Jack Carr, CEO of Rapid HVAC

Owned and Operated Episode #100 Transcript

John Wilson: I'm John Wilson. Welcome to Owned and Operated. Twice a week, we talk about home service businesses, and if you're a home service entrepreneur, then this is going to be the show for you. We talk about our own business in residential plumbing, HVAC, and electric, and we also talk about business models that we just find interesting.

Let's get into it.

Jack Carr: This episode is sponsored by Home Service Engine. So this is a company that I would highly recommend if you are thinking about getting onto the Service Titan, or if you're like me and you have to rebuild your Service Titan every few months because you set it up incorrectly. So this is my go to team for any Service Titan needs, and I really wish I had them from the start.

Give them a call today and start utilizing Service Titan to its fullest potential.

John Wilson:

Today on Owned and Operated, Jack and I talk about using AI in your home service business. So how we think about using it, where we think it could go in the coming year, and all the different opportunities we see. It's a fun episode. It's an interesting one. So thanks for tuning in.

Welcome back to owned and operated.

Jack Carr: Welcome back

Today, we're going to be talking about AI, but before we get into that, what's going on your week?

Jack Carr: We are hopefully nine days away from our close of our plumbing company that we're buying. So excited, like lawyers are involved. CPA is involved. No banks involved though. We're closing on a 1. 6 million company , Uh, gross. . Not a single bank involved. So I love that. Makes just make it all convoluted.

It's a beautiful business. Very excited. The owner is going to stay on with us. He's a good guy. And besides that today, I realized there is a path to surviving February Armageddon for home services. I mean, our outbounding, we hired an outbound guy, and he's absolutely killing it, like I told you.

And like, we might break even this month, which is, a huge thing

John Wilson: Huge win. Yeah. Most years, like I lose hundreds of thousands in February.

Jack Carr: Yeah. I thought at one point we were going to lose like 40 or 50 K. And I mean, that's a lot for a small business. But we might zero out like it's close.

It was 70 today. Like no joke. 70 in February. It's stupid.

John Wilson: It's tough and the game's changing. The game's changing a lot. This is the most mild winter that I've ever endured. But this seems to be becoming the norm. Like every year it's gotten warmer and warmer. And now this is, yeah, 60 and 70s. So we're having to change the game. But we're starting AC tune up sooner.

We're pushing. What's actually been interesting is we walked into quarter one so ready for HVAC to take a hit that HVAC is doing the best because of all the stuff that we put in to play. We're struggling in the other departments because all of our energy went into prepping HVAC and not prepping the other departments.

So HVAC is cruising. Like even in February, even 65, whatever, we're going to do as much revenue as we did in October.

Jack Carr: That's amazing

John Wilson: That's insane. But like electrical is down, 30%. So yeah, stuff to clean up next February. And then that's the downside is you only get one shot at this a year.

So like our big shot this year was, we have to do HVAC better. And now we know 12 months later, okay, we have to do these. You know, now we have to do plumbing and electric better.

Jack Carr: Everything better.

John Wilson: Yeah. Yeah. But outbounding works. All right.

So topic for the day is going to be how we use AI in our business.

Jack Carr: Yeah. I love it. I know it's a buzzword right now, but It is inevitable that AI will eventually change parts and pieces of the home service industry. There's just no way around it.

John Wilson: Or like big, big chunks, open AI release that they're starting to work on agents. There's a lot of companies that are starting to work on the voice command and like voice ordering. So really we're going to see the biggest impact, I think in the next 12 months is inside call center.

So we're watching that one pretty closely, but we have a bunch of other stuff where we are actually using it for.

Jack Carr: You were actually using it for? And then we can go into the theoretical because the theoretical is hard cause there's just so much that it could potentially do. And I hear you say that thing about a call center and I would just get off the phone with like an AI phone recorder, like answering the phone, whatever.

And I hated it, I was yelling at the thing, like talk to a representative. It's like, I understand that you would like to talk to a representative. Yes, yes, yes, Yes. See it working and I could but I could see it not working

John Wilson: They're not close yet, but they're close enough that it's likely to see the first good one in the next year, but there's like 10 or 15 different products out there to replace in house agents or to replace sales development reps.

Jack Carr: Yeah. I could definitely see getting it there or just basic questions. If it becomes the FAQ center for something, I could definitely see it working. It just needs a big jump like everything else. But so in terms of what you're using it for what are you it for currently?

John Wilson: So we're using AI for a couple of different things right now. We use it across most departments which is good I think

Jack Carr: Really?

John Wilson: Yes.

Jack Carr: I wouldn't have guessed that you've integrated it that much into your business already.

So you say you're using it in marketing?

John Wilson: I don't even think it's that deep of an integration. It's just it's getting used like the team feels comfortable using it. We call it Karen. So that way it has a name. So like, hey, I'm gonna go talk Karen real quick or Karen just whipped this up or so we have assigned a name to. But, um we use it a ton in marketing. Now we have used it for images. We do that a lot. We use AI images for like facebook or socials or whatever. We've used them for some postcards, which have been like mixed success. We use it a lot for copy in emails. Aside from images, what we use it for the most is enhancement of writing.

And when you think about writing, like marketing and copy is obviously one angle. The other angle is, you know, we write hundreds of estimates a day. So we use AI to enhance the estimate. And it ended up like, you have someone who will write like really limited notes on a invoice or will not leave a detailed whatever, or provides a poor description of work.

And we use AI to basically enhance it to help either the customer understand what's about to happen or what did happen and help sell projects. So that's a daily use of AI in our business right now.

Jack Carr: I like the way that you frame that too. Cause you framed it as it's an enhancement tool. It's not a like I use AI, which is the way that I think a lot of people try to describe their AI function as this is the turn key go to, but in the reality of the situation is we do the same thing is we ride it with AI, our marketing material, then we have someone go through it.

And piece, chunk it out, see what's good, see what's rewrite it with that AI, send it back through and then rework it again and then send it so there's generally like two iterations of somebody still reading and modifying that goes out. It's a great tool for marketing though, in that sense

John Wilson: Yeah, I mean we've integrated it, pretty deep inside marketing so all of our emails all of our websites all of our copy communication, basically everything gets enhanced through AI in some capacity. We also use it to respond to Google reviews. Like we set up a web hook to respond to Google reviews, so it takes less bandwidth.

You know, we get a hundred something a week, so that's a lot of volume. So yeah it's definitely deepest inside the marketing department. And then the other departments basically have, like, okay here's how we use it. So like call center, the big thing with call centers, we're getting ready to create like a question and answer using our SOPs and our processes.

So we're going to be dumping all of our data in like what's good, what's bad. And then we're going to turn it into a question answer module. So instead of asking a manager a question, you can go to this automation on slack and you can ask open AI the question and it pulls it from either our SOPs or our scripts or, whatever it is for that question.

So like, Hey, do we work on mobile homes? Yes, no. And then like, here's the page reference or whatever. So we hope that helps speed up. We think we can do that across every department. It's just that the department that would need it the soonest is call takers. A lot of people are using it for like, ask John, like, okay, I've put out so much content into the world.

It would not be difficult for an AI to like read everything I've ever written. Listen or read the transcripts or whatever for everything we've ever said on the show and come up with what my answer would be on like questions. So we're thinking about doing the same thing with our managers, with our scripts of just like, okay, like how would we respond to this and how do we automate those responses?

Jack Carr: I've never thought about it as an internal tool. That's a great idea because once you start becoming a higher level manager or owner, all of the repeated questions just get routed through you daily, same ones over and over again. And if you had a quick, easy tool that you brought it over here in the secondary forum.

Are you guys using like another web hook to grab that and create like an internal plugin or something on their dashboard?

John Wilson: I don't know if it's webhook or not, but it'll be hooked up through a slack automation. So basically like they'll ask a question to a slack bot and that will query our database. And then it'll spit the answer out

So that's how it's supposed to work

Jack Carr: This is the cool part about running a big business is you guys get to do lots of fun stuff. Like that to me is incredibly fun

John Wilson: I think it's interesting. The fun thing about AI in general is like, there's a lot of very easy use case that will just enhance people's jobs. In our industry, it's not likely to replace many jobs. Maybe when agents become a thing, maybe. But, I feel like we're like a while away from that.

Whereas, like, I do know a lot of people being displaced by AI, or industries being displaced by AI. We're not in it but it definitely will make us better by giving faster answers. So you don't have to control left your way through a 50 page CSR script with answers to your questions which is how it currently works.

Or makes marketing material, faster to produce. The fun thing about it is once you drop it into a team, cause like, I think most people, if you're not using it in some capacity, you're like, how am I supposed to use this tool? Like, how does it make sense?

I'm a plumber or, whatever. But once you drop it into each team, they start coming up with their own things to use it for. Like marketing we used it originally to help write copy for websites. And then like a month later, they've integrated it into like a bunch of their daily tasks, a ridiculous amount.

And they just did that on their own. Cause they're like, Oh my gosh, like I'm doing this thing and this can do it 10 times faster and I can just edit whatever it spits out. So I think that's the cool thing is like once people see an actual application for it inside their business, they just run, they run with it, which is awesome.

If you like what we talk about on our social media, on Twitter, on this podcast, then you should be signed up for our newsletter. Go to ownedandoperated.com where every Friday we break down our business, we break down insights, things we're learning, things we're working on, and it's good stuff. Check it out, ownedandoperated.com.

Jack Carr: So marketing is definitely the easy one internals, a cool one I've never thought about. I think that would be really neat. Extremely helpful too in time saving Anywhere else?.

John Wilson: Prepping to use it for like robot scripts. So somebody messages in, they email in, they respond to TikTok. They respond to Facebook, basically any inbound script is going to turn into an AI chat bot that will allow a direct schedule into Service Titan using schedule engine.

Jack Carr: That's what I was wondering.

John Wilson: So that's going to become a big one non voice.

So we feel like this one we can handle pretty well. That's one of the sort of bigger ones that we see coming up

Jack Carr: Yeah. I can definitely see that one too. That was where I was leading that question. I think that's where the big opportunity is being able to auto

John Wilson: schedule

Jack Carr: through non-voice yeah.

John Wilson: Yeah It's ever moving and we're watching it and our team it's so ingrained in our daily that like when something new drops we start using it. The big thing now, which has been really interesting is we're using it inside accounting to analyze data and we're only a few days into that.

So I don't like have great, like it worked or it didn't. But, you know, we're dropping like 5, 000 line item spreadsheets in there to help us analyze like cash movement or average payrolls or whatever. We're basically using it we're attempting to use it at the moment to automate a 13 week cash flow forecast based off of cash basis accounting so we just drop our bank transactions in there. So it should be able to create a rolling 13 week for us which I have no idea if it'll do it or not, but like it seems to be doing it

Jack Carr: Do you have any worry on those? Because I've that, they will start making things up occasionally when it doesn't have an answer. So I definitely worry about that. But great use case, just analyzing raw data. Why not? 5, 000 line items.

John Wilson: Or like, can I dump every single invoice and like, can we use this tool to analyze dispatching for profits better? Or can we use it to understand our customer base better? Like if I have this job type in this zip code, our closing rates higher using this tech or something like that. So we want to use it more for data than we're currently using it.

And I think that's going to become a pretty big use case is just understanding the business more.

Jack Carr: Yeah, I'd love to see the use case as a um, now we're getting into the potential realm, but see a route that they could create a tool that does job costing, right? Just job costs everything. You just drop invoices, you upload your Ferguson or whatever your big supplier invoice a list for the month is you update your Service Titan list on what you paid and it matches everything up and gives you an average job costs across the board.

That would be real quick and dirty.

John Wilson: And I actually don't think that's that far off. Like you could probably could do that with a webhook and like an email. So that is actually probably not like disastrously far like you might even be able to do that now.

Jack Carr: Yeah, I think if we had the resources, yeah, you probably could create a roundabout way to, manually do one or two movements to get a months long list of stuff like that

John Wilson: Yeah, I think what would be fun. I have a good friend of mine who's like his entire job is consulting on VR and he was working at Accenture doing that and a lot of his job became like the use of AI and how to use it. And what I keep thinking would be fun is like once a month. You just literally bring somebody into your business and you drop them in there.

Cause I think it's more of a time thing. Who's going to sit down and figure out how to create this flow to drop job costing to make it automatic. Cause that would be hyper useful, but like, you don't have time, you're busy. I don't have time. I'm busy. So I think just like, that and process mapping, that's something we're thinking about doing where we like hire an outside consultant to come in once a month and like map out the processes that we don't feel like we have dialed in.

So this would be an AI consultant where they come in and be like, Hey, this process that you're doing over here, we could turn that into like a five hook system and you could reduce drag, save yourself 10, 000 a month. Like that'd be sick

Jack Carr: I mean, I'm sure they're out there. Yeah. I can't imagine that'd be an overly difficult thing

John Wilson: I think it's honestly just like a nerd. That uses AI more regularly than I do to understand like, Oh yeah, here's exactly how you put it all together.

Jack Carr: You said that in the most respectful way AI friends.

John Wilson: Please call me and come consult.


Jack Carr: He will pay you. That's how respectful he is.

John Wilson: It's good, respectful.

Jack Carr: Yeah, man, love it. I think those are the kind of things. It's almost better utilization of your Service Titan data, right? So you have all this data from Service Titan and half the time is extremely difficult to mine it.

And so to actually be able to use that use AI to get it, it would be great

John Wilson: Yep. A hundred percent. This was solid. You have any that I missed?

Jack Carr: No. So, I mean, we're in the same boat. We use it as enhancing for all of our SEO, all of our copy, all of our writing. We are using it for invoices. We're using it for writing customers back, writing back reviews, commenting on reviews and things like that. aI's cross the board, the things that are just the most readily out there.

I don't think we've gone into data yet. We definitely haven't gotten yet. And then I'm sitting back and waiting on like dispatch pro and supposed to be using AI. I'm just not so sure that I trust any of it yet. So I think we have to see the use case click in and people actually like really get value from it before I spend that kind of money on it.

Also, I need to figure out how to do the picture AI. Like every time I put it in, i'm sure everyone has the same issue

John Wilson: It takes a lot of iterations.

Jack Carr: Mechanic working on a mini split and like the mechanics face comes out, I'm going there's no use of

I need like four hours to sit down and figure out like, Oh, you have to do this to get their faces to look correctly. Or to, I know you can do like not mapping, but like overlay where pick a face and then you put it on. And then or probably just pay for more expensive versions of the software.

We'll get there. We'll get there. It's fun though. And it's definitely, if you're not using it my hope is that everybody on here listening to this podcast is at least using some version of it.

But at least sitting down being intentional thinking about how you can reduce drag by can this be done by Ai, I think it's that's a great way to move forward and a great way to save some huge money and get a leg up on competitors

John Wilson: Heck yeah, man. This was solid. Thanks for listening to today's show and if you like what you heard, give us five star, leave a comment and go make sure you check out owned and operated. com. Sign up for the newsletter. We have events. We're doing all the things, so check it out.

Jack Carr: All of the things. Check it out.

John Wilson: Thanks for tuning in to Owned and Operated, the podcast for home service entrepreneurs. If you enjoyed today's episode, please hit the like button and subscribe to the podcast. If you have any questions or topics you'd like us to cover, feel free to reach out. You can find me on Twitter at at Wilson companies.

I'll see you next time.

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