Centrica conceptualised Local Heroes in 2016 when insight told us that current propositions on offer in the market were not meeting customers’ needs. Local Heroes matches customers with a trusted local tradesperson within minutes online, and all work comes with a 12 month guarantee backed by British Gas. We aimed to tackle long-established pain points for both customers and tradespeople, offering fair price estimates before jobs, quick online payment and the backing of a trusted national brand. In essence, it offers the best of both worlds – a local service with national backing.
We started out with just two plumbers in Croydon, Craig and Craig. Once this had proven successful, we worked hard to get the best tradespeople on board across the UK, getting feedback from customers as we grew, and we launched nationally last June. We currently offer 10 trades (Plumbing, Appliances, Drains, Heating, Electrics, Handyperson, Locksmiths, Painting & Decorating, Plastering and Tiling) but are expanding our service offering all the time to give our customers more choice.
Since the beginning, our customer engagement strategy has been clear. We have been customer-obsessed since the brand’s inception, and our strategy is two-fold:
(1) Create a new service proposition that meets customer needs and exceeds their expectations, to become leaders in customer experience excellence
(2) Cultivate a culture of customer centricity internally, continuously listening to customers, championing their needs and enhancing customer experiences
Our service satisfies the needs of two distinct customer groups, whose needs we are equally as committed to satisfying:
- Our consumers – the people who need jobs doing in their home, from fitting taps to fixing fuse boxes.
- Our tradepeople ‘customers’ – the skilled tradespeople signed up to our platform who fulfil this work.
Both sets of customers have their own distinct pain points for which our service was built to overcome. Homeowners struggle to find skilled and trustworthy tradespeople to complete jobs in their home at a fair price, and on the flip side, it can be difficult for tradespeople to find a steady stream of work.
Our consumer audience of tech savvy homeowners are less likely to consider insurance products, they’re happy to take the risk and can afford to get issues fixed as and when. They’re also increasingly using on demand propositions like Uber, JustEat and AirBnb which drive their high expectations of all services. Likewise, there’s a new generation of tradespeople that want access to jobs on their terms, with flexibility and without having to pay for leads.
What we have done for our customers
To overcome these pain points, we took the two steps outlined in our customer engagement strategy:
(1) We created a brand new service proposition designed to satisfy customer needs
For consumers: Local Heroes represents the first truly end-to-end digital service in the market with an underlying service promise that is backed up with a powerful 12 month guarantee backed by British Gas. Other on demand home services providers on offer fail to do more than act as a job posting board and their commitment to quality service and work is patchy at best. The market was really limited to directory websites and lead generation sites who had no real ‘skin in the game’ to ensure that the customer service quality was high. Local Heroes’ customer service team provides all the support consumers need from estimate to completion. We’re so confident with this support, that we guarantee the work for 12 months. This is a compelling reason to believe and something that others haven’t dared to do.
For tradespeople: There were many models which insisted on high membership fees and charges for leads that might not convert. Local Heroes offers a new way of engaging with the market and paying only for completed jobs; taking the marketing, admin, and payment on for the tradespeople so they can focus on filling gaps in their calendar or growing their business. Tradespeople only pay our fee when the job is complete, minimising risk on their business.
(2) We continuously listen to their changing needs and improve our service offering accordingly
We actively seek feedback from both our consumers and traders through a number of channels. Below are some examples of how we use each of these to make sure we are continually listening to customer feedback:
For consumers: Customer NPS surveys are sent to all customers who have had jobs completed. A typeform is used to collect customer feedback from every job with a strong 30% response rate. This provides a constant stream of feedback from 4 simple questions:
1) how did you find us?; 2) anything to improve; 3) what was done well? ; 4) why did you choose Local Heroes?
This is analysed on weekly & monthly basis but also has a direct feed into Slack (see attached PDF) so every person in the business sees it come through in real time. This has generated a real culture of ownership.
For Traders: Monthly trader email surveys are sent to 100% of our trader network. These surveys specifically request areas for improvement and areas where the journey has not worked as it should.
Alike to the consumer surveys, these are analysed on a weekly and monthly basis. There is also a live feed of all responses into Slack, and include the job ID so we can quickly act on any specific feedback received. This really helps us keep on the pulse of the consumer and trader experience and make changes to continually improve it.
We also encourage customers to review us on TrustPilot, and track this score continually, making changes to journeys and contacting customers where required. This is also directly fed into Slack (see attached PDF).
Survey responses on Slack:
We’re so committed to feedback from surveys that every review from these surveys and Trustpilot, both good and ones with areas to improve, are seen by the whole team through our Slack channel which automatically pulls through every single response – this really helps us keep on the pulse of the consumer and trader experience and make changes to continually improve it. See attached PDF for screenshots of these channels.
Customer and trader feedback from surveys is referred to when developing any new features or making any changes, but more importantly, feedback is actioned on a daily basis.
Customer Focus Sessions
We host regular customer focus sessions with both consumers and traders to get their input on planned features and their experiences with the platform. During these sessions, each customer group are invited into our office and shown new features, tests, and our product roadmap to get direct feedback.
For example, one thing which came out of a session with the traders (and from trader surveys) was that they’d find it easier to view their jobs on an app. So we got to work, and a few months later and we’re almost ready to launch the app, which was created in collaboration with a group of 200 traders who wanted to be involved in its development. We regularly gave them opportunities to vote on their favourite designs for the app screens and invited them into our office to do usability testing.
‘Refuse to Lose’ Customer Immersion Day
Quarterly, we have a customer immersion day where the whole team does the role of the operations team for a day, phoning customers and tradespeople to ensure customers’ jobs are matched, and solving any issues for the customers and traders.
This has further ingrained a customer centric mindset into the whole team, not just operations, and focussed the team on service excellence.
Changes made based on our listening programmes
Based on insights that have come out of these immersion days, as well as the feedback surveys, we’ve made continual changes to improve the customer experience. Below are just a few changes we’ve made as a result of these sessions:
- We’ve automated our operational processes to be able to serve consumers and tradespeople more quickly and easily.
- We’ve also introduced manual interventions to ensure every job has the best chance of getting matched and completed – every morning the operations team contact consumers and tradespeople, using the data to identify which jobs are hardest to complete and focussing their efforts on these.
- We found out that customers sometimes find it hard to choose what type of tradesperson they need to do the job from the drop-down list on the homepage. As a result of this, we have introduced typeahead which allows customers to simply search for the job they need doing and we’ll match them with the relevant tradesperson. Not only does this make things easier for customers but also means there is a higher chance of the job being matched and completed.
Continuous learning embedded in culture
- The spirit of continuous learning and improvement permeates the entire business and informs the ongoing development of the platform to ensure it continues to grow in line with ever changing customer needs.
- Our operations, marketing and user experience teams all span across both the consumer and trader sides of the business to ensure that we have effective oversight of the whole journey for both our consumer and trade ‘customers’.
As a result of our customer engagement strategy, we’ve seen three groups positively impacted: our Consumers, our Traders, and within the wider Centrica organisation.
Impact on Consumers
- As a result of our commitment to customer engagement, service quality has been world class with an NPS score consistently in the 80s, setting the bar high for existing and new entrants to the on demand home services market.
- Our Trustpilot score is also ‘Excellent’ with 8.9 stars out of 10 based on 2,263 reviews (29 May).
- We’ve also had excellent anecdotal feedback from consumers. Here is some evidence for the impact our customer-led proposition and culture has had in overcoming the pain points for our Consumer group:
“Used local heroes twice. Each time has been fantastic. It’s difficult to find tradesmen quickly and who you can have confidence in and using the local paper can be a lottery. This has the backing of British Gas, a 12m warranty and the knowledge that you’ll get someone who knows what they’re doing. Prices are usually quoted up front and in my opinion, very reasonable.” (Consumer)
“First time I have used Local Heroes and it was a positive experience. Found a Hero in 30 minutes, appointment booked and he turned up on time. Job done within an hour. All sorted. Would use again”.
“The Local Heroes service is an absolute gem. It is a modern, easy-to-use-service that means it intuitively works like all the top modern online services. We have been living in our house for a number of years and this way of working means that you don’t have to wait…and wait…and wait… for your regular one-man-band to show up for a job. You get keen, good quality tradespeople that get the job done well (because they want a good review) and for a reasonable price. First class. This is the future.”
“Arrived at the exact time arranged. Good, speedy, honest job. Price was low end of quote and would use this company again in a heartbeat.”
“Highly recommended. Fixed the problem I had in the time I requested. I like the system in that it allows you describe the problem you are having, and the system lets you know in advance the price, who will be coming, when, and after the work is done, you are then prompted for online payment. Overall I found the system flow is very informative and would definitely recommend Local Heroes.”
Impact on Traders
- As a result of our commitment to trader engagement, we have made changes to make it easier for traders to grow their business or simply fill spare slots in their diaries
- Traders can rely on us for good quality work, and regular payment
- Below is some anecdotal feedback from Traders which demonstrates how our customer strategy works for them:
“Local heroes is a great set up which helps us tradesmen find work around our area and also we get paid on time so overall I love working with you”.
“I have been with Local Heroes since Sept 17. I believed their strategy would work very well for my company as we were new in the area and looking to find work that would fill our spare time. Today I can say that everything they have professed is valid and we have been very delighted working with them to fulfill customer needs”.
“I have been with Local Heroes since Sept 17. I believed their strategy would work very well for my company as we were new in the area and looking to find work that would fill our spare time. Today I can say that everything they have professed is valid and we have been very delighted working with them to fulfill customer needs.” (Trader)
See also the video of one of our Local Heroes, Jake in Guildford, and what he’s got out of using the platform.
Impact within Centrica
Not only has our customer strategy had an impact with our own team, but has also brought about a culture of innovation for customer centricity within Centrica. Local Heroes has inspired Centrica to create pockets of innovation in other areas of the business – proof that innovation can happen within a big corporate.
Examples of this include:
- Testing team structures
- Changing ways of working
- Creating an Innovation Lab within British Gas
In launching Local Heroes and innovating for customers, we strived to fix customer pain points and fundamentally approach things differently. An example of bringing innovation out in our product launch has been through the use of data to give customers up front price estimates.
In the On Demand / tradespeople market, the pricing of jobs is often based on the sucking of teeth and a bit of gut feel. We wanted to use our organisation’s and other data sources to give customers a good idea of how much their problem might cost to fix – including labour, materials and VAT.
We brought this innovation to market for customers through using 11 million job records from British Gas databases, we honed down with customers how they describe their problems and then developed a estimation algorithm with gives statistically accurate price ranges for jobs.
As we have the data to understand how much a job should cost, this eliminates the need for a bidding process: we match one customer with one tradesperson. This means tradespeople don’t need to spend time bidding for leads, and that consumers don’t get hassled by numerous tradespeople.
We are also unique in that we provide full end-to-end support to both consumer and tradesperson throughout each job, and all jobs are paid for securely online. This means safety for the tradesperson to get paid, as we will chase payments on their behalf, and peace of mind for the consumer.
We believe in our vetted tradespeople and data so strongly that we also offer a 12 month guarantee on all work, giving the consumer further peace of mind and committing ourselves to only the top level of service.
This is the first time a tradesperson service has provided this type of service and we think this type of innovation really shows what Local Heroes is all about.
Local Heroes was born out of a frustration at the inability of the market at that time to best serve the needs of customers and tradespeople.
Fundamentally we thought and continue to think that service levels can, and should, improve.
We strive to inspire a better standard of work within the industry; creating an industry without rogue traders, and looking after both the consumer and tradesperson throughout the journey.
Even when we’re helping out the community, we ask our customers for their thoughts too. We wanted to do something special to celebrate the launch of our services in Glasgow last year, and so identified four great causes in the city and asked people to vote for which we’d help out. Quarriers Mavisbank Respite Centre was chosen as the winner and we travelled to Glasgow to help renovate their bathroom facilities.
Innovating in a big corporate is never easy, fraught with complexity – but with a good amount of passion, hard work and dedication, it’s possible to create something truly innovative, even in a big business and that’s what we’ve done with Local Heroes.