Johannesburg - Small businesses are the lifeblood of any country’s economy, they operate, yet the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated their operations, forcing many to close their doors permanently.
This has left millions of people across the globe without an income and scores of families suffering the financial effects of the novel coronavirus.
For tradespeople, which includes plumbers, electricians, handymen and locksmiths, their services in South Africa to people from all walks of life are essential.
Yet the global health crisis as well as subsequent lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of the deadly virus has meant that many were unable to work.
In a bid to keep their businesses operational, a one-stop ‘business digital management tool in the pocket of on-call trade specialists" has been launched.
The TOD app, according to its CEO and founder Shannon Mackrill, aims to ensure a smoother working life and, most importantly, more job requests.
“It’s like the Uber for people who need plumbers, handymen, locksmiths and electricians in real time and TOD’s new HERO app is paving the way for tradespeople,” he explained.
“Our aim is to empower smaller businesses who are often overlooked in favour of larger companies to access a broader customer and business network.’’
The mobile applications come in two forms; TOD for the use of tradespeople to enlist their services and TOD HERO, which allows consumers to be matched with the correct professionals for the job they need to get done.
Both are free to download on Apple and IOS devices and feature add-ons includie GPS tracking, photo sharing, detailed job card descriptions, tool suggestions and an in-app chat function.
“This all makes preparing for jobs easier than ever,” Mackrill believes.
While the TOD apps were established back in 2016 when it received supplementary work, the latest iteration of the HERO app as a business management tool was launched last year.
It now has close to 3 000 registered tradespeople across multiple categories of service, 40 000 registered customers and tens of businesses who utilise their services for property, insurance and installation management.
“Those who use it, love it,” Mackrill insisted.
He added that the pandemic has been particularly tough for South Africa’s tradespeople who were forced to find alternative financial means during the unprecedented time.
“Much like many others, tradespeople lost their jobs and those who had small businesses found themselves in desperate need to supplement their income.”
While consumer’s finances as well as the lockdown restrictions made life challenging for the likes of plumbers, handymen, locksmiths and electricians, their services were still in need.
“Geysers still burst, gutters still needed mending and people became more aware of those niggling home fixes.”
Mackrill said that this also meant that they had to rethink their own services.
“During the height of the lockdown, we provided a virtual DIY service, posted top home maintenance tips and most of all, increased the size of the available network for each of our Heroes.”
New business management features in the app also prioritise simplicity, direct connection and cashless payment.
“Now tradespeople can email personal job quotes, get them approved, generate invoices and send them to clients, all in-app,” Mackrill said.
“The same holds true for diary management of TOD jobs, private work and reminders, thereby syncing perfectly into a brilliant and intuitive diary management tool that now also allows clients to book your services at a later date.”
While the app has been a revelation to those who require tradespeople’s services as well as the professionals themselves, Mackrill explained that much work has gone into the TOD apps.
This includes a lengthy process of iterations and workshops with tradespeople who use the app as well as reimagining their User Experience (UX).
“We also provide in-app tech training, constant appraisal, and the ability for the customers to rate tradespeople,” said Mackrill.
He added that in-app before and after photos allow them to manage quality and protect the tradespeople against unfair workmanship comebacks and the customer from below par work.
“We have a dashboard that monitors response times, arrival, quote generation and job duration. We offer our heroes interest-free loans to subsidise the purchase of materials to ensure that they can accept larger jobs and maximise their earnings.”
Mackrill said they also provided in-app tech training, constant appraisal and the ability for the customers to rate tradespeople.
“We offer our heroes interest-free loans to subsidise the purchase of materials to ensure that they can accept larger jobs and maximise their earnings.”
In order to keep all those who use the TOD apps safe, the CEO explained that they run voluntary criminal background checks on their tradespeople, vet proof of certifications and offer an in-app rating system.
“Tradespeople load a recent photo, various identification documentation and references which we collect and vet,” he said.
“Their image and ratings are visible to the customer and consumers are able to preload their credit cards and image at registration, ensuring tradespeople have visibility and safety from non-payments.”
While all these features have contributed to the TOD apps’ success, Mackrill also believes that its user-friendly features have made it a hit among those who require the services of tradespeople.
“When heroes download the app, they load all details easily through our registration process and once they are vetted, they will begin receiving work requests.
“From here, it is fastest-fingers-first to accept on-demand and future dated requests from customers and our business partners.”
The TOD services are currently only available in major cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban but Mackrill says there are plans to extend their reach across South Africa.
The reimagined HERO app is the result of years of extensive research aimed at understanding what Mackrill calls tradespeople’s “pain points” and how they relate to customer needs.