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DGS 15: EZ Repair Hotline with Andy Shinn

Learn how Andy Shinn, former AAA executive and property management business owner, came to create a competitive, maintenance coordination call center in the U.S.

In this interview with Andy Shinn of EZ Repair Hotline, you’ll learn about his adventure in seeking to create the premier, maintenance-coordination call-center and how they partnered up with Property Meld.

Take Our Property Meld Maintenance Quiz (and get 15% Off): https://doorgrow.com/maintenance/

You’ll Learn…

[01:54] What is EZ Repair Hotline?
[03:00] Andy’s background at AAA, starting a new PM company, & how maintenance was preventing growth
[05:13] How putting his family first lead to creating EZ Repair Hotline
[06:28] A savvy method for researching and testing a product/service prior to launch
[08:22] How EZ Repair compares to other call center options
[09:30] Their two-tier system for fielding calls that includes property management specialists.
[10:39] Their connection with Property Meld
[13:19] About how they only hire U.S. call reps
[14:25] How his executive experience at AAA influenced their processes
[16:02] How they handle non-emergency calls and prevent unnecessary service calls
[17:19] They personalize the details of your maintenance call-handling with you
[17:47] They will even handle getting approvals from the homeowners
[18:26] Andy’s experience preventing negative property management reviews by providing excellent service
[19:22] They will enter work orders into whatever property management software you use.
[20:11] How their efficiency & processes allow them to keep their costs lower than the competition.
[20:36] Why you should leverage services that have expertise instead of trying to find one person to try to match an entire company.

Tweetables

It is a mistake to assume you can hire a single employee that could outdo an entire company that provides a low-cost service.

Property management vendors replace a single employee with an entire company that has a singular focus, tested systems, and proven processes.

Resources

Get 15% Off: https://doorgrow.com/maintenance
EZ Repair Hotline: http://www.ezrepairhotline.com

Transcript

Jason: Welcome! If this is your first time listening, then thanks for coming. The DoorGrow Show is a podcast for residential property management entrepreneurs that are interested in growing their business and life. If that is you, be sure to subscribe and rate us in iTunes and join your fellow DoorGrow Hackers online at doorgrowclub.com, our free community for property management entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Jason Hull, the founder of OpenPotion, GatherKudos, and of course, DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.

Welcome to episode number 15. This episode is with Andy Shinn of EZ Repair Hotline. He started a repair hotline handling maintenance coordination, stuff like that for property managers. I think you’ll really find this interesting. He has this executive level experience over at AAA. Took the systems and processes and knowledge that he gained making and building those at AAA, also the knowledge he gained being a property manager and then selling his business, to creating what he feels is the ultimate maintenance coordination service. I’m releasing this on the same day as episode number 14, which came just before. Make sure to tune into that because they go together. You’ll see why.

We are live here at the moment. I’m hanging out here with Andy Shinn of EZ Repair Hotline, correct?

Andy: Yeah. Thanks for having me on.

Jason: Yeah, you bet. Andy, tell me a little bit about EZ Repair Hotline and how you got started.

Andy: EZ Repair Hotline takes maintenance calls and coordinates maintenance for property management companies. That goes all the way from doing after hour services to doing full service, just like you hired a maintenance coordinator that works 24 hours a day. We’re always available.

We do everything with your vendors but we are going to coordinate with the tenants, the vendors, make sure they show up for the appointments and if they don’t, we’re going to do all the follow-up, and ultimately take that process all the way through until the repair’s actually concluded and the tenant actually says, “Yup, everything’s done, everything is satisfactory and good to go.” That’s what we do as a company. It’s really full service maintenance but again we got starter programs for after hours as well.

You asked how I got into it, I guess is interesting. I spent a long career at AAA, the Auto Club, great company. I spent 20 years there. When I retired I was an executive for AAA and I managed road service call receiving and dispatching for 10 states.

At some point, I got the entrepreneurship bug. My wife and I were investors in real estate. We decided we could start a property management company. We got licensed. We did our two years, we started our own company.

When I left AAA, I had to build up that company pretty quick because I was walking away from a salary. I had to figure out how do I grow this company fast enough that we can replace our income. The first thing I noticed that was getting in the way of growth was handling maintenance calls. I remember early on, literally walking on the porch, a new client I was about to meet when my phone rings, at that point it was just us. I was completely upset as they said the water heater exploded which turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration but I’m about to meet a new client, I’m all set, I’ve got this major problem put right in front of me.

Jason: Right now.

Andy: Yeah, immediately. Fortunately, I’m always early. I was about 10 minutes early for that appointment. I ran back to my car, got on my cellphone, and I made three phone calls before I could get somebody, one of my handymen actually, to run right out there ‘til a plumber could come out. I said okay. There’s got to be a better way. If I’m growing a business I can’t be handling this. I know this is the kind of thing property managers go through constantly.

Anyway, I set up a process first for the handyman to help me with phone calls when I couldn’t be there. Later, we formalized the process with a virtual assistant company, it was expensive and it wasn’t what they did, it wasn’t their core expertise. I just went out being a property manager. Circumstances I’ll tell you about caused me to move for family reasons and I said, “Boy, I’m going to sell my property management business, and we’re going to start this up.” That’s what I did.

Jason: Great. What prompted you to sell your property management business?

Andy: That’s funny. Sometimes things just fall into place. It’s almost been two years, my wife and I got a phone call from my stepson and our daughter-in-law saying they’re pregnant. They’re going to have our first grandchild. They lived in Las Vegas and we lived in Colorado. That was fine. But as the pregnancy is going on, my wife and I talked and we said, “You know what? We just got to be there. We just have to move there.” We didn’t know how exactly but we said we’re going to do that. We set that as our target to do that.

We moved and everything else. I actually hired somebody to be a general manager for my company in Colorado. Then I got a call from a property management company, a guy that I dealt with before, had good relationships before, we actually benchmarked with each other before in Colorado. He didn’t even know I was going through this move. He let me know that he was looking to buy a company and I said, “Wow. Your timing is perfect because this is exactly what I need to so I could focus on this new opportunity.”

Jason: The stars aligned, this new business opportunity. How long ago was this when you decided, “Hey, I’m going to get this entrepreneurial bug and start up my own business here.” How long ago did that take place?

Andy: Just a year ago, we started up the EZ Repair Hotline. Really what we did, we didn’t know exactly what the business model looks like right away. We knew there’s a repair hotline involved and what does that have to look like? A year ago or over a year ago we set that up.

It’s interesting how we got our first client. I started making calls here in Vegas because I said, “I want some information. I know, as a property manager, what I think about this but I wonder what other insights I could get from property managers about this. Is this a good idea? Is there a demand for this? Is there a market for this? I started making cold calls just to see if I could get some interviews with property managers here in Vegas.

Sure enough, I got five or six but one of those interviews was with a property manager. He’s like, “Oh my gosh, you’re exactly what I’ve been waiting for. I need you right now.” I said, “Well, that’s great, that’s awesome. I don’t have a service right now but if you’re really interested, I’d love to meet with you. Maybe we can help each other out because you can help me build this process, you can give me feedback, and we can build this up to be something really cool.” He said, “Yeah, count me in.”

That was actually what we did last years. We spent the rest of the year. We actually found one other company with the same thing. Those two companies, just here locally in Las Vegas, helped us build amazing process. Once we felt comfortable that we had it where we needed, January is really when we kicked off our national campaign to acquire property management clients. It’s been really exciting. I think there’s a huge demand for this. It’s a great service.

Jason: There’s already some people in the space. There’s Property Meld and Night Tenders and AppFolio has added the service. Tell me how you see yourself fitting in in the market with EZ Repair Hotline.

Andy: Yeah, you bet. Our core product is full service full hours maintenance coordination. I guess the other products that are out there that may provide that or may not provide that but their focus is maybe more on the after hours part, emergency stuff. We do that. I’ll do that for somebody who wants us to do that but we’re really there to be like an extension of your company and your entire maintenance form. It’s just like if you would have hired an outstanding employee to handle your maintenance except we’re a lot less expensive than hiring that employee but we’re providing same outstanding service.

AppFolio’s Call Center is a bargain for what they charge and what they provide. It’s a good service but it’s not full service. It’s not what you’re looking for if you want to have your maintenance coordinated, if you want to have all the follow-ups done. That’s what we’re doing. I think we’re doing something that’s a little bit different than what other companies are doing. We have a level of expertise. We’re not going into too much detail about our internal process.

We have two positions essentially, key staff position. The one is the call receiver, the first person that tenants talk to. These people are super friendly, they work on a script that helps them identify potential situations where we don’t really need to send somebody because we can talk the tenant through a GFI reset or something like that.

The second position is a specialist. All of my specialists are property management experienced. They see every call that we get. It might just be a glance and say, “Yep. It looks like they got the right place. I’m going to follow up in a couple of days,” or it might be, “Hey, take a look at this. I’m going to call a tenant because I got an idea here that we can save a service call,” or maybe, “I need to talk to a tenant about potential tenant responsibility on this issue.” All of my specialists are property management experienced.

You’re usually not going to find that anywhere else. That’s how we built our model. We’re going after full service, super expertise. You just can’t get this anywhere else. We’re providing a full service for this price. We got a really sleek, really efficient, and effective business model.

Jason: Great. You have mentioned before we hopped into this conversation that you have some connection also to Property Meld who we’ve had on the DoorGrow Show before.

Andy:  Yeah, that’s cool how that came about. I got a response on a Facebook post from a company. The response, I don’t remember exactly but it was something like, “You should look at Property Meld.” My take on the response was like, “Property Meld’s a competitor.” I went on their website. I said, “Well, this is a pretty sleek product they’ve got here.” We went through a work order software search just a few months ago and I was like, “Where were these guys then? I would love to have seen this before.”

I ended up chatting with their customer representative folks and eventually getting in touch with Ray, their CEO. We started talking. We said, “In sense maybe we’re competing because we’re competing for the same customers but there’s a figure.” Their product, our service really does exceptionally fit. We’re doing a combo product. I love their core management software because not only does it help us with the kind of efficiency model I was talking to you about but it also gives an arm of communication with the vendor and the tenant.

Just about the time that Ray and I finally were first hooked up, one of my clients have been asking me, “Do you have a product or do you know a product where we can do an online scheduling with our vendors and tenants?” I looked at the software product that we were using, which is a good product that we have done a search a few months ago but it just didn’t have that kind of connectivity, communicationability that we wanted. We introduced that client to Property Meld. They said, “Wow.” I said, “Okay, we’ve got something here.” Ray and I put together a package. Our products fit really well together. They’re fantastic products. We got a fantastic service.

Jason: It’s really great. Would people sign up through Property Meld or would they sign up through EZ Repair? How does that work if they want this cool combo that you got going with them?

Andy: Yeah. We got a partnership between the two companies. Either way is good with me but you can actually sign up through either company, through EZ or through Property Meld. If they go on to our side of EZ, you’ll see the full service options, all inclusive. If they go to Property Meld they’ll see the Property Meld product by itself. Once they upgrade to the full service management, the pricing is essentially the same. Either way is great. They’re going to get an awesome product there.

Jason: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Sounds like you’re really adding some value to the space.

I’m curious about the call rep. Property managers are always thinking like, “Who’s handling these phone calls because you’re going to be representing my company.” I think Ray talked about that a little bit. Maybe you could expand on that and just share how do they represent the company, where are these people, do they have crazy, heavy foreign accents? All this kind of stuff.

Andy: I had a bit of background with the Auto Club. Like the Auto Club, all of our call receivers are 100% here in the U.S., U.S. call receivers. They’re fantastic reps because their primary function is to be super friendly, to de escalate situations. Sometimes the tenant is freaking out because water’s spraying somewhere. We got to settle them down so we can walk them through to turn off the water or whatever step they need to take. They’re really good at those types of soft-service skills. Anybody who gets off the phone with one of our agents is going to feel better after they hang up because that’s the kind of agents we present.

I told you about my experience at AAA. I just want to tell you how that fit with what we’re doing with our company. I hope your viewers have a good impression of AAA. I think it’s one of the best service organizations in the country. What we did at AAA is we got a very similar model in the sense that we got a call receiver taking that call, going through a script but providing extraordinary customer service and de escalate. With road service, sometimes you gotta settle things down.

Then at the next level there’s a specialist. There was a dispatcher at AAA, that person’s got to make sure that the initial call went well. We got that frontend call receiver but they’re not as experienced as the dispatcher. The dispatcher takes the call and do everything right there. They get involved with all the follow-up, make sure the work gets done on time.

That process is between the call receiver and specialist. At AAA it was maybe a 45-minute process. In this industry, it’s a few days or a couple weeks but it’s a very similar process. We’ve got just outstanding customer service agents on the frontend and then super experts at the specials level to make sure that everything goes as it should.

Jason: The property managers, what are some of the most coming questions that they’re going to ask you when they call you up and they’re interested in your service? Let’s answer those now so that people listening or watching could get that information. What do people typically ask?

Andy: Yeah, you bet. Besides what we just talked about, where are you agents, we get that a lot.  Besides that is what about those calls that don’t really need a service call or aren’t really an emergency? We talked a little bit about that earlier. They want to know that their handyman is gonna charge them $75 to go reset the GFI or the client garbage disposal or something like that that we could’ve walked the tenant through over the phone. That’s probably the number one question I get, “Are you going to save those service calls that when I have a property manager on the phone we don’t actually end up sending service, can you do that too?” Not only can we do it too but I think we can do it more consistently than most companies because we got a whole system and format around how to do that.

The second is emergency calls. People call, it’s a Saturday night and they’re calling with something that is not really an emergency. They want to know that I’m not calling their vendors out and have a $200 emergency service fee because of something that really could have waiting until Monday, it’s just the washer is not working or something like that. They want to know we’re not spending our emergency service on that.

Our emergency service is a great one because we’ve got our own internal rules a bit skewed towards them, send service if the house is in danger. If there’s going to be additional damage to the house, otherwise let’s wait until the next business day. But the thing is we actually have a sit down with the client and they can tailor some of these rules. They might say, “You know what? I really think this particular kind of call is an emergency. Go ahead and add that to your list.” We can customize that for them.

Those questions primarily we get, they want to know that their tenants are going to be on the phone with a professional property management industry personnel and people who know what they’re doing and how to handle. I talked about our full service, it’s actually an option. But not only do we do everything, we’re giving how to communicate with your homeowner to get the approvals of your homeowner.

Certainly we get a lot of questions about, “Hey, you’re going to be on the phone with my homeowner, are they going to be impressed by you because you’re representing my company.” “Yeah, absolutely.” Those are the kinds of questions we get. I talked about our super friendly frontend staff but we got really well-educated and expert level specialist staff. Those are people who are talking to homeowners, those are people who are doing all the follow-ups.

These are the kind of questions we get. I think we got good answers to those. We’re providing a really good product. He is a former property manager. He’s got to meet that standard. I tell people we’re the largest property management company in Colorado Springs.

You don’t get that by doing things halfway. You get that by really focusing on what does your service have to look like, how do you treat customers? That’s what we put up to this business. Everything we do, every process we create, I’m looking at it from a standpoint of as a property manager, would I have accepted this kind of performance? Not only would I have accepted, would I have thought this was outstanding performance?

Jason: Fantastic. It sounds interesting, I think there are several clients of my own that will be interested in a service like this, I love that it integrates with Property Meld.

Andy: That linkage, if I could just throw in, a lot of people ask us about this too. The Property Meld, yeah we key into that but we also key into that property manager software system.

Here’s a situation where let’s say you’re using Buildium for example. You really like what Property Meld does but you want to have everything in one system, in Buildium. We’re bringing that all together because we’re going to do duplicative work, we’re going to update your work orders in Buildium, you’re still going to get the benefits of the property where your tenants and vendors are still going to be able to communicate through Property Meld, and here’s Buildium still getting updated. We’re doing all of that for you. It’s almost like having an integrated system.

Jason: Fantastic. Did we miss anything? Is there any other unique differentiators?

Andy: I get excited, you can probably tell. I think really the service that we provide and the level of expertise we’re providing is certainly unique, and the pricing. We’re not trying to compete on price but fact is we have a very efficient business model. I got experience, executive level experience at a company AAA that has to be super efficient. If you know what a membership costs, you know that we got this super efficient to be able to deliver what we deliver. I built processes at AAA. I built the process here. Nobody can match what we do for the price.

Jason: Anybody that’s followed me for any period of time knows that I’m a big fan of leveraging services and systems before you go out and start hiring people. If somebody can offhand the role of a maintenance coordinator and all the communication and time involved in coordinating maintenance and phone calls and talking with vendors using a service like yours in collaboration with Property Meld, these sort of things, they can save themselves the cost of a single employee at least annually. That is a big cost saving, initially.

Andy: It’s huge. We speak about benefits and everything else that goes into having an employee. I know people don’t believe that because you’re outsourcing the service. You’re going to get better service than you could ever hire to. You don’t have to hire somebody and hope that works out. You’re working with a company that knows how to deliver superior service to your tenants and to your homeowners when you work that package as well.

Jason: Yeah. I see the advantage as being your service and Property Meld service, these companies are focused on one thing. They’re focused on really good job at handling maintenance coordination, handling the maintenance, the emergency, the after hours maintenance. Having one person on your staff trying to coordinate all of that and do as good of a job versus an entire company with that focus with systems, processes, procedures, and expertise, it’s not going to be the same. Yeah, I recommend they check you out. How would they get all the view? How would they check you guys out?

Andy: The website is ezrepairhotlinellc.com. You can find some really good information out there. We got a good blog with really interesting posts about the industry or about customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. A lot of interesting reading on there. They could always call us at our main office, 800-488-6032, they can reach us anytime even though that’s our main office, we answer all the time. This is a 24-hour business just like property management can be a 24-hour business. We’re always available.

Jason: Alright, great. Get in touch. You can check them out at ezrepairhotlinellc.com.

Andy: That’s right.

Jason: Alright, great. What’s your number one more time?

Andy: It’s 800-488-6032.

Jason: Alright, 6032. Okay, great. Andy, I appreciate you coming out and hanging out here with me online. I wish you success.

Andy: This has been great. Thanks for having me on.

Jason: Got a little bit choppy there at the end, something to do with the internet or whatever, I don’t know, cellphone. Go to doorgrow.com/maintenance. I mentioned this on the previous episode but go to doorgrow.com/maintenance and you can get connected with these gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed the show.

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