There are many reasons why price comparisons for services aren’t generally done. (i.e., the difficulty of nailing down providers, price changes, the need for custom quotes in many categories). Generally, people should choose service providers on multiple criteria, not just price.
But wouldn’t it be nice to get a cross-section of service pricing, like you can with PriceGrabber? That’s the concept behind Atlanta start-up LocalPrice, which hopes to use price comparison to differentiate itself from such competitors as ServiceMagic, Angie’s List, Done Right and now Sears ServiceLive.
LocalPrice directly contacts local businesses and elicits information on price, as well as more typical “copy point” information (hours, credit card, languages spoken, etc.). Twenty-four service categories have been included at launch, and the template is customized for each. Participating businesses get free listings with links, at least for now.
Dentists, for instance, provide pricing information on cleaning, root canal fillings and crowns, and also provide information on whether they see children, have 24-hour emergency service and are accepting new patients. (I’m looking at having some dental work done now, and I certainly find the pricing info to be of real interest.)
Locksmiths provide information on numerous categories, such as rates for service calls, to make vehicle keys and to replace door knobs. Founder Rob Shields, a former Yodlee executive, says some services are less resistant to pricing info than others.
There is no mystery to pricing from pet sitters and hardwood flooring, for instance. But the company has seen a lot of resistance from fence builders and Lasik doctors. The goal, however, is to provide at least four or five businesses in each category.
While LocalPrice expects some traffic to come directly to the URL, a lot of the site’s traffic will initially come from good SEO, adds Shields. The site has successfully gotten on the first page of Google and Yahoo for searches such as “Atlanta Burglar alarms,” “Atlanta teeth cleaning,” “Atlanta portable storage,” “Atlanta termite,” “Atlanta granite countertops” and others.
“The search engines tend to penalize new sites like ours,” says Shields. “So we expect that these rankings will continue to improve over time.”
If the service can prove itself in Atlanta, and get some funding, Shields hopes to take the concept to other markets. He knows the hardest part is going to be getting the rate sheets from a wide number of services, but he says he has some kind of secret sauce for making direct contact with them. The limited number of providers that he will feature may also be a problem for consumers who are used to more comprehensive listings.