Michael Petri spoke with me from the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. — New York City. From his kitchen table in Brooklyn, this lifelong New Yorker, home service professional and owner of Petri Plumbing & Heating, says he’s never seen a crisis like this.
“I’ve been living in New York City my whole life,” he says. “I was at the World Trade Center the next day after it fell. I’ve been through Hurricane Sandy. But this is totally different.”
Petri says there has been a fundamental shift in the way his team interacts with customers as well as the expectations of his team.
“I had to talk to them — the younger people who work for me,” Petri says. “I could see they were all nervous. People are calling us for emergencies, but I can’t force my people to go into homes they’re not comfortable in. And the clients are apprehensive about bringing us in. They’re thinking the same things we’re thinking.”
But using cloud-based technology has helped Petri keep his staff healthy and calm his customers’ fears.
LOOKING AT THE PAST
Designated an essential service, Petri Plumbing is still serving New York City, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is even asking customers if it can bring them groceries and necessities. But Petri states that without recent technological advances in the home service industry, none of this would have been possible.
“If this was 15-20 years ago, I don’t think anybody would have been able to work,” he says. “A lot of stuff had to be face-to-face. Invoicing was handwritten. You couldn’t work remotely, and calls had to come in to the essential number. But now we have phone systems that work in the cloud. We have a dispatch system with our invoicing online. This couldn’t have happened back then.”
Petri Plumbing and Heating uses ServiceTitan, a cloud-based platform for dispatch, customer service, invoicing, billing, internal communication and more.
“I’m sitting at my computer at home, and I’m able to watch everything that goes on,” Petri says.
ServiceTitan has also helped clients feel safer bringing Petri Plumbing and Heating technicians into their homes.
“There’s nothing for the clients to touch anymore. Everything is right in front of them with ServiceTitan,” he says. “Through our dispatch board, we send the client a picture of who’s coming, along with their biography and what to expect. We do follow-up calls through ServiceTitan, too.”
That kind of functionality is helping Petri Plumbing and Heating help their community, even in the middle of a crisis.
For the people behind cloud-based solutions like ServiceTitan, supporting businesses like Petri Plumbing and Heating through the COVID-19 pandemic is an extension of their mission. By keeping local home service businesses functional, they are serving local communities and helping homeowners stay safe, healthy and comfortable.
“When I co-founded ServiceTitan, I wanted to help skilled trades business owners like my father survive, thrive and prosper,” says ServiceTitan CEO Ara Mahdessian. “In this challenging time, they need ways to stay agile, adjust their business model and keep helping families. We’re proud to be providing this service for them.”
In response to COVID-19, ServiceTitan teams in California and Georgia have transitioned to remote work, keeping the staff healthy and able to continue serving their clients.
“Our teams have really put in a huge amount of work and showed tenacity in the face of this change,” Mahdessian says. “Our clients are real heroes, and we’ll be with them through this.”
CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
Back in Brooklyn, the Petri Plumbing and Heating team is working hard to adapt to changing conditions.
“We’re no different than the rest of the country,” says Petri. “We’re trying to keep up with this thing.”
However, he hopes that more people see and understand the work home service technicians are doing and the risks they’re taking during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“These guys are on the front lines, but nobody talks about it,” says Petri. “That bothers me. The trades don’t get the credit they deserve. If we don’t get people hot water, they won’t be able to wash their hands and stay healthy.”
Petri says he hopes that people realize the value of the skilled trades.
“Plumbing has always been deemed blue-collar work, but I’ve never accepted that,” he says. “We have a reputation of providing really good service for our clients. It’s something that we do every day, but you don’t see how important it is until it comes to something like this.”