Millennial and Gen Z consumers are raising the digital bar on home services pros, creating new opportunities and challenges for HVAC, plumbing and electrical small businesses, a new survey from Weave finds.

While some things stay the same — overwhelmingly, 73% of respondents prefer using locally-owned home service businesses compared to franchises or national chains — much is changing with each generation in how they want to engage, communicate with and pay home service pros. The homeownership rate among millennials is on the rise in recent years, and this new generation of home services customers signals a need for pros to increase their use of digital tools and adapt to new customer expectations.

In partnership with Dynata, Weave conducted a consumer survey, targeting 1,000 adults across the United States, age 18+, during September 2021. Figures for age, gender, education, income, employment and region were weighted to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

Here are three key findings from Weave’s survey and what home service pros can do to reach the booming group of America’s newest homeowners.

1. Younger Generations Want Digital Conveniences

Millennials (64%), Gen Z (54%) and Gen X (58%) consumers said they are more likely to choose a home services pro if they offered digital tools, such as online scheduling and text payments, than their Baby Boomer counterparts (28%).

But when looking at the entire surveyed audience, payment preferences varied. The swipe is still dominant, with 43% of respondents selecting it as their preferred payment method. However, cash, check, contactless payments and peer-to-peer payment tools like Venmo and Zelle all made the list, pointing to a need to maintain multiple payment options and methods for an increasingly diverse customer base.

2. Word of Mouth Still Matters… But Digital Word of Mouth is King

While personal recommendations aren’t disappearing, younger home services customers rely increasingly on online reviews. Interestingly, the youngest customers — those aged 18-34 in our survey — were nearly 4 times as likely as older Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers to say they’d trust online reviews over the word of someone they knew. That’s a shocking stat when you consider how important word of mouth has traditionally been in the Home Services space. Online reviews can be a revenue generator or a detractor for many home service pros, though many are not asking their customers to leave online reviews after a job well done.

And of the youngest set of consumers surveyed, Gen Z, 3 in 5 said they wouldn’t hire a home service pro if they had no online reviews. Ignoring your online review presence will only cost home service pros revenue and growth opportunities.

3. Lack of Communication Is a Top Frustration

While the majority of the survey’s findings pointed to a major generational gap when it comes to how consumers select an HVAC, electrical, or plumbing pro, there is one thing that continues to unite homeowners — their frustrations.

Lack of communication was the largest frustration consumers ran into when hiring a home services pro, with 39% of all respondents selecting that complaint. How consumers want to be communicated with when working with a home service pro was relatively “old-school”, however. The top preferred communication method was a phone call (68%), followed by texting (16%) and email (14%). Having tools to communicate with customers on a variety of platforms is essential for electrical, HVAC and plumbing businesses. Likewise, knowing the best time of day to reach customers is also important.

What You Can Do to Modernize Your Plumbing, Electrical or HVAC Business

As younger generations come to market and hold increasingly more buying power, small business owners must take steps to future-proof operations now or they risk losing out on attracting and retaining business from a large segment of the population.

Upgrade your tech.

You can’t do it all. Sending even a templated email to every customer you visited that day asking for an online review is tedious, tiresome and the last thing you want to do at the end of a very busy day. Automation and tools that bring efficiency to these important tasks is essential. Weave’s unified platform, for example, can help you automate appointment reminders, reducing no-shows, as well as sending text message requests for reviews and payments once a service is completed. You can safely put your review and billing collection on auto-pilot, saving you and your staff time and money.

Diversify your payment and communication options.

You can’t rely on just one way of collecting payments or communicating with customers anymore. As our survey shows, generational divides in these preferences, combined with an increasingly tech-savvy generation of home service business owners, means your competition is only getting more competitive. You don’t have to patch together a list of different products to meet the diverse preferences of your customer base, however. Since launching payments in 2020, Weave’s platform lets your customers decide how to pay you, but gives you the tools to take payments with a card at the time of service and to take a payment with a simple text message, helping you collect payments quickly.

Ask your customers what they prefer.

Showcasing the options you provide is part of what can set your home services business apart to customers. After all, if younger generations prefer to work with businesses that offer digital tools like text to pay, you need to be sure to promote those offerings on your website, social media accounts and on review sites where your customers are already finding you. A great example of putting this into action is Weave’s Web Assistant tool. This website add-on allows your customers to start a text conversation and even request an appointment with you in real time. The best part is that they don’t have to stay on screen like a traditional web chat tool — they can keep the conversation going on their mobile phone as you’re able to respond.