A breath of cool air to home services

Hakeem SA, co0founder, Serviceback.com

Founded in 2020, ServiceBack.com is a homegrown home services platform that is the first to offer marketing costs back to customers as cashback. SMEhorizon talks to Hakeem SA, one of the co-founders of ServiceBack.com on the problems that inspired his forays into this industry, the technology they use to power their innovations, and their company’s future plans.

Studying Statistics in NUS, Hakeem was also involved in the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programmes. Having kickstarted his career in content marketing before venturing into bottom-funnel performance marketing, he started up his own aircon servicing business as a side-hustle while he was still working in a relocation start-up in Singapore.

This was inspired by his own unpleasant experience having his aircon serviced, including being billed for costs he didn’t  understand and being quoted an inflated price. Working with domain experts in the industry in its initial stages, the company progressed well before the circuit breaker.

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Through this journey, Hakeem also learned of the challenges and missed opportunities that vendors faced at each part of the customer journey, from customer acquisition and fulfilment to customer retention. These insights were what provided the lightbulb moment for ServiceBack, which aimed to solve the problem of highly inequitable acquisition costs borne by the customer, a situation he described as “problematic, perennial and prevalent”, and ultimately “unsustainable”.

Explaning the cashback model they use, Hakeem pointed out that key realization was that a large part of the fees borne by customers when making purchases in the home services and reno space is related to the matching fee that paid platforms like Facebook and Google charge vendors to be matched to customers. Vendors have no choice but to pass these costs on to the customers. “These acquisitions costs could go up to 30-40% of any purchase,” said Hakeem.

“With ServiceBack, when customers come to us directly, we’re sharing with them what we otherwise would have spent to acquire them as users. So, rather than paying the likes of Facebook and Google, we would rather share and give it back to our customers in the form of cashback.”

The ultimate goal, for Hakeem, is to use the platform to make a traditionally opaque industry more transparent, more fairly priced, and raise the standards in the industry.

Digitalisation as a means, not an end

Understanding that “digitalising isn’t an end in itself, but rather a way to solve inherent problems in the industry,” Hakeem and his co-founders focused on how they could solve the problems they identified with technology.

Part of their innovations include their proprietary matching model developed based on refinement and finetuning through numerous iterations, with results dependent on multiple factors, such as experience, availability, reviews and historical track records. They are looking to develop this further based on compatibility scoring.

“With this matching model, we plan to further tighten our vendor and customer matching process,” said Hakeem.

These efforts are hosted on the cloud, with a custom-built platform, and no particular vendors or services used. Similarly, they do their tech development in-house.

Cooling down a critical period

ServiceBack was only formalised in May 2020 right in the middle of Circuit Breaker and when the pandemic was at its peak. This may seem surprising seen from the outside. But, as Hakeem recalls, the pandemic resulted in some things working in their favour.

“Most people are working from home and naturally, they are using their aircon more, and this means it’s breaking down at twice the speed,” he explained.

“They’re also buying more aircon and servicing their aircon more. We were gaining good traction and the opportunity was there.”

Riding on the success of their endeavours, Hakeem and his co-founders have their sights set further afield. Describing their future plans, he said they are looking to test and grow in Singapore, expand into two cities by the middle of 2022, and then consider regional expansion.

Other avenues for they are exploring to develop their platform further include elements of FinTech. “In line with the CashBack model, we are going to introduce a Group Buy Concept, Home/Reno Credit Line with partner financing facilities, instalment payments for large ticket purchases and partnering with other payment providers for cross-platform rewards and merchant cashback,” Hakeem concluded.