Community Listings: sharing local knowledge on home-based services

We need a Trip Advisor, AirTasker or similar organisation to facilitate sharing local knowledge about commonly needed, home-based, often costly, trade and professional services? We all need them, sometimes urgently.  Often we have no knowledge of the effectiveness of available providers.  We take pot luck.  We complain of bad service.  How can we improve our success rate?

Last year, I started a community listing for my street of recommended service providers that we used, so that others in the street could take advantage of our good experiences.

The street has 50 houses and we have a relatively close community. Most of us know about half the people who live in the street.  We have a street listing of everyone, including phone numbers and children’s names.  All volunteered.  No concerns about privacy here.  We already share our own property (mowers, trimmers, bins, pools) and mind each other’s homes when people are away.

Each week the street is deluged with service provider vehicles – building contractors, physical maintenance trucks, personal home services – as each house has some one-off or regular servicing needs. I wondered:  couldn’t we use our collective experience to get consistently good providers by finding out – formally –the good providers our neighbours use.  It’s Trip Advisor for household services, I suppose.

I letter dropped the street and invited everyone to a meeting. About 25% indicated interest.  An IT specialist told us how we could combine information on a jointly accessible but private spreadsheet.  He set it up and I circulated it to everyone.  We all contributed our recommendations and – 30 recommended suppliers later –  we got started!

What has our first year’s experience been?  An unexpected positive outcome has been that we now know more people, better, than we did a year ago.  The community feels stronger, deeper.  However, the list hasn’t grown as I had hoped.  We’ve attracted a couple more homes and a few new providers, but very few have posted reviews of providers used.  Why?

In my case, I haven’t actually had a need for new providers over the last year and a number of others have said that too. Partly though, I think it is my fault.  I drove the formation of the listing, but I haven’t followed it up.  I haven’t asked users for their experiences, to add new service providers or tried to add new users.

Perhaps that’s because I’m more of a starter of new projects than a maintainer of them. Perhaps it’s because no one else offered to help.  Perhaps it’s because most people imagine it’s hard to do. (It’s not!) All I really need is one supporter who encourages me, and I would continue the service diligently myself, try to expand it, try to get others involved.  But over the year I’ve developed other new interests – such as this blog – which take time I might have used for the community listing.  So for me it is now in the McKinsey ‘question mark’ business portfolio category:  an idea needing investment (of time) to have a chance of success, without which it will probably wither and die.

I’m optimistic our community listing will succeed, but I know it needs more than just my commitment to make it work. Anyone out there want to help?  Anyone want to try it for their community?  There’s so much to be gained.  Perhaps I should contact Trip Advisor…

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