You can hire a plumber on Amazon, you can hire a plumber on Google and, starting today, you can hire a plumber on Facebook. Facebook Messenger, that is. The social networking company announces a deal today with Pro.com, a service provider platform akin to Thumbtack or Porch.com, that will allow Messenger users to book one of the companies "Certified Professionals" both via Facebook or text message.
Facebook has been aggressively expanding its utilitarian offerings of late. This spring, the company announced that customers would soon be able to handle things like returns and orders with online retailers via Messenger. In August, it launched an automated digital assistant named M to rival Siri or Cortana. More recently, the company has been working to expand Facebook at Work, a tool for communicating with coworkers. This partnership with Pro.com is yet another push by the company we associate with party invitations and baby pictures into the more practical, less exciting parts of our lives. Of course, the partnership isn't exclusive, but for now Pro.com is the only home services provider partnering with Facebook.
But it's also a push into a market that has been increasingly competitive of late. Amazon launched Home Services in March, which allows customers to "buy" a service for a flat rate online, very much in the same way Pro.com does. Amazon also partnered with TaskRabbit to ensure a supply of service providers in much the same way that Facebook has partnered with Pro.com. Google was the next major tech company to follow suit, launching an ad product that lets search users book plumbers, maids and locksmiths without leaving the native results interface.
There's also been a flutter of activity beyond these major tech companies, however, as the smaller players in the space struggle to retain their footing. Porch.com, for example, recently launched a new program that guarantees a free do-over to customers who are unhappy with the service they receive. (Pro.com, for what it worth, also has a version of this guarantee.) Meanwhile, Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta, whose company recently raised $125 million and is valued at over $1 billion, is in The New York Times, talking about the taking meetings with Senator Mark Warren and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It's a hot moment for plumbers.
Pro.com, which has been around since 2013, is likely looking to make a splash and draw some attention to itself with this new service. The company has raised over $17 million in venture capital and has a network of "hundreds of thousands" of service providers, who have performed over $350 million of home repairs so far. To power the new service, Pro.com employs "Home Project Managers" in Seattle who communicate with customers — either via text message or Facebook Messenger — about the task at hand, the cost, and finding the appropriate service provider. For now, Text-a-Pro (and it's Facebook Messenger equivalent) are available only in Seattle and San Francisco.
The press release notes, additionally, that customers using Facebook Messenger to contact a service professional can also use Facebook's stickers.
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O’Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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