SGconnect Blog

Articles, Posts, Tips & Advice, Reviews from Singapore

Getting your hands on the right Handyman!

Getting your hands on the right Handyman!

HandymanIt’s not easy to find an experienced, reliable, skilled and available handyman or contractor. Not to mention you don’t want to trust just anyone with the place you and your family call home.

Everyone struggles to find the time to get to some of those jobs around the home. Sometimes it is a small job; hanging a picture, fixing a door, painting a room. Sometimes a big project; kitchen renovation, garden landscaping room remodelling.

We often look to our family and friends for recommendations for contractors or interior designers to help us with these jobs. Often some of the best workers work off word of mouth and are difficult to find without a fancy website or advertisements.  No one wants to end up with a ‘cowboy’ contractor who doesn’t do the job right or a ‘lazy uncle’ who never seems to finish the project.

So, what do you look for in a contractor or handyman and what should you have in mind when hiring someone to work on your home or office?
Firstly, know the specifics of your job. Know exactly what you want done so you can find someone with the necessary skills and resources to carry out the work. Don’t leave any of the details unsaid. If you are clear on what the parameters of the job are, it’s more likely it will be done by someone who can deliver exactly what you want.

Secondly, agree on price and timeline. Make it clear what the budget of your project is and in what timeline you need the work to be complete. You don’t want your space disrupted any longer than it should be and if a contractor is too busy to take on your project, you will want to find out before work starts.

Each job is unique so it can be difficult to fine the right contractor to fit your requirements. By posting in SGconnect.sg your job will be exposed to a variety of service providers, handymen, contractors and interior designers. You can clearly state the specifics of your job, timeline and budget. Then all the skilled service providers that can do the job can bid for your business. You will be able to see rating from any previous work they have done and can therefore pick the best person for the job as well as the best price.

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Selecting a plumber in Singapore

b2ap3_thumbnail_plumber.jpgWhen choosing a plumber, specifically to Singapore, there are several key things you can do to ensure you're getting someone who is capable and can provide a quality service that is 100% professional.  There are a lot of general handyman and contractors that can possibly fix an immediate problem through a temporary measure or make-shift repair but this will more often than not work out more expensive longer term when the work needs to be redone or when the temporary measure fails and creates a bigger problem.

Fortunately, Singapore is well regulated compared with other countries on plumbing and water services work.  There has been significant amounts of government investment on the various elements which makes up Singapore's drinking water system as well as sewerage and water management facilities.

The Public Utilities Board (PUB) in Singapore has several regulations to ensure residential and commercial buildings have any water services work done complying with these requirements.  Further info can be viewed at the PUB website.

The other service the PUB website offers is a search function to search through the licensed plumbers, allowing you to check that any Service Provider you consider on using to check their accreditation status with PUB I.e. making sure they are licensed to work on Water Services.

Aside from being licensed, you can also consider some general common sense factors such as the length of time the company has been in business.  Obviously, someone with 20 years experience is going to be much better at completing work in a professional manner but also have a better understanding of providing a cost and time quotation.

At SGconnect.sg, we have many plumbing specialists across Singapore that will offer you a quotation to complete plumbing jobs that you post.  However, as usual when approaching to use any Service Provider, make sure you do your research don't just rely what you see at face value from reading online marketing and company sales information, it can be very deceptive.

You could always get a reference from friends, family or neighbours but remember to get a broad perspective as a simple repair that someone is appreciative about is a hugely different job from getting a whole bathroom rebuilt with new plumbing throughout the building.

It's also important to consider any risk factors when looking a hiring a contractor for any work, including plumbing.  Does your insurance cover any issues or accidents that arise and does the Service Provider have adequate insurance.

SGconnect.sg not only provides you with the ability to review plumbers through our portal but you can also manage the selection process and confirm in writing the work you want carried out (with photo upload) as well as the payment to help ensure you don't succumb to an ever increasing cost or getting half the job done.

If you have any feedback, additional advice or comments on this, please feel free to leave them below.

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The Evolution of Service Providers

Evolution of Service ProvidersWe have evolved! ...or have we?!

Evolution is the key theme here, we have progressed a long way over time with the different sources of information that have now become available for consumers to find businesses and services.  Technology, internet access and social media providing an environment and opportunity for us to potentially have full and perfect information of services available in our local community.  The problem is, are we making most the most out of these channels?  If you think about it, it seems we are applying a traditional mindset to getting jobs done and finding quotes and needless spending time to search and call around.

Jobs, jobs and more jobs...

Take a scenario in that you are soon moving home and have a whole list of various jobs and tasks to be done as part of your move.  You may well need decorators, movers, contractors for electrical work, plumbers etc the list could be endless.   The general problem we all face in such as scenario is finding the right people who are available at the right time and at the right price to help you get these jobs done with as little stress as possible. Unfortunately, half the time you cannot even get any recommended Service Providers to respond to your request and settle for whomever responds!  It doesn't just have to be domestic issues that we consider either, in Singapore, there is much subcontracting, project work and commercial activities where Service Providers are required.

Core challenges still remain but in a different format...

Over the years you will have managed to find these services and recommended businesses or contractors through either word of mouth and from contacts and family or through using a traditional business directory service.  It wasn't so long ago that every household had a two to three inch thick business directory next to their telephone which was the annual update for all local business contacts and ads. 

Typically with the new channels and media now available, this hard copy directory has been phased out for the most part (saving several million trees every year!) and replaced by online business listings, social media sites, forums, lifestyle websites etc.  The online information now to finding a service is endless.. to the point we now have too much information and lack of transparency or ability to really filter out what is shown or published or local to where you live.  Google and the other search engines are amazing and continually improve to try and make the information displayed more relevant to what you specifically need, most recently Google local reviews, the integration with maps and user profiles. However, two problems still remain once you've got your search results:


•There is no clear way of knowing the quality of work and professionalism of a Service Provider until you start working with them
•Managing and controlling the relationship you have with the Service Provider after the initial contact.

These two issues can be addressed by the amount of effort you are willing to invest in background checking prior to awarding work to be done but also the resources you can have access to, in reality this is time consuming and not always possible.

 

Controlling quality of service...

When we started creating the SGconnect website, we were asked why services and local service 'review' sites are significantly behind travel portals like TripAdvisor and the product review and shopping sites like Amazon.  This is primarily because those particular types of service are standardised in a global marketplace.  I.e. everyone will generally get the same experience staying at a specific hotel, there will be always be difference in opinions and some bad days impacting guests but on the whole a reasonable number of reviews should give another reader the overall picture they can expect.  Same with product review sites, aside from regional variations, most products will be manufactured as common as possible for global exports and market reach and the reviews will be similar.

For large corporations and bigger businesses, they have impressive websites, marketing campaigns and already massive investment into showing potential customers their standard of work.   Obviously, its not always possible to maintain a standard when you have a global business and you will always have varying levels of quality from country to country etc as the people, management etc changes.  Smaller businesses, freelancers and self employed Service Providers however have a great amount of control to manage their standard of work and quality of service.  This smaller business and start-up sector combined with local geographic parameter is exactly what we focus our attention to. 

At SGconnect, we are fortunate to have a wealth of knowledge and experience with project work, every day small business management and applying technical solutions to now help other small businesses, freelancers and start-ups.  Such as advising how to best create your profile to reach potential customers that would otherwise not know of your services or not trust without seeing some credentials from your previous work.

Choosing the best media or advertising channels for services promotion..

The majority of small businesses, freelancers and start-ups in Singapore will have very limited budget to spend on advertising or able to pay consultant and SEO fees.  Even if they do have some funds for marketing and advertising, how best to spend it? 

Google is great but expensive and doesn't necessarily always provide results for the costs especially if you are in a mainstream service such as plumbing or electrician. Currently the estimated AdWords cost for something like 'Find a plumber in Singapore' is roughly $15-$20 per click through! Traditional media formats of papers, magazines, radio and TV are often good if you can get a reasonable price and relevant audience but again expensive for the small to medium business.  From our experience, the most common practice seems to be use business listings, classifieds and simple websites.

The trouble with this approach, classifieds and listings such as Gumtree and STclassified are good because they are free and gives some openings for leads for browsing users but are fairly passive.  Also, generally they do not provide the users with much independent or reliable source for reviews and ratings of your services.   Creating a simple website is good but it is fairly isolated without any spending on marketing and SEO work.

Services we offer...

This is where SGconnect.sg solves a common problem for both consumer and Service Provider.   We provide a platform for small business, freelancers and start-ups in Singapore to build a profile of their business services and allows for comprehensive ratings and reviews to be left by users.  The key thing is, the reviews can only be left by registered users, that need to provide a reasonable level of user detail and specific detail regarding the job, so that its a trusted source for reference.   Our basic services for this platform access is completely free, our aim is to build an online community portal for Singapore that is easily accessible but not just open for guest access or easy manipulation of the reviews.   Our team also track and audit the reviews that are left on a regular basis.  This allows the job posters to quickly ascertain the 5 star contractors, plumbers, tutors, caterers, IT specialists, web designers, any local service provider from the other ones that do not even turn up to start the job! It rewards the good from the bad, the skilled and not the cowboys!

Again, as our site goes through the evolution of being a new portal with growing traffic, we aim to become the main service portal in Singapore across a broad range of services.  Our website is now live and we plan a large update of it in August 2014 to improve the user registration, profiles and ratings and review sections.   Towards the end of the year, we will release mobile apps on both iOS and Android platforms that will complement the site and really improve the ease of interaction between consumers and Service Providers.

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Before You Hire A Babysitter in Singapore: What You Should Know


b2ap3_thumbnail_babysitter.jpgYou are all dressed up and ready to meet friends in central Singapore for the first time in ages! As you leave and say goodbye to the babysitter, alarm bells start ringing in your head. Does the babysitter have the the correct know-how to keep your children safe and happy while you are away? Will they contact you in an emergency?  It's so important to ensure you've considered all aspects of using a babysitter, not just chosen the most convenient option.

Where To Look for a Babysitter and What To Ask
When looking for a babysitter, it is obviously best to start close to home. Your community groups such as your local schools, church groups and your place of work are filled with people you know and are more likely to give meaningful feedback.  In Singapore, most family have Foreign Domestic helpers that can be an option but for others, it's essentially a case of using someone whom they do not have regular engagement with.

If there are no immediate options, you can consider to use online services and sites with references and checks.   At www.sgconnect,sg you can see the profiles of babysitters in you local area in Singapore, see feedback left by other registered users and connect with them to help with reference checks.

Once you have some reference points, contact the family they have worked for. Ask questions about how many children they have, whether they were happy with the sitter and what issues, if any, were experienced.

Is He or She Qualified to Be a Babysitter?
The first point of call is whether you would trust this caregiver with your child! If you feel relaxed and comfortable, don't stop there. Check out the sitters qualifications. The person should be a non-smoker, healthy, well groomed, punctual and organized. A mature, friendly personality with good common sense is paramount.  It is also generally recommended that they have had suitable training in CPR and basic First Aid.

Observe the Babysitter Interacting With Your Kids
You need to spend some time together with the sitter and your children. Observe how he or she interacts with them. Get a feeling for whether they understand your parenting methods and will follow your lead. Most importantly, ask some questions about the type of training they've had and how they will deal with emergency situations. A competent sitter will gladly answer your questions in a mature and knowledgeable way.

Plan for the Arrival of the Babysitter and leave contact information
Be ready for your babysitter's arrival. The last thing you want is to be rushing around in a panic when she arrives. Have emergency numbers on hand to give her.  In the event of a life-threatening emergency, a medical professional is allowed to treat your child. For any other injuries you need to be the first point of contact. For peace of mind, ask the babysitter to come at least half an hour before you need to leave.

Discuss your House Rules
The sitter should know and understand your basic house rules. If not, your children will start receiving confusing mixed signals as to what is and is not allowed! Discussing this upfront, will make the whole process smoother and far more pleasant.

Call Home To Check on the Kids and the Babysitter
Call home at some stage during the evening, especially if this is the first time. Both the kids and the sitter will greatly appreciate this. You will also be able to judge whether all is well. Just after bed time is always good; you can check whether they have listened to the caregiver and gone to bed, and offer her some advise and support if they have not.

Get feedback When You Return Home
When you get home, spend some time with the sitter before she rushes off. Discuss any problems she may have had. Let her know that you are aware of behavioural issues she may be reluctant to discuss, thinking it is her fault. The more she knows, the more comfortable she will feel.  

Spend time when selecting your sitter. Check out referrals and her training for emergencies. Meet her, let the kids meet her, and have a discussion before you leave your kids alone. An open and honest relationship will make for a great sitter who will stay with you for years to come.

We can help you find the right babysitting service at www.sgconnect.sg, contact eve@sgconnectsg for more details.

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