Big Thinking/ReThinking Angie’s List: Our Talk with CEO Scott Durchslag

Angie’s List is an iconic brand in the home services space that now has 3.25 million paying customers, 10 million verified reviews, and continues to grow its customer and advertising base. But it faces a growing group of competitors that see greater opportunities in the space and smell blood in the water, including Amazon, Google, Home Advisor, Houzz, Porch and Serviz. It also faces pressure from impatient investors who are distressed at the company’s stock price and are seeking new scenarios for the company, including possible mergers or a sale.

Did Angie’s List squander its lead and wait too long to update its interface with customers, develop ecommerce features, or move away from a customer paywall model? New CEO Scott Durchslag – a veteran tech leader from BestBuy, Skype and Expedia who just came on in September — talked with Local Onliner today about his plan and vision for the company, which includes the company’s new guaranteed leads and quality program; efforts to work with key brands on special promotions and sales; build out the B2B presence; and evolve the company’s call center to sell new products.

His three-pronged message: the company looks better from the inside than the outside; remains way ahead of rivals; but has significant upside in exploring new business and sales models. “We look at it as a pyramid,” says Durchslag.

“At the top are the kinds of things we can do to take care of things” for members, such as hiring contractors and keeping their pricing in line. At the core are Angie’s relationships with advertisers and brands. SMBs who make up the core advertiser base aren’t having all their needs met. Angie’s List has valuable analytics and can really get them up to speed with digital marketing. Brands that want to be picked by consumers are also able to upgrade their relationship with Angie’s to drive new traffic and purchasing – perhaps via the equivalent of slotting fees. Merchant and brand relationships will also receive renewed attention via dedicated sales teams and other dedicated B2B services.

Durchslag says that the pyramid’s foundation consists of new ways to monetize the service, especially upselling existing members to premium tiers, and leveraging the non-members who only access partial services. Non-members currently make up 85 percent of unique visitors to the site. They can bolster ad sales, and also might be monetized by buying “single drink” options, for instance, he suggests.

While Durchslag emphasizes that the business is sound – it just had its first profitable quarter –there are always new ways to do things and create more efficiencies, he says. Take the company’s telecall center, for instance. To Durchslag, the “Care Center” is something that is not offered by competitors like Amazon and Google and helps to differentiate the service. It also serves as a state-of-the-art CRM facility. “It is a precious asset,” he says. But the company might evolve the nature of what it does, perhaps using its knowledge of customer needs to offer a wider range of services to members.