Just-announced improvements to the communications and scheduling tools at Angie's List (AL) signal the online review service's intention to deepen its role as a link between customer and contractor, a company executive says.

"Angie's List historically has been where you come and search for reviews and the best provider, but we aim to facilitate the hiring itself," Shelly Towns, vice president of product at Angie's List, told REMODELING in an interview Aug. 6. "The biggest complaint we've had is ‘Hey, the guy doesn’t call me back'. Most are driving around town all day fixing the roof and doing plumbing. Angie's List feels we have the critical mass to improve the marketplace. To that end, communication is one of the biggest opportunities out there."

The Indianapolis-based company also announced Aug. 5 it was rolling out nationally its communications and scheduling online tools and that it had acquired BrightNest, a website that specializes in helping homeowners care for their home, in part by organizing their maintenance and improvement efforts.

The communications tool basically is an alert service for the roughly 42,250 service providers who have signed contracts to get on AL's service provider pages. Those pages now include a button that AL;s 2.2 million consumer members can click on when they want to get in touch with a particular provider. The tool then "fires off a message that says, 'Hey, you've got a message from an Angie's List member,'" Towns says.

The scheduling tool currently is restricted to cases in which a customer is acting on an e-commerce, buy-it-now offer; an example would be if an AL service provider offered $99 for four hours of housecleaning. By using the tool, a customer not only would contract with the service provider but also set a time in which the service would be performed. AL plans to expand its scheduling sometime in the future so it includes non-ecommerce transactions, Towns said.

As for BrightNest, Towns said AL liked how the service collects detailed information on each of its users, such as whether you own a pool or when you last bought an air filter and even what brand you bought. "They've built something of a virtual portfolio that helps you do that," she said. And with such information, AL in turn can mine the data to burrow deeper into its consumer members' lives.

"Your roof doesn't need to be leaking for you to think about AL," she said. "How do we make it a habit?"

The latest earnings report for Angie's List shows the company remains in growth mode. Total paid membership by consumers leaped 51% in the second quarter from the year-earlier period, while the number of participating service vendors climbed 42% during that same period. Still, the company posted a net loss of $14.3 million in the second quarter and has racked up $163.4 million in losses since 2009.

--Webb is editor-in-chief of REMODELING. Follow him on Twitter at @craiglwebb and REMODELING at @remodelingmag