Information Technology Improves Management of Your Field Service Business
Headaches are plentiful in the field service business: finding quality employees, maintaining a fleet of vehicles, marketing to the right customers, collecting payments. The list goes on and on. As a business owner, all these responsibilities and more rest heavily upon your shoulders.
Imagine if you could ease that weight with a few stokes on your computer keyboard or even your smart phone. Technology seems to make many areas of life more complicated, but it also can help you enhance and streamline management of your field service business.
Here are some key areas where automation can benefit your field service business:
Whether you’re dealing with a regular customer who needs ongoing, routine service work or an emergency call about a water leak, scheduling service online has never been easier.
Your entire team’s schedule, location, priority of service, etc., are right there in front of you or your dispatcher on a computer, tablet or smart phone. If you need to call someone off of one job to meet an emergency situation, you know who is closest and how quickly they can be available.
Your dispatcher no longer needs to say, “Let me check with a technician to find out how quickly he/she is available and call you right back.” Imagine your customers’ satisfaction when they receive an instant answer to how soon they can expect service, instead of waiting anxiously for that call back.
Your workers also stay in the loop as their schedules are right in front of them on their smart phones. They get alerts when changes are scheduled. They can revise their own schedule if they finish a job sooner, and dispatch is alerted.
For routine maintenance, you no longer need to rely on customers remembering to call you. With scheduling alerts, you can reach out to them with easy reminders, via email, phone call or text message, ensuring you don’t miss those business opportunities.
Imagine how much more efficient you or your dispatcher can be in assigning jobs when you have so much information right in front of you. No more trading calls with workers who might be up to their elbows in sewage. Send them a message, even with different alerts depending upon the priority, then get back to your other work while awaiting a reply.
Online maps also help you track where your employees are so you can cut down on travel time and cost when dispatching them to new jobs. Your employees also find the quickest routes to their new jobs and can get travel directions on their phones. This also boosts customer satisfaction as you can inform them about employees’ travel time and give a better estimate on when the customer can expect the worker to arrive.
Dispatchers and employees also save time; they don’t need to wait on phone calls when all the information is dispatched to them automatically.
Work Order Management
Your business also will save time and money through better management of your work flow. Schedulers will take into account locations, time commitments, employees’ skills and more to create clusters of jobs, saving travel time and gasoline.
Workers can leave the shop in the morning with a route in mind, a good idea of what jobs lie ahead so they have proper materials and tools, reducing the need to return to the shop or divert to a parts supply store.
Emergencies, rather than throwing the entire system into chaos, can be handled quickly and efficiently by pulling workers from lower-priority or nearby jobs, and technology can help your schedulers quickly come up with a new plan that will efficiently get the work done without inconveniencing your customers more than necessary.
Technology also can assist the financial side of your business:
Spend less time and get more accurate estimates by better understanding what each job will entail as you can access the history of various projects on specific equipment or sites. As you assign workers to a task, you can use that technology to more accurately calculate your cost and the rate you need to charge your customers. These estimates can be sent directly to customers, ensuring they are aware of costs up front, eliminating later claims of who said what.
Job changes can quickly be input by employees on site and they can inform customers of any change in the estimated cost, leaving it to the customer to determine if they agree to the change order. These changes then are reflected back to the office for accurate invoicing.
Invoicing becomes almost automatic with today’s advanced technology. When workers complete a job in the field and input their final time, parts list, etc., an invoice can be generated immediately and sent directly to the customer, via email or even text message.
Your company saves time over the days when workers turned in their reports at the close of day and billing had to decipher all that information, normally hand written, before they could create an invoice. That invoice then was mailed to the customer and you could expect payment days, weeks or even months later.
Speaking of delayed payments, that might be the biggest headache for field service businesses as customers aren’t right in front of you when the work is completed, so they have little incentive to pay immediately.
With modern technology, you have more options to receive payments quickly. Workers could present the invoice directly to customers in the field and receive payments via credit or debit card on their phone. You could email customers the invoice, giving them an option to click a link and pay with credit or debit card or bank account. Alternatively, they could call your dispatcher and make the payment over the phone. Of course, you still can wait for them to mail a check and get your money in weeks or months.
One more arena where technology can help you is through employee management:
You will know where your employees are at all times. You’ll know how much time they are expected to spend on assigned jobs, their travel routes and projected arrival times. This gives you a better idea of how employees are performing their jobs when not under the watchful eye of a supervisor.
You can base raises, promotions, incentives, etc. on how well your employees are performing their work with more confidence.
Compiling this information from all of your employees will give you a better handle on how well you are staffing your small business. You may realize you have the opportunity to expand your business with your current staff, trim your staff or reallocate resources to meet more lucrative opportunities.
You certainly will need to commit less staff time to such financial matters as estimates, invoicing, billing and payroll, which will give you the opportunity to assign tasks such as marketing, customer satisfaction, etc., to yourself or your office staff.
Taking advantage of the many ways automation can streamline the mundane tasks of your business will leave you time to grow and prosper.