Better Service

Keeping Your Clients Warm This Winter with Better & Quicker Service

Keeping Your Clients Warm This Winter with Better & Quicker Service

HVAC usually has two up seasons (summer for cooling needs and winter for heating) and two corresponding down seasons (logically, fall and spring). Good news: You’re about to enter into a strong revenue season and you’re no longer worried about boosting hvac sales. Bad news: If heating mechanisms even remotely falter, everything becomes “urgent client need,” and it will feel like you’re a rat on a treadmill. HVAC business seasonal downtime has some pros and cons and winters can get busy in this world.

Keeping your clients warm is important. We’re not necessarily talking about bringing them a blanket, but hey — in the interest of solid service work, you do whatever is necessary for you. (Mostly kidding.) Rather, you can make sure you’re consistently on top of their needs around heating — especially if you live in a colder-weather climate where on-the-fritz heating becomes a major issue for people. Long story short, you just need to keep your hvac clients.

With all of this in mind — including your busy winter season — we rolled out a couple of new updates to our field service management software this fall. A few of the notable elements that will be of value this winter include:

Inventory list enhancement: Our mobile users had been running into an issue where they tried to pull items from inventory lists that were already negative. That’s been fixed and overall, inventory lists are more reactive to inventory counts. You can also get desktop alerts when inventory is being removed. Better inventory management = higher first-time fix rate = happier customers = more retention and referrals. That’s an across-the-board win.

Calendar scheduling enhancement: Because scheduling was previously done on an annual basis, we didn’t incorporate the year into the schedule. We changed this to better accommodate holidays and specific days off. It should also be noted here that there are many holidays throughout the winter, including all those pesky Presidential birthdays.

Technician routing feature: You can now route and optimize routes by specific technicians. Some companies use a technician routing software, which is great, but you start running into issues when you have a lot of different programs that you’re attempting to integrate manually. On the schedule board, “route assistance” will now rearrange routes to be fully optimized according to the destinations scheduled. This is a huge update because, well, see the equation above. Technicians being routed better also leads to happier customers, which again leads to referrals and retention.

If you’re a service manager and have been considering field service management software, we can make it easy for you. Check out our checklist for choosing a field service software here. But one of the things we run into a lot here when working with interested parties who don’t necessarily sign the checks is this question: “How do I convince my boss that the price tag on FSM software is worth it?” Your job can be a bit more… undefined. Convincing takes time, and oftentimes in field service, numbers. Well, if you look above, you’ll see “happier customers” twice. In a perfect world, that would be enough — but we’re not naive, and we know it’s not the whole deal. So we put together an entire eBook on how to convince your boss that FSM software is a good investment. Grab it, print it out, circle key elements, and go from there. Any questions? Ask us. We look forward to helping you drive revenue in the freezing winter days!

Key Information


FSM Solutions

What Are the Most Pressing Fixes for Your Business with FSM Software?

What Are the Most Pressing Fixes for Your Business with FSM Software?

We’ll be honest with you upfront, although sometimes it’s tough to hear: your small business (or larger business) field service organization is not perfect. (**Ducks as you throw stapler at us!**) No business is perfect, whether you make a lot of money (i.e. Apple) or are constantly seen as a great place to work (i.e. Google). Every business has challenges, flaws, process adjustments, and pain points.

What tends to separate a good business — one that thrives and grows — from a bad business — one that stagnates and dies — is how you respond to the challenges and pain points. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It’s the same with running a small business or any type of field service organization. When things are going well, everything feels and looks great. When things aren’t so good, it’s about how you respond.

It can vary by the type of field service business you run, but typically the biggest challenges you’ll see in a FSO include:

Inventory: It’s hard to access or poorly organized.

Scheduling and Dispatch: Technicians are always running all over your metro area with no real plan, and appointments seem to change every two hours.

Sales: Your funnel and customer information isn’t organized to give you any type of advantage in your market.

Customer Relationships: Customers are annoyed by lack of communication, late-arriving technicians, or problems that take two to three visits to solve.

Mobile: Customers expect a mobile solution, because they use their phones for everything else anyway, but you don’t have one.

There are other types of pain points that might result in your organization, but that’s a basic list.

If any of the above — or something we didn’t mention — resonates with you, then you need to fix that pain point. It’s the only way to grow your business. If you let it sit there and ignore it, it will continue to get bigger until it seriously hurts your future potential.

Typically, one of the faster ways to start resolving FSM pain points is through the use of FSM software. The primary advantage of that approach is integration; FSM software integrates different aspects of your business. It allows for better communication and more transparency, so that different areas within your business all can arrive at the same page. This usually makes your decision-making and data analysis more effective.

The problem, though, is this: FSM software costs money. If you’re a small business, your financial decision-makers might be concerned about spending that money, especially if other priorities (e.g. a new truck or other new equipment) need to come first.

To help you out here, we’ve put together a checklist of items you need to have ready for a discussion about FSM software. It’s a ‘cheat sheet’ to moving you toward a more effective integration of different business practices. You can download it now. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us.

Checklist


Good CRM

5 Benefits of a Good CRM

5 Benefits of a Good CRM

What are the benefits of a good CRM, then?

We’ll begin with a quick personal story that might resonate with your business. One of our collaborators at Optsy used to work for a different company, not within field service, in a marketing role. At that company, the CEO, CMO, and CIO would often come to mid-level employees complaining about the CRM, or customer relationship management platform. The complaints varied:

It’s not customizable enough

I can’t find what I need

I don’t know who’s a legitimate client and who’s a lead

The interface is confusing

It doesn’t integrate well with my other systems

Over time, the people tasked with executing the CRM became overwhelmed with the complaints — and the company had to shift to a new CRM, which is costly and runs the risk of key customer information or contacts being lost in the transition.

That’s not good for any company. While changes do happen and companies will turn over their CRM, it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. To make sure it’s not, you need to understand key benefits of a good CRM — i.e. what you should be looking for.

This applies in all verticals of field service, but especially in HVAC, which tends to be an interesting field service application. HVAC is usually one of the faster-moving field service verticals (clients need their locations cooled or heated immediately), but also one of the verticals least likely to adopt traditional FSM planning tools. According to research, 74% of HVACs don’t use any FSM software (such as a potential CRM) — and the 26% that do use it tend to only use GPS-enablement technology.

What are the benefits of a good CRM, then?

Efficiency

This is potentially the No. 1 benefit. A good CRM replaces manual processes and fixes organizational ineffectiveness around paperwork, integration of key business operations, and billing.

Collaboration

An entire customer experience lifecycle can’t possibly be managed by one or two people, even in a small business. Customer experience has so many touch points in an HVAC field service organization — from back-office to scheduling and dispatch to inventory to billing to technicians. Everyone needs access to the same customer information and needs to be able to make notes and edits to it. Another feature of the collaborative nature of CRMs is that it moves your HVAC company away from being silo-driven. Now everyone is seeing the same information and working together.

Sales Growth

According to Hubspot research, 75% of sales managers — across multiple industries — reported that their CRM systems helped them increase sales. Those are pretty good odds for your small business, right?

Data Management

By 2016, hopefully your HVAC SMB understands that your data — about both techs and customers — is a valuable strategic asset. Your CRM can (a) house the data and (b) allow you to slice and dice the data in visually appealing, decision-driving ways. It’s really hard to compete on data strategically without a single clearinghouse for it, or a way for everyone to have access to what’s going on. A CRM provides both.

Positive Customer Experiences

With a CRM, typically these are some things you can do regarding your customer base:

Easily and accurately segment them in terms of needs and resources you send them

Accurately track their histories and information

Interact with them at the right time, as opposed to ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ or ‘when they don’t have any need for field service’

Good customer experience means repeat business and referral business, and those mean revenue. That’s excellent for an HVAC small business.

We realize one of the key issues in small businesses, though, is that any type of CRM or field service management software platform is going to cost you money. You may not have the resources — or you may want to direct your resources elsewhere. We put together an eBook on the benefits of FSM software planning, and within the eBook, we even talk about making the case to senior decision-makers about the importance of a CRM or FSM software planning tool. You can download the eBook, and feel free to contact us with any questions after you’ve gone through it.

HVAC eBook


HVAC eBook

eBook: Delight Your Customers with HVAC Field Service Management

eBook: Delight Your Customers with HVAC Field Service Management

HVAC — or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning — is an industry within field service where time and efficiency are crucial. If a client’s heat goes down in the winter (in most parts of the world) or their AC goes down in the summer (ditto), it could mean millions of dollars of lost revenue and affected parts and machines if an HVAC technician can’t be dispatched quickly and fix the problem the first time out.

Despite this need for more effective integration of services in HVAC companies, research has found that 74% of such companies — essentially 3 in 4 — aren’t using any field service management software systems. Of the 26% that are, most use GPS-enabled scheduling software (66%) or GPS-enabled routing capabilities (61%).

In short, it seems that within the HVAC sector of field service, GPS technologies have caught on but not broader FSM programs. How could the latter benefit HVAC?

FSM programs are a huge value-add to HVAC companies, often in the following ways:

Integration of core business operations
Achievement of KPIs
Happier employees
Better use of data

Those are a fairly ‘big four’ in terms of business achievements — alignment, KPIs, more productive employees, and better use of data — but the elephant in the room is typically cost.

The old adage is ‘spend money to make money,’ and that’s true here too. But that doesn’t mean your CFO and other decision-makers want to spend the money. You need a path to convincing them of the value-add and ROI.

In this new eBook we wrote on the topic of FSM software in HVAC companies, we give you some of the ROI arguments to help you make your case. (We’re nice people.)

You can download the eBook as a way to get started thinking about how to move out of that 74% who doesn’t use FSM software tools. Once you’ve looked it over, let us know if you have any questions about specific pain points in your business. We love to help out small business HVAC companies and can work with yours as well.

HVAC eBook


Improve Field Service

Improve Field Service Employee Retention With Mobile

Improve Field Service Employee Retention With Mobile

We’ve written many posts on the Optsy blog about using mobile and field service management tools to improve customer satisfaction, and obviously that makes sense: customers pay for your service and help drive revenue for your company.

It’s important to remember the other side of the equation, though: your employees. Some organizations even view them as ‘internal customers.’ Regardless of what specific terminology you use, it’s important to retain employees as well. While there can sometimes be an attitude that people are interchangeable and your services and processes make you money, this isn’t 100% accurate. Finding a new person — be it a back-office employee or a technician — takes time, and then training this person to do the job successfully takes more time. You lose (a) knowledge of your business and (b) effective use of time whenever an employee leaves your organization. Both of those make it harder to compete in the marketplace — and we didn’t even mention that it’s possible your employee left for a direct competitor.

So, the point is: you need to focus on employee retention as much as you focus on customer satisfaction. And much like mobile helps a lot with customer satisfaction, it can also help with employee retention.

You will see this primarily on the technician side. Because of a high degree of specialized knowledge, technicians are often the hardest employees for FSOs to replace.

If you have a good mobile platform that’s integrated with your other systems, your technicians should theoretically be able to:

See all their appointments in a given day from their phones
See how close they are to one another and have the option to re-adjust the order based on drive time
Have customer data and core problems/issues in their phones as well
Have customer history with notes, also on mobile
Have a link-up with inventory to make sure they have everything they need for the day, or be able to build in time to visit a warehouse or supply center
Be able to invoice the customers directly when the jobs are completed on-site

All those aspects will make technicians feel like they have the assets necessary to do their jobs effectively; in short form, it makes them feel respected as members of the overall FSO. Respect is a major factor for employee retention, and that’s been held up by research.

Now consider a mobile platform or solution that isn’t well-integrated, so this happens:

The technicians lack customer data, history, and information
The technicians can see their appointments and realize the driving pattern makes no sense, but have little ability to change it
Inventory isn’t linked, so the technicians are often arriving at customer sites unprepared
In order to invoice clients, the technicians need to drive back to a home office or just say “I’ll come back another time”

The technicians will ultimately get frustrated at all the logistical problems preventing them from doing their jobs effectively — and ultimately, they’ll likely look for new jobs (possibly with competitors).

Interestingly, many small business FSOs design or work with mobile solutions in an effort to attract and retain customers, but the bigger value-add to a great mobile solution is the retention of employees who feel more engaged and less frustrated by the processes of the organization.

Two birds with one stone. That’s always a good thing in time-crunched businesses.

If you’re looking to grow your field service SMB, we’ve also prepared an eBook about revenue-generation models, ideas, and principles. It doesn’t reference employee retention per se, but it does speak to the two sides of growing revenue: the process side (your operations) and the planning side (your goals and priorities). They must be aligned for success. You can download the eBook and we’re always here to answer any questions specific to your organization.


FSM Mobile

How to Efficiently Use Mobile in Field Management

How to Efficiently Use Mobile in Field Management

Some of the bigger trends impacting field service management in the last few years (up to a decade) include mobility, or the more common use of smartphones in the field, and Internet of Things (IoT), or the idea of connected devices actually being able to send data themselves.

Here, we’re going to address some core ideas about the benefits of the ‘mobile’ side — and, in fact, if you’re interested in more information, there’s an eBook on mobility in field service management available for download. (As always, feel free to contact us with any questions.)

In the last few years, ‘customer experience’ has become a major business metric — and while it basically means the same thing as ‘customer service,’ the idea is that you do a good job for customers/clients and they (a) keep their business with you and (b) refer you to other people. Both are crucial aspects of any type of business growth.

In a field service organization, your techs are the closest to the customers — they deal with customers all day, every day. You want to maximize that experience and those relationships, because it will drive your business.

This is the first important thing to understand about the impact of mobility on field service: it can make the customers’ experiences so much better, and that has bottom-line impact for your business.

Consider some things a field service manager can optimize with a mobile-connected workforce of techs:

Easy to sync up inventory with customer needs that day
Easy to contact the tech en route to a job and add information or change details
Easy for the customer to see where the tech is and have a good time window on his or her appointment
Easy for the tech to use his or her own phone to invoice the customer on-site, instead of having to run back to the office or do the invoicing separately

That’s just scratching the surface, but those four are all important concepts — the idea is to create an ecosystem where, because of mobile connectivity, the back office HQ and the tech are constantly connected and also the customer is always connected to info about the tech and the appointment, up to the invoicing stage.

Essentially, a mobile-connected workforce leads to greater flow of information between all involved parties — and that should lead to higher customer satisfaction, which benefits your business in the long run.

As we said, there’s more to understand about mobile’s impact in field service management — and how to maximize that impact — and while the mobile needs vs. implementation will vary by type of field service organization (here at Optsy, we tend to work with smaller outfits), still consider downloading this eBook and contacting us with any questions. It will start your path toward a competitive advantage in your field.

Mobility eBook Download


FSM Customer Service

Reducing Customer Pain Points in Field Service

Reducing Customer Pain Points in Field Service

We’ve talked a lot on our Optsy blog about the importance of customer experience, or customer service, or just generally the idea of treating your customers well and making sure they (a) want to keep working with you and (b) might refer you to other potential customers. Customer experience is super-important right now in all facets of business, and it’s definitely at the forefront when it comes to field service — because the heart of field service is really about interaction with customers. Your techs do this every single day.

Scheduling

Customers want the scheduling process to be easy, at the most basic level. They don’t want to call a half-dozen times. If their machines are broken, they don’t want to be told, “We’ll get to that next week.” They want it done now, or they’ll try and find someone who can do it now.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that predictive analytics — which means a field service organization being able to predict a machine’s downtime due to analytics the machine itself is sending to the field service HQ (which in turn is called ‘Internet of Things’ technology) — is starting to become a bigger deal in the field service management world. As predictive analytics grows, the whole notion of ‘scheduling’ will change. Your customers won’t even call you; they’ll expect you to know about the performance of their machines and just come if they’re down. We’re not quite there yet, though: customers are still likely to call you. And when they do, they want the experiences to be as painless as possible.

Dispatching

This is more a field service HQ function, yes — but in terms of the end customers, they want to know:

Generally when the techs will arrive
If the techs are likely to be late, how might their appointments be adjusted

This all refers to the ‘bullwhip effect,’ or the idea that if a tech has five appointments in one day, and the first one runs late … well, you can guess what happens to the fifth appointment. That customer in the fifth appointment? He or she is not happy. That’s a bad customer experience and it could, over one to two reoccurrences, lose you business. You need to prevent that. When it’s not preventable (traffic, long-winded other customers, etc.), you need to find a way to be transparent about it.

Inventory

Inventory problems can be a huge hit to ‘first-time fix rate,’ or the percentage of jobs you solve in one visit. When a tech doesn’t have the parts he or she needs to finish a job and has to run to an office or warehouse and run back, this can annoy a customer (pain point). You need to make sure there’s some alignment between scheduling, dispatch, and inventory to minimize this problem.

Invoicing/Billing

Again, even if the jobs are completed, the customers don’t usually want the techs to have to run somewhere and then come back with bills to sign. They want the invoicing done on-site as well (that way the whole deal is completed), and typically they want it done quickly via their mobile phones, with invoices or receipts immediately sent to them. When it’s a drawn-out process or too reliant on paper, that can be a pain point.

If you look above, then, the surest way to eliminate pain points in field service management is to find a way to integrate:

Scheduling
Dispatching
Inventory
Invoicing

In all likelihood, your best bet on integrating those processes is using a FSM software solution that links all your information in one place — and thankfully, we can help with that in two ways! First, you can download this eBook and learn more about small business field service management approaches. Then, you can contact us and we can walk you through different solution options for potential customer pain points. We love helping small FSM businesses grow, so get in touch whenever you have time.