How to go from managing customers, jobs and your business with pen & paper to an all-in-one app - without losing your mind. Using online tools -- or...
How to go from managing customers, jobs and your business with pen & paper to an all-in-one app - without losing your mind.
Using online tools -- or what we call "Digital transformation" -- to manage a business is no longer a luxury for small and medium-sized businesses, including home service providers. The data clearly shows that purpose-built home service software is now essential for their long-term success.
So, what is a digital transformation? Is one worth it for your home service company? What added benefits can it bring?
We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this Ultimate Guide to Implementing Home Service Software.
So What is a Digital Transformation?
A digital transformation is when a home service company upgrades some or all of its manual and paper-based operations with digital technology. The desired outcome is to save time and make more money, by making the company more adaptable, open to new customers, and open to new revenue streams.
Many home service companies are hesitant about digital transformations because they fear this needs to be an all-or-nothing upgrade that will change everything about their business. However, that is not the case.
Now is not the time to be left behind. With the home service industry projected to grow at an average annual rate of 35.8 percent through 2026, there’s growth to be found in every local market. The question is whether your company will have the tools to see it first.
Challenges in Field Service Management
Home service companies must provide better communication and more personalized service if they hope to succeed in today’s market. But, they must make those improvements without letting the quality of their field service slip though. That can be a delicate balancing act of time and effort unless you have the right tools.
Home service companies face many other specific challenges.
Effective communication is critical to any company's success. It can influence employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and the public’s perception of your company. On the other hand, when communication breaks down, your company's performance will inevitably plummet, and you risk possible reputation damage.
Inefficient communication between field technicians and office staff is more than a simple frustration. Poor communication leads to incorrect customer expectations, misunderstandings of job requirements, and unmet payment schedules. Left unchecked, poor communication will lead to customer dissatisfaction and lower employee morale.
Do you know exactly how your employees spend their day? If not, they might be wasting valuable company time and money. If you’re not adequately tracking technician time on the job, you won’t know whether you have the capacity to take on emergency or last-minute jobs. In addition, if you’re not sure where exactly staff is at all times, you won’t be able to reroute technicians to adjust to cancellations and other unexpected changes.
Frequent scheduling conflicts can frustrate customers and damage your company’s reputation. For example, you might book two technicians for the same service call due to confusion using paper or offline PC calendars. Or you might double-book a technician for multiple appointments, forcing them to cancel on at least one customer who likely has already rearranged their own schedule.
Perhaps one of the most significant challenges home service companies face—certainly the most obnoxious one—is getting paid on time. Many companies still rely on paper forms to record time spent and materials used on jobs. Technicians must then relay this information to the office to enter into the accounting system. As a result, when invoices are reviewed and approved, you could be facing a two-week billing cycle or longer. Delayed billing can also limit the funds you have available for payroll, rentals, and other obligations.
Cumbersome Information Systems
If you’re still working with multiple paper and digital record-keeping systems, you’re probably spending hours searching for vital information. The information you need to complete any one task might be spread across systems such as:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Online or paper agendas
Reconciling data across these systems requires manual effort, which is both time-consuming error-prone. The outcome is often lost productivity, delayed responses to customer queries, inadequate information to make sound financial decisions.
Lack of Quality Control
Unless you have digital quality control tools, it is difficult to know whether technicians are following proper procedures in the field until it is too late. Without established processes and the ability to monitor performance, problems are sure to follow. As a result, you could incur unnecessary expenses, more return trips, wasted resources, and of course, unhappy customers. Performance issues could also mean failing to meet regulatory requirements, leading to steep fines and penalties for home service companies with regulated materials, like treatment chemicals.
Inefficient Job Tracking
If you cannot track jobs, customers, your office, and technicians may not be on the same page about the status of work orders. As a result, your customers may be left wondering about the technician’s ETA or how long the work might take. On the other hand, the technician may not know the full scope of service expected. For managers, this lack of insight means they’re unable to manage schedules effectively. In addition, when the accounting department doesn’t have accurate or partial information, they may not know when to bill for completed work.
The Key Benefits of Home Service Management Software
The home and field service industries have had a reputation for being slow to embrace new technologies. Unfortunately, this reputation is earned. According to a study commissioned by Verizon, as late as 2020, 25 percent of field service operations used offline spreadsheets for scheduling work. The rest used manual processes, like whiteboards.
Embracing digitalization means shifting away from manual processes towards modern platforms specifically designed to streamline field service operations. These solutions increase customer and employee satisfaction and increase revenues. Studies have found that companies that have embraced digital workflows are 26 percent more profitable.
Some other specific benefits include:
Your field service employees will be more effective and efficient with the right tools in place. Between ever-changing customer demands and the emergence of new competitors, companies need to adapt to change. Without technology, you risk losing customers as you struggle to keep pace. In addition, technology can scale with your business and will allow you to meet demand in near real-time.
Digitizing your home service operations will enable your field service workers to handle your customers better. For example, improving the speed at which your technicians can respond to customer calls will increase the overall level of customer satisfaction.
In addition, an integrated system that includes messaging, social media, and web chat can help companies reach multiple customers through the same interface.
Quicker Customer Response Times
Customers want to feel valued. Slow response times make them feel neglected and unappreciated. A digital platform helps you stay on top of customer communication, so your clients are always assured that they are your number one priority.
It allows you to manage all customer interactions through a single system, making it easier to get in touch with each customer and review the conversations with all parties involved. A platform that allows your team to communicate with customers in real-time can dramatically increase efficiency and reduce administrative costs for the company.
Frictionless Customer Experience
Getting customers to jump through hoops to get service is a sure way to drive them to competitors. A home service digital platform streamlines the customer journey from initial contact, to service delivery, to invoicing. When you make it easy for customers to do business with you, they are more likely to return.
Personalized Customer Service
More than 17 percent of customers are willing to pay more if it means they’ll receive excellent customer service. A digital field service management platform provides valuable customer insights you need to give that.
This information is crucial to provide customer service that recognizes your customer's unique needs. For example, information from past service calls can help you tailor custom solutions for future purchases. Or field technician notes in past work orders give customer service reps detailed information in addressing customer concerns.
Clipboards and stacks of paper make your company look dated. Using technology to manage your workflows will demonstrate to customers that you’ve equipped the tools to deliver more enhanced solutions for their unique needs.
Your business will also be transformed into a more attractive place to work by continually developing and incorporating new technology for field service teams. Digitization also spurs efficiencies in your organization that can help attract top talent.
Tools Everyone Can Use
Field service management software improves every area of your home service business.
Team managers need a robust tool that helps them oversee their team. They need a tool that allows them to coordinate schedules, dispatch work based on skill, track employee movement in the field, and help them perform quality checks on work completed.
Employees need a tool to keep up with their daily tasks, easily track time worked and record their work orders.
Keeping everyone on task can be a juggling act. A digital platform gives schedulers and dispatch teams the tools they need to streamline route planning and assign the right employee to the right job.
Financial staff need to generate accurate invoices based on the work performed. A digital platform allows invoices to be automatically created based on completed work orders. That way, the accounting staff has real-time information to manage the company’s cash flow.
The customer support staff needs customer work orders to answer customer questions and provide status updates.
Key Features of a Home Service Management Software
The key to a more effective workplace is to put all of your digital tools into one toolbox. That is what home service management software does. The features you can expect to find in this software include:
Today, customers don’t necessarily want a phone call. Thirty-five percent of customers report preferring live chat and IM to engage with service providers. In comparison, 71 percent say companies with a solid mobile presence are crucial to their customer experience. But chatting, texting, and fielding phone calls on different devices and in different apps is not the answer.
Home service software enables you to consolidate all communication channels in a single interface. For example, with a CRM, you can ensure a quick response to customers by bringing together communication from web forms, text messages, email, and chatbots.
A digital service management platform automates communication tasks so you can focus on servicing your customers. There are many ways to achieve this, but here are some of the most popular options.
Phone Bot and Chatbot
A home service CRM lets you create custom phone bot and chatbot responses to answer FAQs and let customers know you have received their message.
Customers will no longer be left in the dark wondering the status of their technicians. Instead, a digital platform can automatically let customers know they are en route.
Round the Clock Customer Service
Automated messages and responses mean you can answer customer questions 24/7.
Send Service Reminders
Keeping up with service reminders can be challenging. New calls, follow-ups, and scheduling can take up your administrative staff’s entire day. The ability to automatically send service reminders frees your team to focus on other essential tasks.
Customer Lead Management
Imagine spending days chasing down a lead only to find out they are not a good fit for your service. You can configure phone bots and chatbots to ask potential customers qualifying questions. That way, when leads show up in the queue, you’ll know which ones to prioritize. The less time you spend on unqualified leads, the more time you’ll have to attend to prospects that will convert.
Efficient Scheduling & Dispatching
Access to real-time information is critical for efficient scheduling and dispatching. Service management software lets you:
- Centralize scheduling so you can assign tasks to teammates efficiently
- Modify appointments on the fly at your customer’s request
- Get an instant view of what’s going on through colour-coded appointments
- Schedule recurring visits with the click of a button
With a digital platform, your technicians can log work statuses, add notes to jobs, and record their timesheets from their mobile devices. The platform can even give you automatic updates as employees complete their tasks throughout the day. This way, you'll have the most up-to-date information available about your team.
Automatic route planning saves on fuel costs by minimizing the distance traveled between jobs. In addition, keeping up with employees throughout the day is a simple task with the GPS tracking feature. With GPS, you can:
- Let customers know how long before a technician arrives
- Automatically record each visit
- Locate team members in real-time
Knowing the location of all your employees makes it easy to pull a technician on the fly for an emergency service call.
Efficient Costing & Invoicing
Digital invoicing means you can spend less time on paperwork and more time servicing your customers. What’s more, customers get the information they need to make faster purchasing decisions. The all-in-one quoting and invoicing feature in service management software allows you to:
- Create professional-looking invoices with your company logo and branding
- Allow customers to view and approve quotes online
- Automatically trigger work orders and invoices once the customer approves the quote.
Going digital for your home service business eliminates paperwork and organizes your communication practices. A home service CRM lets you record all communications and signatures, so there’s no doubt about what took place when. With job tracking:
- Workers can update job statuses from their mobile devices
- Team members can complete work order histories fast
- The headache of lost paperwork is eliminated
- Technicians can easily track material and expenses
Integrated payment processing gets you paid faster, is more accessible, and is more reliable than paper invoicing. Integrated payment processing helps by eliminating late payments, preventing bounced checks, and avoiding collection calls. In addition, no external payment terminal is required as customers can pay with a credit card right in the app. You can even sync transactions to your accounting software to avoid double entry.
Best Practices for Home Service Digital Transformation
These best practices will help ensure your home service completes its digital transformation as easy as possible.
Identify Pain Points
It can be tempting to incorporate all the features of a home service CRM at once. The problem with an all-or-nothing approach is that you may spend unnecessary time focusing on features you may not need. You could also end up frustrating employees as they try to balance learning all of the new features, whether they’ll end up using them day-to-day or not, on top of their existing duties.
Instead of doing an all-or-nothing digital transformation, consider prioritizing the essential features for your company. To do that, start by asking yourself a few questions.
- Where do we waste the most time?
- What operations most frustrate our service techs?
- What are our most common customer complaints?
- Do we need to make improvements to our billing cycle?
- How much time do office staff spend answering customer questions instead of their primary work?
Train Employees on Key Features
You must carve out training time for employees to learn your new service management software. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, this training will make the difference between getting full value from the new platform and being a burden.
Look for Ways to Integrate Quality Control
Use the quality control features in your service management software to ensure technicians perform their tasks as required. The system can also automatically assign checklists to work orders for team members to complete as part of their service calls. Quality control measures help your company provide a consistent customer experience. Additionally, implementing these quality control protocols enables you to identify opportunities for improvement or updated training.
Leverage Service Management Software as an Evolving Knowledge Base
Customer work orders contain a wealth of information. Notes from past work orders provide pointers on how to address similar problems in the future. Encourage technicians to use the real-time communication feature to interact and share advice on work orders. Gaining that knowledge will help improve their skills and confidence and better equip your techs to serve your customers.
Keep the Focus on the Customer
The customer must be at the center of any home service digital transformation project. So while your goal is to improve operational efficiency, remember you are doing so to create a more refined customer experience.
Why Choose Home Service Management Software Over Other Software Options
Service management software is designed specifically for teams that spend their time outside of the office. It provides them with a platform that streamlines many aspects of their job, no matter where they are.
Teams that service customers need a way to keep track of their work on mobile devices. Some systems track contacts and communication for the customer concerning sales and marketing. Field service software tracks this information in the context of work orders and the jobs completed for those customers. Robust digital platforms, such as the solution offered by Plannit, provide integrated lead management capabilities so you have the best of both worlds.
Embracing digitization is about more than technology. It’s about understanding and managing the impact of digital technologies on your organizational goals. It is also about aligning your business strategies, workforce, culture, and new and existing technologies to support your customers’ needs.
Are you ready to set your home service operation on a winning path of growth and prosperity driven by a band of happy customers? Sign up for a free account today.
You have to wear a lot of hats when you run a home service company. You do everything from sales to marketing, payroll, and finance. And that’s not...