Dispatch Despair, Part II

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Service Titan provides a “Dispatch Board” which will allow contractors to layout the day for each technician. Homeowners can also receive updated alerts to remind them their technician is on their way. Photos: Service Titan

 

Save your company money by investing in the latest software solutions

By Glenn Mellors

You might be perplexed why I’d choose to write about the “road to finding a solution” rather than jumping right to “the” solution. To put it simply, when searching out software solutions for dispatch, it is truly about the journey rather than the destination.

With the current cloud-based technology trend, companies like CUC Software, started to make the switch away from older approaches. The day of buying a disc and uploading a program was coming to an end. Monthly subscription cloud-based software is the new wave. Even Google has Google Workplace (formerly G suite) and is now directly competing with Microsoft Office 360 on a head-to-head multi-billion-dollar industry of cloud-based solutions. The benefit to the consumer is that updates and new features are included. This reduces the need to repurchase updated versions or upgrade manually.

When beginning research, about 15 months ago, I discovered that there are around 138 different business processes and accounting software solutions available on the market. I think it’s safe to assume that since then at least another 100 companies have sprung up.

With so many platforms available, we had to make a shopping list of our needs. Or rather, what our future needs were going to be.

It would seem appropriate to establish a budget for our project. But for now, we will set the budget aside. It became apparent quickly that you get what you pay for.

Approach the scenario using an “aerial” view rather than a “trenches” view—which may leave you with buyer’s remorse when you pull the trigger. Gather your team and build that wish list. You won’t be able to fulfill the entire list, but I would suggest you check off as many as you can.

HVAC business units

A typical HVAC business has four different areas to accommodate when selecting\ a new platform: administration, sales/install, service, and prepaid maintenance. The challenge is finding one vendor partner that can do everything. Many programs will require you to subscribe to more than one vendor, which is another factor when determining a budget.

As we continue on this journey, you will see how the monthly subscription per technicians, salesperson, and administration staff can add up. It is not uncommon for a 15-person business to go from a $300 a month program and support contract, to $2,250 a month. Add in GPS, a marketing module, and an accounting program, and you are close to $4,000 a month. Now put that into a cost per year, and you are going from $3,600 to $48,000.

Before you have a heart attack, we still need to do a return on investment (ROI) analysis. We will do that towards the end of this article after seeing what and where cost gets compared to savings and revenue growth. For now, you will have to trust me that there is a happy ending depending on your commitment to using the systems for business improvement.

In addition to dispatch services, Service Titan also provides company metrics over a selected amount of time, to allow you to see how well your business is operating.

Dream the impossible

What you want may be endless, but you won’t know until you dream the impossible. In the previous article, we talked about the pitfalls of service dispatch. For this reason,= we started the journey to research a solution to the problems we identified. Let’s take a look at what is possible; this way, you can start building your list as long as you want.

Do you require an all-in-one solution? How about a service dispatch-only platform? Will sales be integrated and include a paperless presentation? Does it require job quotes turned to sales invoice automatically? Dispatch by geolocation? The ability to collect payment on-site, cash, cheque, visa, and debit? What about service flat rate and option pricing? Inventory control, purchase order, and receipt functionality? How about batch payment processing for monthly reoccurring revenue? Auto-scheduling for planned maintenance customers? Job cost reports? Daily employee revenue reporting?

Dashboard functionality? Consumer financing adjudication capability? Have marketing and lead tracking reports? See completed previous work orders? What about training logs for each employee? Vehicle service management?

Each of these specific services are offered by at least one of the software systems available on the market.

The list above is a sampling of what your personal business wish list may look like. Each of the above will break down into multiple other tasks that are a by-product of the program functionality.

Red flags

As we investigate all the different cloud-based HVAC business platforms, we quickly get overwhelmed with what these programs can do and forget that we are also multifaceted. If the title of the software says something related to service, then it’s safe to say those are all the types of services that specific option offers. On the other side of this coin, if it says something related to sales then it probably focuses on sales and is therefore not service-based. This is similar to companies with accounting in their name. Make sure you know how much of your business can be controlled by your selected vendor.

Food for thought—find out who owns the data related to the software. Some companies charge when leaving to get your data back. Ensure you are clear on the length of the term and the buyout, should you choose to move to another vendor or even retire. It would make for a pretty terrible day to learn you owe 36 months at $4,000 a month. They say buyer beware, but I prefer to share lessons learned with our industry peers.

Easily access all the information the technician will need for the job in one convenient location.

Winner, winner chicken dinner

Let’s set the stage—you have 15 employees, revenues at $2.5 to $3 million, four administration staff, one salesperson, six service technicians, and four installers. The start-up fee costs about $5,000, monthly fees set to $4,000, with nine mobile devices (like an iPad or tablet) at around $650 each, that makes the total firstyear investment $58,850 not including extra hours of training.

These are some of the stories from contractors that committed to a plan concerning their return of investment:

“It is hard to tell what our ROI is, but we have reduced office staff by one person because of the new system’s efficiencies and process!”

“We thought we would have to hire another admin person because of the number of monthly maintenance plans we have to process and schedule. We don’t have too now!”

“Our service ticket average has gone up over $100 per ticket by offering multiple options for repairs and charging for the work that we do correctly—4,800 tickets added $480,000 to our revenue!”

“I know our gas consumption is way down since geolocating and dispatching our technicians, so they never cross paths.”

With proper research and an open mind, you can dream the impossible and make it happen. Then again, you might just be happy with what you have and there is nothing the matter with being content with that.

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