What is field service management and what has it got to do with HVAC businesses? Well, Field service management is the processes/systems used by businesses to manage teams in the Field. Field Service Management software is all about finding management solutions to organising your technicians in the most efficient manner across the field and the office.
Imagine that you have a business with five technicians with a range of skills and a good base of loyal customers. How do you track what work is being done? How do you ensure a consistent service? How do you manage customer and job history on site? With Field Service Management Software, that’s how!
How does it help HVAC?
HVAC can have some of the most complicated job and service type workflows because it involves so many elements and requires specific set of technology and skills. Skills can range from across :
- Project management
- Manufacturing skills — Duct Work
- Stock control
- Complex purchase order management processes
- Warranty or Maintenance
- Asset management and preventative maintenance management
Once you have covered the skills for your business you also need to factor in other vital aspects:
- Customer relationship management
- CRM sales systems
- Quote management
- Inventory management
- Follow up systems
Juggling all these aspects of your business while trying to maintain your personal life — Feel a little overwhelmed? For so many businesses, they try demo after demo of different software systems to try and fit their business into a perceived box by a company. That’s where automated software like FieldInsight sticks out from the crowd, making sure that the software fits to your business, not the other way around.
In this article we are going to dive into and dissect what a field service software is and what you need to look for to maximise your return on investment.
Marketing and Customer Nurture
Considering starting a HVAC business or looking for a way to gain new customers? Marketing is a key part of any successful field service business — and the execution of marketing plan is how you can find HVAC Leads and tap the market.
When you are considering your software, marketing can be a great addition to help expand your customer base and get your business name out into the public.
Once you have those customers that you have campaigned to get, you need to have a software that will help nurture your relationships by having superior Customer Service. Ensure that your online reception is easy to access and has the right information on hand for your customers. Looking professional is a huge factor when a customer is browsing through websites after they’ve searched “Best HVAC business in my area”. You want your website to be as welcoming as your receptionist so your customers feel like they’re in good hands.
When choosing a software take into consideration what your customers will see and how their journey will be from the moment they see your ad or business card to scheduling an appointment and getting your invoice. Speed and profit go hand in hand and are linchpins to a successful field service business.
Sales and customer targeting
After you’ve won those customers with your killer marketing campaign you then need to woo them with your sales techniques. Knowing who your customer avatar is can be crucial. Have you thought about who your customers are and how to communicate with them?
Communication is vital in sales and when considering a field service management software, consider how this can increase your customer service. Field service companies need to be able to keep their customers informed and with a good field service management software solution you can set up reminder messaging and arrange repeat work over mobile apps.
Field service management can increase customer service and make communication easier and more efficient. Customer relationship software management can keep track of invoices, quotes, project plans, datasheets, SWMS and job history.
Do you find that you miss out on that service and repeat work? Put yourself in the situation of a busy HVAC business, it’s the peak of busy season and you’ve gotten a phone call from a customer saying their AC has shorted out. Now you need to organise a time in your busy week to go and sort this problem out and possibly leave you short on technicians. Having and executing a preventative maintenance plan helps keep regular contact with your customers and the HVAC equipment gets services regularly instead of going years without servicing risking major failures and costs for a customer.
Have you considered HVAC Preventative maintenance in your field service management system? Preventative maintenance in field services can boost customer satisfaction and balance your cash and workflow. With a field service management solution you can have a service technician on site and maintain HVAC equipment before they short out and you get that panicked call from a customer.
If preventative maintenance is high on your list when looking for a software, consider options like automated reminders sent via mobile SMS or email to remind your customers to book in those service appointments.
Accountability for team members
Field service software can keep track of your team so you know who is working and what has been done. Work order management for your team members can create an audit trail for completed work and keep a more accurate log of worked hours. With Field Service management software you can see who in your team is working hard and who needs a little push in the right direction.
With consistent use of software it can be easier for technicians to understand clear job instructions and job information. Have you ever gotten a report back from a job only unable to read the technician handwriting? Or worse yet do you have to chase up your technicians to even get the paperwork that’s been sitting in the back of their van for weeks? Does this hold up Invoicing and getting paid faster and also mean critical quotes to win new business are delayed in getting sent to customers.
With field service management you can capture and handle information in real time through a mobile app so the office can action the next part of the workflow faster (ordering parts, scheduling a follow-up, qualityy checking a report or issuing the Invoice.
The benefits of a cloud based Field Service Management software compared to a paper based system is you have more accountability amongst your team. The goal with field management software is to make admin as light as possible so quality information gets back to the office with minimal effort or delay.
Service management systems need to be in place to support; scheduling, dispatch, stock control and product ordering to ensure that you have efficiency in your workflow.
Managing multiple projects across different sites and numerous assets can feel like trying to balance an elephant on a tightrope. With field service management software you can collate all of your information in real time to track job status, dispatch, product details and service delivery.
Project management can track inventory, units, bills and cross reference against purchase orders so everything is budgeted correctly. Office software for HVAC can assist in saving time with scheduling and dispatching through a mobile device that synchronises your field and office.
When project management is incorporated into a field service workflows you can avoid the simple mistakes and save hours of admin work that it takes to organise a job site. With project management software in your field service operations you won’t have part numbers misplaced or work history forgotten. When you use a paper free system, all of your information is in the one, easy to access place for the office and field.
Cash Flow is king
As is the case with many companies, cashflow can make or break a business. When cashflow is not tightly managed it can cause a lot of excess stress. With all the moving parts of a business sometimes it can be hard to maintain a steady cash flow year round. Field service management can help manage service, emergency and preventative maintenance work to help smooth work across the year and leads to a balanced cash flow as you nurture your new HVAC leads and customers.
The goal in any field service is to make profit and for this you need to have considered all your costs such as payroll for the hours the technicians log in the field. Maintaining a healthy profit margin becomes second nature to a business and keeping track of each project’s budget you can see quickly when costs are starting to blow out and give you the opportunity to analyse and get a variation prepared. No one likes to find out after the project is finished that you didnt make any profit on it, software can help you find the leaks early.
Don’t leave cash flow management until it’s too late, by not understanding the costs for your company you may turn around and find bankruptcy lurking in the shadows.
SWMS and Safety Systems
So you’ve found a management software that can help automate your cash flow, marketing and sales, but what about managing safety? When your technicians are out on site and working in a high risk environment you want to ensure that they are keeping safe. It can be all too easy to slip up and make mistakes like not checking wires before you service a HVAC unit and end up shocking yourself into next week.
For any field service business you need a strong safety system to keep your team and your customers safe. By having a management system that allows easy on site access of SWMS you can help support safe work and ensure that all H&S and regulations are met. With software that can be flexible to provide your team with a safety checklist and powerful SWMS management you can also have the access on site to email SWMS to site the customer, project manager or auditor if needed.
Taking photos of the site and completing a SWMS checklist before starting work can ensure you are compliant and the technician is safe.
Asset Management & Asset Test Creation
When you are scouring for the perfect field service management software consider how you want your manage customer assets and your obligations for management/testing.
When you send your technician to a site that has multiple assets, sometimes you can’t afford the lengthy chunk of time that it takes to generate a manual asset report. You certainly don’t want to be staying back late just so you can get the report out when you could be at home relaxing after a long day.
In your field service management software you need to build service test lists to enable smoother execution for the equipment when managing:
- Air handling units
- Air conditioning units
- or Refrigeration
Testing and servicing requirements vary across different time frequencies from three months to six months to yearly providing proof of work completion. Asset management can be a breeze for your field technicians with the right mobile apps, tools and Field Service Management software. Leverage QR codes for recalling asset information (make, model, serial #), conduct the correct test for the asset and compile a report to the site on a job status change.
Managing faults/defects and relevant follow-ups for parts and call-backs need to neatly tie together so you can track costs and recoup the additional work through invoicing.
It can be hard coordinating the team with their selected jobs for the week without adding the hassle of tracking each technician’s hours for their payslip. Timesheets can add accountability into your schedule and with field management software your technicians can simply log their own hours or select a start/stop working button on their mobile app.
Capturing timesheets ensures the right hours are collated and bundled up towards the project costs, this can also give you a good indication for future reference how long a certain task takes or even how many technicians you might need. Being able to accurately forecast your technicians utilisation for this or the next week can ensure all the work can be covered and nothing gets lost.
This information is crucial to your cashflow and profit as you can ensure quoting and invoicing reflect correctly for the amount of work completed.
Now consider doing all this from a whiteboard or paper based system, it is certainly do-able, but it can take you twice as long and cause a lot more unneeded headaches. Given the dozens of elements to field service jobs, you want to make your life simpler wherever you can. With a field service management software you can throw out the spreadsheets, diaries and mountains of paperwork by incorporating Field Service Management software you create a systemised and automated mobile workforce.
The power of Software for HVAC
When you have a field service management software you can have all the information in the one easy to access place. No more collating paperwork for a job site and risk losing important documents. The power you create for your business when you incorporate a field service software can inch you closer to your business goals.
When you are thinking about optimising your field service business, there are two primary levers to consider: Systems and Software/Automation.
The importance here is to recognise you have two steps, one is to map out the way you want to work and the other is getting a system that will help you get the benefit of the latest technology.
The power you gain with a field service management software is the ability to capture real time information in the field — this saves time for the Technician and the Office and significantly reduces errors. From your gathered information you can create test reports, SWMS, service reports with ease to eliminate long admin hours it would usually take using a paper system.
At a glance you will be able to analyse performance of your team and increase customer success with your mobile workforce.
What’s involved in looking for great HVAC software
To ensure a software solution is benefiting your field service company you need to understand your workflow. To be committed to success you can’t just throw your line out and grab the first software that you come across, you need to ensure it meets the top priorities of your business.
Finding flexible software is key as not every business is the same; when you find software it needs to be able to mould to the intricacies of your field service business.
Getting the best out of your field service management software comes from following these 8 steps:
1. Documenting your field service goals
To find the right software, you first need to know what you are looking for the software to support. What are the most important aspects of your business that you want to automate? You need to be realistic, there may not be a perfect solution but there will be some non-negotiables you want to cover.
Without knowing where you want to go then trying to optimize is like walking in the dark.
If you spend a few hours working through your goals and current business process and then mapping that to a set of requirements you want from a software solution, you will be better placed to make an informed decision when reviewing solutions…..this effort up front can also save you thousands of dollars of implementing the wrong solution.
2. Understand your workflow
Now you have your goal in mind, understand your ideal workflow and who essentially does what. Go through the different hats in your company, your schedulers, administration, accountants, technicians, team leaders, project managers and so on.
To find the answer to this it can be beneficial to get an experienced business person to help you map out your current workflow against your business plan. For each role in your field service business, what are the key steps they take to complete the job? How can Field Service Management software save time and increase efficiency in each of these roles?
From here you can look for the biggest opportunities to save time and increase productivity. Ie
- Is inventory management a large time and cost leakage for your business
- Is managing data in the field causing delays
- How long does it take to get a Quote out, what is needed to get a quote out and are you capturing that information
- Do you have a process to manage follow-ups
3. Finding the perfect software
When you are ready to start looking for software best to have a set of requirements that you document (from the outputs of Step2). This helps with compiling a short list and ensuring you cover all those points with each vendor who meets the minimum criteria.
Once you find the software, the next step is to map your documented workflow into the software.
Move your workflow into a software that is going to make your life easier. There are so many software choices out there and not all going to be for you. Key factors such as does the software meet a large propotion of the end to end workflow you are looking for, having too much software that doesn’t talk to each other can create a problem that didn’t exist before if you aren’t careful.
4 . Data migration
When capturing data for your field force it is important to understand the quality of data you have and how to migrate that data to software.
Customer data is a key element to many field service technicians and can go a long way to improve customer satisfaction. By collecting your data you want to cover elements that are going to help you in your job, that might be gathering information on asset history or gathering customer details like email addresses so you can send out reminders. Other data like job history or invoice history can also save you time in giving estimates for how long a job might take or give you an estimation of what a budget for a AC job may look like.
5. Configuring the system to meet your business needs
Flexible field service software is important to meet not only your current but also you future business needs. A growing HVAC business will change regularly and software needs to be flexible to assist with more complex workflows. To make your transition from paper based to paper free you want a software that’s going to make the move as easy as possible.
People generally don’t like change and by having configurable software solution it allows you to have a softer landing or just an easier transition.
6. Reviewing goals and software to ensure you are on track
Has the software you have chosen meeting your needs? Conduct a sanity check to track how the software is performing with your team. Ensure it is still lining up with the goals you set out to accomplish at the start.
Don’t settle for second best and fail to meet your original goals.
7. One bite at a time
One step at a time — taking incremental steps. Jumping in head first isn’t a great approach, especially if you find your software isn’t fully meeting your needs.
For someone who might not have that software experience, transferring your field service business into a software can be overwhelming. When you start with something small like scheduling and go from there, things can seem a little less daunting.
You’ve got to walk before you run and taking those first baby steps will bring you software goals closer with every step.
8.What we offer
With a Job Management Software like FieldInsight you’re not alone in your transition from paper to software.
Finding the solution for your field service management team doesn’t have to be a headache. Field Service Management software like FieldInsight will get your business running quicker by optimising scheduling, back office management, inventory, field service operations, asset management, SWMS and safety, preventative maintenance and more for as little or much automation as your business requires.
Our Star Delivery Model incorporating Navigate, Automate and Empower, we work with your team to implement a world class job management workflow in to your business.
Originally published at https://www.fieldinsight.com on October 17, 2020.