Plumbing, Business Tips, Pro Features

End to End Commercial Plumbing Estimating Software: How to Estimate, Win, and Execute Jobs for Maximum Profitability

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Clock IconFebruary 17th, 2022
Glasses Icon12 Min Read
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Creating an organized and efficient estimating process that reliably generates accurate estimates has always been a challenge in the commercial plumbing business

In part, that’s because commercial jobs are frequently urgent, requiring turnaround in a couple of days or less.

More recently, supply chain snags have made it difficult to source equipment and materials which have made things tougher still.

To navigate these issues, commercial plumbing companies and general contractors are increasingly leaving behind the Microsoft Word documents and spreadsheets they once used to handle estimates, and adopting estimating software solutions or advanced field service management software platforms like ServiceTitan.

But to truly optimize a plumbing estimating system, contractors generally need a software solution that treats estimating as merely one important element of a larger, holistic process — as opposed to acting as a stand-alone estimating tool. 

In this article, we’ll cover some of the key factors to consider when you’re shopping to find the best commercial plumbing software for your business. We’ll also explain how they’re integral to creating an efficient, accurate, profitable estimating process for your plumbing business. 

» Want to grow your plumbing business? Click here to get a demo.

Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • Job costing for profitability

  • Internal and external communications

  • Presentation to maximize sales

  • Tracking and following up on open bids

We’ll also explain how our commercial service software, ServiceTitan, uses cutting edge technology to seamlessly integrate these and other business processes into a well-oiled machine, optimally positioning users to estimate, win, and execute jobs. That goes for both general and subcontractors, whether they’re doing service and repair work, equipment installations, or participating in new construction projects. 

Want to see how ServiceTitan can help grow your commercial plumbing business? Get a free, personalized demo.

Key Commercial Plumbing Estimating Challenges

Before we explain how a top-notch software tool like ServiceTitan can help commercial plumbers integrate the core processes of their business, it’s worth taking a moment to examine the challenges that those processes often present. 

Job Costing for Profitability

All too often, when service businesses struggle to consistently deliver accurate, profitable estimates, the problem is that they’re simply not accurately factoring in all of their costs. Sometimes — rather than set prices according to their own overhead and quality of service — plumbers set their prices based on what competitors seem to be doing. 

As we’ve written previously in our plumbing pricing guide, this is a surefire recipe for a race to the bottom: When service companies compete on price alone, they can create a business environment in which it’s very hard for anyone to stay profitable.    

Getting job cost estimating right is one of the most difficult elements of job management. And perhaps the most common source of errors are labor rate calculations. 

When it comes to calculating labor rates, there are many ways to go astray. But in our experience, plumbing contractors most often underestimate their costs by failing to account for all the hours that their employees spend on activities for which their customers cannot be billed. 

Conventional wisdom holds that plumbing techs, for instance, spend something like half of their working hours on non-billable tasks — hours for which they collect a salary and therefore ultimately cut into the bottom line.   

In addition to sick days, holidays, and vacations, contractors need to think about things like the time their employees spend in training sessions, as well as the hours they devote to meetings, travel, and equipment maintenance. 

As mentioned above, supply chain issues have lately been the source of troublesome delays for plumbing contractors across the country. But along with fluctuations in commodities prices, they’re also a key factor in the price of the supplies that plumbers need to do their job.

Keeping current on these changes — on the price of everything from faucets to copper pipe, ductwork, and HVAC equipment — is essential for service business owners.   

Rising material pricing must be reflected in the prices that your customers pay. Otherwise you could end up losing money, even as you win more jobs. 

Let’s say the cost of a common item, like a boiler, goes up, for example. If that increase isn’t mirrored in your pricebook, your employees will continue to issue estimates based on the outdated boiler cost, narrowing your margins.

Communication Challenges

Customer communication is always important, but it’s especially so with commercial clients, who often require highly specific documentation for contractor services. 

Emails, photos, and text messages have made it easier to provide the kind of documentation required by large companies and franchises, which often have multiple layers of supervisor approval. But when they’re stored primarily on the individual phones of field service technicians, information tends to get lost, making it impossible to provide the documentation their employers need to get jobs approved, and ultimately to get paid.

Furthermore, without a central, cloud-based repository for hard-to-remember details, like equipment model numbers, techs and office employees must rely on cell phones and email, which can be time-consuming and inefficient — particularly when techs are working in areas with poor phone service or internet connectivity.   

Estimate Tracking and Follow-up

Any plumbing contractor who’s been in the game for a while knows that following up on unsold estimates is vital to driving revenue growth. But to follow up on bids, service companies need to track them, staying on top of the status of each and every estimate. 

Trying to do all this with Google Docs, email, and Excel spreadsheets, as many commercial plumbing contractors do, can be a challenge. The trouble is that it’s awfully difficult to keep straight which deals have closed and which proposals need a follow-up. 

Keeping various spreadsheets up-to-date takes up a lot of time, and it’s also a process prone to produce errors: customers inaccurately coded as due for a routine maintenance visit, or wrongly marked as up-to-date; customer information marred by typos or missing information.

In addition to reducing overall efficiency and the quality of customer service, a tracking system that’s known to be buggy often makes employees nervous, causing them to expend additional time and energy triple-checking both their own entries and those of their co-workers.

Dispatching

Dispatching processes, too, are often troubled by the kinds of delays and human errors that arise in almost any manual management system. 

A dispatcher new to a given geographic area, for example, is likely to struggle with finding the best (and fastest) route to work sites. They’re also unlikely to be good at coordinating multiple technicians over the course of the day — sending them on circuitous, criss-crossing itineraries, as opposed to concentrating their assignments for maximum efficiency. 

In addition, without field service management software to rely on, it’s a lot to expect dispatchers to know each of their techs’ certifications and areas of expertise. And generally, they don’t. As a result, it’s not uncommon for techs to get sent to jobs for which they’re under or overqualified. 

A tech who’s only certified to work on heating and cooling systems, say, might find themselves dispatched to a job that requires training for a reach-in or walk-in freezer. Fixing the mistake will mean a follow-up visit — plus a lot of lost time, and potentially reputational damage. 

With ServiceTitan, contractors can begin to solve each of these problems, significantly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their estimating processes. Here’s how it works. 

Note: Have you checked out ServiceTitan’s commercial field service management playbook? Learn more about commercial service business best practices from our industry experts. 

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How ServiceTitan Commercial Estimating Software Works

While standalone solutions for things like job costing, communications, bid follow-up, and dispatching certainly exist, in our experience, commercial plumbing companies are most successful when their core business processes are integrated into an efficient whole, rather than operating in disconnected silos. 

That’s why we designed ServiceTitan to facilitate seamless integration of all of a service company’s most important processes, including those that go into optimizing estimating programs. 

Below, we’ll explain what this looks like in practice.  

Keep Estimates Profitable with a Fully Integrated Pricebook

Commercial Plumbing Estimating Software by ServiceTitan: Services

One key functionality of our plumbing estimating solution is an integrated pricebook. When ServiceTitan subscribers make changes to their pricebook, those changes are automatically reflected across all devices that they and their employees use: desktop, tablet, Android, and/or iOS mobile app.   

Among the ServiceTitan pricebook features that our users like best is bulk editing, which allows contractors to distribute individual changes — adding a new markup, surcharge, or discount, for example — across all of the products and services offered through a given pricebook. Once again, these edits are visible in real-time in ServiceTitan, from any device.    

In part to help avoid the kind of costly mistakes we described above, wherein changes to the cost of materials and equipment go unreflected in pricebooks, some of our subscribers opt for the Pricebook Pro upgrade, which integrates with industry catalogs to provide accurate, up-to-the minute updates. (Even a basic ServiceTitan subscription also includes a range of pre-built fully customizable pricebook templates.) 

Pricebook Catalog in ServiceTitan: Browse Providers

In addition to allowing business owners to stay on top of pricing changes, Pricebook Pro subscribers can also quickly and easily check for new product releases and add them to their offerings for customers.

Streamline Information Sharing Between Field and Office Staff Throughout the Job Cycle

Commercial Plumbing Estimating Software by ServiceTitan: Job Information

ServiceTitan acts as an instantaneously accessible repository for all of a service company’s data, as well as a user-friendly interface for both internal and external communications, allowing users to share information with one another and talk to customers over the course of the day without friction and virtually no chance of data loss. 

ServiceTitan is the place where techs can source equipment model numbers and other fine-grained details while they’re out in the field, without having to lug around cumbersome catalogs or call back to the office. 

It’s also where they can document the details of their work, whether they’re general or subcontractors doing a repair, a replacement, or a new installation — storing photos and videos along with their text descriptions allows for easy reference. 

This last feature comes in especially handy for commercial clients with stringent documentation requirements. ServiceTitan also has advanced CRM functionality and customer support. When a customer signs off on a proposal, the completed record is immediately accessible to staff back at the office. This allows them to see the scope of work and begin locating parts, materials, and equipment for the fastest turnaround possible and optimal project management.  

In essence, ServiceTitan works as a central, communal storage space and clearinghouse for all of a commercial plumbing company’s indispensable data.  

Dispatch the Right Techs on the Fastest Routes

Commercial Plumbing Estimating Software by ServiceTitan: Dispatch Board

With ServiceTitan, scheduling jobs and dispatching techs on the best possible routes is simple. Our platform stores tons of data about employees, including which field service techs have which certifications. 

That way, CSRs don’t have to keep it all in their head — or waste time looking it up — when they’re assigning jobs. ServiceTitan automatically ensures that techs are sent only to jobs that they’re qualified to handle.   

In addition, our software uses Google Maps to help dispatchers determine the most efficient routes over the course of the day. This reduces the time techs spend driving and increases the time they spend doing billable work. It also often means happier customers who spend less time weathering delays and missed appointments. 

Track and Follow Up on Open Estimates to Close More Business

Commercial Plumbing Estimating Software by ServiceTitan: Unsold Estimates

It’s no secret that commercial plumbers lose a lot of revenue just by forgetting (or not having time) to follow up on unsold estimates. 

Generally speaking, the problem is simply that it’s hard to remember, track, and pursue bids that are delivered on paper, by hand or by mail, or attached to an email as a PDF. 

ServiceTitan solves this problem in a number of ways. 

For one, when a customer opens a proposal they’ve received via email — the way virtually all of our users send estimates — ServiceTitan automatically alerts the contractor, and/or their staff, so they can check in with the customer and close the sale.    

Of course, plumbing clients can be forgetful, too, and some estimates don’t get opened. In such cases, our software will remind staff to follow up. A similar alert is generated automatically if an email bounces back, prompting staff to correct misspellings or other errors.   

ServiceTitan’s estimate tracking and follow-up features eliminate the need to manage and update spreadsheets. It alleviates the worry that comes with being unsure of company data, giving users total knowledge of what bids remain open and which estimates are due for a follow-up. 

For the vast majority of ServiceTitan subscribers, the result is more deals closed and increased profits, making it one of the best plumbing software options on the market. 

Conclusion

Creating and managing commercial plumbing estimates is a complicated process that takes in many other service industry elements. As we’ve detailed in this post, some of the most important processes to take into account include:

  • Job costing for profitability

  • Internal and external communications

  • Presenting to maximize sales

  • Tracking and following up on bids

Whether you have a small business with ambitions to grow, or a very large business, seamlessly integrating these elements demands sophisticated systems. ServiceTitan provides just that, helping commercial plumbing contractors reliably deliver and execute accurate, profitable estimates that improve efficiency and drive revenue growth.    

Want to see how ServiceTitan can help grow your commercial plumbing business? Get a free, personalized demo.

ServiceTitan Plumbing Software

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive plumbing business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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