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Your company’s trained electricians solve complicated residential power problems every day, and homeowners rely on each electrical service technician’s knowledge and expertise to do the job right the first time. If your techs know their trade well, but seem to short-circuit when trying to correctly estimate a customer’s job, it could be your electrical work price guide.
From the cost for installing receptacles or a new light switch to low voltage lighting, a security system or a complete rewire of an old wiring system, a new electrical panel, or a fix for some other common electrical problems, everything should be included.
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Did you consult with your electricians or try to understand how they use your electrical pricebook out in the field? Are your discounts and coupons easy to communicate to the customer, and easy to track in your profit reporting? Are your techs falling back on the “miscellaneous” task way too often, just because they can’t find what they’re searching for?
If your electrical pricebook isn’t easy for your techs to understand and use when communicating to customers, whether they're replacing a faulty light fixture, adding a ceiling fan or installing completely new electrical wiring, then it’s not doing the job it was designed to do. And it's time to amp it up.
Start by asking your techs to write down how an electrical pricebook would work if they could design one themselves, says Kathy Nielsen, a business development consultant and operations expert who’s worked in the skilled trades for 20 years.
“It has to function for the technician’s brain, not your brain,” she says. “They can write it on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be sexy.”
Use the technicians’ input to create a visual representation of your pricebook, then go back and ask your technicians if it makes sense. The more familiar your licensed electricians are with your pricebook and the more input they give in its design, the better your pricebook will work for your licensed electricians, your company, and your customers.
Nielsen’s company, Operations Excellence, works with electrical service companies and others in the skilled trades to: 1) create customer service and office management superheroes; 2) establish standard operating procedures to increase efficiency; and 3) set up and optimize their ServiceTitan and QuickBooks accounts.
Electrical contractors do complex tasks every day, such as connecting meter services and breaker boxes to power customers’ workplaces and homes. Empower them to be more efficient with a well set-up and easy-to-use electrical cost guide that drives your company’s profitability, reporting, truck replenishment, and inventory. The work a good pricebook can do goes well beyond cost estimates.
It’s the foundation on which your company should be built, Nielsen says. Here are her top 5 tips on how to build — and maintain — a profitable electrical pricing guide:
Make the Pricebook Easy for Your Electricians to Use
With a current shortage of electricians in the U.S., companies often struggle to find qualified electricians with proper licensing credentials. Keep your electrical techs happy and eliminate any on-the-job grumbling and guesswork with a flat-rate pricebook organized by detailed electrical service product images, service descriptions, and prices.
Some pricebooks require the user to spend hours online searching for specific service descriptions or product images and manually loading in each one individually to the pricebook. With curated content, detailed descriptions, and images already built-in, ServiceTitan’s Pricebook Pro offers business owners a clear, time-savings advantage.
“If you’ve ever had to add them in, it’s very time consuming to go out on the web and get all those pictures and save them and upload them,” Nielsen says. “The beauty of this is, it’s already done for you.”
While on the job, your tech can use Pricebook Pro to easily show service descriptions and product images to customers, so they know the good, better, and best options for their electrical repair or replacement job, along with recommendations for required parts. This “Upgrades and Recommendations” feature on the Pricebook Pro empowers your techs to educate your customers, which ultimately helps to increase your company’s bottom line.
Especially in older homes that could have outdated wiring, dated lighting fixtures or a potential fire hazard, that could mean a much higher ticket price.
Most electrical price guides function like a tree, with the trunk or base of the tree serving as the foundation for all of your electrical service options. A pricebook with flat-rate pricing, rather than an hourly rate for labor cost and the cost of materials, brings value to your customers, because they know the cost upfront and pay a fixed flat rate for service, with time and materials already calculated in.
Nielsen says it’s also important for business owners to understand the terminology in a pricebook. “A task is what we do and what we’re charging. The materials are the pieces and parts we need to perform that work, and the equipment is the model and serial number items that we need to perform that work,” she says.
The bigger branches show the subcategories, such as installing a whole-house surge protector or new breaker box, and the leaves on the tree detail the specific tasks involved, such as “adding GFCIs” or “installing capacitors,” as well as how much time each task takes to perform and the total job cost.
As your technicians move into the leaves of the tree, your pricebook needs to clearly outline each specific task, the materials involved, the cost for service and materials, and the estimated time involved.
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Include Coupons and Discounts in Pricebook
Does your electrical service company offer coupons and discounts during less busy times of the year to spark new business or educate consumers about electrical safety? If so, make sure your electrical pricebook is set up correctly, so techs in the field can clearly explain the value of those incentives when interacting with your customers.
When your techs offer a discount or coupon to a customer, help them build value for their service by properly tracking and applying them to a particular customer’s account. Don’t allow your techs to just reduce the cost of a customer’s electrical job and forget to document the discount or coupon. Your customer may not understand they paid a reduced price, and demand resolution later.
It’s also important to delineate coupons and discounts by tracking each one in separate accounts. Coupons are marketing tools and discounts are giveaways, Nielsen says, and for best reporting practices, business owners need to understand how each one works to increase customer engagement.
When building coupons into the pricebook, some companies ask whether it’s better to have a higher quantity of very specific coupons or a small quantity of generic coupons that the tech can alter to address each customer’s needs? For example, $100 off installation of whole-house surge protector or 15% off any electrical repair?
“I want to know for my reporting which coupon is doing best,” Nielsen says. “If I have a generic one and the tech changes it, it doesn’t give me reportable data other than how many total volume of coupons was used. I have mine very specific. My end goal was to not have my techs have the ability to change pricing. If your coupons are very specific, they don’t need to have that option.”
Avoid These Common Price Guide Mistakes
When setting up your electrical price guide, focus on the now and worry about the future later, Nielsen says.
Sometimes, companies worry too much about linking ALL of their tasks with the materials used, but then find the tasks are too confusing or the electrical price list template doesn’t include enough choices. Build a strong foundation of well-defined tasks first, and then link to the materials (all of those pieces and parts your electrical techs use to stock their trucks).
Allowing techs to choose a “miscellaneous task” as the type of service provided to a customer is another common mistake that complicates business reporting practices, Nielsen says. It’s typically a generic task or service with no real description or price, and it gives your company no reportable data.
“There are sometimes when your techs need the miscellaneous option, but I am really not a fan,” Nielsen says. “All of mine went away.”
An electrician may choose the miscellaneous option because they don’t want to look up a particular item, or your electrical pricebook includes too many choices and they don’t know which one to pick. In some instances, a dishonest tech might take advantage of the miscellaneous option by upcharging the customer and pocketing the money.
“If a technician needs to use a miscellaneous task, then I just have them call their service manager,” she says, because it’s often a case of the tech not knowing where to look. “Sometimes they just make it way more complicated than it is, or it might be the verbiage. Make sure your verbiage matches how your tech would say it and that it makes sense for the customer.”
If your electrical techs balk at removing the miscellaneous option, Nielsen suggests creating levels for repair and replacement based on a matrix with service, materials, and time clearly defined. “That’s an option, but the more you can get rid of miscellaneous, the better off you will be,” she says.
Explore Features Specific to ServiceTitan
Encourage your techs to learn your digital electrical pricebook and take advantage of everything it can do. Some cool features specific to ServiceTitan include:
Payroll Reporting — While it doesn’t calculate payroll with tax tables, it allows you to run a report to show the company’s gross payout for a specific payroll period.
Master Pay File for Technicians — Shows the services provided by each technician for a specific period of time and total sales, and easily calculates any bonuses or SPIFs owed.
Upgrades and Recommendations — Allows the tech to show customers a good option for repair or replacement as well as possible upgrades for better and best options, along with recommendations for required parts.
Pricebook Categories by Technician — Limits what each service technician sees in the electrical pricebook so they only access information relevant to them, eliminating errors when discussing sales options with customers.
Pricebook Wizard — Allows you to set your company’s markups and labor rates, while ServiceTitan’s built-in feature calculates what prices to charge for each service.
Service Descriptions and Images — Gives your techs the ability to search for specific service descriptions with easily recognizable images when discussing repair or replacement options with a homeowner. Pricebook Pro comes with the content already built in.
Sandbox Site — Each week, ServiceTitan dumps your data — based on the previous week’s reporting — into a sandbox site you can use for training purposes. Nielsen also uses the sandbox site to test new pricebooks before they go live.
Tie Your Electrical Pricebook Back to Data Reporting
Once you set up your electrical pricing guide correctly, any worries about reporting discrepancies coming back to fry your workflow completely fizzle out. “If you get a handle on your pricebook sooner rather than later, then your foundation is strong and stable,” Nielsen says, “and your reporting, accuracy, and everybody’s workflow is correct.”
Use your electrical pricebook as the foundation on which your company is built, with all business reporting, including any cost information listed on invoices, feeding directly from it, Nielsen says. Be consistent and accurate, and make sure it’s easy for your techs to apply materials to an estimate and adjust when they use more or less materials on a certain job.
“The easier those are to do, the easier time the techs have in doing it and the less grumbling and guesswork they do,” Nielsen says. “You know the old adage, keep it simple stupid? The simpler it is for your techs, the easier your transition will be. It doesn’t have to be something completely out of left field for everybody.”
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