How to Choose the Field Service Software That’s Right for Your Company
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Whatever industry they’re in—HVAC, plumbing, electrical, or one of more than a dozen others—when contractors begin to consider working with ServiceTitan, they’re often thinking simply about getting more organized. It’s not hard to understand why. With schedules written on white boards, and stacks of invoicing records, work orders, estimates, paper notepads, and catalogues, it’s difficult to keep everything straight.
Often, the owner tells us, they want to “go paperless,” or “automate” their service business. A field service software solution can help enable them to streamline their process for booking jobs, scheduling, dispatching, etc. But often, when they first enter the market to look at service options, they may not realize all of the other areas in their business that a field service software can improve (and ultimately help them outperform and outcompete their competitors).
Many times what happens is they choose a service that will do the job for them now, only to have to switch to more robust services down the road as their small business grows and their needs change.
Migrating a business that’s built on pen, paper, and excel spreadsheets to one that runs largely on software costs time and money. So when they choose a software, it’s useful to take into account what their longer term goals are and where they want to go, which can help avoid the switching costs of finding another new tool once they reach the limits of their initial service.
In our experience, the most successful contractors are the ones that do their homework and go with a software solution that is built to grow with them. In this article, we’ll outline what field service software is and what specific features and benefits contractors should take into account in choosing the solution that’s best for them.
Along the way, we’ll compare and contrast the differences in capabilities between the simpler and more advanced options on the market, to help contractors understand which option may be the best for their business.
What Is Field Service Software?
At a basic level, field service software is a program that helps you schedule jobs, dispatch technicians, and track job history. And for pen and paper shops, these features alone can bring a lot of value to your business.
But there are options on the market that go far beyond scheduling and dispatching functionality, to help businesses bring together the majority of their operations into a single platform, where almost every element of their business works together.
For example, with ServiceTitan, we offer features that allow for:
Like we mentioned above, the features you need in the software you choose will vary depending on your long-term goals. So let’s take a look at the various features and benefits that the more advanced solutions can offer.
Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.
The Core Features & Benefits of Field Service Software
1. Scheduling and Dispatching
When a contracting company is relatively small, with only a handful of trucks and field technicians to keep track of, they might well be able to smoothly handle scheduling and dispatching without a field service management solution—especially if they have a top-notch customer service rep in the back office. But as a business grows, and there are more jobs and employees to track, trying to manage the schedule the old-fashioned way can quickly become overwhelming: conflicts get overlooked, delays become more frequent, work gets mis-prioritized and field workers are accidentally assigned to the wrong jobs.
Most field service software solutions have scheduling and dispatching functions of some kind. But they’re not all created equal. Where these kinds of job management features are concerned, real-time connectivity and flexibility—between field service technicians, customers, dispatchers, and customer service reps—are paramount.
So when they’re shopping for their first business software solution, contractors should be sure to zero in on the options with the most fully developed mobile app and communication capabilities.
The utility of any field service software solution with limited mobile and/or notification options is going to be significantly restricted.
In addition to best-in-class mobile and communication capabilities—more on these below—ServiceTitan’s Scheduling and Dispatch features offer a range of easy-to-use interfaces that anticipate the project management challenges that are bound to arise in busy contracting shops.
Using a color-coded tagging system, contractors can categorize upcoming jobs according to their particulars: tools required, previous reschedules, relative difficulty, estimated time, and more, ensuring that techs arrive with everything they need to perform the task at hand—and that the right amount of time has been blocked for them to do so.
Of course, unforeseen circumstances can materialize—and new, urgent home service calls might come in at any moment—so our field service software also provides dispatchers a real-time view of where each tech is in the job cycle. This time tracking tool allows for fluid and flexible tech assignment according to business needs and customer expectations.
(To give them a leg up, ensuring that the tech with the most appropriate skill set gets assigned to each and every job, many of the owners and managers we work with like to use ServiceTitan’s alert feature to track their company’s response to incoming calls—especially high-value ones.)
Alerts can also be used to communicate with customers, reminding them of appointments in order to minimize no-shows and providing them with a narrow (and accurate) ETA in real time. That way, they haven’t become frustrated by a long wait, and therefore less inclined to make a purchase, by the time the tech arrives for a field service call. (It’s also a great way of bolstering overall customer relationship management by improving customer experience.)
With our Dispatch features, techs also get tons of detail about every home before reaching the job site—a plethora of customer information, including service history and outstanding service requests. They can even listen to a homeowner’s call with their company’s customer service rep, so that they’re well-educated about the customer’s current systems, as well as their needs, wants, and complaints—a great way to increase productivity.
At the same time, the call-recording feature offers owners and managers a way to make sure dispatchers are following customer support protocol, and to verify the facts in the event of a dispute with a customer—if they claim, for example, that they were promised a free home visit, in violation of company policy.
2. Measuring Marketing Attribution
Like scheduling and dispatching, the task of monitoring marketing efforts becomes more complicated as a contracting business grows. More business means more leads—and probably a swelling marketing budget. Without a system in place to track this complex, multivariable aspect of operations, contractors are likely to end up losing reams of valuable data.
Though marketing attribution is perhaps not the first element that springs to mind for many contractors shopping for their first field service software solution, mobile field service management tools like ServiceTitan offer huge benefits in this area.
Contractors spend tons of money on marketing, but like many business operators, they’re often in the dark about the impact. This is understandable. With multiple campaigns in play at any given time—spread across numerous channels—keeping a bead on where leads originate and ultimately result in revenue can be a dizzying task.
As a result, many contractors don’t keep track of them at all, simply hoping for the best. While that approach is arguably better than having no marketing to speak of, it also means that business owners don’t know where their money is being well spent, and where it’s being wasted.
Contractors who’ve done a little research know that quite a few marketing tools will track how many inquiries their ads have generated. But they also know that an awful lot of incoming calls don’t ultimately generate revenue.
At ServiceTitan, with a suite of marketing features, we’ve sought to close that gap. Using the Marketing Scorecard, contractors can view all their campaigns, ranked as a function of revenue, so they can see what’s working and what isn’t. (They can also zoom in to see what kind of jobs various campaigns are generating.)
We also provide a heat map, showing where campaigns are working best, and how well. Contractors can use ServiceTitan to create new campaigns, using contact information from existing leads to assign ads with surgical precision.
In combination, these features provide ServiceTitan users with a broad, deep understanding of their ROI for marketing expenditures—a picture that is both comprehensive and granular, and which can help them grow and refine their marketing strategy going forward.
3. Tracking Employee Performance
More (and bigger) jobs means more employees, often with increasingly varied skill sets and personalities. And by the time they have five or so trucks on the road, most contractors have outgrown the spreadsheets and whiteboards they might have previously used to track the performance of those employees.
We’ve written previously about the importance of having a well-defined sales process. It’s one thing to have a process, however, and quite another to make sure that it’s followed, track its results, and be able to make adjustments as necessary over the course of time.
For contractors thinking about the long term, these are important considerations in selecting a field service software solution.
With ServiceTitan’s field reporting dashboard, for example, contractors can monitor their techs in the field in real time, getting updates on revenue generation, membership sales, jobs completed, and more.
Our CSR scorecard serves a similar function for customer service reps, allowing business owners and managers to review incoming calls, conversions, and other metrics to see who’s excelling and who might need a little coaching.
In addition to providing insights on favored metrics and KPIs, these reporting tools provide contractors with invaluable information about what their employees are best at and how they might be utilized to most benefit the company and its customers. Contractors might learn, for instance, that their best salesperson is spending most of their time on maintenance calls, or that a service tech is getting assignments that involve too much drive time, severely limiting the number of jobs they can get to in a day.
With data like this at their fingertips, contractors can easily tweak misalignments, improve incentive structures, and adjust overall sales and service processes to help ensure that employees are positioned and empowered to do their best possible work every day.
4. Managing Membership and Service Agreements
Membership and service agreements are a great way for contractors in a range of industries to foster customer loyalty, generate a steady flow of revenue, and keep service technicians busy all year long. These days, even small and brand-new companies tend to offer them. But when owners introduce them to the mix, they often realize in a hurry that they absolutely need a reliable way of managing them.
Without one, even the best-intentioned contractors are liable to lose track of their agreements, causing their company to miss promised (and paid-for) tune-ups and maintenance. Naturally, customers who’ve paid up front for a service expect that service to be delivered. When it’s not, the contractor in question is going to find their reputation on the downslide pretty quick.
Unfortunately, it’s a difficult mistake to recover from. Once a contractor has fumbled their relationship with a client in this way, it becomes very difficult to win them back. In a given market, word about a contractor who’s collecting fees and failing to hold up their end of the bargain is likely to travel fast. Before they know it, an innocent case of disorganized work order management can torpedo a contractor’s whole business, ruining an otherwise sterling record of customer satisfaction.
Accordingly, when shopping for a field service software product, contractors with a membership program—or any intention of instituting one in the future—do well to select a solution with robust membership management capabilities.
With ServiceTitan, contractors can simply add prepaid membership checkups and tune-ups to their schedule through our Service Agreement Interface. For contractors who want to use their membership program to further refine and differentiate their business, we also offer a range of more advanced features:
Push-button new-member generation
Renewal agreements that demonstrate value
Profit-maximizing member prioritization
5. Financing and Accounting
When contractors start to think about adding a field service software product to their toolbelt, they might not often have financing and accounting issues in mind. But talk to the owner of any fast-growing contracting company and you’ll find that incorporating financing and accounting solutions seamlessly into their operation is front-and-center among their concerns.
Accordingly, we’ve found that the most successful (and happiest) contractors consider these elements when selecting a field service software solution in the first place. Below, we’ll take a quick look at factors to consider for both financing and accounting needs.
When it comes to financing options—that is, features that connect customers with the financing they might require to purchase a service or product—field service solutions fall into two categories: those that have financing features fully integrated into their platform, and those that don’t.
With a field service software solution like ServiceTitan, which falls into the fully-integrated category, contractors and their employees can connect customers with financing near-instantaneously via mobile device. It relieves homeowners of the burden of having to call their bank or check their credit lines before signing a contract, while also limiting the kind of delays and second-guessing that can ultimately prevent a deal from closing.
Our field service companies can choose from a range of financing options to provide to customers, ensuring that they get paid on a schedule that works for them, and that they don’t end up beholden to a financing plan they don’t like.
Once a customer lands on an option that fits their needs, they can submit a loan application and secure approval with just a few taps of an iPad—drag and drop. (The best field service apps also provide for real-time, on-premise payments via mobile device!)
Accounting features fall into the same categories: integrated and not-integrated. But in this case, the right approach is more a matter of preference. FSM software solutions that offer integrated accounting services provide a streamlined experience; for contractors using a product in this category, accounting is one less distinct worry—at least temporarily.
The potential drawback to software solutions with integrated accounting features is that they create opportunities for errors—and, down the road, painful complications. That’s why at ServiceTitan, rather than create accounting software of our own, we’ve chosen to put our users in the hands of experts, with an easy-to-use QuickBooks integration.
With this approach, if a contractor goes through an audit or ultimately wants to sell their company, they can rest assured that each “i” is dotted and each “t” is crossed. Because QuickBooks applies generally accepted accounting principles, organized records can be read by any accountant, ensuring that future transactions can proceed hiccup-free.
Choosing a Solution That Can Grow with You
When contractors begin looking for a field service software solution, they’re sometimes drawn to options that seem to be most affordable. This is entirely understandable. Like most every business owner, contractors want to use their resources wisely. That can lead them to be skeptical about investing in a comprehensive solution that comes with advanced features that might not seem immediately applicable to their business.
As a result, many contractors end up trying to dip their toe in the water with a more basic field service software solution. For some companies, that works out just fine. In our experience, though, contractors who want to expand their business and win a larger share of their market almost always end up outgrowing these entry-level products.
These solutions just aren’t built for contractors with more than a few trucks, and they end up costing contractors in the long run: the time and money associated with adopting an insufficient platform; increased overhead from paying additional employees to do the work that a more comprehensive solution could have handled; the time and money associated with changing course again and adopting a more robust field service software solution.
It’s difficult, of course, to predict what your business is going to need as it grows. It’s hard to see the future. That’s why we often suggest that contractors identify a company or two that look like what they envision for their own business and try to pay them a visit.
By seeing first-hand the kind of functionality they’ll need if all goes according to plan, they almost always grasp the key elements they should be looking for in a field service management software, which are much the same we’ve outlined in this article:
Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call with us to learn more about how our software can help you grow your business.