Ed. note: This article was first published in IE3 magazine. The article in its entirety can be found here.
If your HVAC and plumbing office employees, dispatch staff and field service technicians are still using paper service-order forms, you might want to think about getting rid of the paper and replacing it with a mobile app that has the potential to save your business time and money while increasing your sales and your bottom line.
In the past few years, there has been a huge increase in the number of field service technician apps that can be personalized for your service business, so hiring a developer to design one just for your business – which can be a lengthy and expensive endeavor – is unnecessary in today’s marketplace. This is great news for small-to mid-sized residential service businesses that don’t have the budget to hire personal app developers.
If you are not up to speed on field service technician apps, here is a basic primer:
Field Service Business Apps Basics
There are all kinds of computer applications, or apps, if you will. These applications were the domain of desktop computers for years, but as technology has advanced, so have the ways applications can be used.
A web app is an app that needs a WiFi connection to work – but it has some drawbacks. If a technician is in a remote location or a location with poor connectivity, he or she is out of luck. Also, if your technicians will be downloading forms or estimates, or trying to create online service orders with customer signatures, web apps can slow down or stop if they lose connection in the middle of a process – forcing a technician to start all over again.
Native apps, on the other hand, are apps that are downloaded onto a mobile device and allow a field service technician (and other staff as desired) to access the home office files, databases, parts lists, costs and estimating software, and more, depending on the app you purchase for your business.
Native apps work over WiFi or cell networks and can function in “offline” mode when the tech is out of a service area. The best home services software is moving to the native app format because of these advantages.
Here are my top eight reasons your HVAC or plumbing business needs to switch from paper to a full-featured native app.
- Before sending a technician to the service call, some apps provide a way for the home office or dispatcher to send the technician’s information to the client. A great tool in customer communication is the ability to send a technician’s photo ID and identification information to the client before the technician arrives, giving customers an added sense of security.
- Technicians can email homeowners or business customers with their projected arrival time. Many apps enable technicians to do this from their mobile devices via email, phone call or text before they head off to customer locations.
- Technicians can log on to service records and see what other work was done before arriving on location. This is a great feature because a technician can look up customer records from the app (while parked) to review customer service calls.
- Apps can offer the ability for technicians to estimate jobs on site with better accuracy. Service apps can connect to pricing books with parts, numbers and costs in minutes, making the estimate quicker and more accurate.
- Dispatchers can connect with technicians at all times. Rather than having a phone call interrupt a technician in the middle of work, some apps allow the home office to communicate with a technician via an earpiece or secure internal messaging.
- Technicians can access preloaded sales tools and presentations to use on site. Technicians can be great at their jobs but not so great at sales, so apps with access to sales materials, videos and PowerPoints offer visual tools for technicians to use when they need to explain and recommend a service or product.
- When in doubt, technicians can look up company repair manuals or videos for instructions. If there is a question about a repair, technicians can access repair illustrations or instructions from company manuals, which reduces call-backs or the need to reschedule.
- Technicians can record all service call notes via their field service app on site. Rather than having another staffer spend hours transcribing technician notes and service-call records into a database, the app enables technicians to record all the needed information on the smart device. The app can even capture client signatures once the work has been done, thus submitting the invoice and payment in minutes.
The features mentioned above may or may not be included in the app you choose, so be sure to ask for a list of the app’s capabilities before signing up. Also, ask for case studies or referrals from the app provider, and choose one that needs the least tweaking to fit your business.