Calculating accurate plumbing estimates requires exact information regarding the time spent, costs, and margins of each job, and when you price services incorrectly — whether bids are too high or too low — it leads to losses and hurts business.
Plumbing businesses, in comparison to other service industries, typically take the most losses when business is busy because they have a high volume of new, usually smaller jobs to juggle. Busy schedules mean less time designated to calculating estimates and writing up bids for customers.
Without estimating software, busy plumbers either continue with quickly-drawn-up, sometimes inaccurate bids until they take enough losses that they go under, or they have to hire more office staff to draw up estimates and manage all of their jobs.
Many plumbing businesses eventually grow to the point where they need an estimating software to more efficiently assess jobs and manage bids. And for plumbing contractors seeking fast growth, switching to plumbing estimating software is a no-brainer.
We’ve been working with commercial and residential plumbing businesses for nearly a decade now, and we’ve learned a lot about transitioning from a manual estimating system to a somewhat-automated estimating program.
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In this article, we cover:
The biggest problems plumbers face with manual estimating.
The implications of inaccurate or inefficient bidding.
How our plumbing estimating software streamlines your estimating processes and improves the accuracy of bids to boost business operations and customer satisfaction.
Other benefits of choosing a plumbing software solution to keep your business organized.
We help plumbing, HVAC, and electrical contractors (among other service businesses) streamline and improve estimating processes for increased profits. Want to see ServiceTitan in action? Schedule a call for a free product tour.
Problems with Manually Drawing Up Estimates
When most plumbers come to us interested in switching to our software, their process typically involves writing up estimates in their cars with notepads and iPhone calculators (sometimes mental math) and storing job information in manila folders and filing cabinets.
Some plumbing business owners who have come to us have said they switched over to Microsoft Excel to speed-up the estimating process and improve organization, but as we all know, large spreadsheets come with their own set of headaches.
Plus, it may sound superficial, but handwritten or super-plain bids aren’t appealing to customers, and they may even come off as unprofessional or untidy. In certain cases, for example, with big-ticket jobs, bid presentation matters almost as much as price — customers may feel more comfortable investing in your services if their bill is presented to them on a pretty invoice versus a smudgy piece of notebook paper.
Disorganization, inaccuracies, and wasted time are the three biggest problems we see in manual estimating.
Staying organized as a plumber is difficult since jobs usually involve many moving parts. Even determining what needs to be done or what items need to be ordered is hard, as most things plumbers need to see to assess jobs are inside of walls and not visible. With this, there is a lot to keep track of, and as a result, more opportunities to make a mistake or forget a detail.
Disorganization can also appear unprofessional. If you forget a detail, you may have to call a customer back with extra follow up questions. If you have to ask a customer to retake the measurements of their master bathroom because you lost the paperwork with the information, your chances of retaining that customer drop.
When writing up estimates on-the-go, field technicians generally have to call or text the office staff and relay all of the information to put together a quote; however, so much gets lost when trying to text or even just explain project information over the phone. If something isn’t explained in enough detail, things can get missed, incorrect parts can be ordered, labor hours can be underestimated, and so on. This, coupled with disorganization, easily leads to inaccurate bids and pricing services incorrectly.
Inaccurate estimating processes are what make it hard to get ahead when “business is booming,” and are the reason why even successful plumbing businesses miss out on profits.
When it comes to plumbing jobs, especially emergency services, customers want a quick answer. They often don’t have time to wait around a couple of days when their septic system is backed up or a burst pipe is flooding their basement. If you can’t draw up a quick and accurate estimate on the fly, you’ll be stuck leaving your customers to wait, and as a result, probably miss out on business.
Plus, it can take field techs a significant amount of time to draw up estimates themselves, and calling over to in-office staff and waiting on them to put together bids can take hours, if not days.
All together, these problems add up to some very real business implications.
Implications of Inefficient or Inaccurate Bidding
The bigger problems with manual estimating can also lead to several other issues, the biggest being customer dissatisfaction. Let’s talk about some of these other issues that stem from poor estimating and bidding processes.
Having to reschedule. Most people take off work and stick around the house so they’re available when you arrive. If you are a no show and ask to reschedule, your customer will probably be unhappy reserving another day for the appointment.
Bringing or installing the wrong part. Arriving at the job with the wrong part, or even worse, installing the wrong part and having to uninstall it, delays the job and wastes money. In either instance, you’ll have to reschedule for when you have the right part; this isn’t great in any circumstance but is especially bad if you’re going to emergency or demand services.
Lose referrals and bad reviews. When bidding processes get botched, you can lose the customer for good and possibly receive bad online reviews from the client.
Ultimately, inaccurate bidding and disorganized project management results in angry customers, no referrals, and wasted time. That’s why we designed the plumbing estimating feature within ServiceTitan to keep all teams organized and on the same page so estimating is efficient and accurate.
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How ServiceTitan’s Plumbing Estimating Software Works
Arguably, the best thing about our plumbing estimating software is the ability it gives teams to store all job information in one place and easily find it again later. Once you create a job in ServiceTitan, it serves as a hub for all relevant information and notes. Job details are still fully customizable, but now, more organized and accessible. You can think of the newly created job within ServiceTitan as the manila folder and ServiceTitan’s platform as your filing cabinet.
Even better? Both internal and field techs can access this information at any time, so there’s no more calling or texting job information back and forth. This allows in-office staff and field techs to draw up estimates on the fly and gives teams more flexibility. It also allows teams to work together to follow up on jobs and keep customers happy.
In this section, we walk step-by-step through the ins and outs of our estimating software so that you can decide whether or not it’s a viable option for you, your teams, and your business.
#1: Create Your Job
You can’t build an estimate without a job or a prior opportunity. So first things first, insert the customer information and job details, including job type, business unit, priority level, assigned technician, and service date.
Then, you can jump straight into “Build an Estimate” or you can Book Job and view the job page first. We usually recommend this so you can give the information a second glance before jumping to start the estimate.
#2: Select “Build Estimate” from Dispatch Dropdown
After the job is created, it’s live on both the desktop and mobile app, so all teams can view the job page. The next step is pretty simple: Once on the job page, locate the “Dispatch” button and select the “Build Estimate” option from the dropdown menu.
#3: Select a Template, or Build a Bid from Scratch
Another way our estimating software makes building bids easy is by allowing users to store information for later; our software features catalogs of templates, equipment, services, prices, and more, so teams can cut back time putting together estimates. However, you can always build bids from scratch and save new information and updated templates as you go.
When Selecting Stored Templates…
Templates are a great way to save time building bids for common services. If you know a particular service is popular, or you have a similar way of drawing up bids for a handful of services, you can store those templates for quick use later. Once the template is loaded, all you have to do is plug in the specifics and finalize the estimate.
When Building Bids from Scratch…
If you’re building a bid in ServiceTitan for the first time, you’ll want to build a bid from scratch. But don’t worry, this process isn’t very complicated.
Once you select, “Build a new estimate” it’ll bring you to a new window and prompt you to plug in pricing information and name the estimate. Skip the pricing information at this section and simply name your estimate and jot down any essential notes in the Summary box at the very bottom of the page. Then, click “Save” and proceed to the next page.
#4: Add Tasks, Equipment, and Material to Build Your Bid
Once the new estimate has loaded, you can begin adding information and putting together an accurate bid. On the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see four options: Update Estimate, Add a task, Add equipment, Add a material.
At this point, all that’s left to do is go through these tabs and add anything you need to complete the bid; the total cost will update as items are added. Then, you’ll be able to precisely price your services and present better bids.
#5: Present Your Bid!
Congrats! Once you’ve reached this step, you’ve completely drawn up your estimate and landed on the best price for the project. (And you did it in less than 5 steps … and 5 minutes.) Now, all that’s left to do is present your bid to the customer. Luckily, our plumbing software makes bid presentation simple and easy, and it even gives you a few different ways to do it:
The email button at the top of the screen allows you to download and send a professional-looking PDF to customers via email.
You can also convert the estimate into a PDF, but instead of emailing, present the crisp, clean-looking estimate to your customer in person. (Woohoo! No more dirty, fingerprinted handwritten proposals!)
Or, you can present the estimate, or estimates, to customers right in the mobile app through the presentation feature. The in-person presentation mode is user-friendly and gives customers a feel of scrolling through a website and selecting personalized service. (It also allows you to send this info to customers’ cell phones and emails so they don’t have to touch your iPad or mobile device but can still make a decision in-person.)
Regardless of how you present your bid, our software allows customers to e-sign and schedule their job, allowing both parties to get the ball rolling more easily.
Then, the Follow-Ups tab allows you to keep track of estimates and job progress, follow up with customers, and see which bids were and weren’t closed. And these tools are essential for maintaining satisfied customers and continually improving business processes.
A Note on Presenting Multiple Bids
While our software is designed to help you land on the best price for your services, we understand many plumbers build bids on a “Good, Better, Best” model and usually present customers with a couple of options. Our system allows you to build and send multiple bids just as easily as you can send one. Once you build your bid, it’s saved within the job opportunity. After you build a few bids, you can view them all within the job folder and send them off together, or one-by-one.
ServiceTitan’s Field Management Software Connects All Sides of Your Business
There are plenty of excellent stand-alone plumbing estimating and takeoff software options out there (eg. Fastpipe, McCormick estimating, Planswift), and some may have fancier features than others. However, what makes ServiceTitan a more convenient option is the cohesiveness it provides for your business.
We aren’t just plumbing estimating software; we’re also a tool to streamline dispatching, expedite payroll, keep timesheets organized, and manage change orders, among other things. Plus, our field service management software even syncs with QuickBooks to connect the accounting and service sides of your operations, so everything you need to run your business is truly all in one place. And, all of this information, including real-time status updates, is accessible for all teams so bottlenecks become a thing of the past.
Even if you find the best plumbing estimating software, jumping app to app is inconvenient and eventually just gets old, and keeping track of passwords and user limits on applications makes things even more of a headache. Plus, consolidating and recording all of the digital plans from different apps takes up time. Why bother with any of this when software can keep you organized from the moment you book your job till it’s completed?
If you’re looking for the best tool to automate certain processes and jumpstart business growth, or just keep your teams organized and on the same page, learning more about our field service management solution is an excellent place to start. Our knowledgeable customer support team is here to help you get accustomed to an estimating software and answer all of your questions during the transition.
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.