Your reputation has always been important when recruiting talent because the best techs want to work at the best companies. But the mediums job seekers use to search for potential employers has changed. Word of mouth is still around but pales in importance compared to your company’s online reputation. Before a job seeker even applies, your website, social media presence, and online reviews help them through the first two phases of the job hunt: Discovery and research.

1. Be Easy to Discover

When a technician starts their job hunt and isn’t familiar with all the local companies, where do you think they start? Google, of course. They’ll search for companies in their industry and the top results will be the first companies they research. That’s how Google has trained us all. The top search results are the best bet, and searching for local companies is no exception. Fortunately, the fresh, dynamic content created by your Digital Wrap is exactly the kind of indicator Google uses to rank websites. Just by performing the day-to-day tasks associated with the services you offer, your techs will be collecting customer reviews and generating rich content that will help prospective employees (and customers) discover your company.

Millennials, almost exclusively, find and research new job opportunities online. Most of my millennial friends discovered, researched, and applied for their current job completely online without talking to a single person. From discovery on Google or a job board to exhaustive research of prospective companies, they did everything on their laptop or smartphone. They browsed the company website and social media for information about the mission and culture. Where applicable, they researched customer reviews. They paid especially close attention to the reviews from current and past employees.

Indeed and Glassdoor, two of the largest job listing websites, are the dominant players when it comes to company reviews by former and current employees. When you Google a company by name, the employee rating of that company on Indeed or Glassdoor are often in the top results. Very quickly, a potential candidate can see what real employees think about a company. This can work for or against you. From a job seekers perspective, zero company reviews is concerning, a bunch of bad reviews is a death knell, and a mix of mostly good reviews is a great sign. I say a mix because people will be suspicious of your reviews if they are all five stars. Just like with your customers, it’s ok to ask your employees to leave a review of your company, just be sure that the review truly represents what they think, not what you think. Don’t instruct them to leave a good review and be responsive and respectful of any results you receive.

2. Be Easy to Research

If they find your company online, potential employees are going to look at your company website before they apply for a job. Is your website going to help recruit them? Does it have the information they ‘re looking for? Candidates aren’t just searching for a company that has an opening. They want to know about company culture and values. What do you stand for? They want to get a feel for what it’s like to work there. Is it fun? Is it challenging? They want to know what the opportunities for growth are. Will they advance their technical skill set or have an opportunity for advancement? They also want an easy application process. The bigger the barrier to applying, the fewer candidates you’ll receive. For example, a simple, mobile-friendly web form that collects their name and phone number with a call to action like “Are you a skilled technician and want to learn more about working at Aardvark Services?” will receive a lot more candidates than a Byzantine application process that asks candidates every possible question and requires them to upload a resume. You’ll definitely do more work to qualify candidates and get more that aren’t a fit but, in the midst of a skilled labor shortage, that’s an acceptable cost. Chances are, you’ll lose candidates you want before they even have a chance to apply if your application process is too difficult. Keep it simple.

Social media is a powerful tool when recruiting, especially Facebook and LinkedIn. When a candidate is considering a company, most will review the company’s social media profile and posts to learn about the brand. Compared to the corporate website, job seekers expect to find a candid representation of the company’s personality. Posts about company events, employees, and corporate values go a long way to help them get a better feel for the company.

It’d be nice if you could meet all of your hiring demand with a flood of great candidates that found you online, but that’s not going to happen for every company. Most likely, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and actively recruit new employees. Armed with a reputable brand and a strong presence online, it will be easier. All you have to do is ask.

For entry-level office and field positions, one ServiceTrade customer Guardian Fire Protection has another interesting recruiting approach. Once a month, they host an open door interview day. Anyone who shows up is guaranteed an interview. Now, some interviews are MUCH shorter than others, but everyone gets a shot. They advertise the event through craigslist, social media, and through their website. For a relatively low investment of time and money, they’ve filled multiple open positions. When they ask successful candidates that show up on the interview day why they didn’t just apply online, candidates often say that they didn’t feel like their resume was good enough.

If potential employees don’t already know about your brand, your website and reviews should drive discovery through search engine optimization. Once they discover your brand, your online reputation should drive their research to the conclusion that you are a great company to work for and that they should apply. You can do a lot to help your recruiting efforts by making the discovery and research easier for job seekers. Want a big bonus? Being easy to discover and research will help out your potential customers, too.

United Fire wanted to increase the level of customer service that their technicians provided by improving technology, automating processes, and increasing efficiency across the organization. Their first steps towards this goal were to replace their 20+-year-old computer systems and to implement ServiceTrade. However, there was a lack of integration with United Fire’s current accounting system. They needed a cloud-based solution that could:

  • Integrate with ServiceTrade
  • Eliminate manual duplicate entries
  • Deliver up-to-date custom reports and dashboards
  • Reduce dependency on Excel spreadsheets

FINDING THE RIGHT SOLUTION
United Fire chose Leap the Pond to implement Sage Intacct, a cloud-based accounting software solution. The seamless integration between ServiceTrade and Sage Intacct was a key decision factor. Sage Intacct allows them to significantly improve accounting processes (no more manual dual entry and tedious Excel spreadsheets) and have real-time access to their financial reporting.

SEEING RESULTS RIGHT AWAY
“Accounting was an accidental blessing to our company-wide technology upgrade. Before Sage Intacct, we could not get a real-time status of our financials and our accounting department was doing a lot of manual entries. Now we have real-time visibility and transparency to our financial results from anywhere. It has completely changed our business model.” Jeff Wallace, United Fire. Sage Intacct provides a user-friendly environment for business and accounting users.

United Fire has a small accounting team and during the implementation process, they lost a key accounting staff member. Leap the Pond provided the extra support needed to complete the implementation on time and trained United Fire’s new accountant on Sage Intacct’s platform. In addition, during United Fire’s staffing shortage, Leap the Pond assisted with their outsourced accounting services to close their month-end.

Since United Fire’s implementation, they have:

  • Shortened their invoice cycle dramatically – they can now process same day invoices
  • Improved the monthly reporting cycle to provide timely reports within days of the month end
  • Simplified and streamlined key accounting processes
  • Increased competence in accounting transparency and ability to track spending
  • With investing in the right systems, United Fire now has a greater focus on their customers and is in a better position to make long-term strategic plans for their organization.

ABOUT UNITED FIRE
Since 1969, United Fire has provided installation, service, recharge, and repair of fire extinguishers, fire suppression system, backflow devices and offers repair, inspection, and parts for fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, exit lights, and emergency egress lighting. They pride themselves on keeping their employees educated on the newest standards and require proper licensing of all their technicians. United Fire offers excellent on-time service, reliability, and quality products.

ABOUT LEAP THE POND
Leap the PondLeap the Pond delivers Sage Intacct based accounting solutions to small to medium-sized organizations that have BIG plans. Our senior leadership averages more than 20+ years of experience with accounting and operations. Since 2008, Leap the Pond has led more than 350 projects for nearly 300 companies.

ABOUT SERVICETRADE
ServiceTrade is a software as a service platform that manages customer service, service management, sales, and marketing for commercial service contractors.

 

Thank you to Kate Johnson and David Furth at Leap the Pond for sharing this case study with us.

At the 2012 Google I/O conference, the big “reveal” was Google Glass.  A team of Glass-wearing skydivers live streamed their descent toward the roof of the San Francisco Moscone center where the event was underway.  It was an awe-inspiring stunt, but Google Glass flopped due to a buggy and ridiculous user experience, and the project was shuttered in 2015.  Or was it?

The website for glass proclaimed “Thanks for exploring with us,” but it also offered hope for the future with “The journey doesn’t end here.”  Of course, Google can waste money on pie-in-the-sky projects forever because they print so much pie-in-the-sky money with their AdWords platform.  But what about the rest of us?  When should we expect some breakthrough capability with smartglasses?  And what would that look like anyway?

I actually think other technologies that were related to the first glasses experiments are going to dominate our attention, and that is probably a good thing.  Smartglasses initially were a symbol for three separate and distinct technology advances:

  1. A heads-up type display that removes the need for a display screen to be positioned in your field of view.
  2. A hands-free user interface to be able to engage with an application to move the experience along without tapping on a screen or pecking a keyboard or zapping a barcode or whatever other input you choose.
  3. A camera application to capture and share the imagery in your field of view.

Let’s start with number 3 first.  I decided to do this blog post when I saw that Snap (the company behind Snapchat) just disclosed in an investor update that they are writing off about $40 million on Spectacles inventory they are not able to sell.  In case you have not heard, Spectacles are the smartglasses that are integrated with Snapchat to give the user a hands-free camera application to share the imagery in their field of view with the Snapchat application.  It flopped. But that is not the interesting bit.  The interesting bit is that the glasses were $129 including the charging case.  While not free, that is not bad for a first generation, new form factor camera with LED lighting, a power source, and the electronics for connecting to other devices.  I think experiments like Spectacles are going to lead to a simpler form factor for a lightweight, high functioning camera that attaches to your glasses or the bill of your cap.  It will simply be able to attach to whatever application you are running via Bluetooth or WiFi, and now you have a hands-free camera to snap images or stream video to applications running on your smartphone or tablet.

Item number 2, the hands-free user interface, is actually here today.  It comes in two parts that everyone will quickly recognize.  The first is the earpiece/microphone that we have all used or seen others use (Jawbone is a popular brand that has done well in the market).  This allows you to give audible input to an application (likely running on your smartphone or tablet) and receive audio back from the application.  The second part is Alexa (or Siri, pick your assistant).  I think Alexa is actually going to be the game changer because Amazon is so good at productizing computing infrastructure for folks like ServiceTrade to incorporate in our applications.  We also have experience with Google and Microsoft – there are good reasons why Amazon is the market leader by a pretty wide margin.  I believe Alexa will be another example of their market-leading competence in this area.  The applications you use will have an Alexa interface that enables the technician to move the workflow along by saying “Alexa, move the workflow along (as a proxy for whatever application option makes sense.)”

Item 1, the heads-up display, is the hard bit.  Not because this is new or novel because pilots, for example, have been using heads-up displays in aircraft since the mid-90s.  It is difficult because shrinking it to work in a miniature and mobile environment like a pair of glasses is a difficult piece of physics.  The display only works correctly if the user can see the application interface in the same plane of focus as the other items of interest.  If I understand what I have researched, it appears the approach being used by Google Glass is a near retina display. The image is projected directly onto the retina, so there is no issue with the depth of focus. The information is just “there” for the retina to absorb without refocusing on a “closer” screen display.

What Google Glass got wrong (in my humble opinion) was trying to introduce all three elements in a single device, while simultaneously assuming that the applications where we might use the technology were readily available.  None of the technologies were significantly evolved to enable an “all in one” device to be successful.  I am not a fan of “all in one” applications anyway, as I find they typically suck at most of the things they try to achieve for the sake of claiming a longer checklist of “features.”

Instead of the “all in one” that flopped for Google (although the physics breakthroughs they achieved with the display are impressive), I believe you will begin to see small changes sneak up on you.  It is easy to imagine someone with a Bluetooth Jawbone and a visor-mounted camera collaborating via Facetime with a remote colleague.  There’s nothing extraordinary here because all of the technology is well developed already.  I can also imagine a technician setting up their tablet beside a piece of equipment and asking Alexa to play and pause and rewind a recorded video of how to repair a complex piece of equipment – hands-free with an interactive application that we already use every day.

There is a phrase in my industry called the “consumerization of IT.”  Basically, this phrase means that the end-user consumer applications for new technology will generally lead the market before the commercial applications become available.  Seems counterintuitive until you realize that consumer spending makes up 70% of the US economy.  It just makes sense that the titans of technology such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, would focus their research and development dollars to address the biggest available market.  If you want to experiment with things that likely will work to improve your commercial application, don’t look for some big breakthrough from a wildly new and different application.  Instead, focus on the commercials that you see during the holidays that demonstrate how you can display an eggnog recipe and play holiday music by commanding Alexa to do so.  Pay attention to the display of best-selling gadgets at Best Buy from companies like Jawbone that connect to applications on your phone.  Then go play around in the context of your work for customers and find innovative ways to put these consumer breakthroughs to work for the benefit of your customers and your company.

Every major sports venue has a prominent scoreboard so that fans and participants alike can easily review the score with a glance to the outfield or upward at the jumbotron.  Knowing the score is a critical element in decision-making.  No point in running the ball up the gut in football when you are behind by 3 touchdowns with five minutes left in the game.

Imagine trying to coach the game, however, by looking at the scoreboard instead of watching the action on the field.  Ever notice what is happening with the coaches on the sidelines during the game?  Doesn’t really matter what sport.  The coaches are riveted to the action on the field or on the court, right?  They may glance at the scoreboard occasionally, but most of their attention is directed onto the field of play.  So that they can make adjustments during the game to accentuate what is working and compensate for what is not.

Why is it, then, that commercial service contractors so often obsess over the accounting systems that measure the score while completely ignoring the customer service systems that provide real-time feedback regarding the action on the field of play?  Keeping score is not the same as winning.  Winning means that everyone is executing the plays for the business to the best of their ability and in the interest of great customer outcomes.  Accounting systems and accountants have almost zero impact on the game, and yet they are often placed at the very center of decisions regarding how to execute a winning game plan.  That’s like asking the statistician to draw up the winning play on fourth and long with the game on the line instead of entrusting it to the offensive coordinator.  The score at any time in the game matters, but it is a small element in a winning coaching strategy.

To be fair, customer relationship management systems, electronic commerce, and customer service applications (along with marketing automation) are newer applications on the market relative to the older and more established accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.  It is worth noting, also, that these newer applications focused on sales and customer service are the fastest growing breed of applications on the market.  It makes sense.  If you are going to compete in today’s fast-paced and online markets, you have to observe and measure what is happening on the field – play by play – instead of just waiting for the score to be tallied.  How are the salespeople performing on their calls and quotes?  How are the technicians performing identifying opportunities for repair?  How are the customers grading your customer service via online reviews?  How often is the service level agreement being met or exceeded?  None of these items register in the accounting system, but all of them will have a profound influence on your ability to win the game.

There is nothing wrong with glancing at the scoreboard a few times every quarter to tweak the playbook.  Winning consistently, however, means a relentless focus on the play by play action in the field while making constant adjustments.  Keeping score is not the same as winning.  Remember this maxim when you prioritize how you invest in applications for running your business.

For more than 85 years, Ressac has established itself as a high quality, low-cost commercial contractor for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. Specialties include low-rise office parks, mall retail, and big box retail sites.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Ressac recently implemented ServiceTrade to improve their service management and customer service. While this solved their challenges on the service side of their business, they were still using an outdated version of Dynamics NAV, a server-based accounting platform, to maintain financial records. “We were so focused on making improvements to the service side including customer service and earning more revenue that accounting was an afterthought,” explains Nick Rohan, CEO at Ressac. “We lacked real-time visibility into our financial information,” he says, “and we had to double key everything.”

With no transparency into financials such as working capital and cash flow, decision-making was more like guesswork. In a very competitive industry, and with a profit margin as low as 5-7%, it was critical to know the current situation when making business decisions. And since data wasn’t being shared between the accounting system and ServiceTrade, the finance team carried a large time burden related to too many AP and AR manual processes.

“Connecting to the old accounting system was cumbersome,” Mr. Rohan explains, “and we had a lot of issues getting into the system.” And with no AP approval process in place, service managers had to approve purchases, which took them away from more strategic job-related activities and created time-consuming invoicing of their clients. Additionally, data siloed within spreadsheets led to inefficient and time-consuming reporting processes throughout the organization.

Ressac desired a cloud solution that could streamline its AP workflow and approvals and provide real-time visibility into its multiple locations’ financial results. Sage Intacct’s financial management software was selected and was seamlessly integrated with ServiceTrade to eliminate many hours of manual data entry and reduce costly errors inherent in their old system.

 

THE SOLUTION

Nick recalls, “We relied heavily on ServiceTrade’s recommendation of Sage Intacct. When we looked at various systems,” he says, “what sold us on Sage Intacct was the reporting.” And selecting Wipfli as the service partner was easy. Wipfli provided full-service implementation, integration assistance, and ongoing support through a collaborative team approach as Ressac navigated through the process. “We liked the feeling from Wipfli, and had confidence in the team we were talking to,” explains Nick.

Everyone worked together to ensure a smooth integration. “The ServiceTrade integration is behind the scenes, so you don’t really notice it,” reports Nick. “With the Sage Intacct and ServiceTrade integration, we’re operating differently now,” he says. “The time we’ve saved on double data entry allows us to code our transactions, which allows for better financial reporting.”

With real-time visibility and transparency into their financial results across their multiple CA locations, Ressac now has the “right information at the right time” to make critical business decisions. “We’re getting more information out of our systems and doing a lot more meaningful work,” he says. The improved financial reporting means Nick Rohan and his team can easily see where their financials stand on a day-to-day basis.

What’s more, according to Nick, “the thing we really enjoy with Sage Intacct is our ability to access it anywhere from a browser, whether we’re at home or out of town. We can get in and see our daily runs and see how cash is doing,” adding, “it’s been fantastic!”

Overall, with Sage Intacct in place, Ressac taps into deeper financial and operational insights and is able to tackle more strategic issues, keeping the whole organization focused on their customers. Now the pressure of competition is less of a burden as Ressac has the insights its team needs to “grow strategically in existing markets and into other regions.”

 

LEARN FROM RESSAC’S EXPERIENCE

Key Requirements

  • Implement cloud-based financial solution to automate and streamline workflows and provide financial visibility
  • Integrate their new system with ServiceTrade to allow for one single set of data to run the business reliably and remove the guesswork

Key Challenges

  • Remove data from spreadsheet silos and make it available for decision-support across organization
  • Save time and reduce costly errors associated with manual data entry
  • Enable managers to focus on strategic initiatives

Key Outcomes

  • Gained real-time visibility into their financial results across locations
  • Saved time, money, and effort through automating processes, enabling greater focus on customers
  • Positioned to make long-term strategic plans for company

 

EXPLORE INTEGRATIONS

ServiceTrade can help whether you’re looking to integrate your current accounting system with our application or explore a new accounting solution. Call your representative to talk about the best way to start weighing your options and understanding the scope of integrating ServiceTrade with your accounting or other operational applications.

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“I read the book and followed the instructions.” These words from Samwell Tarly in the third episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones stood out to me. Sam is a student in a university where he’ll gain an education in medicine, science, and history. In the real world, students gain a general understanding of basic subjects in our school systems and universities.

In technical schools, relevant educational teaching is augmented with specific skills-based training. With the growing skilled labor shortage, figures like the immensely likable Mike Rowe challenge us to shift the pendulum back from pushing everyone to seek a four-year degree to encouraging skills-based training for a large number of students.

On the job – especially in service companies where a lot of training occurs – is teaching about the interconnectedness of every role in the business being skipped in the effort to get people working productively as fast as possible? Are staff members being taught only about the trees and nothing about the forest?

I bet you have a pretty well-defined training program. How much teaching goes on during that program? Do you take the time to teach your employees why the tasks they’re performing are important? Does everyone understand how the quality of their work affects operations, customer service, and overall profitability?

Sam is in a long-term educational program but was feeling the urgency to learn a few skills. He took a simple approach to learning these skills when the structure of the long-term education program wasn’t getting results fast enough – he read the book and followed the instructions. The lesson for us in Sam’s going rogue is to balance teaching and training.

At ServiceTrade we offer both teaching and training. In our blog posts, at conferences, and in The Digital Wrap we teach about the value of customer engagement in a service business. We teach service managers why online engagement is the best medium for informing and engaging customers. We teach business owners how it’s possible to give their customers an experience that has characteristics of the great customer service we all enjoy from Amazon and the convenience we find in the tools from Google.

When ServiceTrade offers training, it is specific task-oriented instruction in how to use technology and our application to efficiently run a service organization, provide helpful information online to customers, and earn more revenue for providing good outcomes for a predictable price. Training takes the form of online courses in ServiceTrade Certification and in live training sessions led by our services team either in person or online. But even our task-oriented training has teaching moments so that students understand the why behind the tasks we’re about to show them how to perform.

You can’t only teach and you can’t only train. Success comes from a foundational understanding through teaching and training specific skills atop of basic learning. Read the book and follow the instructions. Sam is the most unlikely hero, but with the right learning and a surprising amount of courage, he is just that. What heroes can you uncover in your skilled labor when you help them learn?

Looking for a good book to read? You’ll find helpful instructions in The Digital Wrap.

There’s some sort of bug working its way through our sales team this week, so everyone who doesn’t feel 100% is working from home. The rest of us appreciate not being exposed to sickness while those affected remain productive in their home office. That’s just one reason why having a flexible working environment is a good idea.

working at home has advantages

Service businesses that use SaaS and other modern technology have the freedom to offer such conveniences to their employees. If you’re looking for a low-cost perk to offer employees, run a pilot program of working from or dispatching from home and see what works and what doesn’t. Some ideas for a paperless office:

  • Dispatch technicians from their homes.
  • Allow schedulers and dispatchers to work from home. Forward their desk phones to the mobile phones and they can manage where field crews are needed now and in the future.
  • Sales and account managers use SaaS apps to access everything about their client accounts to make recommendations, create quotes, or create audits that will help sell a contract program.

I can’t say that the risk of employees abusing the privilege is nonexistent, but if your expectations are clear it becomes the employee’s responsibility to work ethically and do their job. I bet you’ll find that many will do their work even better in appreciation for the trust and the convenience. Here’s some evidence to back that up (source):

  1. According to Gallup, remote workers log an average of four more hours a week than their on-site counterparts.
  2. People who work from home get more sleep and are more attentive, according to Penn State University.
  3. A typical business can save $11,000 per employee per year by letting them work from home 50% of the time according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics.
  4. Meanwhile, Gallup found that people who work remotely 20% of the time are more engaged in their work.

Many of us at ServiceTrade work remotely from time to time.  Some examples:

  • David Varnedoe writes and records scripts for ServiceTrade Certification courses from his home office. Sometimes he records audio while in his closet, but that’s a topic for another time.
  • Wes Cox conducts remote training from his home office. Wes and the rest of our services team can conduct webinar-based training from anywhere – and often do.
  • Shawn Mims spends hours doing the detail work of data management from the relative quiet and comfort of his couch under the close supervision of his two dogs.
  • I do a lot of writing from home for the same reasons – the quiet environment of my home office is more conducive to certain types of work than the bustle of the office. #2 above is a really strong selling point for me, too. That extra hour of sleep I get because I’m not commuting makes me a new person!

One thing that stood out to me at the 2016 Digital Wrap Conference was watching several owners of our customer companies log in to their ServiceTrade account to check in on what’s going on in the field. You simply don’t have to be in the office to know what’s going on in the business and to keep it efficiently moving forward. Today’s technologies offer many employees the freedom to do their work or dispatch from home, the coffee shop, or even on vacation if an emergency pops up. Why not offer this as a low-cost perk to your employees?

What’s holding your service business back? Is it double data entry and other accounting inefficiencies in the back office? If you solve those problems, are you going to create more value for your customers, make your techs more productive, and differentiate yourself from the competition? Nope. Accounting doesn’t drive better customer outcomes. So, why do accounting issues get all of the attention? Well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of prioritizing those back-office problems because they are in your face every day. They are like a thorn in your foot; very obvious. However, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Under the water is something much more deadly.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to show you what I’m talking about:

Field Service Management Hazard

 

Hiding under the surface is what’s really holding you back. Scattered customer service data slows everyone down. The symptoms are pervasive, and the costs are enormous. Why do you think the front office is always behind, techs waste time on callbacks, and sales is struggling to win new customers or make upsells? Well, when service history, customer quotes, contact information, recurring service schedule, and asset details are all stored in different places, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion and so many slowdowns. Instead of a central system that helps your team collaborate, you’re stuck with ad hoc calls, emails, conversations, txts, and paper.

On top of that, when your service information is disorganized, it’s impossible to give your customers any visibility to the value you provide. When you don’t even know exactly where your techs are, what they are doing, or what work they’ve completed, how are you supposed to share that information with your customers? Remember what it used to be like to schedule a taxi? It was miserable. Calling the taxi dispatch took forever, you’d have no visibility to where the taxi was, no idea what they were going to charge you, and they may not even show up. It’s no wonder Uber is dominating that entire industry. All it took was a change to the process that removed risk and aggravation for customers.

Icebergs perfectly demonstrate what’s going on with most commercial service contracting businesses. It’s easy to get stuck thinking about back-office problems. They are the tip of the iceberg. But, hiding below the sea is a mess of customer service data that is slowing down the entire organization and limiting your ability to provide a better experience to your customers. When you organize that data and move it to the cloud, you can cut your costs and Uber your competition.

 

Service contractors, you’ve got 2 huge problems. First, skilled workers are expensive and hard to find. We call this the “Skilled Labor Squeeze.” Second, small-time competition is undercutting you on price. We call these fly-by-the-night operations “One Truck Chuck.” With expensive labor driving costs up and cheap competitors driving prices down, you’re stuck in a profit-squeezing vise. So, what are you going to do about it? It may seem crazy, but the answer is to organize your customer service data.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look at this blog post from a couple weeks ago about the inefficiencies hiding in most service contracting businesses. Basically, customer service data, the information necessary to provide world-class service, is usually scattered or locked up in an accounting system and filing cabinets. Data like service history, scheduling information, equipment failure records, and customer contact information, to name a few, are stored in a hundred different places and in a hundred different formats.

Effective collaboration makes technicians more productive and helps customers understand why you are different and better. If your information is locked up and inaccessible by technicians and customers, you’re especially vulnerable to the Skilled Labor Squeeze and One Truck Chuck. Why? Let’s break it down:

Technicians
Administration, callbacks, and downtime are extreme wastes of tech time that are all caused by messy customer service data. Taking calls to answer questions about the work they performed last week is a waste of time. Calling the office or other techs to understand service history at a location is a waste of time. Going back to a location to gather data that was lost in the office is a waste of time. Coming back to the office to drop off paperwork is a waste of time.

Real-time collaboration of centralized customer service data in the cloud eliminates all of that waste. When skilled labor is more difficult to hire than ever, it’s critical to keep field technicians as productive as possible.
Customers
If your only vehicle to inform customers about what you do for them and why you’re important is an invoice, Chuck is going to steal your customers. In their eyes, you and One Truck Chuck look the same. You need to show them how you are more valuable. Queue the customer service data!

Once your data is organized and accessible, you can differentiate yourself from Chuck by collaborating with customers and providing visibility to the quality of your work. You can show them how thoughtful your program is. You can show them the pictures and videos that demonstrate equipment failure. You can show them how you save them money by keeping your techs productive working on their equipment instead of wasting time on administration and callbacks. You can show them how you help them make better decisions because they will have better information.

You will stand out against One Truck Chuck when you collect and use service information in helpful ways for the customer.
Organized customer service data enables collaboration. Collaboration makes techs productive. Collaboration creates value for customers. This doesn’t work when the data is locked up in an accounting system. This doesn’t work when data is scattered across spreadsheets, email inboxes, and paper. Organize the mess, free the data, and start collaborating.

Every day, we talk to service contractors that think the biggest problem with their business is double-data entry into their accounting system. We tell them the same thing every time. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, it’s hard to see the hundreds of small, but cumulative inefficiencies caused by scattered customer service data. Organizing that data will lead to leaps in efficiency and bounds in customer service.

By “customer service data,” I don’t mean accounting information. I’m talking about the data necessary to provide top-notch customer service and efficiently deploy your most expensive resource, skilled technicians. Data like service history, scheduling information, equipment failure records, and customer contact information to name a few.

Where is your customer service data stored? Multiple spreadsheets and Word documents on a server? Paperwork, files, and whiteboards? Pictures and videos on phones and random computers? Even worse, an accounting system that isn’t designed for customer service that only a few back-office staff have access to? Furthermore, how is that information communicated throughout your team? Email and text? Phone calls? Fax and snail mail? Cup and string?

Let’s dive a little deeper and take a look at how scattered data makes your team slow, inefficient, and prone to error.

Back Office

Bookkeepers shouldn’t be chasing wild geese. Hunting down coworkers to get the information they need to correct invoices, complete payroll, and record costs is a waste of time. And, it’s easy to blame sloppy front-office staff and technicians for the mistakes and oversights that they have to deal with. However, sloppiness is not the root cause of the problem. Instead, consider the inevitability of data getting mismanaged or lost by the front office and technicians when there are so many systems in place to store and communicate it. That means more time spent chasing the data, and less time spent billing the customer.

Front Office

The front-office team, typically responsible for scheduling, customer service, and quoting, is the biggest victim of scattered data. Accounting systems are either unable or are poorly equipped to help them manage customer service data. In that vacuum, they implement a patchwork of paperwork, software, and processes to accomplish their goals. The resulting hodgepodge slows everyone down and is prone to error. Here’s what I mean

Q.) What did we do last time we were at that location?

A.) Let me dig up the file. I can’t read the tech’s handwriting, so I’ll send him back out.

 

Q.) What was the problem with my equipment and when can I expect a quote to fix it?

A.) Someone else takes care of quotes. They are on vacation so I’ll have them call you back in a week.

 

Q.) When is a tech supposed to be on site?

A.) Check the calendar. Oh wait, that calendar is out of date. I don’t know.

 

Q.) Can you get that file for me?

A.) No, the server is down.

Technicians

Skilled labor is the most expensive and coveted resource for service contractors. Technician downtime and missed opportunities can be attributed to disorganization and miscommunication of customer service data most of the time. The ball gets dropped somewhere in the multitude of channels used to tell techs where they need to go, when they need to be there, and what they need to do. When the work is done, the information about what was discovered or completed is slow to travel back to the office, if at all and is often unintelligible. That means more communication with the tech to find out what happened and more wasted time.

All of our customers thought that double-data entry was their biggest problem when they first approached ServiceTrade. A couple months after implementation, they gained visibility to the underside of the gigantic iceberg that was slowing down their business. However, after 6 months of using ServiceTrade, that iceberg turned into an ice cube when they were finally able to streamline their customer service data.

Field Service Management Hazard