The 2 Best Software Choices for Field Service in 2022By My Service Depot on Tuesday, January 25, 2022
These are the two software choices your field service business needs to make in 2022.
If there is one thing to understand in 2022, it’s that the way we do business has changed. Customers, after decades of being told they are ALWAYS right, expect not just good service, but service that goes beyond the call of duty. The new baseline is “wow” and anything that falls below that standard can be lumped in with a terrible customer experience.
Simply put, customers don’t reward “good enough” service with repeat business or referrals. Competition is ever increasing due to new technologies lowering the barrier of entry to start a new company; you’ll be lucky if they even remember your services and don’t go find service elsewhere. The ultra-loyal customer is long gone. If you want to remain competitive the way you look at customer experience has to change. You have to quite literally read the mind of your customers and give them what they want before they are even aware they want it. When you’re customer has the urge to do business, you need to be ready to help them pull the trigger, otherwise, your customer will find the option that is ready right now.
The internet has created a business world where your company and its services can be judged or evaluated in an instant. Yo0ur ability to earn the business of a new prospect or repeat customer is now directly tied to your ability to adapt the way you do business. But there’s good news! The process can be greatly simplified by making sure your business is using the right technology, so that’s what we’re going to cover in this article.
In this post, we’ll discuss the two technologies you’ll want to make sure your business is using and how they will help you crush it in 2022.
Customer Relationship Management Software
Let’s begin with managing your customers. If you’re still using spreadsheets or even worse, paper and pen ledgers to manage your customer base, you’re are making things way harder than they need to be!
We cannot go as far as to say that pen and paper have no place in the office. They certainly make it easy to jot down quick notes and reminders for yourself or your team. They are typically readily available in an office, making it easy to get ideas down immediately. But, as with most things in business, a line needs to be drawn, and we suggest placing that line right at receiving customer information.
When a potential or repeat customer calls into your office, the information gathering process needs to begin immediately. For many businesses, this means grabbing the nearest pen and jotting down whatever the customer tells you next. At this stage, recording the information you get from a customer with pen and paper is perfectly acceptable, especially if the person answering your phone is a less than proficient typer.
Once the customer has provided the necessary information, it is critical that this data be stored as quickly as possible. This is where a Customer Relationship Manager, usually referred to as a CRM, comes in handy.
What is a CRM?
Every business works with customers, and every business needs a way to record the interactions they’ve had with their customers. In the past, this was done with pen and paper ledgers. As computers became more prevalent in the business world, spreadsheets took over as the standardized method of customer management. As time went on, more companies moved to customized databases that were easily accessible to those who had the permission to view such data. These customized databases were paired with applications that displayed the customer information in a way that was more user-friendly than what spreadsheets used to offer.
The most important need that a CRM satisfies is keeping track of the interactions a business has had with its customers. With a CRM, business owners can keep a record of the last time they contacted a specific group of customers, view the last time a customer requested a specific service or even the geographical region that produces their most loyal customers. Without a CRM, businesses will still have access to this information, but trying to gain insight from the data will quickly become a chore.
Most CRM software available today is capable of sorting and filtering customer data with ease. Many even include dashboards that give you an idea of what’s going on with your customers at a glance. As a business owner or manager, it is crucial to follow what is happening with your customers, as their behaviors can provide key insights into the health of your business and the services you’re offering.
Introducing “Midstate Heating & Air Co.”
To see why being able to quickly see trends in your customer data is important, we’ll look at the fictitious company, “Midstate Heating & Air Co.” also known as “MHACo”. MHACo’s owner does not use a modern CRM but instead relies on a spreadsheet on the office computer used by her receptionist for “customer management”.
The owner of MHACo would like to know which of her customers are most likely to need duct cleaning services next month so that she can send out a marketing email offering 10% off of the service to entice her customers that are on the fence.
Currently, this would require her to pull up two separate sources of information, her customer list spreadsheet, and her transaction ledger. Her transaction ledger is generated automatically by her accounting software and allows her to filter transactions by type and date. She filters her transaction ledger by duct cleaning transactions that took place more than 10 months ago. That was easy! She pulls all of the emails from her transaction ledger and filters her customer list spreadsheet to only include customers that have a matching email address in the filtered transaction ledger. This is not overly difficult, but the first time she wanted to filter the list, she had to look up the process on Google to figure out how to do it. She uploads this filtered customer list to her email marketing software provider, then proceeds to send out her promotional emails and moves on to her next task for the day.
The process described above is certainly not the worst way to send out a marketing campaign, but doing things this way will cause any business to leave money on the table.
How does a CRM help?
A CRM could help improve this process drastically. First, there are at least 3 to 4 steps in the process described above. With a CRM, most of these steps can be reduced to the click of a button. This is most clearly illustrated by the fact that most CRMs can be used to push transactions to accounting software, eliminating the need for generating and filtering a separate transaction ledger is eliminated.
Another issue that is not as immediately apparent is the fact that the transactional ledger used in the process employed by MHACo is only concerned with the transactional relationship between a business and its customers, and not the promotional relationship. The email address records present on the ledger may contain the best email address to handle billing concerns, but it is likely not the best email address to reach decision-makers.
With a CRM in place, a business can nest several email addresses under a customer record, labeling which email is to be used for marketing purposes and which to use for billing purposes. Let’s take another look at how MHACo might send out the promotional email but with the help of a CRM
The owner of MHACo decides that she wants to send a promotional email offering 10% off to customers that may need duct cleaning services next month. She opens up her CRM software and creates a customer list using her criteria (customers whose last duct cleaning transaction took place more than 11 months ago). Without leaving her CRM software, she opens up a new email template, selects her newly created customer list, and schedules the email for delivery. In just a few clicks, she’s sent out an email to a large number of customers. And since her CRM knows this is a marketing email, the address used is the address appropriate email address for the intended audience.
Using a CRM to target a group of customers is called segmentation and can lead to huge benefits like higher email conversion rates. As we mentioned before, customers need to be shown what they want, even before they know they want it. Using segmentation is one way to do just that!
As with any new software, there is a small learning curve, but one can surely see that staying within the same piece of software to complete a task is much easier and more efficient than consolidating customer lists, exporting spreadsheets, and applying complex filters manually in several different applications.
Features to look out for
CRM software typically includes features that make it easy to organize customer data in a way that is useful and insightful. In 2022, it is essential for your business to make the most out of each customer interaction, and the features listed below will help your business do just that. This is just a shortlist of the features you must consider when choosing a CRM:
- Nested customer contact information. Customer contact information labels Multiple contact methods
- Sorting and filtering
- Built-in marketing campaign management.
Field Service Management Software
The next piece of software that your business will need to incorporate in 2022 is field service management software. Much like a CRM, field service management software is concerned with customer interactions, but at a more granular level. Rather than just keeping track of what kind of service a customer has received, field service management software will keep track of detailed information about the service, including the technicians that were dispatched to the customer’s location, purchase orders that were generated for a particular job, and even what pieces of equipment were used on a particular job and if that equipment was left on site, or taken back into inventory. Field service management software gives you a vastly more insightful look at how your business is operating than any CRM or accounting software is capable of.
So what should you look for in field service management software? There are a handful of features that can be real game-changers if you’re not currently using field service management software, or if the software you are currently using is outdated. Following are the features that you should be looking for.
Accounting Software integration
The ability to connect to your existing accounting software will provide a huge efficiency boost! This feature eliminates double entry and ensures data consistency between service calls and customer transactions.
When your dispatcher or operator enters a service call for a new customer, a new customer record will be created in both the field service management software and your accounting software instantaneously. Since these two records are using the same information when they are created, linking a service call to a customer record is as easy as performing a simple search in either piece of software. Invoices can be easily be created in your field service management software, and accurately reflected in your accounting software, eliminating the error-prone data entry process of hand keying information from a paper invoice or spreadsheet.
You’ll want to make sure the communication between your field service software and accounting software is a two-way street as well. Being able to have your accounting software push inventory totals and pricing information to your field service management software is crucial to your company’s bottom line. This will help you make sure that the prices you are charging your customers are consistent across the board, and that any changes you make to pricing are updated instantly.
The next feature you’ll want to be on the lookout for is automated scheduling. Your next field service management software should be able to look at your existing schedule and do two things: Pick the right time for a new service and pick the right technician for the job.
Again, this feature primarily helps in mitigating human error. Software that is able to automatically schedule service will always have the most up-to-date information on your field service staff, like who is available and when. Eliminating double bookings and the accompanying friction due to having to reschedule are some of the major benefits of having this process taken care of automatically.
With automated scheduling, your team can do their jobs more efficiently. Since your dispatchers can find all available timeslots and technicians at the click of a button, they’ll have more time to dispatch more service calls and handle other operations outside of scheduling tasks. Your technicians will always have a clear picture of what jobs they have to complete for the day. The automated scheduling algorithm picks the best technician for the job by looking at all the available data in the software, from job dates to technician classification, to job site location. Using all of that information ensures your technicians have a route that is highly optimized, saving them time on the road.
Workforce & equipment tracking
The final feature you should consider in your field service software search is workforce & equipment tracking. This feature allows you and your team to locate other team members and equipment at any given point during the workday. While this may seem somewhat invasive, it is an absolutely essential element to maintaining a highly efficient operation.
Many field service businesses need to be able to respond to customer emergencies. The only way to do so effectively is to know where your team is dispatched so that you can find the optimal technician to dispatch to the emergency job. It’s as simple as that.
There is also the benefit of being able to track how efficiently your team is moving from job to job. By tracking locations consistently, you can find any anomalies and gain insights into how you can better dispatch your workforce.
Equipment tracking allows you to track down where a specific piece of equipment is at any given time. The benefits of tracking equipment are that you’ll be able to check the availability of a specific piece of equipment that may be required for certain tasks and schedule jobs accordingly. The ideal field service management software should be able to provide you with GPS coordinates of the equipment you’re tracking and when the equipment was installed at that location, as well as give you an idea of the timeframe that equipment will be next available. Being able to see this information will help remedy the untimely rescheduling of jobs due to job-specific equipment being unavailable.
- Customers expect you to know what they want before they know they want it.
- Using a CRM, you can easily segment your customers and send effective marketing campaigns.
- Your field service management software should integrate with your accounting software.
- Automated scheduling helps cut out scheduling mishaps.
- Tracking employee and equipment locations will help boost efficiency.