Using an iPhone App to Streamline Service

February 8, 2010
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Techs at Service Plus HVAC all have iPhones now as a job tool.


BROWNSBURG, Ind. - Like so many companies, Service Plus HVAC, a residential and commercial HVAC contractor, is doing more with less these days. For this contractor that meant combining FormSpring and the iPhone to grow revenue 60 percent in 2009, without an increase in staff.

It felt like a holiday when owner Chris Cunningham gave iPhones to all of the company’s field techs. “When I sat down last year and said everybody’s getting an iPhone, they acted like I gave them a birthday present,” he said. Now, all the techs have them. “When they turn on their phone, it shows all their appointments for the day and it can change throughout the day,” he said. It includes maps for routing and scheduling.

That happens thanks to an innovative application created specifically for this client. FormSpring LLC, Indianapolis, provides a way for companies of just about any size to build Web forms that integrate with their Websites “without any programming, software, or special skills,” states the company on its own Website. Data collected with FormSpring can be managed and edited online in a database, shared with others in the company, and more.

Cunningham said he found this solution because he was so frustrated with other automation software he had looked into to streamline his business.

“Their customer service was fantastic,” he said of FormSpring. “They made changes for us based on what we were trying to do.” The system works with any Web-enabled phone.

MULTIPLE BENEFITS

In a residential scenario, the contractor can input field info into the application (name, address, phone number, customer’s e-mail); model, serial number, manufacturer info for the equipment; and pricing for the type of call. As the data is entered, it releases secondary data on the phone.

“We used to dig through a book for repairs,” Cunningham said. The new application eliminates the need to do that. “We can also enter subcategories,” he said, such as specific furnace types.

The customer can see the price, so “he knows the guy isn’t making it up.” He also can select a payment method, give additional input, and perform future scheduling. A follow-up e-mail is sent to the customer under the contractor’s letterhead. “We can market to them on a quarterly basis.”

Customers don’t see everything - “we can limit what goes back to the customer,” Cunningham said.

When the company’s techs turn on their phone, “it shows all their appointments for the day and it can change throughout the day,” said owner Chris Cunningham.

The application also eliminates the need for field techs to concentrate on their handwriting, which, in turn, makes it easier for the office staff to decipher the info. “These guys can fix anything, but they can barely spell their names sometimes,” Cunningham said. “Before the guy gets into the truck for his next call, he has to submit the finished job.”

The information flows deep into the contractor’s operations, which speeds up a lot of processes. “We used to have a 24-hour turnaround time,” he said. “Now my office is ordering parts and doing follow-up calls immediately; the technician can just go to the next appointment.

“I have guys who used to refuse to sell, but now they are out there selling and making a commission,” he added. “Now they can put together an estimate, give it to the customer, and they’re accurate. Their spiffs are built into that. This is much more efficient.”

Cunningham said he basically put his pricing book on the computer. “I can change it at any time, from anywhere.”

The paperwork and occasional faxing of the old system “was just archaic.” With the new system, “My guys don’t get paid until they make their first call. I try to keep them out of the supply houses and out of our office.” It’s coupled with GPS tracking on the truck.

Chris Cunningham, owner of Service Plus HVAC

COMMERCIAL WORK

The company is approximately 80 percent commercial in revenue stream, said Cunningham. Using this application, “Our guys can plunk in the rooftop unit location and the company can be invoiced the same day a repair is done.”

Data is easily secured, he said, using encryption keys and codes (which can be changed as soon as an employee leaves the company).

Work scheduling can be re- leased to varying degrees, depending on how much info the company wants each tech to have. “If we want to, we can give him four to six at a time, or we can release it as we go. Depending on the technician, we might give him calls one at a time,” said Cunningham.

The new productivity tool has been greatly appreciated by the techs, he said. “One guy said he doesn’t have to bring a pen to work anymore.” Due to the techs’ appreciation of technology, “it became almost like a benefit. They might not answer their Nextel on a Friday night, but they will pick up their iPhone.

“One of my competitors said he heard that we’ve automated everything over the phone; he wanted to know how that’s working. I think it’s going to start to catch on in the next five years. It’s off the shelf, and it’s a very inexpensive tool.”

The contractor has been in business since 2000, with approximately nine employees. “Right now we’re down one.”

You’d never know it.

For more information, visit www.formspring.com/iphone.

Publication date: 02/08/2010

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