Manufacturers have made great strides in developing software that makes contractors’ lives easier. Currently, there are software platforms for everything from sales to efficiency monitoring — there’s a little something for each of the different areas of a contractor’s business.
The newest software is primarily used for field service management and design and customer service and sales.
Let’s take a look at what this software has to offer.
OUT IN THE FIELD
Technicians spend a majority of their time out in the field. That’s why software has become so popular for HVAC contractors; it allows all aspects of a job to be run more efficiently.
Field service management software provides sales aids, customer service information, and monitoring and notification options.
According to Phuc Nguyen, director, product marketing, ServiceTitan, ServiceTitan is a one-stop shop, so to speak, for contractors to improve their business overall.
“ServiceTitan helps HVAC contractors run their entire business, get visibility into the metrics they care about, and manage their team’s performance from anywhere, at any time,” said Nguyen. “Many contractors have experienced increased sales, lower costs, and higher productivity using ServiceTitan. The average ServiceTitan customer increases sales by 24 percent in nine months, and top performances do much, much better. Customers can provide feedback through various channels, including the ServiceTitan app, or through the Success Manager. Maintenance updates are performed every two weeks, and new features are typically rolled out every three to four weeks.”
Rimrock Corp. has created software called, FIELDBOSS® Field Service Software, an end-to-end solution built with Microsoft Dynamics 365. FIELDBOSS can tackle complicated contractor business challenges by providing a solution that connects field technicians, managers, and customers to your company’s data.
“FIELDBOSS automates business processes to reduce back office turnaround, cut paperwork, and stop things from falling through the cracks, so customers can stay focused on growing their business,” said Kristin McLaughlan, marketing manager, Rimrock Corp. “Schedulers have complete visibility of the calendar and scheduling board, so it take seconds to figure out who is available, then schedule, dispatch, and alert a technician to a job. Improved first-time fix rates are possible, so technicians receive the right parts in their trucks for the right jobs, and their performance and productivity improve, directly benefiting the company’s overall success.
“The software makes creating invoices faster and eliminates errors by automating the work order process to achieve shorter service-to-cash cycles, closing work orders in real time while on-site, and the ability to generate invoices on technician’s mobile devices,” she continued. “Customers can also sign off electronically and approve work completed, parts used, and labor time spent. Mobile technology connects office staff, field staff, and equipment and data. Finally, it helps protect HVAC companies from unexpected events that can disrupt day-to-day operations, allowing you to manage risks, ensuring all company data and knowledge are collected and stored in one cohesive system.”
In addition, field software has been developed to monitor other aspects of an HVAC business, such as fleet and remote diagnostic management.
TomTom Telematics Co. created a fleet management solution, WEBFLEET, which gives HVAC contractors improved visibility into the work being performed by staff in the field. It also advises a contractor of the real-time location of service vehicles and drivers and the status of assigned jobs. In addition, it has the capability to provide drivers with feedback and coaching while they are on the road, alerting them to driving behavior, such as harsh braking or turning, excessive idling, or speed, which can improve a driver’s safety, lower operating expenses, and reduce business liability.
Fleet management software, such as TomTom’s WEBFLEET, is designed for both those working in the office and the technicians on the go.
“It provides features for the business owner, dispatch, and service technician in the field,” said Torsten Grunzig, director, North American sales, TomTom Telematics. “For the folks in the office, WEBFLEET provides visibility into the location of the techs so that the office can dispatch the right tech to the right job at the right time. The streamlined dispatch process is geared to deliver the best customer experience as it provides dispatch with the ability to accurately communicate to the customer a service tech’s estimated time of arrival. It also provides the tech with navigation assistance to get to the job efficiently, on time, and with minimal hassle. It makes sure the tech also has all of the information they need to perform the work. This helps each technician to take on more jobs in a given time frame, which can potentially translate into more customers served and more revenue for the business.”
Diagnostic issues can be timely and costly. That’s why remote diagnostic software, like Whisker Labs’ software platform, saves a contractor the hassle by providing trend information on critical parameters, such as duty cycle and run time, fault diagnostics, or root causes, so the technician can assure the right parts are on the truck and can better schedule jobs.
“Whisker Labs’ Energy Sensor and software platform measures real-time power usage and converts it into diagnostic information,” said Amena Ali, chief revenue officer, Whisker Labs. “Our ASSURE service remotely monitors HVAC, enabling the contractor to identify potential malfunctions, so they can reach out to the homeowner with value-added services and improve their workforce time and asset management. In a competitive industry, ASSURE allows HVAC service providers to leverage innovation to differentiate themselves through higher levels of service and improved operations.”
In addition to diagnostics, it can be timely to figure out the efficiency of various motors and match the motor to the applicable module. Therefore, Regal Beloit America Inc. has created the Browning® Toolbox Technician™ mobile app motor calculator, which allows a technician to identify efficiency differences between different generations of integral horsepower electric motors.
“Facility managers, building owners, and those tasked with managing energy spends in commercial buildings are constantly looking for new ways to lower electrical consumption and stretch valuable budget dollars,” said Don Sullivan, director of marketing, HVAC and belt drives, Regal Beloit America Inc. “With this app, HVAC contractors can easily identify motor upgrade opportunities by being armed with the information they need to make recommendations to those responsible for facility or organizational energy usage.”
While out in the field, many technicians are required to create designs for customer’s to see how, and where, new HVAC equipment will fit into their home. To save time in the field on designs, new software is being developed that speeds up the process and allows a technician to see the design and whether or not it will work.
“All of our solutions, such as Right-Suite Universal and our mobile platform, are designed to increase the productivity of HVAC professionals through computer animation,” said Chris Edgren, vice president of sales and marketing, Wrightsoft Corp. “Rather than focusing on the end result, we are focused on how a contractor can get to that result. We invented our data entry tool, Right-Draw, to remove data entry and completely change how HVAC design is done. Our solutions feature our live Hotlink Technology, which updates instantly as you design. This unique feature saves time, cuts down on errors, and also allows contractors to easily play the ‘what-if’ game when designing.”
Similarly, TRACE 3D Plus software was designed to simplify the complex modeling process and save technicians valuable time. The software enhances simulation features that use standard or preloaded building template information and allows contractors to quickly and accurately make HVAC system recommendations.
“Our software allows contractors to propose value-added alternatives to increase both the customer’s and the contractor’s bottom line,” said Matthew Biesterveld, customer direct service leader, Trane. “Models from TRACE 3D Plus can validate decisions regarding building design alternatives and proper equipment sizing. Our software platform provides the ability to perform an economic analysis and comparison of any of the alternatives created using the building field provided information.”
CUSTOMER SERVICE leads to SALES
A great customer service experience can be the deciding factor as to whether or not a customer chooses you as their contractor.
“By 2020, customer service will overtake price as they key differentiator for businesses, and the phone is a critical customer touch point,” according to Walker Information Inc.
Furthermore, 80 percent of first-time callers are likely to become repeat customers if they have a good experience on the phone, according to Invoca.com.
Ruby Receptionists is a remote receptionist service that helps make contractors’ lives easier by providing the phone coverage they need, so potential customers don’t fall through the cracks. The custom software, paired with the company’s highly-trained receptionists, means every caller is greeted by a friendly professional prepared to answer with the contractor’s greeting and specific instructions, and, 99 percent of the time, those calls are answered within four rings.
According to Katharine Nester, chief product and technology officer, Ruby Receptionists, the software allows contractors to focus on the job, not the phones.
“Little interruptions can add up to a lot of lost billable hours,” said Nester. “Our services and software allow contractors to focus on the job at hand and remain productive, which, in turn, improves their bottom line. They aren’t wasting precious time answering calls from solicitors, or losing a piece of new business because the call went to voicemail.”
“If 74 percent of callers are likely to choose another vendor after just one bad experience, Ruby provides the peace of mind to these contractors,” she continued.
With a few taps of the app, contractors can easily change the way Ruby handles their calls. The app syncs with their calendar, too, so they can choose times during the day to not be disturbed or send alerts to Ruby concerning specific customers. Contractors can even return calls showing their business phone number on the caller ID from the mobile app, helping to separate the professional from the personal.
“We operate as an extension of their business and truly sound like a receptionist in their office,” continued Nester.
Customer Lobby is designed to take the guesswork out of marketing by analyzing an HVAC contractor’s data — it predicts which past customers need service and sends them personalized postcards and emails.
Since the process it automated, it saves the contractor time but, more importantly, saves money since they are not blindly marketing without insights from their own customer data.
“Endless marketing options, like pay-per-click, Facebook, Yellow Pages, direct mail, etc., have become more expensive over the last five years on a cost-per-new customer basis,” said Matt Aiello, director of marketing, Customer Lobby. “Most HVAC contractors do not realize that two-thirds of their revenue typically comes from past customers, so the key to profitable growth is retaining more of the customers you have.
“Our development team is continually iterating on and training our software to use our customers’ data to make the best and most timely marketing decisions to drive transactions back to our customers,” he continued.
Once customer service is mastered, the art of the sale is next. New software works to make the sales process easier for both the technician and the customer.
Enterprise Selling Solutions makes the sales process faster and easier, crafting a professional presentation for the technician to sell to the customer.
“The very first feature of our program that increases the bottom line is how little time it takes to create a professionally merchandised offering for the products the dealer offers,” said Dewayne Gibson, CEO and co-founder, Enterprise Selling Solutions. “We know that the average dealer has anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes to perform a load calculation on the home, build rapport with the customer, and then attempt to build a professional presentation, so they can look better than the next person coming through the door to give a price for the same work.
“Our program allows the tech to spend minutes instead of hours to put together a four-option proposal for the consumer to choose from,” he continued. “The time saved doesn’t have to mean a shorter call. What it does mean is they have the opportunity to spend more time bonding with the customer. Since the program packages four options together, we find that over 70 percent of the time, the customer chooses either the best or better options.”
Furthermore, building a strong customer relationship can be the difference between making or not making a sale. The Foobot, by Airboxlab US, has an IAQ dashboard that helps HVAC contractors grow their business in two different ways.
“The first one is that by using higher technology to monitor air data and Foobot’s charts, the technicians are seen like experts by their clients and can sell IAQ jobs on top of other regular jobs,” said Adrien LaFond, chief marketing officer, Airboxlab. “And once Foobot, is present in a customer’s home, it’s like a live link between the contractor and its customers. Our offer for contractors adds a subtle touch point between you and your customers. You can read how air quality is in all of your clients’ homes remotely from your office. The offer consists of a hardware monitoring product; the Foobot, which you leave in clients’ homes; and a software that only you can access from anywhere. This helps you call back your past clients precisely when they need you, and build long-term relationships with customers.”
Publication date: 1/15/2017