Technology advancements have not only heavily impacted heating and cooling equipment, they have also changed the way HVAC contractors manage their service businesses. Gone are the days of paper invoicing and technicians carrying pagers. Today, savvy contracting owners are implementing the use of intelligent products to simplify daily operations both in the field and the office. These products allow employees to work smarter, not harder.
TECH SUPPORT ON-DEMAND
Jackson Systems developed its Virtual Technician app, which launched last year. The company was trying to figure out a better way to support contractors in the field, considering it is different than typical wholesalers in that it only has one location in Indianapolis and deals only with controls and IAQ, noted Tom Jackson, CEO of Jackson Systems.
“Some wholesalers have field technical people who can go out on a job, but that can be a hassle with scheduling,” he said. “With this, we can achieve the same thing, but instantaneously.”
The app is a two-way video, similar to FaceTime. When a technician needs help in the field, they press the Jackson Systems swirl in the mobile application, and it rings all of the company’s inside engineering team.
“We can actually see what they’re seeing and help troubleshoot the job faster, so they can get down the road to the next call and make more money,” Jackson said. “The big thing is — unlike FaceTime or a traditional phone call — when that call comes in, we pick it up within 10 seconds. All of our engineers have iPads at their desks that are connected directly to the app. That way, whoever is available can help right away.”
Progressing to the Virtual Technician app was a natural process, Jackson noted, since most people prefer watching a video as opposed to reading something. People would rather be shown a way to install or troubleshoot versus having Jackson Systems send them a PDF of instructions.
ThermoGRID is a software that handles the day-to-day basic needs of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical service companies. However, it’s more in line for HVAC contractors because of its built-in load calculation software to determine the proper sizing of equipment, noted Adam Cory, president and CEO, DXV Technology and ThermoGRID.
Additionally, the product handles invoicing, payments, and scheduling, and it features smart dispatching.
“It pulls in a lot of information, such as the location of the technician to see if they can get to the job on time,” Cory explained. “It also takes into account their skill sets, their roles, and their performance. It will list everybody in order, from top to bottom, on who the best technician would be to run a certain type of job based on how much revenue they would bring in on the type of job being dispatched.”
ThermoGRID was designed to be a paperless system. Technicians can create as many documents as they want in the software, and it will automatically save those documents to that job. That way, when the company returns to that customer a year later, the next technician can see a checklist of what was done as well as the recommendations that were made for the future.
The software also includes a unique marketing feature where contractors can create and schedule campaigns with different lists and templates.
“It also does automatic drift campaigns,” Cory noted. “Let’s say, for example, they wanted to go in and automatically target no sales. On a sales estimate call that doesn’t generate a sale, the system will automatically add that client on a list, then go back and retarget them at whatever frequency the contractor has set up to market that client for replacement. They can do the same thing with tuneups, repairs, newsletters, and more.”
XOi Vision™ from XOi Technologies was built with field service technicians in mind, explained Aaron Salow, founder and CEO of the company.
“There are many different field service management software out there, but most don’t deliver real value in the gap of time when the technician is working on a call,” Salow said. “Most software is deployed on a tablet or laptop, which sits in the truck during the service call. They pick it back up and convert their chicken scratch notes before moving on to the next job.”
XOi Vision brings the office and the customer to the job site with the technician, Salow noted. The software creates a virtual service ticket as the work is being done. Through that service ticket, the tech creates photo and video content, and the Vision platform automatically tags that content and shares it with the team members or customers who need it. Use cases include a video from the field to a salesperson for quoting, validation of a safe work environment shared with a safety manager, and training content shared with other technicians.
“If we simply had technicians in the field taking lots of content, it would ultimately result in a data swamp without the machine learning development we have done at XOi,” Salow said. “For example, a technician can take a picture of the data plate on the equipment, and Vision extracts the make, model, and serial number, converting them to text. It’s not easy for techs to type out a 27-digit serial number, and sometimes that causes errors. Vision uses natural language processing to pull keywords from the videos created and adds relevant tags that become searchable within our knowledge base. This allows techs to view all content related to those tags and also provides additional training opportunities.”
In addition, XOi Vision leverages a proprietary live video platform that takes senior technicians in the office and puts them virtually “over the shoulder” of young technicians, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and talking with them in real time.
There are over 3,300 technicians currently using Vision globally, Salow noted. The contracting businesses range in size from small companies with just a few technicians to Fortune 500 companies.
CONTRACTORS WEIGH IN
Durant Rodrigue, customer service manager, TDIndustries, Dallas, learned about XOi Technologies’ Vision from TD’s peer groups. After piloting the technology last fall, the company decided to adopt the tool earlier this year because it provided opportunities to refine processes, simplify what the techs had to deal with on a regular basis, and add value for customers.
“We found this technology allows us to deliver visual intelligence to our customers in a very easy way,” Rodrigue explained. “It provided us an opportunity to add value to our customers and provide a different way to explain the problems they were having with their systems by showing them through shared content. Previously, it was very challenging for our technicians to share that kind of content with our customers, or even internally. There are storage and size limitations when sharing videos and photos using standard features of a phone or device. XOi Vision also helps our techs to manage the data loads on their phones and devices.”
Another thing TD really likes about Vision is the ability to have a repository of content created by the company’s own technicians. Previously, content was shared and deleted from technicians’ mobile devices several weeks after the ticket had been closed, Rodrigue noted. Vision allows the company to retain the content for future reference for training purposes and as a history for that customer’s equipment.
“Our techs really like the technology,” he said. “And our customers really appreciated having that content we are able to deliver to them. Being able to do this gives us a lot of transparency with our customers, and doing so helps build a trusting relationship with them. That’s one of TD’s core values.”
Kettering, Ohio-based McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning has been in business for 28 years, but employees can still remember using a scheduling book in the late 1990s.
“It was common for whoever answered phones to yell out, ‘Who has the book?’” said Angie Downey, director of marketing and senior leadership team member at McAfee.
However, today the company uses advanced scheduling software that instantly adds, deletes, or transfers a call to a technician’s schedule with the push of a button.
“Upgrading to tablets and going paperless; an automated review process; and most recently, texted appointment reminders are all ways we’ve evolved as a company to help serve our customers more efficiently than ever before,” Downey said.
Upgrading to field tablets that integrate with the company’s scheduling software has brought many benefits beyond just lessening McAfee’s carbon footprint. Technicians can access the complete customer history when out on repair calls, which helps with consistency and alerts the technician to any previous issues with the equipment. Invoices are also emailed instantly upon completion of the call, and any pictures taken from the job site are seamlessly integrated into the customer’s account, Downey noted.
“Furthermore, the ability to scan parts’ barcodes has greatly improved our inventory process,” she said. “The days of handwritten part requisition sheets are long gone, taking with them the all-too-common issues of over/under-ordering.”
Additionally, the software allows McAfee to follow up with the customer using automated reviews. After the technician leaves the home, the software triggers a review to be sent to the customer’s email or texted to their smart device.
“We know in real time if any issues require attention,” Downey explained. “This has saved us not only time on the phones, it has saved hours trying to work through a complaint we found out about through a negative public review.”
For Jason Stom, CEO of Clear the Air, located in Alvin, Texas, ServiceTitan, in combination with Google Business apps, has been the key to simplifying business operations.
“Everyone in the office and our technicians are equipped with smartphones and tablets,” Stom said. “This allows seamless communications in all areas of operations. Workflows are automatic and triggered by actions in the software.”
Clear the Air made the switch to ServiceTitan early on, due to Stom’s background in the technology industry.
He sees technology as a requirement for any successful business, because customers demand easier ways to solve their problems.
“We wanted to make our customers’ lives easier,” Stom said. “Technology is becoming an extension of ourselves on some level. This makes it easier to teach our staff how to use these tools. We all need to adopt and embrace technology because it is not going away.”
Publication date: 11/26/2018