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2020 Contractor Essentials: Top 5 Criteria for Choosing Your Service Software

Apr. 13, 2020

Choosing Service Software

What to do next? Thanks to COVID-19 work restrictions and what’s considered “essential”, we’re all being put in very unusual positions. The challenge we all face is how to react to the crisis. For contractors without the normal influx of jobs, suddenly there is a lot more time for the work you’ve been saving for a rainy day. 

The rainy days are here, so we might as well make the most of them. The businesses that come out of this the strongest are those taking this time to improve their operations. For many companies, now is when they’re choosing to upgrade technology to better suit their needs.

E2E Summit President Tim Speno specializes in helping contractors implement new technology, and he says that hands down, the #1 objection to taking action on new software is a lack of time. Even when contractors recognize they’re overdue for a change, they put it off because of the time commitment involved.

Changing up your technology is a big decision regardless of the time available and one that affects every part of your business. So whether you found yourself hit hard by the transition to remote work or moving to new software was inevitable anyway, keep reading to discover the 5 essential criteria to use for finding your new solution.

1) Software Built Specifically for Commercial Contractors

This one seems like it should be obvious, and yet it’s often overlooked. Admittedly, it can sometimes be hard to figure out what “built for contractors” means because many field service management (FSM) software companies make this claim. 

However, there are a few telltale signs: 

  • Platforms that service too many verticals
  • Platforms that haven’t adapted to changing times
  • Companies that talk a lot about “residential” on their website
  • Implementations requiring specialized in-house developers that contractors typically don’t keep on staff

That said, don’t let company age weigh too heavily on your decision-making. On one hand, you’ve got FSM platforms that came on the market in the ‘70s but haven’t been able to keep up with the times and evolving needs of contractors. On the other hand, some newer platforms have received attention simply because they’re off-shoots of other well known brands…and have no real experience working with commercial contractors.

Look for platforms that zero in on the specific needs of commercial contractors, the ones who specialize in businesses similar to your own. And don’t be afraid to ask about companies’ product roadmaps — you should feel confident in both the existing platform, as well as the development that’s to come.

2) User-Friendly for ALL Users (Including Customers)

Getting your employees to adopt new technology: Better go with something that will clearly make their lives easier from the get-go. 

Make sure you know what the technology is going to look like from the perspective of everyone that’ll be using it (customers included). It should be intuitive. The screens shouldn’t be overwhelming. And the navigation should optimize workflows rather than overcomplicate them. You also might want to avoid anything that requires specialized developers or admin to constantly maintain and update the software.

Even better, ask about a “universal search” feature. It will be your best friend if it’s available. Universal search is a quick way to search your entire system for any detail without navigating page by page — be it a customer, an old quote, or a job site door code.

3) Customization Options

No matter how many other contractors are competing in the same market, your business and the way it’s run is unique. Even when software is created with commercial contractors in mind, no two companies are running their operations identically.

Ideally, you should be able to customize your software’s layout to accommodate the way you and your team work. In an ideal scenario, you will have a customer success representative during initial setup helping to understand your process and tweaking the platform to fit that process. However, it shouldn’t stop there.

As your business grows and changes, your software should be able to grow and change with you. Make sure customization isn’t a one-and-done situation. More importantly, you should be able to draw up the reports you want (across any and all data) and make changes to your workspace as needed.

4) Technician Workflows

This right here is the best way to promote consistent quality and efficiency across all your jobs and technicians, regardless of their skill level. In this case, when we say “workflow,” we mean the documented checklist of tasks a technician must complete in order to continue progressing through a job.

However, rather than simply serving up a basic list of reminders for the onsite tech, technician workflows should be gated where appropriate and require techs to prove they did one thing in order to move onto the next. 

For example, you could have a workflow that pertains to preventative maintenance jobs. Whenever a tech clocks in on a PM job, they have to go through the PM workflow. With custom tech workflows, you can get as specific as you want, down to requiring techs to take a picture of the gas turned back on once they’re done. This goes far when it comes to reducing return trips and customer credits.

5) Photo + Video Functionality (bonus points for OCR)

Speaking of customer credits, photo and video functionality is an underrated and underutilized feature in reducing those return trips and credits. 

Look for a platform that allows your techs to visually document the work they’re doing This feature creates a trail that not only protects you from a wrongfully pointed finger, but it also benefits your customers and your business as a whole. 

Whether a tech needs background info on a site they’re about to start work on, a customer calls to dispute a charge, or your sales team needs context to generate a quote — photo and video provide the answers to all these questions.

Another feature to look for is OCR (optical character recognition). Rather than depending on techs to accurately type in serial numbers, OCR captures and records text by snapping a photo..This feature alone will save your team quite a bit of time spent on-site.

While some may not see this as a “must-have,” consider the number of assets your company manages for customers and how vital it is to have an accurate record of the equipment you’re servicing.

While we’ve demonstrated some crucial criteria for choosing service software, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Next week, we’ll be releasing a downloadable criteria checklist, complete with all the essentials to look for when finding your next software solution.

Of course, if you want to evaluate how BuildOps stacks up, click here and we’d be happy to schedule a personalized demo for you.