In part 1 of this 2-part series, we began to explore the ROI of operational technology for commercial contractors. In particular, we focused on how reduced dispatch time and accuracy accounts for a big part of the financial return of operational software.
However, the best in field service management software do so much more than that. As you navigate your business to the next stage of growth, you’ve got to consider how technology helps you to improve job quality, performance, and customer satisfaction. It’s all about keeping your business competitive into the next decade and beyond.
While the benefits of using various kinds of operational technology may seem abstract on paper, everything makes more sense when you break them down into real-life scenarios.
No Data Loss or Double Entry
The infamous double data entry between field techs and office staff has been a contractor’s gripe for ages. Only recently has operational software been able to step in as a quality control mechanism to make processes both faster and more accurate, eliminating the need to input the same data over and over again.
Multiple data entry is a notorious culprit for wasted time and efficiency loss both in the office and field. As mentioned in the first post on understanding operation software ROI, a lot of traditional dispatch and other field service procedures rely on multiple data entry: from taking customer requests to creating quotes, documenting asset information, distributing work orders, then on to filling invoices, which later get entered into the accounting system… and so on.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. And the sooner contractors realize this and adapt, the better it will be for their businesses. Technicians in the field should be held responsible for accurate data entry, but the reality of working in the field usually isn’t that simple.
Advanced platforms like BuildOps offer a solution to this problem, transforming these traditional processes into digitized workflows that facilitate faster, more accurate work — without any double entry.
Direct Data Entry Through OCR
Imagine how much time your field technicians spend trying to fat-finger a 30-digit equipment serial number. Just getting this information right is a challenge, and any errors could cause serious problems and costs when it comes to repair. Not to mention, if they’re using pen and paper for this (like too many contractors still are), the challenge the office then faces in trying to decipher technician chicken scratch.
That’s where optical character recognition comes in. What this does is allows field technicians to simply snap a picture of an asset’s data plate while the software automatically extracts the critical information: serial number, make, and model. This kind of direct data entry ensures 100% accuracy with minimal effort. No handwriting, fat-fingering, or hieroglyphic decoding involved.
Direct Integration With Accounting Systems
With a cloud-based platform, data collected in the field (customer information, repairs, parts used, billable hours, etc.) is all recorded on techs’ mobile devices and synced with the office computers in real-time.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Even some cloud-based systems hit their limit when it comes to sharing data with the accounting system in use. That’s why it’s important to find a platform that plays nice with your accounting, allowing the data to flow easily between systems without any double entry, errors, or lost information.
With these systems in sync, dispatch and back-office teams don’t have to do the same work over and over again.
Zero Downtime With Offline Mode
Out in the field, there’s no guarantee that techs will be online at all times. They can easily lose WiFi or cell service, which would normally result in a mobile app being rendered useless. However, a mobile app that functions at 100% with or without connectivity allows work to continue seamlessly at no expense to the job quality.
In BuildOps’ case, the mobile app keeps on collecting data even when the device goes offline, syncing it with the cloud once it regains service. This way, techs don’t lose any valuable data or the ability to document their work.
This is a critical feature straight out of our software scoresheet, a useful guide if you’ve got operational technology on your radar. And this area in particular is important to dig into because different platforms define “offline mode” differently, often cutting corners in how it works in reality. In other words, you should see it to believe it.
Full Transparency: Real-Time Data Syncing, So You Can Be There Without Being There
We touched on this earlier, but you can’t understate the importance of having the whole team on the same page. Office teams get access to data and activity records from the field in real-time (or near real-time in the case of offline mode).
What that means is that service managers have a close eye on what their team is doing at any given time. They have insights into the work being performed and how it can be improved or used as an example. If a customer calls to challenge the work that was done or point fingers, the documentation is instantly accessible and shareable to settle any disputes. That’s a lot of time, money, and headaches saved right there.
Consistent Job Quality & Performance
As part of its findings during a Digital Change survey, Raconteur found that 32% of field service organizations are failing to attain 80% customer satisfaction or better. And, according to Reachout, 89% of customers want to see a modern approach to technician scheduling — and would even pay a premium for it.
That doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the state of customer satisfaction in field services. As with every other industry, customers have become more discerning about their needs. Without the ability to offer consistently high-quality service in the field, your competitors have a relatively simple way to lap you. Investing in software is a real opportunity to not just speed things up and make things easier internally. It also offers a number of solutions to the challenge of providing consistent, high-quality service.
Custom Forms & Digital Checklists
Contractors don’t want to keep their techs on a leash or be the “Big Brother” looking over their every move. On the other hand, without visibility into what’s going on in the field, accountability and quality control are virtually impossible.
Modern technology is changing that though, offering tools to create custom checklists and forms that techs can fill in over the course of their duties. For example, you could create a HVAC safety checklist to ensure technicians keep track of refrigerants or even incorporate what’s become a standard COVID-19 questionnaire, confirming the tech is in healthy condition to work.
That’s the beauty of customization here — there’s no limit to the kind of forms and checklists you can create and build into techs’ daily workflows. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping your team accountable and ensuring quality operations — without that becoming a full-time job in itself. And yes, you might even save on insurance with these handy tools.
Gated Workflows Standardize Processes
Talking to contractors every day, one of the most requested features we hear about are gated workflows (and BuildOps has them!). Together with custom forms, these grant service managers complete control over what steps and documentation techs perform in the field.
Gated workflows take work orders several notches higher and actually require techs to complete one stage before going on to the next. So, whether you want them to check refrigerant levels on every visit or switch off electrical mains before repair, you can build these restrictions into standard processes.
Efficiency and productivity are the holy grail for maintaining margins, but they remain a challenge. Lost hours, poor performance, and low engagement are some of the problems that keep field service leaders awake at night.
All-in-one operational software gives contractors the tools to holistically manage their teams, handling everything from tracking work hours to enforcing quality control, assessing job quality via robust reporting to ensuring a top-notch customer experience.
It’s all of these elements combined that add up to a massive return on contractors’ investment in a powerful operational platform. At a glance, the idea of going through the process of evaluating and implementing a whole new piece of technology seems overwhelming. And for contractors who have been doing things a certain way for so many years, it’s hard to wrap your head around all that work being worth it.
But once you start breaking it down, the potential use cases become endless, and the opportunities for savings and higher profits appear before your eyes. And when you have custom reporting built into that same platform, there’s no downtime between your go-live and seeing that ROI in real life.
Return on Investment for Operational Software is More Than Financial
Like every commercial contractor out there, you probably wouldn’t invest in operational software without a guarantee of a quick return on investment. Hopefully, by now you are satisfied with the financial angle.
What’s perhaps even more important is the strategic importance of such software in the growth and future of your business. If you plan to remain competitive and continue improving your service offerings, we invite you to schedule a free custom BuildOps demo now to see how our platform can help.