Going Mobile

Field service management software allows for faster response time and better customer relations.

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If there’s one requirement for a plumber, it might be summarized with one word: mobile.

Mobility is key for service technicians, and any tool that increases mobility is a treasure in this business. Fortunately, gains in technology have given way to a number of systems designed for that very purpose.

Commonly referred to as service management software, they are electronic dispatching and billing systems that bring numerous efficiencies to plumbers.

WHAT IS IT?

Software in this vein comes under a variety of names and forms, but generally it is a shared digital system that remotely connects technicians in the field to their home office. It typically includes job assigning, invoicing and GPS services, but perhaps the most helpful aspect of this type of software is file sharing.

“They can pull up history from other technicians that were at the home and can look at pictures that other technicians may have taken, pictures that the customer may have sent in and we attach to the job,” says Kyle Leighton, operations and service manager for Frasier’s Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, which uses a system called ServiceTitan.

Customer relationships are in many ways a plumber’s currency, especially for bigger operations, where some technician crossover or change is inevitable. Finding a way to retain knowledge about customers among various technicians can be a boon to customer service.

“I can just pull up the database on my cellphone, on an app, and I can pull up all of our customers’ information, their address, their telephone number — it saves a step, and they feel more comfortable knowing that we’re familiar with them, what we’ve done at their house, and how we can further help them,” says Lisa Mertz, vice president of Matt Mertz Plumbing. They use a system from Kickserv.

THE BENEFITS

At its simplest, these systems are environmentally friendly, limiting a company’s paper trail, and provide significant organizational benefit, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Another valuable feature is the GPS. In today’s world, most operators have Google Maps on their phone, but what these systems do with GPS is much more than that. The software links with the office so staff can see where technicians are in the field and destinations can be sent directly to them.

“Our plumbers can use it as a tool if there is an emergency,” Mertz says. “I can pull up their trucks to see which plumber has a job already in or around the area, so our plumber can get to the emergency quicker. When you start entering an area, it picks up the zip code, the area, and what the township or borough is for you.”

Service management systems simplify operations, whether it’s sending job assignments out to plumbers already in the field or trading work orders and invoices back and forth between the customer, office, and technician.

Even automatic timecards are an option with some systems.

“It gives the technicians tools that are right in front of them that they did not have before,” Leighton says. “They’re not having to rely on calling the office 50 times a day to either find out this bit of information or that bit of information.”

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

“Do your research; don’t just jump into the first one you find or the first thing that someone would recommend to you,” Mertz says. “Absolutely do research on what you need for your company. Customize it to what works best for you and for your company.”

Finding a company that will work with you and that is readily available for questions is key.

“Trying something new is always a little bit challenging, if you’re not familiar with it,” Mertz says.

The Kickserv system has a messenger feature with a direct connection to Kickserv support staff.

If you live in an area with questionable cellular data service, make sure your system has provisions to store data when outside of coverage. Frasier’s Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, which operates in northern Wisconsin, runs into this problem on occasion, but after giving feedback to ServiceTitan, their program now addresses those situations.

DON’T STOP EVOLVING

Technology is constantly changing; be on the lookout for new features and systems.

“Each company needs to find out what works for them, explore options, and not be afraid to try something new,” Leighton says. 



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