Gone are the days of tracking customers on handwritten index cards and spiral-bound notebooks. With today’s smartphone-based business technology, managing information and interactions is easier than ever, with myriad benefits for your company.
And given the low cost of some of the business management software available now, you don’t have to be a large conglomerate with an IT team to go digital.
More and more small businesses, including plumbers and HVAC experts, are discovering the advantages of doing so. For example, a recent article in Forbes noted that 61 percent of small and medium businesses are now relying on cloud-based solutions.
Sorting through all the options out there can be a challenge though. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right software to successfully maintain—and grow—your business.
• Get up and running right away: If you’re running a business of less than 20 employees, you likely don’t have a dedicated IT person. Cloud-based software, where all the computing power and systems management takes place over the Internet and behind the scenes, allows you to get started right away and is usually the best option. Plus, you usually don’t need to be highly technical person to use them. For example, Breezeworks, a software platform that enables you to conduct business from practically anywhere, starts at $16 per month. Features include scheduling, real-time traffic alerts, work history tracking, instant estimating, invoicing, recurring appointments and even on-site payment acceptance.
• Manage your customer relationships (and revenue): For service industries like plumbing and HVAC, being able to manage your relationship with the customer directly is of crucial importance. Many of the new generation of “lead generation” platforms promise to send you customers, but then take a portion of the profits and retain the essential customer relationship. With flat-rate business management software, you own the customer relationship and any repeat business it (hopefully) generates. To help with customer retention, choose software that keeps track of customers and allows you to communicate quickly and conveniently with them.
• Increase your entire team’s efficiency: How many times have you found there just aren’t enough hours in the day? According to EnTech, mobile apps can save small and medium businesses 725 million hours each year. Software/mobile technology tailored specifically for mobile tradesmen can boost your efficiency by automating tasks such as customer communications, and integrating with other systems you already have in place, including QuickBooks. On the day-to-day level, you don’t necessarily have to be in the office to accomplish your administrative tasks. Send that invoice from your vehicle, as soon as you complete a project. Monitor your employees’ jobs, even while you’re on a much-needed vacation. Technology can help you manage not only your own work better, but your team too, by enabling you to share customer data and job notes with each other.
• Go paperless and boost your professional image: It’s been said that we’re moving closer and closer to a paperless world. And when it comes to record-keeping, this certainly seems to be the case. Imagine all the storage space you’ll save — not to mention printer ink and paper — if all of your estimates and invoices are handled electronically. Customers will no doubt appreciate the convenience of receiving the documents via email rather than having them clutter up their mailboxes and desktops. Employing business software that allows you to shift to a digital way of doing business will also let your customers know that you’re running a streamlined and modern operation.
Field management software is all about increasing productivity and revenue, while reducing the administrative hassles. It gives your customers the impression that you’re not only professional, but also on the cutting edge with technology. Indeed, from the customer’s perspective, they get the best of both worlds: the same amenities they’ve come to expect from larger companies, along with the high level of service and attention that a small business can provide.
Matthew Cowan is co-founder and CEO of Breezeworks, an all-in-one management solution for independent service businesses. Matthew is a 20-year veteran of the technology industry, having generated more than $1.5 billion in investment returns as an operator and a venture capitalist with Intel Corporation and Bridgescale Partners. In 2013, Matthew co-founded Breezeworks to bring mobile automation technology, previously only available to large corporations, to independent mobile service providers seeking to automate common business tasks, such as scheduling, payments and customer follow-ups while seamlessly managing onsite teams, improving customer experience and streamlining payment processes.