SUITABLE FOR SMALL and medium-sized service businesses, ServiceCEO (Insight Direct, www.insightdirect.com, 800/471-4200) is a turnkey management solution that tackles all aspects of workflow with in one application, starting from the incoming service call.
All the necessary functions are on-board — the program handles estimating, scheduling, billing, payroll, inventory, customer management, employee information, marketing and the generation of reports. It features a configurable back end that allows users to set it up to suit individual business requirements. Information is stored in a single database, so a change anywhere is reflected throughout in real time.
The software comes with a starter estimating database and import wizards allowing contractors to input material cost directly from their vendor catalogs into the application. The program can be set up for users of flat-rate books by inputting the data from those thirdparty database services.
Customer relationship management capabilities include access to up-todate billing history, showing all open and closed invoices, current balances, aged accounts receivable and payments with detailed drill down; tracking of sales and service contracts and warranties; and full history notes.
Management can track and analyze won and lost bid results of all sales personnel to hone management decisions or sales techniques.
Inventory management can help keep costs down for businesses where many employees are handling material. The inventory system allows tracking of serialized and non-serialized parts in the warehouse or on the trucks. A single-display inventory management grid enables a parts manager to verify the availability of parts for each job when needed. From that screen, the manager can transfer stock items from one location to another for assignments to jobs. The program alerts users to any violation of minimum stock levels. With one button clicking, the manager can order all items needing restocking, from a single or from multiple vendors, facilitating purchase of every item by lowest price.
Report options include customer, scheduling, employee, financial, quotes/estimates, progress and products/services.
Though ServiceCEO is not a full general ledger program, it handles the full sales cycle, with one click turning a successful estimate into a job and a work order ready for dispatching and then turning completed work orders into invoices with batch processing and e-mail capabilities. The program integrates with QuickBooks and most other general ledger applications for full accounting.
The scheduling module offers a lot of flexibility, including the means to set up recurring scheduling for maintenance contracts and the ability to drag and drop a crew from one job to another. At a glance, the highly visual dispatch board shows, in chart format, all crews and the jobs and tasks assigned to them, making possible easy identification of technicians available for a new job, taking into consideration the closest crews.
A contractor can assign more than 300 icons to represent sub statuses of jobs. The program features day, week and month calendars in box, list or bar format. The user can filter each calendar view by geography, service type, sub-status, team or customer.
If the user has GPS integration, it is possible to track location of crews and vehicles in real time. Users with MapPoint (a separate purchase) can attach driving directions to jobs and can send along the best route to sequential jobs, from the office or any other location.
The mobile tech functionality is Web-enabled and works with almost any handheld device with Internet connection, including Blackberries, PDAs, cell phones and browsers.
Technicians in the field can pull up a real-time log-in screen just as if they were in the back office. They can check full service history down to the equipment level and can update every service and line item on a work order, with the data updated live in real time in the back office.
Mobile tech also offers customers password-protected Web access to all account information, 24/7. Customers can interact with all the account information, edit contact data, leave feedback or other notes and generate a full statement.
Because ServiceCEO is priced by user and not by workstation, a contractor with Internet connectivity can, at no extra cost, install a copy at home, update information during non-work hours and then access that updated data back in the office.
The program looks like and responds like a Microsoft Office product, which helps in the learning process. In addition to a hard copy implementation guide, user's guide and installation manual, the software developer offers more than 90 Web-accessible (pauseable and rewind-able) training videos available 24/7, an online training guide and more than 25 online live training classes weekly.
In addition to the "getting started" class, the developer offers "basic training" that walks participants through fundamental functionalities, including customer entry, job creation, job scheduling and field service management. It provides dedicated open-format Q&A sessions that cover best practices for appliance installation and maintenance service and for building repair and maintenance service. There is also a discussion board for free-form conversation.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].