Contractors without a business Web site can remedy that in a jiffy with 1+1 MyBusiness Site, www.1and1.com. Contractors can set up a Web site in just a couple of minutes. Pick your business category, HVAC services is just one of the 100+ offered, choose a background color, fill in essential business contact data in the highlighted fields on the next screen, and you can see a preview complete with graphics and text immediately. The professional looking Web site takes advantage of templates designed specifically for HVAC services.
The prefilled text, basic and fairly comprehensive, is customizable and updatable. Users can choose which templates to use, add or delete sections, modify content and change images to reflect seasonal marketing promotions, new services or special offers. You can integrate maps and driving directions and add Flash, photo galleries and links to YouTube, expanding the impact and the reach of your Web site. In addition, the service automatically submits your business Web site to Google and other search engines, so potential customers can find it in a search.
Connect in the field
Got a crew out in the field who would benefit from Internet connectivity to the home office or elsewhere? The Novatel MIFI 2372 HSPA personal hotspot device from Verizon Wireless, www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/mobilebroadband, offers contractors and technicians in the field carry-around Internet connectivity. The tiny wireless device provides access via a reliable broadband connection to up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices at once, including notebooks, netbooks, smartphones and PDAs, as long as the user is in a Verizon coverage area. The Intelligent Mobile Hotspot, which is about the size of eight stacked credit cards and weighs only 2 ounces, uses a lithium-ion battery for up to four hours of usage, 40 hours standby, and, alternately, can be plugged into an outlet.
Data speeds up to 7.2 Mbps downlink, and 5.76 Mbps uplink anywhere there is Verizon Wireless network coverage, even in a moving vehicle where multiple passengers may need Internet access. The device also includes password protection.
Various pricing plans reflect different purchase prices and per diem fees for unlimited use or escalating monthly fees commensurate with increasing monthly megabyte or gigabyte usage.
Manage daily operations
StarTech scalable business management system, www.pioneerinteractive.com, for small to mid-sized field service businesses, handles day-to-day operations, including dispatching and scheduling, customer care, reporting, purchasing, service agreements, warranties and interaction with suppliers and employees. All modules are integrated and information flows from screen to screen.
For example, when entering data for a service call, a user enters the parts needed for the work order. That data flows from the PO quote to the PO to the PO receipt to the work order, and from there to the customer's invoice. In addition, complete cost details are incorporated into revenue reports and inventory control.
The program offers flexibility — users can easily change a field name to match company terminology and customize how data is displayed. Over-rides of default values are possible for labor charges and parts.
The user-friendly Customer Snapshot screen gives complete view of job sites, work orders, equipment, agreements, invoices, payments and all notes recorded that relate to each customer transaction, enabling quick viewing of pertinent details in the office and, if equipped with mobile capability, in the field and quick answers to customer phone queries.
Reporting capabilities include customer equipment and service history, customer sales analysis, technician profitability monitoring and detailed inventory reports, including “red flagging” of parts low in inventory. The program integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks with data importable via a Company Setup Wizard.
The StarTech Mobile module extends into the field the use of the entire solution with all its functionalities to anyone with a handheld PDA or smartphone that runs Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 and higher, runs a data plan and has a touch screen. Schedules and schedule status are updatable in real time. Technicians that start from home each morning rather than stopping by the office to pick up paper work orders can view up to the minute daily or multi-day schedules and work order history, including problems, parts, labor for a given job site, and resident, equipment or customer data. Technicians can also view directions to job locations and information about which tools and supplies to take to each job.
The device's mobile capabilities can also be used to reassign a schedule from one technician to another directly on the device (given sufficient security rights), add parts used on a job directly into the device, and record and access contact information for contacts, vendors and scheduled slots. Technicians can even call directly from within the solution.
If the mobile device is configured with the capability, StarTech Mobile also enables customer signature onsite. The module synchronizes directly with enterprise information in real time, so any changes made offsite are available for viewing immediately throughout the network, it also works offline when there is no Internet connectivity such as in basements, rural areas, etc.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].