Time-saving software for the office and when on the go

March 7, 2014
Online digital signature software offered as SaaS (Software as a Service) typically carries a monthly fee Axon, Intelligent Mobile Support is a smartphone/tablet application designed to enable distributors to strengthen the technical support process for their HVAC customer technicians XREF HVAC Encyclopedia is a large cross reference and model number database that can help users expedite finding replacement HVAC/R parts and suppliers Connect2Field is a job management and scheduling application  

Cloud-based electronic signature solutions enable signing and exchange of contracts, invoices, and work orders securely 24/7 from any computing device with a web browser, via a mouse, digital pen, typing in on a keyboard, scanned image of a signature, or — with a mobile app — a finger. 

Online digital signature software offered as SaaS (Software as a Service) typically carries a monthly fee that escalates depending upon number of senders. Some solutions are available free for a limited (low) number of signed signatures per month, enabling contractors to try out options before committing. Solutions vary as to types of signatures supported and document template features.  

For example, RightSignature, www.rightsignature.com, and DocuSign, www.docusign.com, both support Digital Certificate (PKI) Signature, electronic signature pad, handwritten mouse signature, typed signature and stored signature image. They each offer custom logo branding, document overview for signers, iPad and iPhone signing, with RightSignature also offering webcam signature photo. Document template features in both software options include check boxes, date boxes, drop down text fields, and signature and initials boxes. Both solutions offer free trials.

Here is an app that streamlines the technical support process and may become available sometime soon at an HVAC and plumbing distributor near you. Axon, Intelligent Mobile Support, www.imobilesupport.com, is a smartphone/tablet application designed to enable distributors to strengthen the technical support process for their HVAC customer technicians, who presumably can use it to increase “first time fix rate” and decrease time-per-visit when troubleshooting on service calls. The app, which is cloud-based, provides access to various types of information, including demonstration videos, Hot Pages from OEM manuals to help technicians find installment and repair solutions quickly; Live Connect, which provides a direct line to service experts, typically at the distributor level; on-topic videos; and Customer Connect, which gives quick access to customer data and contact information. iMobileSupport works with some large contractors directly but suggests that interested contractors check out its website and contact it directly to find out if a particular distributor is one of their customers, or they can work with that distributor to bring the app to them and thus, in turn, to the interested contractor.

  XREF HVAC Encyclopedia, www.xrefpub.com, is a large unbiased cross reference and model number database for the North American HVAC/R industries that can help users expedite finding replacement HVAC/R parts and suppliers. The software includes 1,300,000 primary manufacturer/OEM numbers and at least three million part numbers for controls, compressors, motors, heaters, sensors, thermostats, fan blades, elements, relays, valves, coils, refrigerants and more. Representing more than 1,000 manufacturers, it is essentially a compilation of major wholesaler and manufacturer catalogs. The database is updated twice a year.  According to the developer, most searches are completed in under five seconds.  

Connect2Field, www.connect2field.com, is a job management and scheduling application for field service businesses featuring capabilities for both management in the office and technicians out on jobs. The software, which is available by scalable monthly plan, is compatible with all smartphones that use an Internet browser and there are apps available, as well, for iPad, iPhone, and Android smartphones and tablets. An online demo is available at Google apps.

Office-based capabilities include job dispatch, scheduling, interacting with suppliers, invoicing, accounting, quoting, reporting, and inventory, with information accessible via a graphics-rich dashboard featuring menu, icons, pie charts, and graphs. Administrators can easily add a job to an existing client or add a new client, define the job type, and dispatch it immediately to field personnel. It is also possible to create recurring jobs that match customer contract requirements.  

Field techs receive all their job details on their chosen mobile device. The cloud-based app provides a portal for them to access customer details, job status, driving directions and mapping, and real-time communications from the office. Technicians on service calls can capture photos of the work performed in the field and attach them to the job or snap photos of issues that arise in the field and warrant documentation. Field Mobile users can also prepare and complete quotes and take advantage of one-button invoicing from the field. Invoices can be customized by downloading the Microsoft Word template, amending it as desired, and then uploading it back into the Connect2Field account.

All invoices produced in the app can be downloaded directly into one of the various accounting solutions with which it integrates, including Quicken, MYOB, and Xero. The software also tracks travel time and start and finish times and includes capabilities for inventory management, invoicing and signature capture, Digital Pen and API.

Management can send field techs alerts on a new job dispatch or a rescheduled job as SMS (short message service) or e-mail (which do not require use of Connect2Field) or push notifications through the Connect2Field iPhone app.

Connect2Field also offers a Customer Portal for preferred clients, enabling them to log in and view all current/historical jobs and invoices in real time. The customer can also be given the ability to create/schedule/edit jobs, potentially saving time for the contractor’s office staff.

Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected]

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