Any way you look at it, your field service software affects pretty much every aspect of your business, from sales to invoicing, collections, scheduling, routing, reporting, and everything in between. That’s what makes switching technology providers such a daunting task. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Choose wisely and your company is set up for years of success—get it wrong … and well, not so much.
It’s no wonder so many business owners put off making a decision, choosing instead to simply deal with what they already have. Unfortunately, putting things on the back burner is just as bad as choosing poorly. Delaying the inevitable can leave you dealing with frustrating processes and inferior technology while your best employees run for the door, your customers look elsewhere for service, and your competitors swoop in to take advantage. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In this guide, we’ll look at the key areas to keep in mind when making the switch. Covering these bases can help you make the best choice for your business and put you in a prime position to achieve your goals.
We’ve all heard the sage advice, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. But sometimes, it’s hard to tell when something is broken. All too often, we get accustomed to the workarounds and duct tape solutions, perhaps thinking this is simply the way it is, and there is nothing better out there. We fail to see that we’re being held back and close our minds to the fact that maybe there’s a better way to get things done. Don’t be that person. Here are a few common red flags to consider:
Overcomplicated Interface The most powerful solution in the world won’t do you or your team any favors if no one knows how to use it. If you find yourself pulling your hair out trying to get things to work, hearing your team curse out the system, or finding yourselves reverting back to old-school methods rather than using the software, then Houston, you have a problem. Look, software is supposed to make things easier. So, shouldn’t the interface be easy and simple to use?
Rigid Processes Everyone runs their business a little differently—some more than others. If you find yourself being pigeonholed into doing things a certain way by your software, that could be an issue. Things change constantly, and you may need to pivot at a moment’s notice in order to stay ahead of the curve or take advantage of a new opportunity. Shouldn’t your software open new possibilities instead of keeping your operations on a leash?
A Lack of Innovation Technology moves fast, with new efficiencies being created every day. What worked well a few years ago can quickly become obsolete in the blink of an eye. If your software provider is slow to add new features and functionality, that can seriously cramp your style and leave you at a disadvantage over your competitors. Continuous innovation, on the other hand, can be your secret weapon against the status quo.
Inadequate Support When you have questions, you need answers—not long wait times or extra expenses. There’s no excuse for poor support, and charging a fee to answer routine questions is the opposite of constructive. Likewise, your software provider shouldn’t just hand over the keys and wish you the best of luck. They should offer training to help your team get the most from the features and functionality of your system.
Poor Communication and Responsiveness You can’t afford to be surprised when it comes to changes that impact your business. That’s why good communication is so important. When you and your team are constantly left scrambling every time your software provider updates the system or adds a new feature, it can cause serious disruptions to your business. Similarly, a lack of responsiveness to phone calls or emails or a sluggish reaction when issues creep up can be costly for your business.
Pricing That Nickel and Dimes You Growing your business should be the top priority for your software provider. That’s a little hard to accomplish when they’re constantly nickel and diming you for every piece of the puzzle. Having to pay extra for every new feature or add-on can keep you from taking advantage and may even negate some of the benefits. If you find yourself constantly shocked at how high your bill is every month, then you may have a problem. Fees should be presented to you up-front and with no hidden surprises.
Okay, so enough is enough. You’ve had it up to here, and it’s time to look for a new software solution to help manage your business. But where do you begin? Let’s go over a few key areas to focus on to help ensure you make the best move to help achieve your specific goals.
Sales and marketing are critical areas for any business looking to thrive. Getting a leg up from your software here can give you an edge when going toe-to-toe with competitors and keep your bank account looking sharp. Here are some key areas your software partner should be able to pitch in and help:
Generating New Leads The sales process starts by finding prospective customers and interacting with them. A good technology partner will provide solutions to make sure you get in front of the right people and persuade them to act—either by picking up the phone, entering contact info into your website, or maybe even making a purchase right then and there.
Enhancing Your Web Design Your website is the primary weapon in your online marketing arsenal. It’s also the first stop for many prospective customers looking for more information about services in their area. Making a great first impression here is too important to waste on mediocre design and ho-hum content. An excellent software provider will look for ways to help you in these areas by delivering solutions that showcase your brand and integrate your site so you can capitalize on any opportunities.
Climbing the Search Rankings Having a great site will only get you so far. People need to be able to find you in order to gain any kind of ground online. Your software may not directly impact your search rankings, but it should provide relevant information to help you make smart moves. An integrated marketing solution or partnership can also come into play here, which may offer some expertise to help you get noticed by the right people, including an effective content strategy, optimization services, and so on.
Closing Business In recent years, buying online has quickly gone from “hey, that’s nice” to business as usual for most people. Why should it be any different for your services? If your website already has a prospective customer’s attention, why not close the deal right then and there when it’s convenient for them? A software system with integrated marketing—like FieldRoutes™—should not only add this functionality, but also get those new customers entered into your system and scheduled without you lifting a finger. Bonus points if it can automatically apply any promotions you may be running (spoiler alert, we can do that too).
Tracking Your ROI Whether it’s sales, marketing, or professional sports, success is measured in numbers. How many new leads did you bring in this month? How many did you close? How much did it cost to acquire those new customers? And so on. Your software should be able to help you track these numbers so you can tighten the screws and turn your online sales and marketing efforts into a well-oiled and profit generating machine.
Great customer relationships are at the heart of every successful business. Your software should help you not only maintain these valuable connections but strengthen them as well by making it easy for your customers to do business with you. In return, you’ll be rewarded with less attrition, better word of mouth, and rock-solid recurring revenue. Here’s how your software can help:
Making Things Easy The secret to making customers happy is to simply be easy to do business with. Making things quick, convenient, and as painless as possible is the key. A good place to start is to have an online customer portal, where customers can check appointment times, invoices, and settle their accounts. Automated texts, emails, and/or voice messages for appointment reminders and outstanding invoices can also be beneficial.
Improving Satisfaction Happy customers come back to you again and again, and in some cases, will sing your praises to friends and family who are actively looking for services like yours. They may even go online and post a nice review. Software with grade-A scheduling abilities can minimize drive time and let your road warriors focus more on the task at hand. Once business is handled, your software should be able to capture feedback and prompt happy customers to go online and share their experiences.
Creating Loyalty Acquiring new customers is only half the battle. Keeping them coming back for more is the other half of the equation. Doing a good job here can help you maintain a substantial market share and keep your valued clients from going to your competitors. Look for features such as automated communications—like appointment and renewal reminders—to keep your business top of mind and help you build some loyalty.
Encouraging Recurring Revenue Recurring revenue does more than add to your bottom line. It can also help you out if you’re looking to impress a potential investor or are perhaps trying to perform a leveraged buyout. Integrated collections functionality— such as automated communications, autopay, and that online payment portal we mentioned earlier—can tip the odds in your favor.
Regardless of how ambitious your goals are, you can accomplish pretty much anything with the right team in your corner. Unfortunately, finding a group of dedicated and talented employees is a major challenge for companies in every field right now. Getting them to stick around can be equally rough. Modernizing your operations and making their lives easier can help you win on both fronts, and your software is the key ingredient. Here are a few areas it can help:
Route Optimization Route optimization software can help reduce vehicle wear and tear, save money on fuel costs, and add more stops to your day. It can also shave hours off your drive time and take some of the guesswork out of your employees’ daily routine. Most solutions include some sort of optimization functionality, but they’re not all created equal. Look for a software provider with an algorithm that takes multiple factors into consideration and isn’t afraid to make improvements when needed.
Minimize Paper Going paperless isn’t just good for the environment. It also spares your team from massive headaches and adds some nice cost savings to your bottom line. Everyone at some point has struggled to make heads or tails of some cryptic handwriting scribbled in haste or wasted hours looking for that elusive invoice or sales sheet they left somewhere in a mountain of paperwork. The right software can make those frustrations a thing of the past.
Automated Communications Sending invoices and appointment reminders is par for the course. But taking the time to make all those calls and send out all those emails can take hours every day and keep your team from taking care of other responsibilities. This issue only gets worse the more you grow, with more customers to contact. Modern solutions have made this unnecessary by automating this process. While most solutions offer some sort of communications functionality, the best ones let you put things on automatic, with personalized messages that go out based on your designated criteria.
Going Mobile Mobile technology has evolved in recent years, allowing us to take powerful solutions with us wherever we go. Your software should provide access to mobile solutions that let your people in the field do their jobs better, faster, and easier. When combined with the previously mentioned routing and communications technology, this means your team can not only spend less time on the road but also less time doing routine paperwork and more time creating strong customer relationships.
Getting paid is easier said than done in this business. So, if your technology is deficient here, it can severely impact your cash flow, limiting your ability to grow effectively and stay competitive. While most systems offer basic functionality here—letting you see outstanding delinquencies and perhaps send a quick email—the best solutions go the extra mile.
Staying in Touch No one really likes making collection calls, but you can’t afford to turn a blind eye to delinquencies. Putting this process on cruise control by sending automated reminders via text, email, and voicemail, can do wonders to your collection efforts, sparing your team from some awkward conversations and giving them the breathing room to focus on the customers who need a bit more of a human touch.
Online Customer Portal One of the best ways to get paid is to make the process easy and convenient for your customers. Your software provider should be able to deliver some sort of online payment portal where your customers can check their accounts and make quick payments as needed. This works hand-in-hand with automated communications, giving your customers a way to click a link and quickly settle their accounts without picking up the phone or having to make up some embarrassing excuse.
Autopay Another crucial feature that can make a difference is autopay—where customers can set up and make automatic payments. This is especially useful for customers who are routinely forgetful about paying their bills. Implementing this type of solution can reduce needless service interruptions and ensure you get paid on time more often.
Account Updater Recently, there have been a ton of technology innovations regarding payment processing. One of the most exciting is the account updater, which automatically updates lost, stolen, closed, and expired payment card information. No more hours spent playing phone tag with your clients—no more unnecessary service cancellations. If your new software provider can give you access to this functionality, it can be a real game-changer for your operations.
ACH Returns Another recent innovation in payment processing is the inclusion of enhanced reporting. This is especially useful when dealing with returned ACH transactions. A software system with this type of functionality can help you skip the guessing game and find out for sure whether the payment was returned due to a closed account or insufficient funds.
As you may have noticed, all software systems are not created equally. Sure, many of them check the same boxes and seemingly have the same functionality, but that doesn’t mean that one is just as good as another. Some are easier to use than others, some are easier on the eyes, and some offer a ton of robust, deep features. Then there are those that seem to have it all. Here are some tips to help you when comparing systems:
Make a List and Check It Twice How can you expect to get what you want if you don’t even know what you want? Before you start shopping around for new technology, it’s a good idea to put together a wish list of all the features you’d like to see. A good starting point is to focus on your pain points and build around them. Then prioritize your list into “must-haves” and “like to haves.” This will help you see past the dog and pony show some software providers will try to distract you with and can keep you focused on what matters most.
Price vs. Value Most savvy shoppers know that you get what you pay for, and often the cheapest option isn’t always the best way to go. By the same token, more expensive doesn’t always mean better either. Before making a call, it’s important to take note of each system’s core features and any potential operational efficiencies that may impact your business. If a system results in significant time or money savings, that could certainly tilt the scales a bit and make your investment worth your while.
It’s also important to look for the hidden fees you may not be aware of and factor them into the equation. Is there any special equipment you’ll need to pay for? Do they charge for customer service? And so on. You may discover that the most inexpensive option isn’t the best deal after all.
Scalability and Growth Potential Any business owner who’s experienced rapid growth will tell you those growing pains are no joke. With the windfall of more customers comes more overhead—like fuel costs and office supply expenses—additional technicians, more routes, and so on. A system that works well today may not be all that efficient as you add new customers or expand services. That’s why it’s important to find a system that will grow with you instead of only focusing on your current needs.
We already talked about this, but when choosing a new technology partner, it’s important to take some time to learn about all the features each prospective solution provides. Those bells and whistles you may think don’t apply to you today may prove useful indeed further down the road. Besides, what good does it do to go through the entire process of updating your technology today just to have to go through the whole song and dance again a few years from now? Taking your time and getting it right the first time is definitely the way to go.
Beware the Fine Print Let’s be honest, unless you’re studying for the state bar exam, you’re probably not the type to pour over pages and pages of contracts and legalese. It’s okay—most of us aren’t. But that’s exactly what some companies count on. They want you to slip up, skip the details, and then find out the hard way that the only way to cancel or get out of your contract is to give up an arm, a leg, and your firstborn. That’s how they get you.
Don’t Overlook Implementation Most software companies go to great lengths to hype up how quick and easy their implementation process is. But anyone who’s been through it before knows that incorporating new software is never easy. While we all wish the process were as simple as flipping a switch, the truth is that it can take several months to get up and going, depending on the complexity.
In addition to any data conversions and all that technical stuff, you also have to think about training for yourself and your employees. It may be tempting to rush this crucial step—or even skip it altogether—but doing so would no doubt sink your ship before the maiden voyage. A truly excellent implementation process should deliver everything without any kind of downtime to your operations.
Parting Words The truth is every software provider has their pluses and minuses and their own ways of doing things. That’s why it’s essential to look at the key features, get to know the companies involved, and find one whose ideals and priorities align with yours. It may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but in the end, your decision will impact your business for years to come. Just be sure to take your time and do your homework, and you’ll be on your way to greener pastures.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Whether you’re looking to add efficiencies, make things easier for your employees, improve your customer experience, increase sales, or anything in between, FieldRoutes is committed to helping your business reach its full potential.
The platform automates all aspects of field service operations for enterprise and small business customers that span office management, advanced route optimization, payment processing, digital sales, marketing, and customer acquisition solutions that accelerate growth, streamline operations, increase customer retention, and maximize revenue. Our operations and sales and marketing suites were built with your customers and employees in mind and can help you grow quickly, scale intelligently, and serve customers relentlessly.
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