Hands down, one of the most crucial areas of business is communications. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked. Hey, we get it. It’s not like you’re raking in a boatload of extra cash or making critical improvements to your services just because your communications process is on point. But all that, and more, could be possible if you leverage the right automation tools.
We’re lucky to live in a time of unprecedented technology. Business owners who make the most of these emerging innovations are at a clear advantage over those who don’t. This is especially true when it comes to contacting your customers. Leaning on your automation tools can save you a ton of time, ease the burden on your employees, and even improve your collections—all of which are critical areas for any organization looking to grow.
In this guide, we’ll explore all the ways you can leverage automated communications functionality to make life easier and more profitable for your organization.
For the most part, sales is largely a numbers game. You start with X many new prospects, dazzle them with your value proposition, then close the ones who are hot to trot and nurture the rest. It seems pretty cut and dry. But following up with all these folks can be time-consuming—in some cases adding hours of additional work per day. Properly tracking and keeping tabs on the process can pile on even more time. This is where automation can help. Let’s look at a few specific areas where this may be beneficial.
When things get hectic, it’s easy for a few opportunities to slip through the cracks. It’s understandable. After all, it’s not like you’re hurting for new business during those busy months, and you may not have time to bring on a ton of new customers anyway. But if you take too long to follow up with prospects, chances are they’ll run straight into the open arms of one of your competitors. Worse, if you end up completely forgetting to touch base, they may be left with a negative impression of your business and even badmouth you to their friends. That doesn’t do your customer-friendly rep any favors.
Setting up a well-written email that automatically goes out to new prospects can make sure everyone at least gets acknowledged and contacted. This makes your company look professional and works as a great introduction to your business. It can also free up some valuable time for organizations that don’t have a dedicated sales team and instead rely on employees to handle sales on top of other responsibilities.
Typically, most people in the market for field services are ready to make a quick decision. Who has time to wait around when you have termites chewing on your house or something strange growing in your lawn? But that doesn’t mean everyone will sign a service agreement right away. In these kinds of situations, it’s always a good idea to have some sort of periodic follow-up emails in your back pocket so you can remind them about your services.
Keeping in touch with lost sales or those who aren’t ready to commit immediately may pay off some time in the future—say, when things aren’t as busy. It can also keep them engaged with targeted, year-round messaging for those communities with seasonal issues. Automating these messages can put the entire process on cruise control, freeing up resources for other matters.
Nothing helps you grow your business better than returning customers. While the process begins with awesome service, automation can be of use here as well. Keying up a renewal notice and having it sent automatically to customers closing in on the end of their service agreement can help you quickly make your case. It can also help you snag a few of those who are ready to say “yes” immediately so you can focus your phone time on customers who are still on the fence.
Anyone who’s ever been sold one thing and received something else can tell you, consistent communication is important. Automating the first contact with a new prospect ensures that every potential customer has the same information about your services and can make an informed decision. It also guarantees that everyone starts off on the same footing and is a great way to show off that outstanding branding you’ve been working on.
Sending out appointment reminders is a routine part of the day for most field service businesses—and for good reason. Giving customers a quick head’s up that your technician is going to be headed their way is not only professional, but it’s also a good way to make sure no wires get crossed. Unfortunately, the process can take hours, depending on how many appointments your business handles every day. Once again, this is where automation can swoop in to literally save your day.
It may not be obvious, but sending appointment reminders can have a big impact on your scheduling. Case in point, how many times has your technician traveled all the way to a location just to find out that nobody’s home? How many times has a customer gone on vacation without letting you know or had some other scheduling conflict? It’s definitely not a pleasant surprise to technicians struggling to pack as many visits into a day as possible. After all, no one wants to waste time on the road when they could be serving other customers—not to mention the extra fuel costs and unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicles.
Now, think about how many times you’ve had to say “no” to a last-minute job just because of scheduling conflicts. Knowing in advance that your customer needs to reschedule can free up valuable time for your technician, who can save a trip and possibly even pick up some new business for you instead. That’s where appointment reminders can help. Sending out a quick note provides an opportunity for your customer to either make plans to stick around or let you know they’re going to need to reschedule.
Hitting up all your upcoming appointments can take hours every single day. That may not be a big deal if you have a person who has the bandwidth to handle this. But it can be a bit of an issue when you start to add new customers. Plus, it can seriously cramp your style when you hit a major growth spurt. Even if you are fortunate enough to have someone who can handle the extra work, wouldn’t their time be better spent on other things, like proactively selling services or cooking up new ways to grow your business?
Automating the process can be an absolute time-saver here. Features, like the kind found in the FieldRoutes™ operations suite, can allow you to send reminders automatically, freeing up all kinds of time for you and your team. You can even mix your messaging if you like, sending an email a few days before and a text on the day of the appointment.
Successfully growing your business is hard enough without having to worry about delinquencies clogging up the works. But unfortunately, late payments are par for the course in this game. Every field service business—large and small—has to deal with them one way or another. How you decide to handle things can impact your bottom line as well as your reputation. Unsurprisingly, everyone has their own method, but the basic process is pretty much the same across the board. Automation can help you every step of the way.
Whether payment is due in advance, at the time of service, 30 days later, or some other timeline entirely, the collections process begins with the invoice. Peeling off a sheet and leaving it with the customer is easy enough since the technician is already there at the location. But even if you’re using paper invoices, it’s still a good idea to follow it up with some sort of electronic invoice. Doing so can provide undeniable proof that you’ve at least done your part and given the customer notice. It can also help you save some bucks on paper, envelopes, and stamps— often overlooked expenses that surprisingly add up.
In a perfect world, every customer receives their invoice and promptly pays up in full. Sadly, people seldom do what they’re supposed to do the first time they’re asked—something every parent is all too familiar with. That’s where payment reminders come in. Some companies prefer to call each and every delinquent customer to try and work something out. Some prefer to send emails or text reminders instead. Most do some combination and may even show up in person if things escalate.
However you decide to handle this step, automation can be your best friend. Why spend hours sending emails and texts by hand when your software can do it for you? Even if your policy is to contact delinquent customers personally, you can still send an electronic invoice after your chat to make sure all your bases are covered.
With some solutions like FieldRoutes, you can set up Trigger Rules—basically a fancy way of saying that you can set it up so that an email or text automatically goes out once specific criteria are met. So, you can have an invoice go out immediately, an initial payment reminder after 15 days, and then maybe a sterner reminder—possibly letting the customer know that they’ll be looking at a late fee—after 30 days. Or whatever floats your boat. That’s the beauty of automation; it’s entirely up to you to decide how you want to handle things.
Ah yes, the fun part. Aside from sending out some sort of payment confirmation, you may be wondering what else automation can do for you here. The answer lies in your payment portal. Sending out payment reminders is fine and good. But linking to an online customer portal where they can quickly log in and make payments is even better.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that online and automatic payments are just for the big dogs on the PCT Top 100. Even smaller operations can benefit from setting up a merchant account and having a professional-looking customer portal. Getting set up for online payments can also unlock the opportunity for autopay, which is an absolute game-changer. All these solutions working together can reduce delinquencies, dramatically improve your collections, and make life a bit easier on this front. Solutions like autopay technology can also help minimize those “check is in the mail” type excuses. Besides all that, making things convenient for your customers is always an idea worth exploring.
Savvy business owners know that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of you. Adding time-saving technology like the solutions discussed here can work wonders for your employee morale and may even help with hiring and retention to boot. Here’s how:
Busy vs. Productive
When you walk around the office at 5 or 6 p.m., is your team in a scramble still trying to get things done. Or does it look like a ghost town, with everyone packed up and heading out to enjoy their evening? As an employee, which would you prefer? Providing automation tools can alleviate unnecessary work and help your team accomplish more with less. Sounds like a win-win to us.
Overtime or Overworked
Do you routinely pay for overtime? If so, you may run into retention issues later down the road. Sure, some employees may like receiving those extra bucks from time to time. But when it becomes an everyday thing, those additional funds can lose their luster as employees begin to feel the stress of constantly having to work long hours. Automation, as mentioned, can keep crunch time to a minimum and help employees achieve a little of that work-life balance everyone keeps talking about.
Attracting Fresh Talent
Millennials and young people entering the workforce grew up with technology and are no strangers to all its wonders. You might even say that wielding these high-tech solutions is a bit of a superpower for them. It can also be a deal-breaker when they decide who their next employer will be. Will they go with the company that has an impressive system in place to make life easier for them, or will they go with the guys using spreadsheets and sticky notes to handle their operations? Unless there’s an amazing medical plan involved, it’s probably going to be that first option.
When it comes to growing your business, automation is the way to go. Adding new customers can mean additional routes, new services, more employees, and a heavier workload. It could also mean you or your team members have to take on extra responsibilities, which can be rough—especially if everyone’s already pushed to their limits.
Automation can help even the playing field by saving tons of time. It could also mean that you can get on without hiring that extra technician and can manage your current speed of growth with the team you already have in place. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see growing businesses actually lower their expenses simply by taking full advantage of their technology.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 sometimes. Business owners who find themselves too busy to even think about updating their processes and adding new efficiencies are the ones that need automation the most. However, with the countless hours saved from automating key parts of the business—like communications—those same owners could get the breathing room needed to plan their growth path and focus on the future.
Adding a personal touch to your communications is worth considering. But it’s important to remember that personalization goes beyond just slipping your contact’s name into your email or text. It’s also about communicating the right message at the right time to your customers using the right communication channel.
Taking advantage of your system’s Trigger Rules—if applicable—is key here. Sure, it may take some time and a little experimentation to get things perfect. But once you have everything set up to your liking, you’ll be all set.
We hope this guide has been helpful. Whether you’re looking to add efficiencies, make things easier for your employees, improve your customer service, increase sales, or anything in between, FieldRoutes is committed to helping your business reach its full potential. Our business management software and integrated marketing services are built with your customers and employees in mind and can help you achieve the growth you’ve always dreamed about.
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