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September, 2017 - Smart Service

What is Field Service Management?

On September 25th, 2017 by

At its core, field service management is a system that keeps track of all components in a company’s field operations. Consisting of the use of technological resources at or en route to a client’s property, such systems facilitate inventory management, customer portals, vehicle tracking, customer information, and scheduling. Depending on the industry, field service management may include other important components. The goal of field service management is to effectively integrate field activity with the office duties of billing, accounting, and other systems.

Top Field Service Management Industries

A large number of industries rely on field service management to find success. Any company with fleets or contractors working outside the office requires a level of management to ensure processes run smoothly. Some of the most common field service industries include:

Each industry uses field service management differently than the rest because of the different needs and nuances of each field. What features and to what extent field service management integrates into the job process depends on numerous variables such as size the of the company, type and length of task, and the amount of driving involved.

Field Service Management Software

In the past, field management could be very fragmented and unorganized because of all the moving parts: billing, servicing, time tracking, routing, and more. But, with new technology like field service management software, the process has become easier than ever. In the past 10 years, service management has evolved to encompass a wide range of capabilities, even on the billing and accounting side of things. The mobility of field service management software allows employees to check in with the office remotely, access client data, and more.

Each industry uses the software to track and manage different aspects. An HVAC company may use their HVAC service management software to take notes about broken units or repairs, whereas a landlord may use property management software to record rent payments and billing while integrating with QuickBooks. Mobile, dynamic software can help with crucial business processes such as real-time analysis of employee work, shortened billing cycles, and increased productivity. Other features of field management software include reducing overhead costs from paper-based management, marketing and data analytics, and scheduling and dispatching.

Importance of Field Service Management Software

Having efficient business processes is crucial to the overall success of a field service company, and having top-of-the-line field management software like Smart Service can make all the difference. Because field service software helps with a wide range of tasks and operations, it is important in more ways than one:

  • Analyze Usage: Field service software helps identify the biggest wastes of money and how to remedy the situation, including in places like the usage of the fleet vehicle or the amount of time large machinery idles. With paper-based management, you not only spend more money, you may have incomplete or inaccurate data.
  • Convert Service to Sales: Many service industries include a sales component, sometimes upselling a new product during a repair. Software can help integrate with sales management, as well as the billing with QuickBooks.
  • Increase Productivity: Your employees can spend more time completing jobs and less time worrying about updating the office, playing phone tag, or writing and losing paper notes and invoices when you add field management software to your business.
  • Manage Dynamic Environment: One of the biggest benefits to streamlining field management with software is the ability to manage a dynamic environment. On certain days, routine, unavoidable errors in service or billing will affect customers. Comprehensive software makes it easy to diagnose and fix such issues. This applies to all facets of the software including scheduling, dispatching, billing, inventory, productivity, and more.
  • Meet Customer Expectations: Customers have pretty high expectations when it comes to the level of service your employees deliver, so not only do they need to show up physically, they need to remain mentally present as well. When working on a job, customers don’t want to see their contractors on the phone the whole time, even if it relates to the job, so using field management software can help take care of things faster and more efficiently, while keeping the customer happy. The other side of customer expectations involves the quickness of the company as a whole. If someone’s toilet needs repaired, they likely don’t want to wait a week to have it serviced. Field service management ensures you can easily schedule work and move things around to accommodate emergencies.
  • Save Money: The initial purchase price of field service software can intimidate, but even with the potentially high cost of the initial investment, you’ll save money in the long run. Conservatively, software can save you up to $9,087.50 per year per technician. A number of useful studies show the ROI of field service software.

Field service management is crucial to the business processes of companies in a variety of industries, but it is becoming easier to manage with field management software such as Smart Service. Learn more about the best field service management software by requesting a free demo of Smart Service.

HVAC Accounting Best Practices

On September 21st, 2017 by

One of the greatest challenges of running a small business is handling aspects of that business that fall entirely outside your area of expertise. You may know everything about HVAC technology and how best to apply it, but that knowledge won’t do you a lick of good when it comes to balancing your company’s books. Furthermore, the contracting nature of your business adds several wrinkles to the already-complicated process of keeping taxes, wages, and costs in order. Luckily, you can take several steps and use special tools to simplify the process and ensure that your money goes where it should. By following these tips, you can spend less time pencil pushing and more time using your HVAC expertise to grow your business:

  • Track expenses accurately and regularly.
  • Use QuickBooks to manage your books.
  • Use HVAC Software to manage work orders and generate invoices.
  • Monitor credit card statements for discrepancies.
  • Track company equipment and inventory.
  • Hire an outside CPA firm if you cannot manage your books internally.
  • Do not delay in processing receipts, invoices, rebates, or bills.

Trust: Hard to Gain, Easy to Lose

The unfortunate reality of any employee-based business is that owners can inadvertently open themselves up to theft by entrusting their company’s assets to seemingly trustworthy associates. HVAC contracting businesses stand doubly at risk thanks to the nature of the industry. Every day, you send your technicians out into the field in specialized vehicles loaded with expensive equipment, simply trusting that all those expensive assets will return intact. If you give your technicians credit cards to purchase fuel while they work out in the field, you could be writing a blank check for them to cash in at their leisure. Accounting mistakes, oversights, or abuses can harm your business in many ways. Improper bookkeeping can lead to audits, unchecked rebates can lead to lost profits, and unwatched expenses can destroy your bottom line.

None of this is to say that you should be distrustful of your employees or associates. However, you should always keep a close eye on your assets and hire skilled professionals to handle your books. You can avoid some mistakes by simply keeping a closer eye on expense statements, catching discrepancies as they happen. For more complicated situations, hiring a professional CPA firm to handle books represents a viable solution. You know that ordering cut-rate materials or equipment will only damage your business down the line, so why would you take a chance with cut-rate financial oversight and management?

Incidentally, there are benefits to hiring a professional CPA beyond that of lessening the risk of an audit. When it comes time to handle the year’s taxes, you’re going to want to make sure that you receive every break that you can possibly get. With the archaic and complicated nature of the tax code, those breaks can remain hidden from all but the most experienced accounting professionals. A respected and established CPA may represent a significant cost to your business. The savings that a CPA brings in terms of finding breaks that less-experienced accountants may miss may make up the difference.

QuickBooks & HVAC Software

That said, there are a number of reasons why you might not want to bring in an outside party to handle your finances. Perhaps your business isn’t yet big enough to justify that investment. Perhaps you feel confident enough in your accounting abilities to balance the company’s books on your own. In these cases, making use of an accounting software solution like QuickBooks to help organize your finances and streamline your operations makes a lot of sense. Far from simple ledger software, QuickBooks can—among other things—track income and expenses, maximize tax deductions, invoice and accept payments, and manage your bills. The program also allows for easy sharing of your books, which allows for seamless collaboration between you and your accountant should you decide to hire one in the future.

One of the most exciting aspects of QuickBooks? The number of HVAC software programs that can pair with it. As an HVAC software for QuickBooks, Smart Service allows you to take control of your HVAC business in ways that you might not have thought possible. Time-consuming tasks prone to error—like scheduling, routing, and dispatching—are made worlds more efficient and accurate by this comprehensive and easy-to-use software solution. Billing mistakes that can haunt your business get eliminated with the integration of digital work orders that create invoices within QuickBooks. These represent but a few of the ways HVAC business software can streamline and simplify your operations. Many more HVAC software features have made it an indispensable tool for HVAC business owners everywhere.

Protect your HVAC Business With Better Accounting Practices

The thought of balancing your books can become an intimidating one, especially when doing so means taking into account all the factors that can affect the finances of your HVAC business. The risk of letting that responsibility fall by the wayside, however, is well-established. At best, you could lose out on deductions and on opportunities to make your business more efficient; at worst, accounting mistakes could cost you your livelihood. Avoid that risk by taking hold of your finances today!

Smart Service Scholarship Press Release

On September 20th, 2017 by

The recently-launched Smart Service Scholarship intends to help start young men and women on a careers path in a skilled trade or field service occupation. To help promote this exciting scholarship opportunity, we put out a press release today that will help put the scholarship in front of more eyes than ever before.

At Smart Service, we admire the work our customers do, and think that the career paths they took tend to get short shrift in a world that pushes young people towards four year colleges and liberal arts degrees. While traditional educational opportunities work out for some, we feel skilled trades and field service jobs can lead to just as much career satisfaction. That’s why we launched a scholarship dedicated to facilitating the skills/training associated with these jobs.

To learn more about the scholarship (or to apply) head to our scholarship page.

HVAC Service Technician Tool List

On September 14th, 2017 by

The most talented technician in the world can’t do anything for your company unless he or she has the tools required to meet your customers’ needs. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should feel obligated to outfit your technicians with every last thing they might need to complete a job; if they don’t even have a basic set of tools to start with, that’s a good sign that they’re not as committed to the craft as they might claim. That said, there are a few particularly expensive or specialized items that owners of HVAC businesses should provide for their employees in order to ensure that they remain completely prepared for whatever the day might throw at them.

Important Tools Needed By HVAC Technicians Out In The Field:

  • Reciprocating Saw Blades
  • Vacuum Pump
  • Mobile HVAC Software
  • Refrigerant Scale
  • Cordless Drill
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pipe Wrenches and Pliers
  • Tin Snips and Shears
  • Multi-Meter and Voltage Tester

Reciprocating Saw Blades

The ability of a reciprocating saw (also known by the brand name Sawzall) to cut through just about anything makes it a valuable and flexible tool that no HVAC technician should go without. Though your technician will likely purchase and maintain the saw itself, you’ll want to ensure that they choose a model with quality construction that will continue to work well through years of daily use. You’ll also want to provide the blades they’ll use, as the cost of keeping them in stock pales in comparison the cost of the time lost when you try to perform a complicated task with a dull blade.

Vacuum Pump

When you put refrigerant into a line with leaks, you basically just throw good money after bad. At best, this represents a waste of time and materials; at worst, it could lead to a failure of your client’s air conditioning system. The costly repairs it’ll take to fix the problem and the disintegration of that client’s trust in you will serve as a painful reminder of the importance of doing the job right the first time. That’s why you should provide each of your technicians with a reliable vacuum pump. The pump’s ability to suck moisture and air out of air conditioning lines can help them determine which lines have leaked before charging the system with refrigerant. The wide variety of models, however, can make it difficult to determine which pump suits the needs of your company and your technicians. This vacuum pump guide can help break down the differences between the models and give you the information you need to make a smart purchase.

Mobile HVAC Software

Though not a tool in the conventional sense, a comprehensive HVAC mobile software solution can count just as much for the success of your HVAC business as any of the items listed above. The quality of the work done by your technicians won’t mean a thing if you haven’t given them the tools they need to get to the job on time, provide quick and accurate estimates, or communicate effectively with your office/customers. You can get all that and much more with an HVAC software and mobile app solution that allows you to more efficiently manage every aspect of your HVAC business and that allows you to instantly provide your technicians with all the logistical information they need to provide your clients with top-of-the-line service. Schedules, contact information, equipment records, service histories and much more become available after a tap of the screen. Your technicians can focus on their work, which will leave you with the ability to focus on growing your business.

Refrigerant Scale

Those not familiar with the particulars of HVAC work might surprise themselves when they learn the precision of many of the tasks involved. Take, for example, the charging of an air conditioning system with refrigerant. If too little is provided, the system won’t be able to effectively maintain the temperature of its assigned space. Too much, on the other hand, creates a high-pressure system within the cooling equipment that can put a life-shortening strain on the compressor and lead to constant and costly maintenance issues. A refrigerant scale helps to address this issue by measuring the weight of refrigerant as it’s added to or removed from the unit’s compressor, giving your technician the necessary information to put in exactly as much as it needs. That same capability helps your technician to identify if the system suffers from a leak, allowing them the opportunity to fix a small problem before it becomes a giant hassle. As with vacuum pumps, a plethora of refrigerant scales exist; studying this breakdown of three of the most popular refrigerant scale models can give you a better idea of which scale best suits the needs of your business.

Cordless Drill with 2 Batteries

A cordless drill makes an essential HVAC tool for its portability, power, and versatility. Equip your technicians with a drill of at least 18 volts and do not forget a set of bits, including Phillips, hex, hole saws, and arbors. Keep at least two batteries on hand to help ensure that your technician’s drill can last the entire day without needing a charge.

Screwdrivers with Insulated Handles

Equip your HVAC technician with an arsenal of screwdrivers to prepare them for any HVAC situation. Your set should include a variety of Phillips, flat head, and hex screwdrivers in different sizes to accommodate the different screws and bolts used in HVAC systems. In many cases, a heavy-duty screw driver can serve multiple uses, including prying apart venting. Make sure to also find screwdrivers that have insulated handles, so as to prevent the risk of electrical shock.

Pipe Wrenches and Pliers

While more commonly associated with plumbing, a set of pipe wrenches can work on many HVAC systems involving natural gas line and connections to plumbing. For smaller connections and to better manipulate wiring, keep a set of pliers handy, including needle-nose, channel-lock, open-face, wire strippers, and linesman pliers. Finding pliers with insulated handles reduces the risk of electrical shock.

Tin Snips and Shears

In HVAC, you must own the tools necessary for manipulating sheet metal. Make sure that your HVAC techs equip themselves with all three types of tin snips, including straight aviators, lefts (reds), and rights (greens). Each type of tin snip allows for different positioning and cut direction for better precision. For longer, straight line cuts, a strong pair of steel shears with an insulated handle can help your tech get the job done.

Multi-Meter and Voltage Tester

Safety is incredibly important when your HVAC team works out on the field. Since HVAC systems are very much connected to electrical systems, it is imperative that your techs are equipped with electrical testers to verify the presence of live wires, measure voltage, measure resistance, and quickly conduct other electrical tests out in the field. Electrical mishaps not only endanger the safety of your tech, they can also lead to devastating damage to your customer.

Prepare Your HVAC Team for Success!

The wide variety of work that falls under the HVAC umbrella means that your technicians will need a great deal of support in order to ensure that they can handle any job that comes their way. Providing them with the above tools will go a long way towards doing just that. Curious about other steps you can take to secure the effectiveness of your technicians and the growth of your business? Request a free demo of Smart Service to see how a comprehensive HVAC software solution can position your team for success!

Future Trends for the Field Service Industry

On September 12th, 2017 by

Smart business owners—no matter their industry—know that remaining relevant in the future means staying aware of the growing trends of their trade and adjusting their organization accordingly. As an owner or manager of a field service company, you’ve seen for yourself the massive changes that the industry has undergone in just the past decade. You also know that the only constant is change, that technology will become more and more important to field service operations, and that your clients’ needs will continue to evolve. Though we can’t offer you a peek into a crystal ball, we can provide some predictions from some of the most trusted experts in the field on how the industry will develop in the coming years.

Top Trends of the Field Service Industry:

Connectivity and Smart Devices

More and more products come with built-in Internet connectivity, allowing for remote manipulation and monitoring by Internet-connected devices. Imagine how useful that technology could become once integrated into the items common to your field service business. An HVAC company, for example, could install an air management system that can send a signal to you or your client when one of its components nears the verge of failure. A plumbing business could use “smart” pipes that track the flow of water to determine exactly where a blockage has occurred. The possibilities are limitless and incredibly exciting.

There is a drawback, however. No doubt you’ve seen stories regarding how items with Internet connectivity get used—either by bad actors or by the company that sold the product—to gather information on the user of that item. Some reports concern items of this nature getting used as a gateway into the larger network of the home or business owner, putting their sensitive personal and financial information at risk. When the time comes for you to consider whether to integrate “smart” items into your business, choose models that offer outstanding security. No level of efficiency is worth endangering you or your clients.

Automation of Operations

Another society-wide technological trend? Automation. When you hear that word, you might automatically imagine a machine replacing the job that a technician once held, but don’t worry; technology still can’t replicate the detail-oriented skills practiced daily by your hardworking team. In terms of field service, automation refers to the management of data that one used to have to sort through manually. Instead of searching through filing cabinets for a client’s information, you can now simply type their name into a computer to bring up their whole history with your company. As automation becomes more sophisticated, so too will the data available at your fingertips. This gives you and your technicians the opportunity to more effectively service your clients and provide them with more value-add selling options.

This has, of course, already been implemented to some degree. Field service companies that make use of specialized field service management software have enjoyed a significant streamlining of their operations and the increased sales that come with it. Software of this type allows you to, from your computer, set schedules and routes, dispatch tasks to your technicians, manage finances and inventory, and so much more. A paired mobile field service app, meanwhile, allows your employees to use their smartphone or tablet to create estimates, collect signatures, track equipment, and bring up client service histories. You can’t replace the skills your technicians bring to the table, but, with a comprehensive field service software solution, you can make sure that those skills get put to their best use.

Effortless Mobility

Proper mobility has become a must for any successful field service company. If you can’t get to a job quickly and at the scheduled time, your clients will find someone who can. Technology, however, has expanded the definition of mobility as we know it. “There was too much traffic” or “I didn’t realize the job had been canceled” are no longer, in most cases, acceptable reasons for your technician to fail to appear somewhere on time. Though the navigational abilities of smartphones and similar devices provide ways around issues of this nature, the basic capabilities of these instruments often fail to address every hiccup your technicians might encounter. To ensure you remain part of the future, you will need a field service software solution that allows you to use your technology to its fullest potential.

While the simple scheduling and dispatching interface of field service scheduling software eliminates double bookings and wasted time, the real boost it provides to your company’s mobility comes with its capabilities to help you and your technicians react to any situation. Change in the schedule? With a tap of a button, every concerned technician gets notified at once. Route to the next job blocked by traffic? Integrated GPS software allows the user to find the quickest path to any destination. Unsure where an employee has gone? The ability to track their movements will help you determine where they went and help you get them back on track. Mobility means more than being in the right place at the right time; it also means the ability to do your job once you’re there. Technology has made that more apparent than ever, and as the field service industry evolves, so too will the technological solutions devised to keep up with those changes.

Stay Ahead of the Game With Field Service Software

Considering the future of your industry can become confusing and intimidating if you don’t know which way the wind will blow. You can get a head start on that future, however, by making use of the best technology available in the present. Start with moving to a field service software and mobile app. With more and more of the field service industry going digital, keeping yourself aware of upcoming trends and adopting a proactive plan can keep your business ahead of the game. Don’t know where to start? Try a free demo of Smart Service to see how easily you can streamline your field service operations. Take advantage of the modern features that improve productivity!

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