One of the consistent themes we hear from our service contractor customers is how expensive, slow, and cumbersome basic administrative tasks become when they attempt to scale their business with their on-premise PC server-based applications. Scheduling, inventory management, billing, payroll, customer service requests – all of these activities seem to get choked up with an administrative staff that always needs more capacity and ultimately holds the business hostage to the arcane knowledge that is trapped in their head regarding “how things work around here.” Progress and growth in the business grinds to a halt because the administrative burden becomes so complex. The mantra of the business becomes “don’t change anything because we can’t profitably manage what we have going already.” or “Grow? Grow! Are you kidding? Everytime we grow we lose money!”
The primary reason for this calcification of process and the resulting steady escalation of administration expense is the application structure – all communication and information MUST run through the office to be processed. Traffic cannot “flow” without being directed by a “traffic cop” sitting inside the office. Every car has to get attention when it hits the traffic circle, and all other cars must wait until the cars ahead are pushed through. Plus, batches of traffic show up at rush hour (in the morning and in the evening) and further clog up the highway, preventing progress until it is processed out. The key to breaking this miserable traffic jam in the office is to create a continuous flow of work that is not constantly interrupted by the need for “immediate” communication. Getting continuous flow means eliminating the daily phone rodeo and migrating from physical paper to digital data.
Stop the “Phone Call Rodeo”
The only calls you want burning up the phone lines in your office are either customers with an urgent need or happy customers calling to gush about the service they just received. All the other calls simply interrupt the workflow and prevent forward progress. If instead, all the information from the techs arrives in a queue where it is visible, actionable, and subject to prioritization, it will get handled with much higher efficiency. In the same manner that processing through an email queue is easier than taking an equivalent number of calls, processing through real time update information in ServiceTrade is easier than taking all those update calls. A phone ringing provides no information until you interrupt your work, accept the call, hear the situation, then triage your response. A dispatch board with visual cues on status (enroute and distance, arrived, photo memo, audio memo, problem found, etc) allows the work to flow without the interruptions and real time triage. Instead of one dispatch person for every 6 – 8 techs, you move toward best in class where one dispatcher can handle 15 – 18 techs.
Migrate to Digital Data
The biggest problem with paper is not the bad handwriting and lack of professionalism displayed to the customer (although these are issues which create other problems). The problem with paper is that it is slow and clogs up the office with administrative tasks that are cumbersome and batch oriented. When digital data arrives continuously through the day and it is organized in a manner that makes it actionable, you can close out more jobs faster and get the invoice to the customer faster (in the field if you like). Which means you get paid faster. When you stop being the payroll bank because you have effectively aligned your billing and collections with your service expenses, you can give yourself a raise from the enhanced cash flow.
The other “side” benefits of this streamlining and continuous flow include:
- Burning Less Fuel – when you can complete the job and invoice without dropping the paper at the office, you burn less fuel.
- Performing More Jobs – when your techs don’t have to call the office for updates and instructions, they deliver more jobs per month. When they know their activities and performance can be monitored in the office via digital data, they deliver more jobs per month.
- Spending Less on Paper and Postage – triplicate paper and stamps for invoices are expensive. When your job data is digital along with your invoices, you save money on these items.
All of these are simple changes that enable you to give yourself a raise. Isn’t it about time?!