Software Puts the Punch in Scheduling Service and Maintenance

Software offerings keep integrators on task to profitability

Integrators know repeat sales can be the easiest and most gratifying. The customer has a comfort zone with the integrator and both parties have established mutual trust. Repeat customers who go for new services or upgrades are also stickier; they most likely will stay with a company they are satisfied and happy with.

The challenge for the integrator, then, is how to keep that relationship blossoming. Customers appreciate being aware of updates, maintenance schedules and service intervals. The latest generation of software programs not only helps integrators dispatch technicians and price service or maintenance competitively but also smoothes the sales process.

“Software helps you schedule your time and people,” said Mike Miller, vice president of Moon Security Services Inc., Pasco, Wash. “You’ve got to have it.”

Miller said he loves the software because information is always within view and readable. “Time is not wasted looking for it,” he said.

Before going to their current software, they juggled three databases; before that, it was a card file with service calls organized by month. Their SedonaOffice version has brought them a long way, organizing service calls by date created, date scheduled, problem codes, technician scheduled, city, priority level and even which branch handled the ticket.

“If we want to do 20 fire inspections in September, by the end of July we want to know which customers we need to call, what our pricing will be and which technicians will do the calls,” Miller said. “Then we get the customers scheduled.”

Scheduling, organizing and more
These days, said Michael Marks, co-founder of SedonaOffice, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, scheduling is only one piece of a complicated puzzle. “Software should provide efficiency and knowledge,” he said. “When you get into scheduling, the big picture is work order and service order management,” Marks added. Work orders are new projects that may take days or weeks; service orders maintain the customer base and may be handled at the rate of three to five per day.

“What is missing is the holistic view of the integrator’s marketplace,” said John Graham, executive vice president, Solutions360 Inc. The firm has offices in Downers Grove, Ill., and Newmarket, Can. “Too many integrators are having their lunch eaten by guys who never were in the security space before,” he added, pointing to the pure computer operators, telecommunicatins outfits with VoIP expertise and CRM gurus.

With good software, integrators can manage the customer relationship from the day the sales person drops off a business card through estimates, installation, service calls and contract renewal, Graham said.

“Before, we were small enough to know the job and know the right guy to send,” said Harty Norris, chairman of Norris Inc., South Portland, Maine. “As things get bigger, you have to manage your business better.”

Norris uses a combination of Project System from Dove Net Technologies LLC, Frederick, Md., and Microsoft Outlook. “We make work orders with Dove Net and we e-mail out of Outlook to our techs’ BlackBerries,” said Norris.

Project System is a business operating software for contractors that does estimating, proposals, service tickets, inventory, purchase orders, billing, job costing, electronic service tickets, scheduling and other functions to boost productivity, according to Tony Nasca, president of Dove Net Technologies.

“Our system caters to both small and large companies. Our average user count is about nine employees with the highest being 80,” Nasca added.

Whether purchased in a single package or as modules, today’s scheduling software handles all of those aspects. Some packages even display billable conditions—allowing the dispatcher to let customers know that a service call after 5 p.m. falls outside normal contract hours and will incur separate additional billing, or that their service contract expires in 30 days and needs to be renewed.

Remote scheduling and GPS
GPS-enabled scheduling programs show the location of the nearest technician and allow dispatch to set reasonable expectations when scheduling calls.

This content continues onto the next page...