I'll never forget sitting at an event last year called Contractor University, put together by a group named EGIA when a man, let's call him Brett, approached me to ask about our company, Pointman. He was looking for software to help run his service company better, but he said something that rocked me. He said "I came here to find software, but I'm going to head home even more confused than when I started." Ouch! The lot of us hadn't helped. In fact, we'd made it worse! Thank goodness we happened to be hosting an open happy hour, which was a fine backdrop to provide what he really needed, a good listener.
I couldn't have asked for a better conversation, and it was clear that I had to share some big takeaways from my time with Brett.
1. There is such thing as too much!
When you look at all the service management software on the market, most (all?) advertise as the simplest, fastest, and easiest to use. It's no wonder contractors walk away with such a headache. What happens with most software over time is that lots of changes are made to accommodate complex customer requests, expanding the scope of the original software and creating something that's both overly complicated and filled with more features than most companies would ever need to run a better business. Honestly, if you have to look at 150 reports to run your business, something's wrong! That level of minutia leads to failure. I like to use Microsoft's Excel as an example. There are nearly 500 functions built into Excel, however, most skilled Excel users use ten to twenty of them.
Before taking features into account ask yourself some questions.
- What am I really trying to accomplish?
- When my dispatchers take calls, am I giving them the tools to create a world-class experience for the customer on the other end?
- When my techs are in a customer's home, am I giving them all they need to provide a clearly differentiated level of service from my competitors?
100% of the time, the tools to do those are not the most complex.
2. It's actually NOT all about the software
If you're shopping for software these days you've probably heard companies describe themselves as SaaS or Software-as-a-Service. Nearly every business problem you can dream of seems to have software or an app that claims to be a solution. So much of how software is built and delivered has changed in the last few years, and it will continue to change. The big secret most software companies don't want to talk about is that each new wave of tech rarely creates long-lasting product differentiation. That is, when something works, every company rushes to copy it and that cycle repeats itself. So, what then creates a better experience? In a word, experience. Not the company's, but yours and your customers. When you work with a company that can repeatedly create frictionless experiences, you've found a winner.
In our conversation Brett mentioned that a prominent field service management company he'd spoken with was overly caught up on the technology and he felt little attention was being paid to the service side of the business. A number of his colleagues, he said, had shared with him stories about months-long on-boarding times or working with people who clearly didn't have much (or any) industry experience. The software seemed fine, but the service told the whole story.
Preferences aside (vertical vs horizontal call boards, colors, etc) much of the software on the market essentially provides the same functionality. Nearly all will schedule and dispatch and invoice and provide some level of CRM and history, etc. and all that stuff is important, but again, most all software in the space has it. What's really important in picking HVAC management software is the company gives the best service and content along with the software. Just like your business and its best customers, it's about a relationship. If you can find a company that understands your challenges, that is willing to share in your risk, that genuinely wants to help you grow because they believe in Main St. businesses, work with them. I suggest you work with a company that has to earn your business every month, with no contracts, and no conditions - plain and simple.
3. All software breaks, but that's exactly how life works
I swear it's true. Every piece of software out there breaks. It's true for Apple, it's true to Microsoft, it's true for NASA - it's a fact, full stop.
Think about a time (and forget about software for a minute) when something didn't go to plan, or something that you tried to do didn't work. I'm going to assume that you took active steps to get better, you didn't stop, quit, and go home. You see, the best aren't the best because everything they do goes to plan the first time. They're the best because they respond better than others when plans fall through. To shamelessly steal a line from Rocky, "it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward." You simply can't expect technology, software in particular, to always work as planned. So, have a plan. What are you going to do when it doesn't work? How do you move forward gracefully when software doesn't go as planned? Do your techs, dispatchers, managers, and admins know what "plan B" is? They should!
So how does that translate to picking software to manage your business? Well..
- Is the company more than a software company?
- Can they help with Plan B?
- When it happens, how do you get back on track?
- How does information make it into the software after some downtime?
Our company, Pointman, has been helping residential and commercial plumbing, HVAC, and electrical contractors grow and run more profitable service businesses for over twelve years. We've provided operations management software and on-the-ground consulting to thousands of contractors across the US and Canada.
Conversations with Bretts of the world are what keep me going. I love talking to people who are masters at what they do, and I am humbled when they let me join them on their road to success.
Yours in Service,