How to Solve Office Challenges and Improve Operations in a Service and Specialty Contractor

Specialty versus General Contracting

Service and specialty contractors have complex and highly specialized business needs. Examples of these types of contractors include: electrical, HVAC, plumbing, roofing, siding and sheet metal, landscaping, painting, carpentry, concrete, excavation, drywall, masonry and flooring.

In contrast to general contractors, who typically focus on longer term, large-scale jobs, service and specialty-oriented companies have many more specialized jobs to bid, manage, and execute. They have to juggle customer requests, coordinate service schedules, track parts, and manage a fleet of trucks; all of which must be done as effectively and efficiently as possible to ensure quality service subs-toolswhile maintaining maximum profitability.

In a tough economy, service and specialty contractors are intently focused on reducing costs by maximizing their team’s efficiency. They want to take advantage of the newest technologies so they can streamline their operations and optimize customer service. The leaner their business processes, the more productive their teams can be. So, they’re looking to simplify operations by employing tools that enforce accountability while tracking business performance.

Service and specialty contractors looking to identify potential cost reductions and productivity improvements should first examine their information systems and related business processes. Many contractors experience difficulty with one or more of the following in their systems and processes:

  • Lack of Integration – Using multiple applications or manual processes
  • Error prone multiple data entry points
  • Tedious Workflow due to high volume and complexity of jobs and agreements
  • Difficulty managing complex inventory (e.g. parts, multiple locations)
  • Purchasing of equipment, parts coordinated with inventory, accounting and service
  • Poor equipment tracking and management
  • Communication breakdowns between staff, dispatch and back office teams
  • Dispatching the right technician with the right skills for the right amount of time
  • Payroll complexity
  • Difficulty making billing adjustments, and billing schedule

How Technology Can Solve Problems

Software is currently available that provides integration across purchasing, inventory, service management, accounting and other functional disciplines. Benefits include improved access to data, improved workflow and accuracy, and better inter-team communication. Here’s what you should look for in a top notch software package for service and specialty contractors:

  • Complicated importing and exporting of data and bouncing back and forth from one software application to another are eliminated.
  • Applications improve customer service by allowing dispatch to respond to incoming service calls, manage field technicians and process work orders and bills from a single work space.
  • Modern, easy-to-use interfaces are intuitive and flexible. Layouts can be customized. Navigation is accomplished using process maps and Outlook-style menus.
  • Work spaces provide interactive inquiries so users can easily work with their data. An example might be to examine a client site, edit trip data, and drill down to associated purchase orders or invoices within that work space.
  • Information is stored in a centralized database providing the flexibility for remote access and add-on application integration. Automated and web-deployed updates help IT departments save time and cut costs.
  • Process maps provide a visual representation of everyday role or department processes that simplify training.
  • Critical financial and cost information is easy to access so users can quickly make important decisions and manage the bottom line.

iPad and Mobile Technology

Mobile technology is improving communication between service technicians, office and dispatcher with on-line real-time access to schedule changes and GPS location data. As a result, technicians always know where to go and what to do. Techs are also capturing more business opportunities in the field.

How to Find the Right Technology and Solution Provider

You want a company with deep industry and business process expertise and a proven track record; one that can focus on creating a long-term relationship to create knowledge and usability of their systems. They can assign the right people, skills and technologies to help you improve your performance.

Before you decide on a solution provider look for the following:

Superior Implementation Methods

Refined methods for implementation, training and support services must include conducting a needs analysis to determine the solution and critical path schedule for a successful implementation while communicating progress at every step.  Pre-built standard implementation methods reduce the time and resources needed for a successful software migration. You want a company with proven experience in specialty and service business operations, one that can provide:

  • Software implementation, training and support services focused on the construction industry.
  • Specialized material and resource database development for estimating and procurement.
  • Hardware and network integration.
  • Outsourcing with third parties or applications that specialize in your trade for creating maximum value to core competencies.

Best Practices

Experienced professionals deliver innovative solutions to assist in transforming your organization’s finance function, using best practice in finance management to achieve improved business performance.

Human Performance

The ideal company will help you define roles for each employee within the office workflow for increasing productivity and eliminating unnecessary costs.

Trust and Value

The lowest price is not always the best value. Look for a company you can trust to be there over the long haul; a company providing services that add value to your solution:

  • Personalized Service – A company that wants to know you and your capabilities and resources for getting your business where you want it to go.
  • Real-Time Answers – If your system needs attention yesterday, the ability to log into your systems and give you a helping hand.
  • Reports You Need and Use – Consultants skilled at creating customized reports.
  • Local and Regional Training and Seminars – Face-to-face and online skills improvement.
  • Communication –Publishes an email newsletter or blog with technical tips and schedules of upcoming classes and software enhancements.
  • Users Groups – Has local and/or national users group to learn from other users and create informal learning chains.
  • Hardware and Network Support –Works with local and national Information Technology companies to share resources and knowledge of customer’s technology environments and recommend reputable companies.

Backed by Software Industry Leaders –Represents only the best in class software for the service and specialty contractors industry.

The ideal solution provider will work closely with you to develop the scope and standards of the services you require.  They will incorporate substantial capability improvements and cost reductions into an innovative solution that meets your needs.  They will apply pioneering process improvements and standardized leading-edge technologies to create and sustain business value.

What can you expect for your service and specialty contracting business?  Finding the right technology and the right solution provider  will likely result in streamlined financial operations coupled with substantial and sustained operating cost savings; transformational business outcomes with less risk, less capital and faster timelines.

Need Some Qualified Help?

Ledgerwood Associates has been helping construction companies with technology solutions for over 40 years! Call us at 480-423-8300 to get started on finding software based on the construction job!