Contractors Love Their Indispensable Tech
Originally published: 07.01.17 by David Heimer
I’m addicted to my Fitbit. It’s ridiculous, but true. If I’m walking our dog and discover that I left my Fitbit at home, I have to interrupt the walk and return immediately to get the Fitbit. What’s the purpose of walking if I get no credit for it with Fitbit?
It’s like the proverbial tree falling in the woods; if I walk and it’s not recorded on Fitbit, did I really walk? It’s funny how, since I got my first Fitbit, it’s moved from an interesting novelty to something that’s “indispensable.” All of this attention for what is essentially a pedometer and a heartbeat sensor.
My “smart” phone is even more firmly in the indispensable category. I suspect that’s true for everyone. If your smartphone breaks, you’re going to hustle down to the store and get a replacement immediately.
This “indispensable” technology really got me thinking. I didn’t have a Fitbit a few years ago. Today, I’d be sad to not have one. I wondered what other new technology will become (or has already become) indispensable for HVACR contractors. I asked people in our industry and got some great recommendations.
If a photo’s worth a thousand words, having CompanyCam ought to be worth millions.
Humans are a visually oriented species. Good contractors know it’s faster and easier to demonstrate and explain to a homeowner when you’re using a visual aid. Taking pictures is a great way to create the visual aids. But organizing them, saving for later retrieval, geo-tagging the picture and documenting the picture is non-trivial. That’s what makes CompanyCam so brilliant.
CompanyCam automatically documents who took the picture, where it was taken, when it was taken and organizes the picture folders for you based on the geo-tag (the location).
You can draw on and caption the pictures. The pictures are instantly available to your home office team AND your field team. Here’s a feature I think merits extra kudos: CompanyCam keeps personal pictures separate from work photos. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why that’s important, right?
The contractors I know who use CompanyCam all give it a full, 5-star rating. Is it indispensable? Shannon Bartlett, VP and CFO for Bartlett Heating & Cooling told me a great story about using CompanyCam to document terrible duct system problems for a homeowner.
“We use it for both Service and Installation,” Shannon says. “I would hate to not have it any more.”
There are many reasons to offer customer service “chat” on your website, but to me it boils down to four primary reasons:
Convenience: Potential customers cruise the internet all hours of the day and night. They want information on their schedule, not yours. And many people (myself included) would rather chat online than pick up the phone and call. If you make it convenient for your customers to contact you, they will contact you more often.
Avoid Customer Annoyance: You mean I can skip phone menus, phone hold time and voice mail? Sign me up.
Sales: Online chat increases sales!
Competitive Advantage: I randomly searched for HVACR service companies in different cities in the USA. Only 20 percent offer online chat.
But, manning your own chat system 24/7 is difficult, and the generic chat systems don’t have “chatters” who understand our industry. That’s why I like HomeServiceChats.
They’re experts in providing chat support for the residential service industry, and provide a turnkey service at a reasonable price. All of their chatters are located in the USA, so the cultural communication issues are minimized.
Trevor Flannigan, chief operating officer for HomeServiceChats told me another reason why online chat is indispensable: “We help deaf customers all the time. It’s a daily occurrence for our clients, and once you provide that convenient method of communication you have a customer for life.”
I’m intrigued by Slack. I’ve been using email since the 1980s and have seen a variety of would-be “email killers” — but email always survives. And while I don’t think Slack is a complete email killer, it could cut down the email volume considerably.
Slack integrates communication and collaboration. Think of it as a combination of instant messaging, SMS, email, voice calling and video conferencing — all archived and searchable, with a simple but sophisticated file storage system.
All the communications and files are organized by “channels.” Channels are organized by groups, departments, projects, interests or whatever else makes sense. Subscribe to whatever channels to which you need access.
Slack is particularly good for dispersed teams. An increasing percentage of office teams work from home or from different facilities. In our industry, we have a mix of field staff and office staff, and so rarely have the entire team in one place.
In these dispersed work situations, communication becomes more difficult. Slack makes all that easier, and, since it works on all platforms (desktops, laptops, tablets, phone, Windows, Apple and Android) it means you can easily participate wherever you are.
Christy Fiveash, vice president of operations for Shubee is a huge fan.
“I really love it. It’s easy to use, feels like a social interaction with the ability to react to team members’ posts,” she says. “You can also upload PDF, Excel, Word, and other documents that can be accessible at any time.”
Christy made another great point about Slack: it’s FREE (unless you want some of the more advanced features).
Check out Slack, if you haven’t already. For many people, like Christy, it’s indispensable.
There you have it: three new indispensable technologies (four, if you count my Fitbit!) What new technology is indispensable for you?