Not yet taking advantage of computerized scheduling, dispatching and other daily business tasks? Here are two Web-based solutions, which could get you to erase the whiteboard for good.
Aimed at helping small- to mid-sized field service businesses, and customizable for HVAC service contractors, each solution includes capabilities designed to facilitate customer relationship management and job scheduling, dispatching, tracking, billing and invoicing entirely through the Internet. The applications can handle multiple location operations. With either solution, the developer/host maintains the software and hardware for a very affordable monthly fee. There is nothing to download or install — users log in from any computer, laptop or PDA connected to the Internet in the office or in the field, or before or after hours at home.
Bella Solutions Field Service Software v. 4.2, www.bellasolutions.com, supports company customization of estimate, work order and invoice PDF forms with company logo, terms and conditions, and other defined inputs for a minimal fee: $49 per month for the first user, and $10 per month for each additional user (a free trial is available).
The program enables scheduling of emergency, one-time, multi-visit or periodically recurring jobs with drag and drop appointments. Management can schedule by viewing the availability of an individual technician or by an available date and time on the calendar.
Diverse calendar views support viewing of schedules for individual field resources, groups or the entire company by day, week and month. A color coded calendar allows users to identify assigned employees, vendors, location zones and job status at a glance, which can be an aid in fitting in additional work. Users can schedule recurring appointments daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. The application integrates with Google Maps for easy viewing and printing of driving directions to customer locations. It also features a personal dashboard for each technician that displays only his or her assigned jobs and to-do list.
If a technician in the field carries an Internet-connected mobile phone or PDA, a scheduler can send a text message alert of any new or updated job appointment. The technician, in turn, can update real-time information, including labor hours and job costs from the field. In addition, Internet-enabled technicians in the field can create a job estimate onsite, during a service call.
Customer relationship management capabilities include contacts, locations and job history details, including labor hours, expenses, materials, equipment and notes. Equipment tracking, including make, model, serial number and full service history and warranty information, can also be attached to a specific job and work order.
Accounting features include the ability to create invoices for a completed job or for partial payment, and to track open, outstanding and paid invoices. If a company prefers, transactions can be exported to QuickBooks or other accounting software.
Contractors can give approved customers online access through a special customer portal, for an additional $25 per month per 100 customers, which provides numerous self-service options such as requesting a new job or viewing open work orders or job history details.
VaZing Web-based service solution for HVAC, www.vazing.com, offers similar scheduling and dispatch capabilities and starts at $99 per month for unlimited users with pricing that adjusts to the size of a business (a free trial is available).
The application features a drag and drop dispatch board. Users can design and save customized calendar views based on their own criteria. An estimate form builder helps in building and delivering a formal professional estimate to prospective customers. One click can convert a winning bid into a scheduled job, eliminating duplicated data entry. Users can add unlimited custom fields to store information about customers, jobs, employees and invoices.
VaZing can handle line-item discounting by percentage or fixed amount discounts, and apply that to work orders and invoices. The program creates professional looking invoices, including invoices for jobs that span multiple phases — days, crews and jobsites. Closed work orders instantly turn into customizable professional looking invoices with company logo and customized terms.
Billing history is viewable several ways with options including open and closed invoices, current balances, aged accounts receivables, and payments with detailed drill down and printing capabilities.
VaZing also offers complete accounts receivable management with issue and due-date tracking, aging and customizable AR reporting. The application provides a system of checks and balances directly into the accounting console where companies can manage their cash and receivables. The QuickBook's Connector automatically writes the customer information and invoicing directly into QuickBooks when the transaction is completed.
The solution's business management processes can also include customer satisfaction tracking, real-time customer relationship management, customer Web access, and an employee management module for incentive programs, raises and career advancement opportunities.
Other capabilities address marketing campaign management, which enables easy evaluation of effectiveness of various marketing efforts; sales pipeline management, which provides a way to manage sales opportunities and hold sales reps accountable for activity and performance; and various aspects of customer relationship management.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.