Q: I have a design/build and maintenance company. On the maintenance side, we have about 300 clients. We do about $1 million a year in sales, but I have four areas of my business that I am trying to improve. Before re-inventing the wheel, I would like to see if anyone has some thoughts and ideas to help steer me in the right direction.
A: There are several routing and business management software programs that are capable of taking a customer from start to finish without printing a single piece of paper. Some will use a smartphone (HTC, Android, iPhone, PDA), and even iPad is being thrown in the mix. Most, if not all of the service software companies, understand the need to have the mobile communication for dispatching, routing and invoicing. Business management software has hit the market hard and strong as the customer is demanding, better, faster and more efficient products so they can do the job in a leaner, cleaner, efficient way. PLANET has partners who offer fully integrated business management software, and they offer demonstrations online that give you the opportunity to experience the software before you purchase it. Taking advantage of these demos is strongly suggested before making your software investment.
Q2. Is there industry-specific estimating software that will help me improve and streamline this process? In QuickBooks, I have a number of memorized estimates based on the type of job, where I drop in the different quantities and include the estimated time for each activity. But this can be fairly time consuming. Is there a way to do a price check, then go to one place, drop in the prices and have everything automatically updated?
A: Estimating is high tech; software companies have taken the details of the estimator’s complicated spreadsheet and integrated it in easy-to-use estimating modules. This streamlines your estimating process to make it faster, and consistent, so that more of your staff is able to step in and help when needed.
Q3. Because I provide customized services, I have dozens of different categories of service. I would love to be able to access a database at any time, look at a client and know exactly what we do for them, or when it comes time for a preemerge lawn treatment, push a button and access all the clients and also know how much product to order for a particular job. What’s the best way to set up a client database that can be used to facilitate this?
A. Another strong aspect of a good business management software is the ‘customer relationship management’ or CRM. CRM is a strategy that focuses on how you interact with your customers. Traditionally, only larger enterprises could think about implementing CRM. But today, all businesses are realizing the importance of this technology.
Q.4 I’d like to turn our website into a sales and marketing machine. What is the best way to go about this?
A: A good marketing company or consultant should know how to take your website to the next level. Today’s business websites need to be interactive and ever changing to maintain customer attention. They should be positioned in search engines and provide feedback data that can be used to fine tune your marketing, making you the most visible in your marketing area. Driving the customer to your website as the resource in your area is the key, and working within your business plan and budget can be accomplished on several different levels.