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Software and web optimization

Departments - Ask the Experts

ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry. Have a question for the experts? Send it to llexperts@gie.net.

| May 6, 2011

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.

Q1. Currently, we are using QXpress in conjunction with QuickBooks to do our scheduling and billing. Is there a way to send the schedule to crew supervisors, who would be equipped with a smartphone or similar device, and have them record the job and send the information back to the office for billing and payroll?

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.
You now have access to Web-based CRM tools, and business management software companies are integrating it as part of their package. There are some things you’ll need to put the CRM software tools into motion. These tools should track the responses and actions of customers, employees and others involved in your business relationships and be able to analyze the data.
By obtaining this valuable feedback, you can develop relationships and improve communication, which will help with repeat business through greater customer satisfaction.

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.
If you have a plan, but are only able to implement the plan one step at a time due to budgetary constraints, a consultant can work with you to identify which level requires the most attention upfront to get the ball rolling. L&L

Rob Diaz
Land Care, Inc., Las Vegas

 

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