Field service management software is critical to managing operations for HVAC companies. As it is the case with any software, it requires updating with time, to reflect the changes in technology and the business environment. However, most HVAC companies are caught in their operational trap. They remain busy with their day-to-day operations, oblivious to their HVAC software turning redundant gradually. Over time, the installed HVAC field service software breeds inefficiency and becomes incompatible to match the changing demands of the business and customers. Even when decision-makers are aware of the need to upgrade software, the hassles of change-induced disruption and extra work that any major software upgrade puts them off. Many managers prefer to ad-hocism for short-term expediency, oblivious to the long-term dangers such measures bring about. Every single day HVAC decision makers put off upgrading their field service software is an opportunity and revenue lost.
However, the moot point is when to go in for an upgrade?
The day-to-day operations of an HVAC company are challenging. The nature of the work requires keeping track of multiple fluid parameters such as technician movements, the progress of pending jobs, logging and scheduling new service requests, invoicing, responding to leads promptly, and more. A well-integrated HVAC field service software is indispensable for the managers and supervisors to remain in control of the situation, regardless of the size of the business.
Allocating technicians to jobs and tracking progress in an old-fashioned way, using telephones and Excel spreadsheets is a recipe for disaster, inviting errors and inefficiencies. Without a smart software, businesses remain incapable of seizing the moment and serve the customer to satisfaction, in today’s highly fast-paced world.
A tell-tale sign of when to opt for software in the first place, or upgrade from incumbent software to advance software is customer satisfaction indexes. Visible signs of the software not doing what it is required include frequent complaints of delays, technicians having to visit a site more than once frequently, the ROI on technicians is lipping due to them attending lesser than desired calls, and more. In such eventualities, which often manifest in the form of customer complaints and poor feedback, it is time to take a close look at the HVAC software.
HVAC systems require replacements and overhaul over time. Most HVAC equipment has a life-span of 15-20 years. Larger and newer equipment have a shorter life-span. For establishments, keeping the old systems running is highly inefficient, costs more operationally, and results in frequent breakdowns.
For an HVAC maintenance company, a season when many of their clients go in for major equipment overhaul is also a good time to review where the HVAC management software stands, and consider the necessary upgrades. Co-opting state-of-the-art HVAC software and systems would enable providing highly advanced support, co-opting the latest technological upgrades and possibilities in the new systems. For instance, a new software could capture data from IoT sensors, or sync mobile apps through which field technicians could collaborate better.
Even when the business is not in a crisis or fire-fighting mode, the business cannot afford to be complacent. A periodic audit, factoring in whether the software co-opts the latest technologies, complies with the latest security standards, and meets the desired standards of operational efficiency is always a good idea.
In the US, the cooling season is over by September, and this time is best to conduct a software audit, to assess the state of the software.
Evaluate the extent to which the HVAC software meets business requirements. Consider if the software automates key processes without the workforce having to make manual ad-hoc adjustments. Filing reports, making log entries, capturing vital performance data and more are all critical to both efficiency and customer satisfaction. Automating the capture of such data, by leveraging smartphone features such as camera, and by auto-populating forms spares the technicians’ considerable time, allowing them to service more equipment in the limited time available.
Use analytics to decipher if field service staff is able to close service requests in one visit, or require resource raining repeat visit. Efficient software, co-opting the latest technologies such as IoT and sensors, which aids the field service technician in terms of ability to contact the master-technician at the office, get information from the equipment regarding the malfunctioning part before setting out and other vital cues help the technician close the visit during the single visit.
Take feedback from customers, benchmark competitors and best in class peers, and keep abreast of latest technologies. Take the field service executives into confidence. Prepare a blueprint of the changes required.
Having decided on the need to change or upgrade, the decision-makers need to consider when to implement it.
HVAC business is seasonal. Business wise, the post-summer period of lull is the best time to take stock of the business operations and make any changes. Software upgrades invariably required e-learning new systems and training the workers on the new scheme of things. Such disruption, where time invariably has to be taken off from the core activities, is best done during such periods of lull, when the workforce, right from managers to field service staff would have time on their hands.
The winter months of October, November, and December are the best time to plan the changes and implement it. Ideally, the periods immediately after Christmas is the time to test-run the new software and go live. Any software changes may attract glitches and sufficient time needed to be allotted to iron out the glitches. It is a good idea to let the old systems, especially the UI run in tandem with the new one for a while. However, make sure the system runs in optimal condition before the start of the peak season by March.
Making changes to HVAC software is best done by a partner who has a sound grounding in the business, and who has proven expertise in working with business managers. This will not only ensure the least disruption to core business operations during the time of transition but also ensure that the practical needs and concerns of the business is reflected in the software.