By Rich Lindblom, YSN
This has been a question since, well, the integration of computers into the service industry.
Today there are a lot of software companies out there selling programs that they say will work great for your business. But the real question is … will they?
As I began researching this topic, it became quite apparent that this is an area of great interest for many BrandSource members. So, what started out as a quick take became a much deeper dive as I shifted to writing a more comprehensive piece that could give members a place to start in their hunt for a software solution for their service operation. I spoke to, emailed, texted or messaged dozens of members seeking their input.
Like a whole lot of you who have been around for any length of time, my company started out using Swiftlink back in the early to mid-’90s, pretty much because I think it was the only one out there. And from researching this article, I know that there are still a whole lot of you out there who run Swiftlink to this day, even though it was migrated over to ServiceWorks more than a year ago.
When it comes to selecting a program (or programs) for your company, there are a whole lot of questions that you need to ask yourself before deciding on a software solution. Questions like, what will you be using it for?
- Point-of-sale, service or both?
- What about accounting and payroll? If not, will it integrate with your current accounting software?
- Dispatching, scheduling and routing? What about tracking your vehicles?
- Communicating with customers by email or text?
Other questions to ask yourself:
- Is the software mobile friendly for your techs? Will it send customers invoices by email?
- Can you create purchase orders for parts or merchandise with the software?
- Can the software create meaningful reports and data that will allow you to run your company more efficiently?
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider and probably some that I missed as well. In a perfect world, you would find a single software that can do everything for you in one program. After all, isn’t that the whole idea, to make your job easier?
The problem is that just like everything else in life, you get exactly what you pay for. The more a software can do, the more it is likely to cost you. And it’s not just the monthly costs; in addition, there are typically initial set up and migration of data fees as well. That’s why you should decide how much you are willing to spend before you start looking for a software package.
But every company has different needs, ranging from strictly a service department software program all the way up to a full POS system and everything in between. The bottom line is that there’s no point in paying for features you’re not going to use anyway.
Now if you ask me, the single biggest advantage of a full POS System is that there is no duplication of work. Once something is entered, it is pumped out to every single aspect of your system. If you are running one program for service, another for sales, and a third for accounting, there is a lot of duplication of work. And let’s face it: Time is money and your company needs to be as efficient as it can to maximize your profitability.
One final consideration is hardware and security. A cloud-based system is typically going to be more secure and will require less hardware on your end. Yes, you will pay more on a monthly basis, but in my opinion it’s worth it from a security standpoint. And for goodness’ sake, whatever you do, be sure to put laptops or tablets and iPads in your technicians’ hands. Yes, it costs money, but in the long run it will save you both time and money because you eliminate the duplication of effort.
Below you will find what I consider a comprehensive list of the major software providers to our industry, along with information on each including pricing, features, ease of use, and member satisfaction with the program. The ranking is based on an informal survey of BrandSource members and, in the instance of a tie, the lowest overall average price. I hope you find it useful in your search for the right solution for your own particular needs. Click on the chart, below:
There are other companies out there such as mhelpdesk.com, servicetitan.com and fieldpulse.com that were left off the list because they don’t offer a specific appliance service option. You could certainly check them out as well.
There is one final option that we have not touched on and that is having custom software written specifically for your company. The larger your business, the more attractive that option may be. If you consider that some developers charge a $3,000-$10,000 initial setup/migration fee and $1,000-$2,000 per month depending upon the number of users, a custom program could be the most cost-effective option in the long run. Quick research suggests that custom software programs probably start in the $20,000 range and can go as high as $100,000. Still, a custom program could pay for itself in 1 to 2 years, would do exactly what you want it to do, and can easily be updated as your company’s needs change.
If you decide to go this route, please do your homework on the qualifications of the programmer and make sure they will stand behind their work should glitches arise, because if they don’t it could be disastrous.
As always, keep in mind that BrandSource maintains strategic partnerships with leading suppliers across multiple industries. In the software space, the list includes Whirlwind, ePASS, Storis, Heartland and Windward. Thanks to their alliance with BrandSource, you could possibly be eligible for special offers or programs from them.
Hopefully this information will help you make a more educated decision and avoid any costly mistakes.
I have three goals in mind when writing my articles: To motivate, educate and entertain. If I have accomplished at least one of those three, I’ve done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know what you think by writing me at email@example.com.