By Marjorie Adams
One of the biggest worries for plumbing contractors, franchise owners and office supervisors is managing their field staff, the technicians who are always remote and on the go. Keeping tabs on your staff’s productivity and customer service skills, as well as their technical abilities, can spell the difference between having a thriving plumbing practice with lots of referrals versus bad online reviews and less business.
Managing a service staff is easier said than done, but there are a number of recommendations you can put to use right away:
- Improve Your Work Order System. Probably the most powerful way to keep tabs on remote employees is to automate your workflow. Using field service software will allow you to more easily schedule your plumbers, track how long they take to complete a job and get to the next one, and manage your accounting. With field service management software, your main office is always in touch with the your team. This kind of system also manages employees, inventory and invoicing, and integrates with your accounting system. We prefer Intuit Field Service Management, but there are many great options out there like Jobber, Service Titan, FieldAware, Electronic Service Control, Service Pro, Service Max, etc.
- Go Green with Timesheets. Use an online timesheet that employees access from their mobile device or tablet. This streamlines your payroll process because time tracking uploads directly to your accounting software; it also saves time deciphering handwritten timesheets that get lost or crumpled during a plumber’s busy day. Some systems even notify you if an employee doesn’t clock in as scheduled.
- Customer Survey. Nothing replaces direct feedback from your customers. If you haven’t already, implement a customer survey process. As soon as a job is complete, email or text the customer a link to a survey. You can use SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Typeform or another online tool. While this is a great overall business strategy, also be prepared to contact the customer if you get negative feedback. Either way, it’s better hearing directly from an unhappy client so that you can take steps before they post a negative review online. See more advice on this below.
- Create Processes. Document your processes and train your employees on them. Ensure you share what you expect them to do. Think beyond human resources. Here are a few examples:
- Create Great First Impressions. Just like how you answer the phone is important in establishing long-lasting customer relationships, the way the plumber initiates the house call can make a big impression on a client. Have a consistent approach to introducing yourselves.
- Provide Accurate Estimates. Whether you submit a proposal before a big job or estimate the cost on the spot, providing accurate and detailed estimates can go a long way. Your employee needs to understand the proposal process and how to handle pushback.
- Stay in touch. Staying in touch with clients will encourage repeat business. The app, GetCru, allows customers to request service via text. It also helps you stay connected with customers, and allows all communication between the staff and customer to be located in a central system.
- Manage Complaints. Having a standard response and process for customer complaints can help a plumber get out of a sticky situation more easily.
Managing an on-the-go staff has its challenges, but doing it well can cut down on employee turnover and improve customer satisfaction. These ideas can help you get there.
About Marjorie Adams
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. Marjorie has set up back office processes for plumbing contractors, HVAC service companies, and pool and spa maintenance companies that, among other things, improve their ability to monitor staff. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow.