Click with the right software

by | Nov 3, 2016 | Doing Work

Finish earlier and get paid more with the right software for your business.

Originally Published in Registered Gas Engineer Magazine – November 2016

Stop endless piles of paperwork ruining your evenings and weekends.
Choosing the right software package can reduce manual processing and free up your time to focus on growing your customer base and increasing billable hours.

It’s easy to forget how valuable your time is; for example if you save 10 hours a week, that could have be an extra 10*£30 to £50 (per hour) which is equal to £300 to £500 a week you are missing out on.

Purchasing a package specifically designed for the industry will allow your team of engineers to leave each job with all essential paperwork accurately logged.

Instead of heading back to the office to process the paperwork – or toiling away into the night tidying up loose ends – the right software allows certificates, quotes and invoices to be created while on the job.

Gas and Oil Engineer’s software lets your team focus on getting the job done efficiently without trying to remember a multitude of small details from each site visit as the day progresses.

Each job is fully logged prior to leaving the site.

Our software allows you to reclaim your evenings and weekends and shift your focus from worrying about whether you have correctly met all the industry’s legislative requirements, to focusing on operating your business and increasing its potential.

Recent advances with enterprise level software, which initially only well-resourced companies like British Gas could afford, have benefited smaller companies and sole traders.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry and new software will only get smarter.

Here are a number of options which could suit your business:

Paper pads, Excel and MS Access

Businesses with only a small number of homeowners on their books generally operate with this method.

If you are not looking to expand your business, this may be the best option for you.

Manual reminders can be added to an Excel spreadsheet with customers normally grouped monthly by their service date.

MS Access provides another option.

However, you are required to build a bespoke database yourself.

The danger with this is that you spend longer building and maintaining the database than actually completing any jobs.

The downside of both these options is that information cannot be amended on-site so the amount of evening and weekend paperwork will not diminish.

Also, if your business expands, these systems will require more maintenance and will quite often become redundant.

They are not future proofed.

If you are using either of these options, make sure that you back up your data to another device or disk.

Commercial Packages

The advantage of a commercial package is that the cost of developing the software has been shared by a large number of companies and engineers.

This ensures you can access extra features which would be cost prohibitive to your business.

At first glance many commercial packages look similar, but hopefully the following checklist will help you differentiate between them:

Minimum requirements:

• Backups: These are critical to your business and need to be automatically stored on a secure separate device so essential business data is retained.

• Proper Customer Database: Information should be quickly accessible; contact details, job addresses and appliances. Engineers should only be inputting inspection details and if they are re-entering customer details, something is wrong.

• Capture Signatures: Customers and tenants should be able to sign off inspections on any device.

• Automatic Reminders: Reminders should be quick and easy to add. Some software will automatically pick up the dates from existing service and cp12s.

• Stable Company: Protect your investment by ensuring the supplier has a good track record.

• No Internet: If your head is stuck in a basement boiler then you’ll need your software to work offline, without internet access.

Basic Requirements:

• Multiple Device Support: Tablet battery died on the job? No problem, use your phone. Back in the office? The software should work with either a PC or Mac. This flexibility lets your team work seamlessly.

• Invoicing: Raise and submit invoices on job sites to ensure all billable actions are captured, and avoid late-night paperwork.

• Full History: You should be able to see the full job, job address and customer history.

• Existing Certificates: Customer lost a certificate? Quick search and resend.

• Same Day Support: During your trial period you can call or email the provider to see how quickly they respond. Same day support is essential to keep your business operating and customers happy.

Handy Features

• Invoice Templates: Save time and avoid repetitive imputing with pre-loaded templates and standard wording.

• Website Portal: APPs are extremely flexible while your team are on the road. However, your office team needs to access information on either a PC or Mac.

• Job Management: Track a job through all stages; from non-invoiced jobs to outstanding invoices.

• Attaching Photos to Jobs: Show your customers exactly what has happened.

• Automatic Invoice and Quote Reminders: So you don’t have to.

• Features for larger companies: Built-in Calendar – Assign tasks to different engineers, track progress and allocate jobs.

• Website Portal: All data should be accessible from the office including setting up different email templates, editing and creating certificates, and tracking individual engineers.

• Access Rights: Allocate access levels to different engineers.

Most software packages offer a free trial which is worth doing as all packages are slightly different and some will fit your business better than others.

I would recommend trialing a number of the software packages alongside your current system before deciding.