Whether you’re hoping to optimise your engineer’s diaries and improve scheduling, or simply wish to reduce repetitive admin tasks, automation offers a host of benefits to your business.
Let’s be honest. Everyone appreciates convenience. Whether it’s the ability to click a few buttons to order almost anything online, or setting up reminders by speaking into your phone, it’s often the little things that build up to make a big impact.
Automating your business can be seen in a similar light, where overall, the aim is to save time, energy, and money, by streamlining simple yet time-consuming tasks. The process of automation is about adopting a tool to help you and your team, and consistently enhance your work: day in, day out.
For Fire and Security services in particular, automating a variety of tasks within your business is now a necessity. If you’re not doing it already (and even if you are), we encourage you to read on and discover the benefits that are specific to your industry and services you provide.
Be sure to download our infographic at the end of this post as well: a Practical Guide to Automation, and take your experience further! Now, let’s uncover the 5 key benefits of automation.
- Increased Productivity
- Optimised Performance
- Reduced Costs (and increased earnings!)
- Enhanced Communication
- Improved Reliability
One thing many of us wish we had more of is time. Why is that? Well, because we want to be more productive. You may be doing well already, but there’s a good chance there are still tasks taking up more time than you’d like. Thankfully, that’s where automation comes in. By streamlining repetitive tasks, you can put that time into new endeavours, increasing productivity.
For example, do your office staff or your engineers spend too much time writing emails or filling in forms (whether manual, or digital) to send to customers? Wouldn’t you rather they were actually speaking to customers, or solving their problems?
You’ll probably be used to providing customers with certificates after installation, such as a Fire Alarm System Commissioning Certificate. Completing certifications can be time consuming, having to fill out and process paper forms back to the office, so instead, I'm sure you'd agree it makes sense to have a solution where engineers can do this, on site.
Automation is the answer here. For example, combined with preset templates for your forms and certificates, a simple auto-fill feature can pull the relevant customer data from your CRM system and then automatically fill in the documentation. Engineers can even save and send digital copies as backup, too. At the same time, they can also capture a digital signature and update a customer’s information, right there.
Even better, the information can be automatically uploaded to your database and made instantly accessible to the rest of your staff through a shared database, as well as be sent automatically to the customer. With the right software, the process takes just a few simple taps, and in some cases, none at all.
The collective time saved by automatic additions like this can then be better spent on other tasks that require more attention, whether it’s fine-tuning specific security concerns, or answering queries in more detail. As a result, not only do your customers get quality customer service, but productivity for your business gets an overall boost.
You’ll know from experience that trying to organise the diaries of 10+ engineers can be a hassle. Throw in cancellations, emergencies, and maintenance appointments on top of that, and it can be difficult to effectively organise everyone’s time. It’s not impossible, sure, but it’s hardly efficient, and manual input (by hand or even digitally) is still more likely to lead to mistakes. Introduce automation into the way you manage bookings and you can optimise the performance of your business thanks to intelligent mass scheduling.
Automation software can search diaries, profiles and job requirements then find the most suitable engineer (by checking experience, qualifications & availability) to take on an appointment. Your Operations Manager can then quickly review the information and select the best person for the job.
For example, say there’s a fire alarm system experiencing an unexpected fault and it’s causing problems for a client in West London. An automated system could assess the diaries of your engineers and even check the location based on their booked appointments, (live tracking can enhance this solution, too). What the system does is come up with an optimised solution to get someone there as swiftly as possible. Rather than have someone manually trawl through separate papers or click through digital diaries, or message engineers to check if they’re free, your software can do this for you and offer up a solution to ensure the appointment is fulfilled.
Best of all, when confirming an appointment in this way, automatic updates can be sent to the engineers to let them know, instantly, where they need to be, as well as when, and why. This can extend to the customer too, (confirming a solution is booked in) and also for the office staff responsible for dispatch (allowing them to resolve issues quickly).
When you’re scaling 100+ jobs per week, it’s paramount to implement an automated solution. It will help prevent human error, optimise the schedules of your engineers, and boost the overall performance of your business.
One major concern of automation is the view that it takes jobs away from people. After all, it’s no secret that machinery and software are often more efficient than people at certain tasks. However, it’s important to think about the reasons why you might need to automate in the first place. Is the cost of hiring admin staff causing you to suffer financially? Or perhaps it’s simply too expensive for you hire new staff?
Automation provides a solution to both of these issues. In some cases, it can be a difficult decision to make, but you know Fire & Security is a highly competitive market and so efficient spending is essential. As such, investing in automation can be one way to save from overspending on labour costs.
Of course, another major expense for your business is stock. Let’s say you’re servicing fire extinguishers installed at a university, you may well have over 400 fire extinguishers installed across their campus, and these need to be serviced annually to ensure optimal compliance while recognising and correcting potentially hazardous situations. For one, if you’re keeping accurate records, you’ll know which extinguishers may need to be replaced.
An automated system can assess if you need to order more equipment based on this info, and make sure your stock is at the correct level, at that time of the year. For example, it won’t order 450 extinguishers to fulfil the job (though you’d wisely double check orders of this size too), not if your system already knows you have 100 registered as “in stock”. This reduces the odds of overspending and helps ensure you have the equipment you need at the right times.
Customers like to know what’s going on. Communication, then, is of massive importance and can often be a make-or-break reason customers love or hate their service providers. Improve customer satisfaction through timely communication and word of your successes may spread, filtering through to help you win more business and even sell yourself in tender.
Whether it’s preparing an invoice, creating a certificate, or scheduling notifications: these things take time, but customers will want to know what’s happening along the way. The first step to streamlining communication is to create templates, helping you overcome overcome time consuming, repetitive content creation.
Templates create consistency and set a standard of professionalism too: you won’t have to worry about drafts, checking for spelling errors, or missing information. Take this further by having an auto-fill and auto-schedule function (as previously mentioned) will notify customers with ease.
Good communication sets a strong foundation for quality relationships to flourish and grow, so you need to manage them well: that’s where automation comes in.
For example: you may have a service level agreement with your client to service their secure locks every 6 months. Rather than have to leave a notification for yourself, or hope someone remembers to contact the facility manager to book a maintenance appointment, you can set up an automated solutions in advance. Then, every 6 months, say two weeks before the appointment is due, you can set up an automatic reminder to be sent to your customer. This helps to ensure you don’t breach the SLA if no engineer is available, nipping booking issues in the bud. Your system will automatically send a reminder to the customer, suggest a time and date for the appointment, suggest an engineer, and notify your staff, also ensuring you do not breach your SLA.
Consistency is king. I think it’s safe to say we’ve made that quite clear.
Our CEO, Jason, says as much himself: “automation creates consistency - if something is automated in your business, it means it’s done every time, without fail.” It’s also safe to say then, that consistency helps improve reliability:
- If you’re able to rest safe in the knowledge that communication is accurate, great.
- If you’re able to schedule appointments with the optimal engineer, every time, great.
- If you know that you’re on top of your service level agreements, then you know work is being completed to a consistent quality, even in emergencies, that’s great too.
All of this ties together to show clients that you are a reliable business to work with. It goes without saying that this is essential when thinking about Fire & Security: people don’t want to be in doubt about these things, and automation can help cement the reliability of your brand.
We should stress that you shouldn’t become dependent on automation, but the benefits are undeniable.After all, there’s a distinct difference between improving your reliability to deliver a good service, versus becoming wholly dependent on a system to solve all of your problems: in most cases it’s neither realistic, nor wise.
After all, think about it in terms of your own business, whether it be fail-safe electronic locks, or alternate fire-suppression systems: it’s best to prepare for numerous outcomes (and so offer additional solutions) in the case that a single choice may not work.
Automation works in a similar fashion: it’s a great tool, and one that helps you highlight and manage your own accountability, as well as monitor and adapt your solutions, and you’ll continue to reap the benefits as your grow and develop.
In addition to the benefits here, don’t forget to download your free copy of the eBook: A Practical Guide to Automation; including a checklist and other practical advice advice to help you approach automating your business.