Whether focusing on the present situation or looking ahead at the future, there’s certainly a lot to think about at the moment, particularly when it comes to working out how to manage your field service business during a turbulent time...
From knowing how to best protect yourself when you or your staff return to work, to learning how to cope with remote management; many of us are learning that the impact of the coronavirus is just as profound on our businesses as it has been on our personal lives.
To put it simply: there’s a new way of doing things and this is especially true when it comes to managing your business. Like many others, the need to adopt a digital strategy and take your business down a technologically supported path is of greater importance than ever.
- A New Way of Working
- Capterra: A Case Study - [plus an infographic]
- The Importance of a Digital Tool
- A Time to Adapt
- Solutions for your Services
1. A New Way of Working
Even before the pandemic struck and various safeguarding protocols came into effect, it’s safe to say we’d been seeing a shift toward digitisation across all sorts of industries, but over the last three months or more, this has sped up significantly. Recent experiences have reshaped how businesses prepare for the future:
“Digital-based revenue streams [...] were gaining popularity before this crisis hit and will continue to be the way customers want to consume even after we have a good handle on this pandemic.” - Capterra
Now, I know what you’re thinking: it’s not like your HVAC, plumbing, or electrical business can open an online shop—not in the same way that a butcher, a baker (or even a candle-stick-maker) could—though we’ll get to that shortly.
What your business can do, however, is adopt a digital business strategy which includes making use of the internet, as well as software to not only develop an online presence, but better manage your team as a whole, no matter where they might be.
This takes us to the crux of the article. While it’s still too early to speak of the exact long-term impact of the pandemic, we can assess what we've experienced and use that knowledge to better prepare for the changes yet to come.
With help and insight from the experts at Capterra, who’ve made great efforts to run surveys and capture accurate statistics, we’ve been able to look at the bigger picture.
Understanding how other businesses, small and large, are adapting and working diligently to keep their doors open (physically or otherwise), could inspire you to do the same.
Before we dive into the stats, let’s start by answering the following question: “What is a digital business strategy?”
“A digital business strategy is a business model designed to engage, interact, and serve your customers primarily online by blurring the digital and physical worlds.” - Capterra
With the advent of computers, mobile phones, and now cloud-based software culminating together, this level of digital interaction is easier to achieve than ever. The result is that we see all sorts of different industries adopting powerful software so that they can work efficiently, remain productive, and stay competitive. These results can help businesses to survive, and even thrive in (and out of) difficult times.
As mentioned, what’s happening now is that the plans of many companies to “go digital” has been sped up. This could be true for your own business, where instead of adapting slowly so that you could more comfortably ease yourself into the digital world, you’ve had to ramp-up the process and—in some cases—bring in changes overnight.
This is an understandably complex problem, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are solutions to help you and that the benefits of developing your own digital strategy can persist long into the future! We'll explore more of this as we look at Capterra's research, below:
2. Capterra: A Case Study
Let’s start by taking a look at Capterra’s analysis of The Impact of COVID-19 on Small-Business Digital Strategies. We’ll also be able to reveal some interesting data of our own, to demonstrate what Commusoft has been able to do to help businesses achieve in the past, present, and into the future.
“The research, which surveyed 503 small business leaders, found that small businesses are making key business-model changes to survive crisis conditions. Their data predicts the digital transformation [of SMB’s] to be a permanent change after the crisis.
In addition, 58% of small businesses are significantly changing their offerings this year.
As a result of the crisis, the survey found that 70% of digital small businesses expect decreased revenue this year [...] However, despite the forecasted decrease in revenue, 62% of digital small businesses are planning to spend more on technology this year.
Capterra analysts predict that small businesses are turning to digital revenue streams as they are relatively lower risk than the revenue generated by brick-and-mortar operating models.
Of course, as previously stated, turning to “digital only” revenue streams is tricky for field services. Plumbing and electrical companies have to have engineers be physically present to install or fix specialist equipment and, besides, you’re not about to start training your customers to fix complex issues that your engineers know like the back of their hands!
Making sure you have an online presence, though, is an excellent alternative. If people can’t go out, or are more restricted, then it makes sense to have an online presence that makes your business easy to contact and simple to seek help from.
This has the added benefit of helping you to work faster, cut costs, and even protect your business. Keep in mind though, that software shouldn’t be viewed as a temporary solution to plaster over a wound, only to discard when the “cut” has healed.
It’s designed to minimise risk and even prevent damage to your business in the first place, something that businesses are starting to realise, which is significant given that even though revenue is down by 70%, software purchases and implementations are up 50% (for the surveyed businesses).
Capterra went on to muse that:
"Businesses won’t want to eliminate [software] purchases once revenue starts to increase because they already had plans to buy them."
In addition, consumers have long-been turning to the web to shop, search, browse, and make decisions, so it makes sense to do the same with a forward-thinking approach, too.
“Digital revenue, simply put, is more crisis-proof. This is because it draws from a larger pool of customers at a lower cost to your business”
Fortunately, there are solutions to make this worthwhile endeavour easier so that your business can start to benefit amazing, essential features, including:
- Automated communication
- Scheduled service reminders
- Online customer portals
- SMS and instant notification features
With software, whether you’re working from home, returning to the office, or out in the field, everyone can access relevant, up-to-date information that enables them to communicate effectively and get the job done right. To do it well, you need the right tool...
3. The Importance of a Digital Tool
It’s true that many non-digital businesses (with field services like plumbing, electrical, and gas, among them) have traditionally been hesitant about going online. This is despite the benefits that doing so can bring them (particularly where automation is concerned), but the need to do was quickly was less significant than it is now:
“Though it’s a growing part of our lives, many small businesses haven’t taken the e-commerce plunge. In a 2018 Gallup survey, 40% of small businesses said none of their business was conducted online, and 26% attributed less than a tenth of their sales to e-commerce.”
However, it’s clear from the data Capterra collected (as well as info Software Advice) that businesses who already had a digital presence of some kind, have found adjusting to the current climate easier than those who have gone without. Furthermore, as a result of what’s happening now:
“66% of non-digital small business leaders say COVID-19 has impacted their company’s plans regarding software purchase and implementation.” - Software Advice
Attitudes are clearly changing as it's become more immediately clear how helpful having an online presence (and the digital tools needed to manage a business online) can be.
It’s important to note though, that these changes can be permanently useful, not just at a time of crisis. After all, just check out the years of content we have discussing the importance of software to build powerful digital journeys!
Digital tools are all about creating convenience and speeding up processes.
If you, your staff, and your customers find that you’re working or interacting more efficiently as a result of the changes you’ve made (past or present) it’s unlikely you’d want to go back to the old methods. Not when you’re benefiting from:
- Reduced admin time
- More efficient engineers
- Better data management
- Increased customer engagement
As mentioned, these benefits carry on beyond the current circumstances:
“The new normal [is likely] going to be around longer than many are thinking [...]. But also—and perhaps most importantly—your employees and customers may want to keep some of the changes they’ve seen during this disruption.” - Capterra.
This is why it’s important to think about a long-term solution, especially one that is positively impacting your entire team. Even if it’s to help you overcome a more immediate problem, don’t underestimate the long-term benefits.
As Olivia Montgomery, Senior Analyst at Capterra, commented on the research:
“Small businesses are underestimating the staying power of the changes they’re making.” This is particularly true when they discover that for one: employees “become more dependent on new collaboration tools” as they discover their usefulness, and two: customers enjoy the convenience afforded them by new customer service interactions.
All-in-all using the right tool makes it easier to create a great experience for everyone, making a strong case for investing in a quality long-term software solution as a worthwhile investment to support staff and create happy customers. Ultimately, it helps make your business more adaptable.
4. A Time to Adapt
Breaking down some of the reported stats above, and considering the improvements you can gain by developing a digital strategy (alongside the best software) reveals some especially interesting points about how businesses can and are responding to the pandemic.
It can take time, but it’s important to make sure that if you’re new to software, you’re going with a product that offers you insightful training, quality customer service, and updates regularly, giving you the best chance to adapt and use your new-found tool i nthe best possible way. With those three things in place, you can feel more confident that your transition will be as smooth as possible.
Software developers, like those of us here at Commusoft, aim to focus on software that is user-friendly with the express purpose of letting you handle complex, time-consuming tasks with ease. After all, if it’s a tool you’re going to use every day (and potentially for years to come), you want it to be accessible, right?
Think of the simple tech you use every day (we’re talking about the mobile phone in your hand). You probably use it to do a lot more than you realise; whether it’s sending texts, pinging emails, organising your calendar, or even using it to learn another language.
The point is that for all these tasks, you’re able to use a single tool that lets you do a lot of complex things and which also takes up very little space compared to doing those same tasks separately on paper or through other outdated methods.
Software, then, and your digital strategy can become the nuts and bolts that keeps your business together and help it function like a well oiled machine. And like any machine, you should want to get the most out of all the features it has on offer:
5. Solutions for your Services
Good software needs to be intuitive and allow users to handle complex tasks in a simple way. This user-friendly tool is at the heart of our own software development ethos here at Commusoft. It’s one that we work hard to continuously improve, according to the needs of our customers. That way, they grow and we grow with them, so everyone benefits.
Over the last decade, and more recently too Commusoft has constantly innovated to bring solutions to contemporary problems. In recent weeks, for example, we launched our Augmented Reality App, Diagnose by Commusoft, which allows engineers to remotely interact with customers and safely assess their assets and even diagnose issues without having to visit on-site. This means assessments can still be carried out and you don’t have to press pause on simple, but important tasks.
Alongside that, it’s essential to consider how Commusoft helps to educate and empower field service companies to provide world-class customer journeys. Whether it’s through online booking portals to request a job, sending service reminders to give a customer a helpful nudge, or even create digital opportunities to obtain feedback; there are a wealth of methods your business can adopt to take your business online.
As Capterra’s Impact report states: “Digital acceleration is about implementing the latest technologies to streamline business processes, expand services and products, and increase revenue streams in innovative ways.”
It’s easy to think of the current situation as being the sole reason you’d have to make a change to the way you operate, but there’s been a long-running trend of all sorts of businesses adapting to create an online presence and manage their business with technology.
If we look internally within Commusoft, we continue to see a trend of businesses who are adapting to take care of their day-to-day operating needs more efficiently, thanks to software.
If you’re interested in the practical and financial impact software can have on your business, take a look at our online calculators. After all, We know it’s not just money that’s of value to your business but time as well, and it may surprise you to see just how many hours (and even weeks) of admin that making a swap could save you:
- Paperless Savings Calculator
- Intelligent Scheduling ROI Calculator
- Calculate the Potential Earnings of Service Reminders
Whether it’s the financial implication of savings you could make by improving scheduling or the rewards you could reap from setting up automatic service reminders, there’s a great deal of evidence (both statistical and through word of mouth) that demonstrate the impact that a shift to a paperless office can have, thanks to the use of the software.
“Prior to moving to Commusoft it was a pretty laborious process to make an appointment because we were duplicating information across about two or three, possibly even four platforms - now it’s just put into one. Everything that we do within the business, every job we go to are within the diary and everything that we need to know comes through or from the diary. And so without it we will be pretty stuck. It’s not just simply a diary, it’s very feature-rich and it’s intuitive to use, it’s very flexible, easy to move jobs around [and] find new slots when you need to find them.” - Mycroft Heating & Plumbing
📣 You can see more of what our customers say by clicking the link. ⬅️
In terms of how customers used our software, in 2019 we saw that across our users they were able to achieve the following:
😄 Customers added: 647,341
📝 Invoices created: 898,014
🛠️ Jobs created: 1,450,500
📈 Estimates created: 190,949
This demonstrates a clear saving in time, an easy way to organise turnover and revenue, and a convenient way to create and store customer information, and a whole lot more besides.
There’s certainly a lot to explore with the data we’ve been able to unpack from Capterra, and there’ll be more to come both during the pandemic, and beyond. For a summary of all you've just read, take a look at the infographic you can download here; be sure to share it with colleagues and on social, too!
It's incredibly useful to have this context, not only so businesses can better understand the current climate, but because of how it makes it easier to understand that there are solutions out there to help, now, and into the future.
In addition, it’s important to look at the human aspect as well, because after all, on the other side of all this data are real people being affected by a very real problem and it’s encouraging to remember that you’re not alone in this.
Whether it’s focusing on yourself, your colleagues, or even looking for support further afield, it may surprise you to learn who’s willing to lend a helping hand, and consider how we can all learn from each other’s expertise.
With that in mind, we’ve been working extra hard to put together a host of useful resources, amongst other exciting content (like our new Success in the Field web-series), all to keep you in the loop and guide you toward further success. Check them out below:
📽️ [Video] Success in the Field - Web Series
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