We recently busted your top six excuses for not investing in new technology, and then we offered up details on how to prep your field service business for the busy heating season. Now we’ll wrap it all up with a bow—after all, it is almost the holiday season—by revealing our top picks for tech tools that will help you be more productive and profitable this winter.
Worried about the cost? Don’t be: We found affordable, and even free, tech tools just for small- and medium-sized companies like yours.
1. BUDGET DESKTOP COMPUTER: HP 20-c010 All-in-One Desktop (Starts at about £190)
With new computers going for as much as £1,500, shopping for desktops for your business can be more stressful than shopping for a new service van—especially if you need more than one.
Thankfully, there are options for good, solid desktops that will get the job done without emptying your wallet. The HP 20-c210 is one of them.
What you’ll get: Windows 10 operating system, processor speed of 1.6 GHz, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, excellent speakers, and a cool-looking, space-saving design. What you won’t get: Sharp screen resolution, a wireless keyboard, or tons of power.
Despite the drawbacks, Tech for Pennies says, ‘It’s the cheapest All-in-One currently in the market, and it offers good baseline performance for home and SMB users out there. Day-to-day computing will be effortless, including web browsers and video streaming services. [...] If you’re looking for a basic desktop computer, it’s hard to go wrong with this HP!’
2. SMARTPHONE: Moto X FORCE by Motorola (Around £300)
Let’s face it: Engineers can be tough on phones when they’re working in the field. Plumbing involves water (surprise!), and water and phones don’t play well together. Your engineers may be working outside in all kinds of weather. They might also be juggling their smartphones with other tools, making it too easy to drop and shatter these expensive devices.
The Moto X FORCE boasts the world’s first shatterproof display, is water repellent, and holds a 48-hour charge. Did your engineer somehow manage to not charge their phone for two full days? That’s okay, because they can get up to 13 hours of battery life with just a 15-minute charge.
Of course, you don’t buy a phone just to admire its durability: The Moto X FORCE has all the other goodies you would expect in a smartphone as well, like a powerful processor, voice controls, and a customizable design.
3. TEAM COLLABORATION PLATFORM: Slack for Teams (From free to around £10 per person per month)
You’re overwhelmed with office tasks. Confused by cross-communication. Frustrated because you just know someone sent you an email about an upcoming project, but now you can’t find it.
It can be hard to keep track of everything that’s happening as your field service business grows. The result? Declining productivity and soaring stress levels for you and your staff. That’s where Slack comes in.
If you’ve ever used an old-school chat room, you’ll get a handle on how this tech tool works pretty quickly. Just open an account for your business, create “channels” (chat rooms) for different topics, and invite your team via email. Team members can chat about, say, upcoming projects, marketing ideas, and company news—plus send direct messages, use apps to create polls and perform other tasks, attach emojis to messages, upload files, and search message archives.
With Slack, your employees’ communications will be streamlined, organised, and accessible—so you can grow your field service business minus the chaos.
4. WORKFLOW MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE: Commusoft (Starts at £25 per user per month)
We may be a bit biased, but we work like crazy to offer field service businesses an affordable and practical—yet well-designed and intuitive—way to streamline and track everything from CRM and service reminders to purchase orders and gas certificates.
Commusoft can also be integrated into all the tools you use and love, like PartsArena Pro, QuickBooks, and Stripe.
5. PRODUCTIVITY HACK: Zapier (from free to about £190 per month)
You have so many apps going at once, from Gmail to Basecamp, that you can spend all day just managing them all. Why not make them work together to streamline your productivity instead of tanking it?
With Zapier you create zaps, which are two or more apps that connect to perform a task automatically. Zapier integrates with more than 750 apps that you can string together in various ways to boost your field service business’s productivity.
For example, you could have Gmail attachments automatically upload to Dropbox, and then receive a notification about it in Slack. Or connect your engineers’ weather apps to Pushbullet so they receive a notification when it’s about to rain.
6. TABLET: iPad (£339 - £559)
Looking for a tablet? Consider a full-sized one. After all, if you wanted a mini device, you could save money by purchasing a smart phone that has the all capabilities of a tablet and a phone.
Engineers who have trouble typing on small screens, or who have trouble seeing small screens, will appreciate a larger device for taking notes, running apps, communicating with the home office, and more. That’s why our top recommendation is the basic iPad. It’s a good size for working on the go, has an intuitive and familiar user interface, and is an all-around high quality tablet.
7. SMART WATCH: Samsung Gear S3 Classic Smartwatch (£349)
Getting smartwatches for your engineers is like giving them a third hand: No more fumbling to get out their phone when they need to make a call, check messages, or take notes.
If you’re supplying smartwatches to your engineers, choosing one that will support all kinds of devices can save you trouble in the long run. The Samsung Gear S3 supports most Android phones and also iOS devices from the iPhone 5 onward. According to TechRadar, ‘Chances are that your current phone will work with the Samsung Gear S3, and, crucially, that you won't be locked in to a particular smartphone operating system or brand down the line’.
The bad news is that there aren’t many apps for this device, but the good news is that more and more apps are popping up, like Uber and Chat Hub—an app that brings all your messages, from texts to WhatsApp, into one screen.
8. APP IN THE FIELD: White Light Flashlight (free)
Once your engineers have the Samsung Gear S3 Classic Smartwatch, make sure they download the free White Light Flashlight app, which Wareable reviewers named one of the top ten apps for the device. White Light Flashlight lets engineers light up tricky areas behind wires and pipes as they work, without having to set up a torch or hold a flashlight.
Speaking of great free tools...we created a free downloadable report that pulls together all the information we’ve shared on getting your field services business ready for the busy winter into a quick, concise list. That way you can have all the steps to prepping for a profitable heating season right at your fingertips. Look below, click, download, and get started.