Whether it’s keeping schedules organised, or giving your engineers easy access to useful data: it’s on you to structure and optimise your team.
There’s all sorts of things that can keep your business from functioning at its best. Day in, day out, tasks will keep Operation Managers on their toes as they work hard to maintain peak performance. It's all part of the challenge, right?
Well, if you do want to keep your team ticking over in the best way possible, there’s a few points to keep in mind. First and foremost: you’re going to need to make some changes.
When looking at optimising your HVAC business, it’s often the little things that can make the biggest impact, (especially if they’re allowed to pile up). Tedious tasks that take up precious time will be detrimental to your productivity, causing delays or even leading to costly mistakes, particularly if you already face challenges with things like stock control.
So, that being said, it’s important for you to understand what influences are affecting your staff so that you can bring them firmly under your control.
This is where Automation plays a pivotal role. It can help you better cope with your current workload and even act as a springboard to help you overcome other hurdles, later.
We’ve spoken before about how, especially for HVAC businesses, automation helps with everything from recruitment, to increasing customer satisfaction. We’ve even covered how you can get started automating your business.
Here though, let's dig a little deeper to understand why you should use automation to boost your team management and:
1. Enable smarter scheduling
There’s much to be gained from automating your scheduling by making use “smart” suggestions. At its core, improving scheduling through automation is all about optimising the way your business communicates. This is especially handy if you’re making an effort to keep up with increased demand.
Automation allows you to respond to customers at a much faster pace, instead of having to manually go through details yourself. Instead, your system can pick up necessary details to send out instantaneous replies that are auto generated to deal with a variety of different tasks.
For example, if you were to send a confirmation message to notify your customer and the engineer that an appointment is scheduled, you no longer have to message them separately. This saves you the hassle of writing multiple messages or making multiple calls.
The same goes for writing the message itself. You can instead produce templates than can be auto-filled instead. You're likely writing hundreds of messages a week, and while you might say it only takes a few minutes of your time, each time, those minutes quickly add up into lots of hours that could be used elsewhere.
This of course, has the added benefit of keeping your customers informed at a much faster pace, with messages even being able to be scheduled and sent automatically at specific times and dates. For example, if you have routine biannual maintenance for a customer’s air-conditioning unit, you could set your system up to notify them every two weeks in advance of the scheduled maintenance. In essence, you can “forget” about it, but it’s not technically a forgotten task. Rather, it becomes an automated tasks and removes the risk of an individual forgetting to actually contact the customer at all. Rather than scrambling as the last minute, both you and the customers have more time to check back and arrange an appointment with ease.
It’s all about optimising the routes of communication and being able to view information quickly. After all, if you can generate an email that requests feedback, provide a certification, or sends an invoice in just a few clicks, it should be obvious how much of a boon automated communication can be for your business.
In cases where you might need it as well, it brings you business into the 24/7, 365 days a week category and seeing as many maintenance contracts, especially for industrial scale locations, or even domestic, might require you to cover them, this is invaluable for making sure you get messages when you need them (and visa versa), no matter the time of day.
2. Provide easy access to data
Paperwork is a pain, we can all agree on that. From awkward filing systems, to messy handwriting, to just how easy it is to misplace! But oh: the change when you go digital!
With an integrated database giving you a boost, you’ll experience data automatically updating to a cloud shared database. With that in place, engineers, office staff, and more can view data in real-time.
In this way, automation simply makes things easier. Whether it’s being able to view diaries, check stock location, view customer profiles, and even generate reports; there’s a whole host of things you can achieve through automatically updated databases.
Reports are what you’ll be particularly concerned with generating if your focus is on optimising the performance of your team. This becomes particularly useful if you’re trying to understand your team in more intimate detail. While you could thumb though paper reports and all sorts of information, with an automated database, you can check statistics (and groups of them) with increased ease.
For example, if you want to assess the number of jobs completed within a set period of time, or break down details for specific engineers, customers, even look at details like length of appointment, feedback from specific jobs, and more: you can filter, save, and generate useful reports. For any manager who’s keen to view detailed assessments (and let’s be honest, what operation manager doesn’t love a good report?) it's the perfect tool to quickly generate and assess specific details that can help you better optimise your team.
3. Generate insight of stock
HVAC involves a great deal of maintenance of your customer’s assets. This means that you’ll be managing a lot of stock to ensure that you can care for their assets and minimise the risk of detrimental downtime. After all, even with preventive maintenance plans helping your engineers to keep products ticking over efficiently, it’s inevitable that parts will break and need replacing at some point or another. While this will lead to some expected downtime, time spent chasing misplaced stock doesn’t need to contribute ad it’s almost entirely preventable.
Depending on how you’re managing your stock, automation can help bring it under even greater control. Your engineers will be using parts on a daily basis: that means products will be in transit between stockrooms (sometimes numerous rooms), kept in their vans, and installed on jobs. Depending on how you keep records, this can affect you in different ways. You may be keeping track with paper based forms, or perhaps Excel spreadsheets, but neither option is as efficient as making of digital stock control.
If your stock is digitised into an online database it takes the tedium out numerous tasks. From keeping tracking of quantities, making requests for additional parts, establishing fresh orders, and even tracking location: there are all made infinitely easier with an online system. That means eliminating paper trails and making data far easier to access both in and out of the office, as software helps to automatically track where an item is, when it was used, who by, and even establish a new order if need be.
If you’re able to view your stock in this way: even linking it to potential orders and jobs you know are coming up (perhaps there are parts that you know regularly need to be replaced, such as air filters), it gives you the oversight to be better prepared to deliver the work you know is coming (which is enhanced, of course, by the aforementioned oversight from improved scheduling).
There’ll always be emergencies or other issues to struggle against: HVAC is a competitive, busy industry, after all. And customers, much like the weather, can be unpredictable. That all being said, if you’re controlling your business in the best way possible, you’ll be better prepared to deal with situations that rightly deserve more attention and care.
Automation is a tool to help your team and support their needs. With it, you'll better placed to produce happy customers, generate positive reviews, and even help win lucrative contracts. Ultimately, a well organised team will be able to respond to customers more efficiently and deliver great work on a more consistent basis.