Optimize Your Irrigation Business With These Five Tips

How_to

 

By Chad Reinholz

When we surveyed irrigation contractors at the beginning of 2015, they said they expected to be busy. According to the Green Industry Benchmark Reportport, 82% of irrigation businesses expect to grow in 2015.

That growth is going to be fueled by new business, which means the typical irrigation contractor is going to be busy. Early indications from our customers also proves this point. Many of our customers have at least one more technician when compared to last year. It’s going to be a hectic year for the typical irrigation business.

The key to managing this increase in work is finding ways to be more efficient in everything you do. With that in mind, here are five ways to optimize your irrigation business:

Schedule Smarter

Smart businesses schedule their startups and winterizations and then communicate dates and times to their customers. They don’t wait for their customer to schedule an appointment. Then, they simply manage the exceptions instead of managing every single customer. It also helps them schedule much tighter routes and get more accomplished per tech, per day.

But you can take it a step further. What happens when someone calls in for a service? Or if the time you suggested for a startup or blowout doesn’t work, how can you still make sure you’ve optimized your schedule?

With the right irrigation scheduling software, you can see at a glance what technicians are scheduled nearby and when, and easily fit service calls or startups and winterizations in - at a time convenient to you - in a pinch. By scheduling more efficiently, you can easily get more done without adding another technician.

Optimize your Route

Our owner likes to tell the story about how, when he first started using the field service software that eventually became HindSite, he was able to schedule at least 1 more job per day. How did he do it? By leveraging mobile field service software so his technicians could start the day at their first job, not their office. He had a technician who lived 25 miles from the office and whose territory was near his home. But every day he would drive into the office, time in, and then basically drive back near his home. It wasted at least 30 minutes a day. 

But that’s not the only way to eliminate windshield time. Routing your crews more efficiently can help you get more work done in less time. You could use online tools like OptiMap, but the best way to optimize your route is with irrigation business software like HindSite that integrates your schedule, your customer information and mapping into a single tool. It will save you time - and money - when you schedule your service calls.

Collect Field Data in Real Time

You know what irrigation technicians hate? Paperwork. It’s why it’s so hard for them to get it to you in a timely manner. It’s also why you’re probably losing money on parts and time and material service calls - your guys aren’t completing the required paperwork until the end of the day, or worse, the end of the week. Not only are you losing money, but your office team is wasting time inputting that data into your billing system. 

It’s why smart owners leverage the power of smartphones, tablets and apps to get the information they need from their technicians. It’s very simple; instead of completing onerous paperwork, your technicians instead use their smartphone or tablet to time in and out, indicate the parts they used, and enter any additional information required by the office or the customer. They sync that data in real time, so the office knows when the work is done. 

When we get new customers, what they’re typically trying to do is improve their scheduling. When they start using our mobile field service software, they realize just how vital it is to optimizing their business. But most irrigation companies don’t consider collecting information from the field as the problem in their business.

Streamline your Billing

If you aren’t using accounting software like QuickBooks, you should be. Either the desktop application or their new cloud solution, QuickBooks Online, are great solutions for a small to mid-sized business.

Even if you already use QuickBooks, you probaly know there are some limitations. And entering your billing information can be difficult. So don’t! Again, irrigation software like HindSite simplifies billing. You can sync all of your time and material information, setup complex billing rules and more with software. So invoicing becomes as simple as syncing your data and printing or emailing your invoices. 

Automate Customer Communication

How much time do you spend on the phone with customers answering simple questions like when are you coming? When were you here? What did you do? What do I need to do if it freezes and you haven’t shut off my irrigation system?

Start sending transactional email and stop wasting time answering mundane questions. With a service business marketing solution like HindSite Connect, our email add-on, you can send appointment confirmation, reminder and reschedule emails so your customers know when you’ll be there. You can automate service completion emails that tell them when you were there and what work was done. Plus, you can send mass emails like cold weather alerts that tell customers what to do in case of a cold weather emergency.

Obviously, you can do all of these things with any email platform - MailChimp and Constant Contact are industry leaders, but integrating email into your field service software makes it drop-dead simple. If you have a lot of work to do, you don’t want to be wasting time importing and exporting data so you can send an email.

Got any tips of your own to share? Drop them in the comments and tell us how you’re able to get more done in your business.

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