Behind the Decision to Create the ServTek Field Service App

field service app
Service businesses are everywhere. In fact, much has been made of the fact that the U.S. economy has become primarily a service economy. Roughly 80% of our economy is now service-based. Much of that service is handled by field service personnel — people who come to you, whether its in your home or your business. The spectrum of businesses that meet this description is vast – from plumbing and HVAC service, to mobile dog grooming, to industrial furnace maintenance.

 

Southern California, and many, many communities throughout the U.S., are populated with small businesses that dispatch employees in a vehicle to multiple locations. Often, how many locations can be reached in one day has a direct effect on the bottom line; more is better. Adding to this essential need is a host of problems that need to be solved:
  • Communication: Sharing information merely by mobile phone or texting is inefficient, even with touch-to-talk systems. While a lot of information can be conveyed in a short conversation, there is no documentation of important info like addresses or scheduling changes. The field agent has to write it down (hopefully not while driving!).
  • Double-entry: If you’ve ever jotted down something someone else already wrote on the other end of the phone line, you’ve experienced double entry. Or, if you’ve typed info into a spreadsheet that was already written down on a completed work order, same thing. In today’s world, if you are duplicating information, you are, quite frankly, doing it wrong. Not only is it terribly wasteful, but it creates a perfect environment for two big problems: transcription errors and dueling data. The first one is obvious – people sometimes misread or mistype information. The latter of the two simply means that if you have one address for a customer in one place, and a different one in another, you now have no way of knowing which one is the current, correct address. Who gets to be the one to call the customer to straighten it out?
  • Navigation: Whether your company uses standalone GPS systems or just a map app on a mobile phone, there is still the often time-consuming task of entering the address into the unit. Once again, double-entry, and once again, not doing it right.
  • Paper forms: Who doesn’t instantly recognize the beat-up aluminum box/clipboard of the tradesman? Who doesn’t love it when he asks you to fill out your address and phone number on the top half of the form? Oh, right, nobody loves that. And see above re: double entry. That form is most likely essential, as it has an authorized signature on it. If only there was a better way… (see below for a better way).
  • Delayed access:  While the completed paper form is out with the field service technician, it’s not back at the office. So at the end of the day, that stack of paper copies has to make its way back so it can be dealt with by the office staff. Perhaps the company policy is to take the truck home overnight – not helpful if the truck has to come back to the office first, just to drop off a stack of completed work orders.
  • Collecting payment: If your people collect payment in the field, you probably want to give your clients the option to pay with a credit card. Unfortunately, unless you have a way to run the card right then and there, you are probably violating the terms of your card processor agreement if the info – number, CVV, expiration date, etc. – is being written down or stored in a way that could be considered insecure. If anything goes wrong and your customer’s card data is stolen, you’ve not only lost a customer, you’ve also potentially exposed yourself to legal action. Not good.
  • Customer Service: Customers change appointments. It’s what they do. Customers also make emergency calls, making it necessary to juggle an already full schedule. They cancel all the time, too. If your job calendar is always changing, you need to keep your field service team up to date without wasting even more time on the phone.

 

At Alchemy Consulting, we knew we could solve these and many other problems. We have experience with companies like this, and we know there are so many more that could use our help. With our well-known expertise at user interface design, we also knew that we could make it straightforward and easy to learn.

 
But why, you may ask, try to compete with the many third-party apps that claim to be the perfect answer to the problem of field service mobility? Could we really build a better field service app?  The answer turns out to be an easy “yes,” because of one difference: the word “Core.”
 

Alchemy Consulting is a custom development shop, using the power and rapid app development power of FileMaker. That means we custom-tailor every app we write. The Core part above means that we identified some common elements to start with, adding all of the underpinnings to add tons of new functionality on an as-needed basis. Off-the-shelf and vertical market field service app s do not possess this advantage. We handily beat all of the competition in this regard.
 

Thus, ServTek was born. We started by identifying a simple, core group of tasks that most office and mobile users would need – regardless of industry. We knew from the get-go that mobility was a key component, but that the office staff who support mobile users should be given equal time. We built a system that gives the office staff the ability to schedule jobs as they come in, in real-time. We hooked in the mobile component so that field service techs can see the job queue live as it updates, and we gave them the ability to get driving directions in Google Maps, enter work order details, collect signatures, log photos at the job site, run a credit card using a card swiper, and email the customer an invoice copy. Add to that a billing module for the office, along with aging reports, and a lot gets done. Boom.
 

Because the ServTek Core field service app is just a starting point, we can add tons of new functionality. A few examples:

  • Inventory Management
  • Time Tracking
  • Work Orders
  • Work in Progress
  • Contracts
  • DocuSign
  • Subcontractors
  • Mailing Lists
  • Sales/Follow Ups

Because no two businesses are alike, we can easily add other types of functionality as well. There is nothing in the list above that we have not done, in some form or another.
 

If your business sends people out in the field, you owe it to yourself to take a look at ServTek. Call us today at 888.663.6382 to learn more.

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