As your business grows it is important to have a service and maintenance application that supports you through it all. You may already have software support but are finding that it does not fully function to support the complexity of your business, be it in size or quantity. If you are not already using a service and maintenance application, you may want to consider doing so. With the current fast-paced atmosphere surrounding businesses, it is increasingly obvious that manual systems can no longer keep up.
Understanding What a Service and Maintenance Application Is
A service and maintenance application is software that helps you to provide:
- product support, maintenances and services to your customers
- log, manage and track service jobs
- automatically schedule and track jobs
- maintain your inventory
- manage your staff more efficiently
- easy analyse accounts and financial reports.
The automation inherent in service and maintenance applications means that you save time and money by eliminating manual processes. This maximizes staff productivity by freeing them from tedious time-consuming tasks and allows them to focus on customer service. It also enables you to have greater sophistication through more targeted information and greater strategic insights.
Before choosing which system is a good fit for you, you need to understand your business needs and how a good service and maintenance application may benefit you. So at Lorge we have complied a simple guide to get you started. We will take you through the steps of getting started, finding a reseller, choosing the right system and implementing your system.
Is Now the Right Time to Move to a New System?
In short, yes now is the time because you can’t afford to lose your competitive edge waiting until your service operations to no longer be functional to upgrade. However, you can go through these questions in order to help you determine when it’s time to upgrade your system capabilities.
- Is your customer service declining in quality?
As your business grows this means you have more customers who need your attention. This increase in activity can mean that mishaps happen – lost orders, mishandling of agreements, understaffing and job going out late. With a new system you can increase automation to help your business run smoothly again.
- Is the information you have access to dated?
Incomplete, irrelevant, or error-prone information can be the downfall of any business. Relying on old information can cause serious errors if you make decisions based on it. So, if you are looking to increase your competitive edge with better strategy then its time to upgrade your software solution so you can make decisions based off real-time, accurate information
- Do you think you could be more efficient?
If your profit margins are going down but you are busier than ever, then you have a problem on your hands. This could be happening for various reasons: underutilized staff, overstocking, delayed response times, or contract errors to name a few. If any of this is true, then you could benefit from a sophisticated automated system for your staff and in turn your profits.
- Are you keeping your head above water with current industry trends?
The introduction of new or improved technology is one way to keep up-to-date and match the pace set by the industry. Customer expectations and increased competitive pressure are on the rise due to innovative technologies, so introducing a new software can be a powerful tool for your business.
- Are you looking for opportunities to outflank the competition?
If you are looking to be a leader in your industry, then you need to implement effective and innovative tools to give you the competitive edge. You want to make use of the latest service management software that is as good as, or better, than your competitors.
A couple tips to get you started:
Build the case for a new system
You need build a case for this sort of investment. You want to begin by measuring your current productivity outputs – give a detailed study of what is and is not working with your current system. You can look at things like manhours spent on the manual system, the cost of stocking and the cost of losing customers based on poor service. You want to then outline at least three options that would improve the current problems your business faces; remember “not doing anything” is an option that should be included. Once you have outlined the problems and possible solutions this will help you to effectively communicate the cost, benefits, and potential return on investment.
Build a project team to evaluate your current system
You want to form a team of people to help assess what your business needs from the software and how the software should function. Depending on the size of your business your team may include system users, system managers and system integrators. It is important that you define each team member’s role and their level of involvement in the decision-making during this process. The team should have the objective of exploring and examining the ways in which the current system works and does not work. Encourage your team to be honest and open about what they find frustrating, redundant, or ineffective – brainstorm ways the existing system can be improved, including new functions and processes that are not currently in place. The more you understand about the problems you want to solve with your new system the easier your final choice will become.
Build a list of required functions
Get your team to come up with a list of functions they feel is important to the new systems functioning. You need to be clear about what functions are essential and what functions “would be nice”. You should then go on to refine the list so as to create a formal Required Functions List. This final list should be short and concise to help you quickly eliminate any system that does not meet all your needs.
Consider the benefits of back-office integration
The right service and management application can ensure a controlled flow of information between your back office and your service department. A seamlessly integrated system means the automated transfer of data from your service department to your accounting database. The right software solution can easily and reliably interface with your financial data, eliminating transcript errors, manual inputs and all the while providing you with insightful information across the entire business.
Finding a Reseller
By working with a reseller, you are working with someone who can evaluate your current system and then guide you towards the best service and maintenance application for your needs. Resellers offer knowledge on software solutions and experience in integrating the software into your business. Ideally, your reseller should be familiar with the accounting system so as to ensure seamless integration.
Instead of creating and sending out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to potential resellers, which can take months with the waiting and reviewing process, you can E-mail a copy of your Required Functions List to the resellers you are considering and ask if their systems support the key functions your business needs. Once they have received your list you can conduct a phone interview to determine which reseller’s solution matches your required functionality. It is important to ask questions like whether features come standard or are available as an addon module for an additional fee.
Ask yourself these three questions when evaluating a reseller:
- Is a complete service package provided by the reseller?
You want to work with a reseller who wants to assist with long-term training and services, not only the initial sale and installation. Product training, technical support, ongoing maintenance and upgrades are all critical to any new software implementation.
- Does the reseller listen effectively and communicate clearly?
For a reseller to effectively give you recommendations on service and maintenance applications they must first learn as much as possible about your business – including the capabilities of your current system and where it needs work. They should be speaking to more than one person at the company and should also be focused on listening to your concerns and needs going forward. When speaking to your potential reseller, you should focus the discussions on the system training and not only the features of a program. You also want to find out what the reseller can offer in addition to the software itself.
- Can I work with the reseller?
You need to find a reseller who you enjoy working with and is a good match for your business’s ethos. You will be working closely together over a period of days, even months so find a reseller that is a supportive partner.
Choosing the Right System
Consider the following factors to narrow the field of software vendors so you can choose one that is in line with your long-term strategy.
Get to know the software manufacturer
Make yourself familiar with the company that makes the software – ask yourself if it is a respected name in the software industry. You want to consider what vision the company has for itself and its products.
Insist on a user-friendly system
You want to select a software solution that is easy to use and logical for your staff. If your new service and maintenance application is not user-friendly, then you will not be able to maximise all the functionality benefits. Some things to keep in mind are if the system allows users to view and sort information easily, if it is accessible over the Web and if it uses the familiar navigational model of a standard Web browser. Your system should give you access to critical data and provide a real-time view of your service operations, in the least number of clicks.
Look for a solution that integrates with your accounting database
With the right service and maintenance application, you can eliminate manual input of information by automating the process of capturing information like job completion status, parts inventory, claims in process, and more. Through solid integration with your accounting database you improve access to up-to-the-minute information while reducing transcription errors
System architecture and the latest technology
Make sure your system has a stable, strong architecture and can easily interface with the latest technologies such as Web, text chat, e-mail, fax, phone, PDA, and branch accounting. You need a system that works with the today’s technologies but will also be adaptable to future technologies. To remain competitive and efficient, you need a system that allows you to take advantage of the latest technology.
Future costs: system capacity and technical support
When selecting a new system, confirm that the software has the capacity to grow with you. You need to be clear about which functions are included in the core pricing and which must be purchased separately. Inquire about the maximum number of users that the system allows and if it included all the modules you will need – ask your reseller about the cost of additional users and modules for the future. Your reseller is your go-to resource for technical support, but you may still have to rely on the software vendor’s technical support team as well – ask your reseller about support packages and what you can expect in response times to support questions.
Evaluate system security
Migrating towards digital solutions means your security checks need to be of a high priority. Find out if the system protects sensitive reports and functions. Confirm that the system can be set up in such a way that your staff members only see information relevant to their job function.
Consider implementation time
Inquire about how long the implementation will take, you also want to know what factors could potentially affect this time. You want a system solution that requires less upfront customization so you can be up and running quickly and smoothly.
Implementing Your System
You’re almost there. This guide has given you some tips to get started and now you have chosen a reseller and chosen a solution; it’s implementation time. To ensure a smooth and successful implementation, consider the following:
Start with a plan and time
Determine the goals of your project and make sure your team is focused and aware. Installations requiring minimal customization usually takes between one to three months. Make sure your implementation timeline is realistic. If you have a bigger project planned, then plan for a longer installing with more consulting resources – the more resources you allocate for implementation, the less it will cost you in time and money. Your reseller will propose a timeline they feel they can manage as well as a range of hours each task will take.
Provide ongoing training
Develop a training agenda focused on continuous learning, along with supporting materials, like written tests and training guides. This helps you optimize efficiency through reinforcing existing methods and procedure and it also assists with the future the teaching of new hires. It is important to remember that you should ideally fine-tune your solution with system modifications before you start training your staff. A good service and maintenance application should always be easily customizable so the training on your system should never end. As your business grows and evolves so too should your system and the training that goes along with it.
Integrate the back office
Integration with your back office is an essential piece of your system implementation. You want to have this completed and tested before launching your new software solution. This integration means you have the ability to push transaction data from the service department to their accounting database and vice versa.
Schedule a rollout time
With the fast pace of doing business it can be difficult to find the right time to rollout any solution so as to minimize business interruptions. Attempt to install the system during your slowest time of year.
Measure against the old system
Once your system is up and running, be sure to compare the results to your previous system, as well as the goals you have established for your company. This will help you calculate your return on investment and all grants you the ability to create ongoing benchmarks to incentivise your workforce, compare your result to industry averages and set future targets.
So, if you want to save your business time and money, maximize staff productivity and increase sophistication, then consider implementing a service and management application today. When you do not have full control over your system your efficiency and utilization suffers. Utilise your resources to their fullest potential with Technisoft Service Manager.
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