Given today’s technology, every service department should be integrating mobile applications into their business processes. However, a startling number of hot tub service departments still don’t use mobile solutions to improve efficiencies and future profitability. Though they often recognize the value of these technologies, many spa dealers seem to be stuck on the question, “But how and how much?”
Field service industry research consistently shows that service departments that have mobile solutions outperform those that don’t.
With the mobile workforce estimated at over one billion, mobile technologies play a significant role in customer data access and real-time decision making. In fact, field service industry research consistently shows that service departments that have mobile solutions outperform those that don’t.
According to MSI Data, “Benefits of a capable, properly implemented mobile field service solution include higher technician utilization rates, higher first-time fix rates, better management visibility of field activity, improved customer service and better competitive differentiation.” With these kind of results, it’s hard to imagine why so many hot tub businesses still choose to hold their service departments back.
Modeling the Use of Mobile in Service
Not all spa dealers hold back though. Jason Miller of A-1 Pools is a big believer in investing in the tools available that clearly help his dealership remain relevant amidst increasing competition within the industry. Based in Wisconsin, A-1 is a small pool and spa company with 8 to 10 employees specializing in retail, service, and construction.
Miller states, “Mobile solutions enable me to have instant access to every detail of my company’s operations, maximize the follow up of every lead, provide the highest level of customer service while creating so many time- and money-saving efficiencies.” The solutions have essentially allowed him to restructure his two fixed retail locations into a satellite-like service business with techs who work from home. As a result, A-1 has removed its cap on growth and now serves a larger area in a more local manner.
(And to think it all started when Miller declared a war on paper years ago. To this day, he refuses to receive handwritten messages from his staff.)
About the cost, he says the initial investment was a bit intimidating, but the technology has easily paid for itself and more. Miller identifies his implementation of mobile solutions as a competitive differentiator for his pool and spa business.
Nicole Ragel of Patio Pools & Spas also recognizes the value mobile technologies has brought her service department. After struggling to achieve efficiencies with custom software, she decided to go with a more comprehensive system that’s turned her department of five techs and 14 cleaners into a true profit center. “There are no double entries, techs can spin out quotes, and customers come out satisfied in the end.”
By reducing operational costs while increasing future profitability, mobile solutions are key to generating repeat and referred business.
So what tips would Miller and Ragel suggest for those spa retailers ready to proceed with mobile solutions?
The service department’s goal is to efficiently close work orders and leave service customers with a positive view of a potentially negative experience. By reducing operational costs while increasing future profitability, mobile solutions are key to generating repeat and referred business. In other words, technologies should be applied to those processes that need the most improvement and offer the greatest value gain to operational performance.
1. Outline processes that can be improved with mobile technologies
To begin, list all internal operational processes involving the service department when it comes to managing repair service, scheduling, and even maintenance contracts. Then identify how the processes can be served by mobile solutions. Here’s a general idea:
- Access and input capabilities to real-time customer information (CRM). A-1 requires all techs to have an iPad in which they can take notes, record status data like chemical levels and water temps, view customer records, view equipment and warranty info, and upload photo and video files.
- Track parts and service vehicle inventory and initiate reorder. A-1 automates its ordering with this info to ensure their techs are always prepared for the first-time fix. This tracking goes even further into gauging future demand. It also helps Patio Pool & Spas determine which service vehicle is best prepared for each work order repair.
- Schedule and track real-time work orders. A-1’s technologies allow techs to view their schedule in advance and update tasks remotely. Patio Pool & Spas programs can also be optimized so jobs are scheduled based on route and zone or even on tech skill and availability.
- Access to expertise/knowledge database. Here’s where A-1 really sees the potential of mobile coming into play. Miller aims to have all business, product, and how-to resources available to his service team at any time in multiple formats. Examples include blogs, articles, and video to maximize use while ensuring consistency. Ragel’s techs resolution time has sped up since their program prompts them with interview questions based on symptoms and customer info inputted in their database.
- Establish communication with customer (pre, during, and post appointment). Miller points out that flexibility has become increasingly important to younger and working customers, so being responsive is critical. And the spellcheck function helps maintain a higher level of professionalism. Patio Pools & Spas says that their communication abilities connecting all business functions makes sure that no customer falls through the crack along their service experience.
- Take payment at service site. Techs can offer customers the convenience of making on-the-spot purchases, not just for services rendered but for other hot tub maintenance products. Product barcodes can be scanned with a smartphone’s camera and card info can be encrypted and stored for faster processing.
- Automate warranty claim processing. Both A-1 and Pool Patio & Spas are able to track spas by serial numbers, so warranty info is viewable for each work order even when hot tubs have had different owners. With this capability that also initiates claim submission through to the manufacturer, A-1 no longer loses out when servicing warranty claims.
- Automate maintenance contract scheduling and communications. These communications should include letting the customer know about upcoming expiration terms and renewal opportunities.
- Connect maintenance contracts with auto-ship programs. And tie this back to customer communication.
2. Choose the right mobile solutions
Aside from finding technologies that address your operational needs, other factors go into choosing the best solution for your spa business. Ragel looked for one that was easy to use and Miller wanted a software solution that would boost his volume. At the end of the day, the mobile solutions you choose should allow you to spend more time on growing your business rather than maintaining it.
The hard fact is technology implementation involves more than simply installing software. It typically requires creation of new business practices that adapt to the software. Finding a solutions product that offers reliable, responsive support to facilitate such change translates into a seamless software conversion. This support should include comprehensive training from the provider, both live and recorded.
Rather than relying on multiple databases that require double or triple entry, efficiency is optimized when all processes dial into a single source.
Another feature to look for in a mobile solutions product is efforts towards enhancements. Technology is constantly developing and it’s important to have a product that keeps you up-to-date. Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll want to look for a company that develops its software according to the dealers’ input.
That said, the priority here should be streamlining business practices. Rather than relying on multiple databases that require double or triple entry, efficiency is optimized when all processes dial into a single source. One-stop mobile solution products for spa service departments include Evosus, DBX Software, RB Control Systems, and Wise Software.
3. Align tech compensation and incentives with service operation metrics
A-1 and Patio Pool & Spas say the key to making their investments pay off is aligning compensation to results with the service staff just as they do the sales team—paying on commission. This motivates their techs to use the technologies available and keeps the team’s morale up. Miller notes that, even for service techs, “Money doesn’t seem to matter, until it actually does.”
Both of our model retailers use the service department’s results (either revenue or profit margin) to track operational efficiency. Miller and Ragel apply tiered plans with bonuses based on department metrics, which are added to earned billable rate.
Other than operational costs and department profitability, possible metrics that can go into the compensation plan include time to appointment, length/duration of appointment, number of visits required to fix the problem, as well as product/service performance customer feedback.
4. Provide continued training and education
When new business processes are introduced, it goes without saying that training determines how effectively they prove to be. Miller also finds that the seasonality of tech turnover makes the need for training even more imperative. Especially training that can be replicated or used more than once. He finds extra value in recorded sessions that save on resources while ensuring consistency down the road.
A-1 also relies heavily on different mobile apps and hardware, so their training can be accessed on a regular basis either at the retail location or remotely. Imagine how the appearance of having all the answers can impact public perception of your business.
Do mobile technologies come at a cost? Sure. But approached as an investment, Miller sees them as a game changer for any spa business, and service department, wanting to be around longer than just one or two years. Even more so if you want to be growing your spa business from a baseball game or the comfort of your own hot tub. (Miller attests that both are possible!)