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Are You A Technophobe? Hand Picked Apps For The Plumbing Contractor
The plumbing business has been an integral part of my life for over 20 years, so I know that plumbers and plumbing contractors adopt new technology kicking and screaming. As all of you know technology is changing rapidly, so rapidly I think that most contractors want to curl up into the fetal position and suck their thumb. Unfortunately, if you want to stay efficient and more importantly, profitable you must embrace technology regardless of how painful it may seem. Because I’m no longer in the plumbing business on a day-to-day basis it has allowed me the time to take a top down view of the business and to look at new productivity apps that can actually help plumbing contractors do things more efficiently. Every app on this list I use on a daily basis and each one helps with a different aspect of the business. I have attempted to rank them based on importance but it is totally subjective and each plumbing firm will have their own preferences and emphasis.
6 Plumbing Apps
6.) Stripe – Most of you are familiar with Paypal. Stripe is a similar product in that it allows you to bill customers for
services provided and also accept credit and debit card payments without a CC machine. The beauty of Stripe is you can customize your checkout experience and if you’re a service based contractor your customer can pay right from an on site mobile device. Before you ask I’ll answer the question “yes it works nicely with Quickbooks”. Stipe has the most robust set of APIs to ensure it works well with all of your existing systems. You can check out more regarding Stripe by clicking here.
5.) Lastpass – If you’re like me keeping passwords straight was a real pain in the arse at least until I began using LastPass. On-line banking, on-line CC management, mortgage payments, industry forums, web content management like WordPress, Amazon, ecommerce, Gmail, Outlook mail, all social platform, Drop Box and all other cloud based services are all handled with ease if you use LastPass. After you set up a LastPass account every website you visit needing a username and Password can be saved. You literally never have to remember a password again because Lastpass automatically logs you in provided it was saved in your vault. Lastpass will even auto generate a password for you if you want to make sure a password is ultra secure.
If you shop online often you can set up profile, CC Card and shipping address. When you’re registering for an account or completing a payment you just select which profile you want and you can complete the form with a single mouse click.
You can also create secure notes for every aspect of your life. If you wanted to create a secure note for your health insurance and upload a scan of your cards to the note it’s simple. You can do the same for your driver’s license, health club memberships, etc. Because LastPass is available on most mobile platforms as an app you can take your information with you wherever you go. LastPass also allows another layer of security by offering multifactor authentication when signing in to your account. Click here to see more of the awesome features LastPass offers.
4.) Expensify – Until very recently I’ve never had to keep track of my expenses. Needless to say, now it is essential and Expensify helps you track expenses easily. Just open up the Expensify app on your Android or iOS smart phone, take a picture of the receipt, enter the amount of the receipt and you’re done. If you want or need more detailed reporting it gives you the ability to set up a trip or events to break down reporting even further. For example, if you were going to the Kitchen and Bath show in Las Vegas and you wanted to keep track of expenses for that event by itself, you would set up that event or trip and all expenses tagged to that event would be totaled and tracked. You can print out reports for any expenses tagged to a trip or event. You can also import CC statements in to Expensify to simplify the process even more.
Sounds pretty easy right? If you’re an administrator you’ll fall in love too. This is a one-stop shop to track reimbursable expenses for all of your employees. You can see which ones you’ve approved, rejected, and paid. In fact you can reimburse your employees via ACH, Paypal or payroll right from inside of the admin panel.
3.) OneNote – Microsoft’s OneNote is one of my most utilized and beloved apps. I’ve used, Evernote, Wunderlist, Google Docs etc. to run my life over the last 5 to 6 years and they all do things very well. Wonderlist handles lists in a very logical way and it’s interface is simple and beautiful, Evernote gives you the ability to import documents and organize them by project or idea or month. However you choose to organize your life Evernote can probably do it. Google Docs is a part of the Google Apps Suite and it allows you to collaborate like few other services can. Every once in awhile a program comes along and knocks it right out of the park and I believe Microsoft did it with OneNote.
The interface is simple but pleasant and here’s the drum roll…..logical. The User Interface (UI) is set up using notebooks at its core. Each notebook is broken down further by colored file tabs as seen in the picture below. Each tab is a page where pretty much anything goes. You can write numbered notes, add to-do lists, add a picture or a movie to highlight something written, and add a table or graph. It’s like a blank slate and you add the pieces of information, as you want to see them.
Let’s give you an example of how this would work in the real plumbing world. Suppose you have the opportunity to give a plumbing estimate for a fairly large project. The building is being done in phases so your estimate also has to be broken down by corresponding phases as well. You could set up a NoteBook for that particular project and have tabs for each phase. In those tabs you can write or keep every single note, plan, RFI and quote or even audio for those phases. If the estimate turns into a job you could continue using your project notebook as an informational repository until complete.
The possibilities and the ways in which you organize are endless. I have one notebook with tabs for my to-do lists, one notebook for article and content ideas and then other notebooks for particular projects. Here is one of the best features; you can share any notebook you want with another person that has OneNote so you can collaborate. Any notebook can be password protected so if there is something you want to keep away from prying eyes you can lock it down.
2.) BestEverFlatRate App – If you are a residential plumbing company and you aren’t using some form of flat rate pricing you are cheating yourself. If you are using flat rate pricing you should be aware that giving the customer options is an important part of the sale in fact it’s as important to the business as the actual install. I’ve always found that getting service technicians to write up options and present them to the customer in an understandable way has been difficult. In fact its such a barrier that quite a few really talented service technicians end up washing out of the sales side of the business.
The BestEverFlatRate app is brought to you by Joe Crisara of Contractor Selling. Unlce Joe is one of the finest flat rate systems coaches in the U.S. but you don’t need his guidance to use this revolutionary flat rate pricing and options tool. So here is a run down of how it works. Your service technician needs an iPad or Android tablet. You can certainly do it on a smart phone but I believe it’s more effective on a tablet. After looking at the customers plumbing problem, the service tech can look though the Optionmaker to look at similar scenarios and build luxury, mid-range and budget options for the repair. After the service tech builds his options each option is automatically verbally packaged so your employee doesn’t have to sweat how to present the options.
Here are some of the other cool feature of the BestEverFlatRate App :
- Option Sheet Templates – If you need to create options from scratch this helps you along.
- Custom Price Builder – Plumbing is a funny profession, just when you think you’ve seen it all something new pops up. The custom price builder allows you create flat rate pricing for new services on the fly.
- Info Button – While the service technician is building options they may need model numbers or information on the products they are presenting. The Info Button provides this type of technical information.
- Financing Options – Provides cost for financing and breaks down monthly payments depending on time financed for all options. No more breaking out the calculator to figure out payments.
- Audio Recorder – Record your sales call so you can listen back and hear what you rocked and what you bombed.
- Invoice Generator – Invoice the customer when call is complete. Also automatically emails the office a copy of invoice. Integrate with Quickbooks for seamless accounting.
- Tech Results Dashboard – Track the performance of all of your service techs in one spot including average price per call, closing rate etc. in real time.
1.) Nimble – Although I’ve tried to arrange these in order of importance it is purely subjective. I believe that customer service and customer interaction is the key to stable income and future growth. If you have no way of efficiently reaching out to past customers or possible future customers you should probably just pack up your ball and bat and go home. By now you’ve probably heard of the term CRM or Customer Relationship Management. It’s software designed to track customer interaction from the first meeting or phone call to closing a sale. There are many awesome CRM software options out there however most don’t fit with a residential plumbing contractor’s sales cycle. Nimble is the best CRM for residential plumbing/mechanical contractors……period. I’ve looked at and test driven at least 10 of them.
Here is how Nimble, one of the popular plumbing apps that can increase your business. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for 15 years or a month, you have customers you’ve serviced. Hopefully you’ve kept their contact information and email address. (I can’t help you if you don’t have this information) You take that database (you may have to make some adjustments to your database so they fit with Nimble’s informational fields) and upload to Nimble. It now creates contacts for each and every one of your current and past customers. Here is where things get really cool. Nimble takes each of those customers and scours the social networks like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram etc. to find a match with your customer. If you find one you can follow every single tweet and Facebook post that person makes.
If you aren’t following them you have the option to do so. You now have the ability to stay inside that customers buying cycle. If they have no on-line social profile you can set up reminders to reach out to your customers periodically. All correspondence is trackable so you can see each time you’ve called, emailed, tweeted and Facebook messengered your customers. The possibilities to interact with existing customers and gain new ones by those interactions are endless. Think about how friends of friends would feel if they saw the friendly plumbing contractor posting a simple hello on their Facebook wall. No sales pitches, no coupons just “hey we care about you, call us if you need anything”. There is also a feature that allows you to designate degree of importance to a customer. I realize they are all important but you can set up a customer with reminders to touch base every day, week, month, year etc. This is especially useful for customers who utilize your services regularly. It allows you to be high touch in a time when it is absolutely necessary.
Nimble also provides you with the ability to track potential customers with a longer sales cycle as well i.e. general contractors, building managers, architects and engineers. As an administrator you can also track how your employees are following up. Click here to see all of the additional features Nimble packs into a very affordable monthly package.
As always thanks for reading. With all of the emerging software available sometimes choosing the right one is difficult especially if you find technology scary and unapproachable. Every app listed above has a fairly short learning curve and you should be up and functional in less than a day or two. In my opinion that’s not a lot of time to spend working on your business to streamline the sales process, stay in touch and manage customers, get paid and stay more organized.