Contractor Corner

Why You Always Need Customer Records at Your Fingertips

Customers have high expectations, and the last thing they want to do is resupply information your business should already have. We live in the information age, where information is easily accessed, shared, and stored. As such, customers expect companies to keep records of pertinent information, like customer history and other documents.

This is especially true in industries where customers have little expertise, such as car or computer repair. The customer likely doesn’t know the specifications of their models, but if they worked with your company in the past year, they expect you to know. Having easy and organized access to this information is beneficial to both parties, since it cuts down on wait time and boosts productivity. As a small business owner, organizing customer records may be far down on your priority list. After all, you have plenty of other tasks at hand. In reality, it’s one of the most important things you can do.

Keep Customer Records Organized

The easiest way to lose customer records is to keep them in an unorganized manner. For example, many industries still use paper invoicing slips and other traditional methods of keeping customer records. Sometimes this is necessary, but it shouldn’t lead to disorganization. Store your customer records somewhere safe and categorized, and keep your best client’s accounts close by so they’re easily accessible.

When your customers schedule an appointment or service call, you’ll find their purchase history and personal information easily. Keep records updated, as well, so you don’t end up sending invoices to the wrong address.

Consider Using Service Management Software

Service management software keeps your customer information organized so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s digital, so once you input necessary information, the system will store it in a searchable database. It’s like an electronic version of your filing cabinet, except with less dust and easier navigability.

Software like this is invaluable to service-related industries. For example, if one of your customers calls about a problem with appliances you installed, you can quickly look up the invoice and find out the manufacturer specs and other information you’ll need for troubleshooting. You can also use this software to automate communications, manage marketing campaigns, and update customer records.

Fine-Tune Your Bookkeeping Habits

Keeping financial records organized is just as important to customers as it is to you. If you don’t have experience in bookkeeping, it’s critical that you depend on someone who is. Unorganized bookkeeping can lead to discrepancies, potentially losing you hundreds or thousands of dollars. It’s your responsibility as a business owner to make sure customers are billed correctly and on time. Customers don’t want to chase down businesses to make a payment, and they want to make sure they’re getting the best deal. Your bookkeeping department holds the key to saving customers – and your business – money.

If bookkeeping isn’t your strong suit (like many business owners), you may want to consider outsourcing. Contractor in Charge offers a variety of services for small businesses, including bookkeeping and payroll. Find out how to put your company “In Charge” – schedule a call with us to get a free quote!

Sources:

Keeping Good Customer Records (and record numbers of good customers!)


http://startups.co.uk/why-keeping-customer-records-could-be-instrumental-in-your-business-success/
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/choosing-right-business-record-keeping-32277.html
http://ird.gov.dm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=59:the-importance-of-record-keeping

3 Signs You Need to Get Your Business Organized

As a small business owner, you probably started in your respective field because of your experience in the industry. Maybe it was a childhood dream of yours, or maybe you realized you had a knack for your job. Either way, you now run a small business based on your expertise. However, while many business owners have ample experience in the industry, they often lack the experience to handle back-office operations like HR and accounting.

This can lead to disorganization and even neglect, which isn’t good for your business. Poor organization can reduce a company’s ability to grow, turn away its clients, or even land it in trouble with the IRS. With limited resources, small operations don’t always have the option to hire a dedicated administrative team, so some stay in a continuous state of disorganization. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way.

How to Tell if Disorganization Is Affecting Your Business

If you find yourself buried in paperwork in the back office or struggling to multi-task administrative tasks, it may be time to consider outsourcing a department or two. Think about how you allocate your daily duties. Are you spending too much time figuring out payroll or getting expenses organized? Do you end up having to take home extra work at the end of the day because you’re spending precious business hours doing data entry?

When administrative tasks impede on your ability to run your business, it can have a significant effect on your profits and enterprise as a whole. Luckily, almost any administrative aspect of a business can be outsourced; the trick is knowing which one you need help with most.

What Are the More Common Departments to Outsource?

Outsourcing is an incredible way get your business organized and increase productivity, and payroll and HR are some of the biggest departments small businesses contract out. However, both of these are governed by ever-changing tax and employment laws. Entrepreneurs that don’t understand or have time to keep up with these laws risk non-compliancy fines and serious trouble. That’s why many work with outsourcing companies that specialize in these areas.

Finding the Best Outsourcing Solution for Your Business

So how do you go about finding the best outsourcing solution? As a small business, you may not have the desire or funds to switch all departments, which is actually a good thing. For example, outsourcing customer service isn’t always the best idea, especially if clients love your personal size and charm. Think about which departments you want to outsource:

  • What activities impact your ability to make a profit? Would outsourcing these activities free up time?
  • If a particular job is temporary or occurs in cycles (such as payroll), outsourcing might be more cost-effective than having an in-house team.
  • Does the job entail a particular skill, like accounting, that you don’t understand?
  • Outsourcing routine jobs such as data-entry may also be cost-effective and time-saving.

Not all business owners are the same, so it’s important to consider what departments would most benefit you if outsourced. Contractor in Charge offers a suite of services, including bookkeeping, dispatch, and payroll. Find out how to put your company “In Charge” – schedule a call with us to get a free quote!

Sources:

http://theleadershipresource.com/why-organize
http://www.businessknowhow.com/Startup/outsource.htm
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-outsourcing-hr-functions-21169.html
http://finance-commerce.com/2013/02/when-to-outsource-hr-duties-and-when-to-hire/

3 Ways to Train Your Employees on a Budget

Small business owners have to take on many roles, sometimes including the role of a trainer. You want the best out of your employees, and sometimes that means they need a little extra instruction. Employee training is equally beneficial to the employee and the company, but only when it’s done by the right person. A bad trainer can actually lead to decreased motivation, productivity, and unclear goals. In many cases, small business owners take on the role personally – and the results aren’t always good. So how can you be sure your employees are getting quality training?

Call on Other Employees for Their Skills

When you’re just starting out, training your first few employees isn’t very difficult. But as your business grows, you’ll probably find you have less time to dedicate to training newcomers. Calling upon the expertise of your other employees is an excellent way to delegate some of the training duties.

Seasoned employees are a wonderful training resource, as they know the “flow” of the company. They’ve spent enough time on the job that they know how to efficiently get things done. Best of all, you can use their individual personality strengths to balance each other’s, your own, and the new employees. For example, one of your employees may be better with teaching hands-on training, while another may be better at developing a training manual with you.

Utilize Continuing Education Classes

Whether you want to learn new management skills or want your employees to learn some industry tips, training classes are a fantastic option. Harness the power of training classes by either developing one yourself or looking elsewhere. If you want to develop a program, gather input from other employees and professionals in your industry. Put together a training class that clearly outlines your company goals and how trainees can meet them.

On the other hand, you can look to outside resources, like professional training classes. Some training modules only include industry specific skills, while others include a more comprehensive approach, similar to a college course. Training can be delivered through off-site classes or online.

Invest in a Professional Training Program

Professional trainers work with you to identify specific objectives for your business and then train your employees on how to best serve you. Employee training reduces turnover rates and increases productivity. It can also be used as a recruiting perk, which often leads to higher quality candidates.

Training companies are one of the best resources for employee training; professional training has a significant ROI and benefits both employee and employer tremendously. Of course, as a small business owner, you may not have the immediate funds to do so. If that’s the case, consider an outside resource to help you plan and execute an effective training program.

Services like Contractor in Charge help small business owners allocate funds for special projects, like professional employee training programs. Find out how to put your company “In Charge” – schedule a call with us to get a free quote!

Sources:

https://www.sba.gov/blogs/8-tips-training-your-small-business-employees-budget
http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7120-small-business-employee-training.html
http://bizdharma.com/blog/how-to-be-a-good-trainer-5-rules-that-always-work/
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/developing-effective-employee-training-program-1181.html

Top Ways Small Businesses Can Prevent Employee Theft

Employee theft affects all companies, but small businesses can be hit doubly hard. They lack the resources for extensive security measures, and they’re more likely to employ trusted family or friends. Employee theft can be a difficult thing to spot and address – especially if the worker is a friend. After all, you hired that person because you felt you could trust him or her.

Is Employee Theft Really a Big Deal?

Shockingly, employee theft is extremely common. In fact, a study conducted by a loss prevention firm found that workers, on average, steal 5.5 times more than shoplifters. The study also found that 1 out of 40 employees was arrested for theft that year – and those are only the figures that were reported. Clearly, it’s important to take steps to prevent personnel theft, no matter how much your trust your laborers.

Preventing employee theft, however, doesn’t mean you have to take measures that might offend close friends. There are plenty of ways to safeguard your business without being accusatory.

Use Video Surveillance Systems for General Security

Video surveillance is useful in a number of ways. These days, it’s also affordable. Employees are much less likely to steal if they know video cameras are everywhere. Install cameras in hotspots like the storage room, cash register, and front of the store. Make sure to invest in high-definition security cameras, and keep access to them limited.

Service Management Software for Field Invoicing and Estimation

Many service management systems have integrated technician and customer monitoring and reporting. With the proper internal process and access controls, employee theft sets off red flags and triggers. For example, if a particular technician shows a lot of refunds or void transactions, the system and process will alert that there’s a problem. Requiring a field manager or office manager to authorize a refund, discount, or a void transaction is a good prevention step.

Install GPS Systems in Company Vehicles

Businesses that have a lot of mobility, like contractor services, face employee theft in other forms. This can take the form of “stolen” company time or other types of theft. The best way to prevent this is with vehicle monitoring systems, which show you where the work vehicle is at any given time. Of course, not all employees will be thrilled about the concept, but if you make it part of the work policy and contract, they’ll know what they’re signing up for. Vehicle monitoring is also helpful for increasing efficiency, so the benefits are twofold.

Lastly, you’ll need to stay on top of your bookkeeping and accounting to note any discrepancies and confront a potential problem. Schedule a call with us for more information on these and similar services for your enterprise.

Sources:

http://www.fraud-magazine.com/article.aspx?id=4294976289
http://www.sequenceinc.com/fraudfiles/2006/11/top-ten-ways-to-prevent-employee-theft/
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229816
http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/Di-Eq/Employee-Theft.html

Suffering From a Clunky Customer Service Process? Here’s How to Fix It

People consistently complain that contractors give bad customer service. Usually, this can be traced to a company trying to do too much at once. Good customer service is the most important thing a business should focus on. Your customers hold the success of your business in their hands. Happy customers mean more customers, and more customers mean more money. So how can enterprises who receive service complaints “fix” their customer service departments?

Always Be Friendly and Committed to Your Customers

A perceived lack of concern is the most common customer complaint. Customers hate feeling like a representative doesn’t care about their issues. Have you ever called to resolve a problem with your phone bill and had to speak to someone who seemed rude and preoccupied? It’s frustrating. When customers call in, make an effort to actively show your support. Introduce yourself and tell them exactly what you plan to do to resolve their issues. Ask their name and use it. Everyone knows a person’s favorite word is his or her own name.

How to (Properly) Handle Complaints About Wait Times

Nobody likes to wait. We live in a society of instant gratification where supply often outweighs demand. That means many consumers don’t have the patience to wait – and they don’t have to. Thus, one of the most common customer complaints revolves around wait times. Whether it’s waiting for a contractor to show up or being put on hold while paying a bill, waiting for anything typically doesn’t go over well. There are two solutions to this problem:

  • The first is to optimize your company for efficiency. Why do your customers have to wait? Do you not have digital invoicing, meaning customers have to call or wait for paper bills? How do you handle service calls? Inefficiencies with dispatching or service calls convolute the process, making your contractors more liable to show up late.
  • If you continually get long wait time complaints from customers, look at your internal operations first. However, there are times when customers just have to wait. Maybe it’s the busy season for your company or a product is on backorder. In that case, acknowledge your customers’ frustration, and treat them with respect. If they know what’s going on and feel appreciated, they’re more likely to wait patiently.

Make Sure Your Company Is Accessible Across All Channels

One of the greatest reasons for lost customers is inaccessibility. What’s more, many businesses lose customers before they even have a chance to explain, suggesting that inaccessibility is a far larger problem than reported. For example, if a business doesn’t have a good website or doesn’t have one at all, it risks losing hundreds of potential customers.

Customers that can’t find out about a company’s services or contact information will go elsewhere fast. Inaccessibility can take many forms: your website could be outdated, the business hours you posted may be wrong, or your phone system might be confusing. It’s important to communicate effectively with customers and make sure factors like these are streamlined. Look at the customer service process through their eyes, and pinpoint areas where you might be losing them along the way.

Find out how to save up to 50% on your first month of services. Schedule a call with us to get a free quote!

Sources:

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/common-customer-service-complaints-2039.html
http://www.returncustomer.com/7-common-customer-complaints-and-how-to-respond/
http://yfsmagazine.com/2013/07/17/10-common-customer-service-challenges/

Six Ways GPS-enabled Software Improves Customer Satisfaction

The business site, Software Advice, a website businesses frequent to research field service software, recently surveyed how GPS in the field service industry affects field service business owners as well as their customers.

Some of their findings aren’t surprising – no one wants to wait hours for a field service tech to arrive – but other findings might be more surprising, and they reveal ways to improve how your business runs in addition to improving customer satisfaction. Here are some of the site’s findings that might encourage your business to adopt GPS-enabled software.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

No one wants to be stuck at home waiting for a service tech to arrive, and true or not, a cliché that riddles the industry is how impossible it is pin down when a tech will show up. When asked how late is too late, 67% of customers said if a tech doesn’t show up after an hour or more, they would not rehire that company. Punctuality and location accuracy have become expectations for the operation of homes and businesses, and new technology has made that simple. It has also created a world where a phone call to the competition is as easy as a web search on the phone.

One way to keep your customers happy would be to provide arrival notifications. Even if your window of arrival is a few hours long, if a customer gets a notification when a tech is on their way, the customer is much less likely to feel like a shut-in, and will, therefore, be happier with your business.

Efficiency and the Field Tech Businesses 

Customer satisfaction is crucial to a business, but if you can get customer satisfaction and a more efficient way to conduct your business, everybody wins. According to the Software Advice Survey, businesses using GPS-enabled software find this “win-win” to be the case. Field Tech offices can certainly keep track of technicians, which means an office manager can more easily reroute techs who have become unavoidably late. Because technician punctuality leads to an increase in finished work orders this efficiency allows businesses to end the work day earlier.

Most of the business owners surveyed (90%) saw an increase in the number of work orders completed on time. The nature of the business, though, means sometimes techs get stuck and are unable to make it to their next stop in a timely manner. When this happens, the office can notify the waiting customer, who will fell less frustrated by the wait time. Additionally, most businesses using GPS software saw a decrease in fuel costs and travel time. Businesses saw increases in driving safety as well.

Better Communication Means Better Service

Forewarned is forearmed, and technicians who are aware of customer needs are better able to serve those customers. This advanced software lets techs communicate more easily and take special notes about customer needs. If a tech knows they are ringing the doorbell of an elderly person, they are more likely to wait an extra few minutes for the door to open. Knowing a customer has a cat that likes to slip out the door can mean time saved as well, and a happier customer experience.

Want to learn how Contractor in Charge and GPS-enable software can transform your business? Find out how – schedule an appointment with us to get a free quote!

Sources:

http://www.softwareadvice.com/field-service/
http://success.hindsitesoftware.com/field-service-software-blog/why-your-field-service-customers-want-you-to-be-using-gps?utm_campaign=2015+Lead+Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=24750065&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–L12uUlZ9ti5wV3_s1ycZy_yC7YZyJ8Q-GPBwKSGO4I-av-YY6j-kQLQYFTPgXCo5tP0EzsEHmDL1V-1NRIV0NrB1fig&_hsmi=24750065