Contractor Corner

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.


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!


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!


Should My Small Business Go Paperless?

The days of cumbersome filing cabinets and endless stacks of paper are coming to a close. Cloud services and similar technology have made it possible for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere to go paperless. Going paperless offers an array of benefits to companies, especially when it comes to time and money. But it does require an initial investment to get started. So how do you know if you’re ready?

You Want to Help the Environment (and Save Money)

Obviously, the biggest benefit to going paperless is the effect it has on the environment. In fact, the paper industry is ranked as #3 on the greenhouse gas emissions list and #1 for water consumption. Even one company switching to paperless can help. So what does this mean for you? It saves a significant amount of money. With stamp costs at an all-time high, mailing out paper bills gets expensive fast. Add that to the cost of paper and toner needed to print those bills, and you can see just how much potential there is to save a lot of money.

You Want Better Organization and Accessibility

Electronic billing keeps everyone on the same virtual page. Because all of your documents are digital, you can upload them to the Cloud and access them anywhere, anytime. Never again do you have to sift through stacks of paperwork looking for an invoice. You can easily categorize your digital documents, making it much easier to search for them. You can finally ditch those unsightly filing cabinets.

You Want Your Customers to Pay on Time

Electronic billing doesn’t just help you save money; it can also help you make more money. According to Harris Interactive, about 23% of Americans pay their bills late because they misplaced their physical notices. This means you have to spend more money chasing down late-payers. With electronic billing and services like text reminders, your customers are much more likely to pay on time. That saves you money and a great deal of time.

Make the Switch Without Drowning in Old Paper Documents

Switching to paperless definitely has substantial benefits for business owners. But how do you prepare for the time-consuming task that lies ahead?

  • Start small by switching the easy stuff first. For example, start using electronic faxes instead of paper faxing. E-faxes go right to your inbox, where you can print out the hard copies you need.
  • Then switch internal documents, like spreadsheets, memos, and collaborative work. Platforms like Google Docs let you keep all those forms in the cloud, so your employees can access them from anywhere.
  • Consider implementing a service management platform to handle sales, scheduling, and billing. Most service management software integrates with QuickBooks accounting software or has the capability to integrate it. Many also come with mobile field applications. That means you can invoice and quote in a paperless environment, keep customer records in one place, email invoices to customers, and track inventory easily.
  • Make data storage paperless. This is one of the biggest time commitments – especially if you want to scan and upload old documents. But it’s worth it. Using an online data storage system will save you physical space and money and make organizing documents much easier. While it may take a large investment of your time up front, it saves you a lot of headaches in the long-run.

Go paperless by switching to an outsourced bookkeeping or payroll service like Contractor in Charge. Find out how to put your company “In Charge” – schedule a call with us to get a free quote!


Make 2016 Your Best Tax Season Yet

As 2015 comes to a close, tax season is fast approaching. The April deadline is already looming and likely causing you stress, since there’s already so much on your plate. Doing taxes as an individual can be complicated. Doing taxes as a business owner is… very tricky, to say the least. When tax season rolls around, many entrepreneurs find themselves pulling their hair out with stress – but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. Good record-keeping and a little perseverance goes a long way. Here are a few tips to help get you through the 2016 tax season.

Keeping Records the Right Way

Obviously, good record-keeping is a must as a business owner. Aside from just keeping a record of all your expenses, though, you also need to keep records in an organized fashion. Throughout the year, enter records into your accounting software as you create them. Don’t wait until the end of the year to tally your expenses. Make a habit of entering information at the end of each workday or work week. Also, keep your business and personal expenses separate. That means you should have different checking and credit card accounts for yourself and your business. It will make record keeping and tax season a whole lot easier.

Outsourcing your payroll and taxes is another fantastic way to keep proper care of your records and save yourself the headache of doing your own taxes. Many payroll companies offer tax services as part of their packages. Some of them are tax-focused, meaning their main service is accounting and taxes; payroll is a secondary benefit. These companies know the ins and outs of changing tax laws and how to get you the best tax breaks. Otherwise, you may run the risk of making costly mistakes on your taxes.

Know Your Deductions

Like individuals, businesses also have standard deductions they can claim. First-year business can deduct up to $5,000 in capital expenses for launching their company. If you’ve taken classes to improve your career as a business owner, you can deduct those, as well. Furthermore, the Small Business Jobs Act Tax law, enabled in 2010, has plenty of opportunities for small businesses to save money.

Have a Secret Arsenal of Tricks

There are plenty of little loopholes small business owners can use to their advantage. For example, if one of your children works (or helps out) around the company, you can pay him or her up to $6,000 that’s not taxed as your own income. If your spouse works for you, and you pay for healthcare, you can also deduct those payments. There are ways to save with non-related employees, as well. Offering extra benefits, like healthcare and childcare, instead of raises can offset the cost of paying taxes on additional income.


We all know donations can help reduce individual tax payments, but did you know you can leverage this as a business? If you have unused inventory at the end of the year, donate it. You’ll save money since you don’t have to store it, and you’ll get significant tax breaks. Just remember to keep precise records for donations totaling more than $500, as donations more than that amount have more stringent reporting standards.

Contractor in Charge offers various tax and payroll services. Find out how to put your company “In Charge” – schedule a call with us to get a free quote!


How outsourcing tax functions can keep you compliant and focused on your core business

A service contractor business needs three key areas of their business to run efficiently and coordinated with their production and selling area.  Those areas are Operations, Accounting & Finance, and Marketing.  All three are essential but the hub lies in the Service department and Operations.  A Service department is very dynamic and implementing some key ground rules can change the game.  Here are five ground rules which will allow you to grow and mature as business with a peace of mind.

#1 The Golden Rule 

Do unto others as you have them do unto you!  Simply put, don’t sell or deliver a job that you would not have installed in your home.  We live in a “throw away” society today.  If a customer’s service problem can be fixed verses replacing something, then do it.  Don’t sell them something just because you need to drive more daily sales.  Do the right thing for the customer.  I know many air conditioning failures are related to a bad capacitor.  However AC Sales Representatives will sell a new condenser verses repairing the unit with a capacitor.  This is a hundreds verses thousands of dollars in repair for the customer.

#2 Build Confidence & Knowledge in your Team and Business

Our customers are empowered today.  They have research at their fingertips via the internet and their smart phones.  They expect service technicians to know the latest and greatest products and services in their field.  It your job to schedule regular training for yourself and technicians with manufacturers, supply houses, and partners to give your team the confidence and knowledge on the trends and solutions for your customers.  We suggest a monthly training on a new product, new technique, and new technologies in your field.  It is this training that gives your team confidence and knowledge to deliver the answers and discussion the empowered customer demands in today’s world.

#3 Don’t Work Below Your Pay Grade: 

Too many service companies do not have a knowledgeable and empowered customer service agent answering their phones, emails, and social media requests.  Most are using their personal cell phone as their business phone and most calls go to a voicemail… which by the way is generally is too full and will not accept new voicemails.  The other tactic is to answer a phone while on another customer’s job…what are you doing? This is not acceptable. 

The reason I labeled this as Below Your Pay Grade… is because this is not your job as the business owner and lead service technician of your company.   More than 30% of customers will not leave a message on a voicemail and 79% will not call back if their calls go unanswered.  As the business owner you are losing valuable customer’s sales …you are not productive in the most important role of your business.  A live customer service agent and organized scheduling is a competitive advantage and as part of your growth strategy, it is a must! Invest a your competitive advantage of a live customer agent and scheduling/dispatching software… this is a game changer.

#4 Establish Goals and Work Them

This is an old business cliché but it makes or breaks businesses.  So many service contractors are transaction driven.  They have not determined how many transactions or jobs they need to stay in business on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.  What happens is they work and work and then one day they do not have any work.  This leads to poor cash flow and your technicians taking the skills you trained them and working for someone else. 

The breakdown starts with setting goals and communicating the goals to your technicians and employees.  The goals should be simple, achievable, and easy to understand.  A good example of a simple goal would be to communicate how many jobs at a certain price you need on daily and weekly basis to keep your business healthy.  Don’t keep it a secret, communicate it to your company and post the information publically.  A simple Monday morning meeting with everyone to let them know what the goals are and how you are doing… it can make a difference and will get everyone working toward success!

#5 Don’t settle for Mediocracy- Rise Above the Rest

According to a recent Harris poll, 50% of customers who hire a contractor are not happy.  The top reasons for the dissatisfaction are:

#1 Contractors do not show on time

#2 Contractors do not call customers back when they leave a message

#3 Contractors do not provide details of what they are charging the customer to do the job

#4 Contractors do not communicate with customers well or if at all

These top four areas of customer dissatisfaction are a contractors “competitive advantage” if they implement systems and resources to stop the pain.  Rise above the rest and consider these recommendations for the dissatisfaction points:

#1 Field service management software which allows for scheduling and dispatching jobs and projects both on the web and on a mobile device is affordable and easy to use.  If you know what is scheduled and where scheduling opportunities exist, a service contractor can at least offer a window of time they can schedule to be a customer location. 

#2 A customer agent is priceless especially if they are empowered and knowledgeable about your products, services, and schedule.  They can answer most questions and save YOU time therefore money in your business. 

#3 Repair work and replacement work should be detailed for the customer on an invoice.  If you use flat rate pricing then list the materials and hours used and billed a job.  In the case of giving estimates, use a range of pricing with options for products and materials.  Just don’t leave the customer without information to make a decision. 

#4 Communication is the key to a business and customer satisfaction.  Customers have busy schedules and lives with their job, kids, and life.  They need to know about schedule changes, job changes on budget, etc.  Changes and revisions need to be communicated in a timely fashion so customers can accommodate and budget for these in their schedules.   Think about how you would like to be treated and treat your customers in the s same manner.