HVAC business management: Addressing a unique challenge
Running your HVAC business involves some unique business challenges. Companies in most other industries typically specialize in either service or product sales. HVAC companies handle both. To make things more complex, HVAC companies generally not only do service work, but job-oriented contract work. Even a small HVAC firm has a large data management challenge, simply because of the issues presented by this variety in terms of product, service, and job revenue streams. In order to reduce overhead expenses, better meet customer expectations, and win more bids and contracts, successful HVAC firms are looking more and more to HVAC business management packages to help create efficiencies and value adds.
Management challenges for the HVAC company
It’s worth taking a look at some of the main business questions that HVAC management programs are helping companies answer:
- How to accomplish more work in less time?
- How to reduce operational overhead and administrative support costs?
- How to more efficiently acquire and maintain customers?
- How to accurately estimate jobs to ensure profitability?
- How to present more effective bids and proposals that lead to more business?
- How to eliminate service delays and product shortages?
- How to get the best possible pricing from suppliers?
- How to more completely and quickly collection on customer payment?
Exploring the variety of HVAC software options available
The software market has responded by offering a large variety of software tools. Comprehensive HVAC programs provide some major benefits. Being able to link operational and financial modules offers an opportunity to have great visibility into both your processes and profitability. With increased transparency comes the chance to manage for continuous improvement. Centralized tracking of financial information and key performance indicators creates a culture of accountability and the benchmarks you need to identify trouble spots and opportunities alike.
For HVAC companies who have already made investments in accounting software or operations-side programs, purchasing add-on modules to extend functionality is another option. While adding 3rd party options can present some issues in terms of managing software integrations, it can also lower the amount of upfront capital needed to fill functional gaps.
Key functionality for the HVAC business
Let’s take a look at some of the main modules that HVAC business software options provide:
- Field service and work order management. The rubber literally meets the road for the HVAC company in the field. This is where business success is won and lost. Field service and work order management modules are designed to handle all aspects of coordinating the field work your service techs perform. The fundamental task of any work order management system is assigning labor. Sophisticated systems can ensure that techs have the required qualifications for each job and ensure that they are assigned in an efficient manner that optimizes your human resources. Many programs will also include fleet management capabilities that allow you to track vehicles and vehicle inventories to ensure you have the right equipment on-site at all times. Work order management systems also include prioritization capabilities, so you can make the right call when there are resource conflicts. Dashboards features provide management with a way to stay on top of the work being performed and ensure that productivity remains high.
- Dispatching. Dispatching capabilities are often included in field service and work order management systems. Dispatch optimization helps cut travel times, decrease incidences of late or missed appointments, increase your average calls per day, and save on fuel and vehicle expenses. Dispatching systems handle the mapping and routing of all service calls. Mobile access integration has revolutionized dispatching capabilities, as it provides a mechanism both to report on tech locations and to communicate with the main dispatching office.
- Accounting. A robust set of accounting modules provides you with the ability to monitor your company’s financial performance in real-time. Often HVAC companies underestimate the expense associated with the labor required to handle administrative tasks such as accounts payable, bank reconciliations, and asset depreciation. Accounting automation functionality creates the opportunity to create efficiencies in these areas and lower your administrative overhead costs. Billing and accounts receivable modules can make sure that you are receiving complete and timely customer payment.
Estimating and job costing. The ability to efficiently estimate work and track costs is key to both service and contract HVAC work. Estimating modules allow you to create accurate estimates of equipment, labor, materials, and subcontractor costs that may contribute to the overall cost of performing work. Job costing modules not only allow you to analyze the costs on a single job. They also allow you with a mechanism to compare costs across all the jobs you perform. Cost reporting capabilities can help you identify cost trends in terms of overruns and profitable opportunities by location, service type, and even responsible employee.
Bidding and proposals. It’s not just the quality of the work you do that determines your ability to win business. The ability to convey the scope, specifics, and quality of that work in bid and proposal documents is crucial for winning more business. Bidding and proposal software modules help you convert estimates into attractive customer-facing documents.
Customer relationship management (CRM). When a call comes into your office, what do you know about the customer or prospect on the other end of the line? The goal of customer relationship management software is to make the answer to that question “as much as possible.” CRM modules provide the means of not only tracking customer contact info and sales history, but identifying service history, active support contracts, and more. More sophisticated CRM programs can analyze customer data to suggest upsell opportunities. For instance, with a CRM module, when a customer calls in looking for AC service, your staff can also see information that might allow them to identify that the same customer hasn’t had their heating system serviced in the last 5years. The ability of CRM solutions to create marketing groups based on customer data also allows you to conducted highly targeted email, direct mail, phone, and even social media marketing.
- Human resources and payroll. There are some unique HR and payroll considerations in the HVAC field. Union employees, workers compensation, and requirements for certified payroll may render many standard payroll and HR insufficient for HVAC applications. The right HR and payroll software can help make sure you are processing payroll as accurately and efficiently as possible. Accounting for some of the industry specific concerns may not only be a matter of efficiency, though. In many cases, demonstrating these capabilities may be a bid submission condition, especially for government and public sector work.
Contract and warranty tracking. HVAC systems represent large customer investments. Very often those investments are protected by warranties and service contracts. A full HVAC solution will provide the base document management capabilities to effectively track your customers’ warranties and service contracts. Identifying upcoming termination dates is an easily overlooked way to maximize revenue opportunities. Robust contract and warranty tracking systems will not only database customer records, but provide alert options to make sure you are capitalizing on upcoming sales opportunities.
Project management. If your HVAC business works longer term or more complex jobs, a project management module can be a valuable IS asset. Project management systems allow you to optimize your project tracking and scheduling by coordinating scope definitions, identifying project members, storing task details, mapping project timelines, and measuring the accomplishment of key project milestones. A project management module can provide a single, definitive resource that allows your team to work more efficiently and collaboratively on large projects.
- Mobile access. Much of the functionality discussed here is now becoming available to mobile devices. Given the amount of time HVAC staff members may spend in the field, mobile access can be an important differentiator when it comes to your business. The ability to check inventories, create invoices, and share bids and proposals in the field is giving many HVAC companies a competitive advantage in terms of winning and keeping customers. Additionally, mobile routing of service techs is an important way in which many HVAC firms are more efficiently conducting business. Many integrated HVAC solutions now provide very robust mobile access to laptops, phones, and tablets for field employees.
Taking the next steps
While HVAC management poses a serious challenge, the good news is that there are a wealth of software options designed to help your company run more efficiently and profitably. Whether your company focuses on residential or commercial work or is large or small, there are HVAC software options on the market designed to address your specific functional requirements. The days of having to utilize industry-neutral, basic bookkeeping programs, augmented by a variety of spreadsheet or manual driven approaches, are over.
If you are at the point where you are ready to find out which HVAC business software options are right for you, we can help. Through a brief phone call, our software specialists will look to better understand your business and software needs to help you locate a handful of solutions that can address the issues you are currently experiencing. Get started today!