Proprietary Hand Held Device Provides Greater Efficiency
Service Experts, one of North America's leaders in air conditioner and heating repair and replacement, has developed a proprietary handheld mobile device, named FAST.Most HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) technicians spend a considerable amount of the workday sorting through copies of work orders, translating illegible service appointments notes, and navigating to the next appointment. The FAST mobile device allows the techs at Service Experts a streamlined, high-tech process that circumvents these inefficient tasks.
FAST technology links specialized devices, resembling large walkie-talkies with screens, to dispatch and a central documentation application. This shift from the old radio-based dispatch and paper documentation system allows faster and more accurate routing and quick, electronic access to customer files.
"We began this program with one pilot center in 2007 and last spring, opened it up to all 120 Service Expert centers," says Jackie Joo, Director of Business Systems at Service Experts. "Having access to real-time data allows our technicians to work faster and schedule more appointments per week."
The time-savings begin with dispatch. Before FAST, techs radioed back and forth with the dispatch center for routing information and confirmation, involving several minutes of waiting. A few minutes multiple times per day times hundreds of technicians nationwide results in some pretty high numbers, numbers that represent lost time and money. FAST allows real time communication between technicians and dispatchers circumventing this costly delay. GPS (Global Positioning System) within the device ensures technicians are given the most efficient route to the next appointment, saving time, gas and redundant radio time.
"We've seen the average ticket price go up 15% at our centers," says Dave Allen, general manager of two Service Experts centers in Utah. "FAST recommends additional products and services to improve a customer's indoor comfort and ensures our technicians bill accurately."
Once at an appointment, technicians can access a customer's service history electronically and document details from the current visit -- storing clear information for future service visits. This improves customer relations by presenting a professional appearance to homeowners and improves service on later visits by ensuring accurate and available information. Customers benefit by having a technician who knows the history of their home and heating or air conditioning unit.
Device Also Acts As Point-of-Sale
"We rolled out an update that allows credit card payments using FAST and soon, we will be able to process checks with the devices," says Joo. "This keeps our customers' payment information safely encrypted electronically and not written out on paper that could be lost."
Other future additions slated for the FAST program include electronic time sheets for technicians and bar code scanning functionality.
The FAST program has brought a strong return on investment for Service Experts. Real-time data allows centers to better manage the daily operations of its technicians and also to track opportunities for training and development. The speed of the FAST program allows Service Experts to realize revenue two-and-a-half days earlier than when using a paper-based system, improving cash flow. Costs have also decreased across administrative functions while data quality has improved.
Tech training programs have also improved, thanks to FAST. Center managers need only review recent digital transactions to see how a tech interacts with customers. As a result, center managers are able to work with techs on areas that need improvement such as generating leads, making recommendations and growing sales. The electronic record of service calls means techs get feedback on their performance faster and can offer even better service.
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