Posted by EJ Brown
September 30, 2018
Heating and air conditioning businesses have a lot of moving parts--both in the office and in the field.
HVAC software automates your workflow so that you spend less time on tedious, time-intensive tasks and can focus on the big picture.
With so many cost-effective solutions on the market for businesses of all sizes, adoption of these tools has soared. HVAC companies are using software to manage and streamline their business, from estimates to invoices and everything in between. Operations that aren’t using management software to optimize their businesses are at a serious competitive disadvantage to those that are.
In this guide, we’ll walk through what you should look for when it comes to choosing the right HVAC software and how to evaluate a tool to see if it’s right for you.
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When it comes to choosing the right tool, you should first consider what type of software you need for your business.
There are few solutions specifically designed for the heating and air conditioning industry. Most field service software is designed to work with any trade or service business (plumbing, HVAC, lawn care, etc.)
But that doesn’t mean every option is the same.
There are two primary divisions of software designed for small to medium-sized field service companies:
Software tailored for a specific function
All-in-one solutions that benefit a company in many areas of business
Let’s start by comparing these two options to see which one may be what you’re looking for.
You’ll find lots of software on the market specifically designed to accomplish or simplify one part of your business. If you’re looking for a way to make one small part of your business better or if you have other solutions and you’re just looking for a piecemeal option, these can be good options.
For instance, some software is designed specifically to do something like creating and submitting job bids. Other software is specialized for invoicing, scheduling, or online booking.
Each of these features is helpful on their own. It may be the case that you only need a specialized piece of software to handle, for example, invoicing. But, chances are that you will eventually want or need to add on additional tools that help with other areas of operation.
If you’re looking to sync all of your workflow and business processes together, you can look for an all-in-one solution that will help you do all (or most) of the day-to-day activities it takes to run your business.
Full-service management solutions cover your entire workflow from service or estimate request to scheduling, dispatching, and even collecting payments.
For most HVAC business owners, this is the ideal solution.
Not only does having an all-in-one HVAC software give you all of the tools that you need to run the business effectively, but you also won’t have to worry about cobbling together different tools or paying for a bunch of different software.
Another major advantage of an all-in-one solution is that it can grow with your business. Even if you only need one or two core features to start, you should be able to begin using additional features (like dispatching or location tracking) as your business grows. This also means that you won’t need to spend time looking for a new piece of software every time your business expands.
Once you’ve decided which type of software you’re looking for, you still have some decisions to make.
Depending on what you’re looking for, there are likely several options on the market and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. So it’s important to give some careful consideration to each one and then choose the software that’s best-suited for your business.
When evaluating different software, keep in mind how it might fit within your own company’s existing workflow. The best solution you won’t force you to dramatically change your process--it will work the way that your team already works.
Here are some other things to consider when you’re comparing HVAC solutions.
Ease of use
As mentioned above, there are usually two classes of HVAC software that you might consider. And these two classes likely have differing features. A specific or targeted software (like bidding or scheduling) will likely have narrow but deep functionality.
If you’re thinking about an all-in-one solution, then you should evaluate whether the tool has the broad set of features that you want to run all of the important parts of your business.
For the sake of comparison, let’s assume that you’re looking for an all-in-one solution. In order to find the right tool, you’ll want to do a side-by-side evaluation of each option.
Features that you’ll likely want include:
Quotes, estimates, and invoices
Scheduling and dispatch
Field communications and location tracking
Online booking and chat
When you’re evaluating a software solution, take careful note of which features are included--and which ones are left out.
Some important questions to ask before springing for a particular solution:
What processes are covered with this software?
What processes are not covered?
Do other software solutions handle processes not covered by this solution?
Will you need a separate tool to handle that part of the process?
Does this software easily integrate with other tools you would need?
Is there any particular functionality that is critical to our operation?
Next up, you’ll want to consider what other tools you are currently using or plan to use and how well this solution integrates with other software.
For instance, are you using Quickbooks? Does this HVAC software allow you to easily track invoices and expenses?
If the software doesn’t integrate with other tools, it may actually end up creating more work. Or, worse, you’ll have to hire someone to build a custom tool to connect one piece of software to the other piece of software.
Questions to ask:
What software are you currently using that you will continue to use?
What software or tools may you use in the future?
Based on the features of this software solution, will you need additional tools to manage part of your operation?
If these integrations aren’t available, how difficult would it be to create or build a solution?
Second to features and integrations is the importance of workflow--ease of use.
In the ideal world, your HVAC software should work the way that your team works. You shouldn’t need to change your operations or processes in order to accommodate the tools.
Another important aspect is the experience that your customers receive. The right software can help you provide better service, make booking easier, and allow for quick and pain-free payment processing.
How to evaluate HVAC software on ease of use:
Does this software offer the kind of communication that the team currently uses to stay in sync?
Will the software make it easier or more difficult for your team to send and share important details?
Using the software, will you to add new steps to your existing processes?
Is the software mobile friendly and/or can it be easily used by techs in the field?
Will the features included in the software help you also provide a better customer experience?
Last, but certainly not least, you should consider the price of the software.
As with most purchasing decisions, a lower price may not always be better. And some options may have additional costs that go above and beyond the sticker price shown on the website.
There are two things to watch out for.
One is any additional costs that may come on top of the software or subscription itself--setup fees, consulting, training, etc. Second, you’ll want to consider how much the software may cost as your business grows. Some solutions may have a dramatic increase in cost once you reach, say, 20 total employees.
Be sure to evaluate the price in comparison to other factors that go into your decision. You may find that it’s better to pay a bit more for software that includes more features or will save you money in other ways.
Here are the questions you’ll want to ask:
How much will this software actually cost over the course of a year?
Are there any additional costs beyond just the price or monthly subscription fee (e.g., setup fees)?
Will the costs grow as the company grows? If so, are those costs reasonable and sustainable for the business?
How does the cost of the software compare with the time/cost savings associated with using it?
With these important questions in mind, it’s time to choose the best solution for your company.
Keep in mind that it probably won’t be one single consideration that helps you make your final decision. You’ll want to evaluate each option on all of the factors that matter to your company and make an informed purchasing decision for both your immediate needs and the future growth of your operation.
With the highest user-friendly rating and the most reviews in Capterra, HouseCall Pro is known as being the most intuitive field service management platform. It offers many of the standard features, such as scheduling, dispatch and routing, automated estimates, and invoicing.
It also has a unique customer service focus with features like a client portal offering online booking.
Technicians can invoice on-site with credit card processing through Stripe. Integrations with Facebook and Yelp allow customers to book your services wherever they find you.
Housecall Pro offers an all-in-one solution that can help your company get to the next level. Whether you’re an owner-operator looking to make your first hire, or you’re looking to streamline your operation to expand into new markets, Housecall Pro can help you get there.
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