Speed Kills: 8 Ways to Streamline Your Irrigation Winterizations So You Can Make More Money
By Chad Reinholz, HindSite Software
My four-year old loves the Pixar movie, Cars. Which means I’ve see it approximately 342 times in the past year. In one pivotal scene, the movie illustrates how speed is the key to success. Lightning McQueen, the hero race car, blows a tire and comes racing into the pit stop. If he doesn’t get new tires quickly, he runs the risk of falling a lap behind and effectively losing all hope of winning the coveted Piston Cup.
His newly-made friend, Guido, who’d never been on a pit crew in his life and whose previous claim to fame was hawking tires in a sleepy town, pulls off the fastest tire change in history, enabling Lightning McQueen to reenter the race on the same lap as the other two cars and position himself for a win.
1. Get Your Data in Order
First, get your customer data in order. Who are you servicing? Where do they live? Where’s the controller? The valve box? How many zones do they have? We’ll talk a bit later about what to do if you’re missing information, but at a minimum you need to know who is signed up for a winterization and where they live.
Technology is your friend here. Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or robust field service software like HindSite, leverage technology to make storing that information easier. Folders and sheets of paper are so 1990.
2. Use Map-Based Scheduling and Routing
To accomplish your goal of completing as many blowouts as possible in as few days as possible, you need to minimize drive time. Which means you want to schedule your customers based on their address.
The old school way to do that is by using a city map and map codes. That works, but it can be less than ideal. The ideal solution is to use something like Google Maps that can place all your customers on a map so you can visualize where they reside. Then either select or draw a box around customers and schedule them with your techs. Finally, use routing software to create the most efficient driving route for that tech for each day. Shameless plug: HindSite can do all of this, making it easy to schedule thousands of winterizations in a minimal amount of time.
3. Leverage Email to Schedule
Prior to using HindSite, many of our customers either sent a postcard telling customers to schedule their winterizations or placed a phone call to their customers. Both of those actions are labor-intensive.
Want to save time and money? In the previous step you used location information to schedule and route your customer’s winterizations. Your next step is to communicate the date/time with your customers and get them to confirm the appointment..
Email is a great way to do that. With HindSite’s email add-on, Connect, you can send a personalized email to each customer to communicate the date and a time range when you’ll arrive at their property. Even better, you can drop in a link they click to confirm the appointment. It’s the easiest way to schedule and confirm winterization appointments.
Our customers tell us that anywhere from 70 to 80% of their customers confirm the initial appointment. That means you’ve just eliminated 70 to 80% of the calls or postcards you’d typically make or receive. Plus, you can run a report at any time showing you the list of customers that haven’t confirmed, making it easy to follow up with them personally.
4. Send a Reminder Email with Details
Missed appointments suck. Not only do they cost you the time it took to drive to the customer’s property, but you’ve also got to place a call – or multiple calls – to reschedule.
One way to minimize missed appointments is to send a reminder email a day or two before the scheduled appointment. One of our customers said sending a simple reminder email took about 1 missed appointment a day per tech to about 1 per week for all of their techs. It’s another huge timesaver.
Plus, you can leverage the reminder email to speed up your job when you get there. Tell your customers to prepare for the winterization by turning off the water and the controller so you don’t have to do it. Every second counts, and the more you can save, the more profitable every visit will be.
5. Get the Data You Need Before You Need It
I mentioned earlier the importance of having your data in order. You’ll need a lot of property information – names, addresses, locations of important irrigation system parts, email address. In a perfect world, you’ll have all that data before you arrive for your winterization. How do you gather it? During the sales process, over the phone when someone calls, or during a previous service.
You could arm your employees with customer information sheets that they need to fill out, but the best way to capture information is to use software to grab it and store it electronically. HindSite includes a feature called assessments that you can use to capture this information prior to the winterization. Basically, you can associate assessments with services – or require it during the sales process – and your technicians and sales reps can’t move on to the next job until they’ve completed the assessment.
Armed with customer information at every winterization, you’ll know everything you need to know about your customer’s irrigation system so you can fly through the winterization – and create marketing upsell communications later to drive even more revenue!
6. Incentivize Your Employees
In 2009, Joe Mauer hit an amazing .365 with 28 home runs and drove in 96 runs – all career highs. In fact, in the three seasons prior to 2009, Mauer hit 29 home runs total – and he hit just 32 over the next four years. What does Joe Mauer’s amazing 2009 season have to do with anything? He was in a contract year. He was incentivized to play well to earn a fat new contract and he had one of the greatest contract year performances in the history of baseball, one that earned him $200 million dollars.
- Try to reduce the time it takes for each blow out. You could compare times for each property to the previous year and reward anyone who is at the same time or less, set an average time and reward for those who complete winterizations under that time or any other idea you have. Note, though, that incentivizing for time isn’t always great – quality can sometimes suffer. So if you do measure time, try to also include a quality metric as well.
- Reward based on customer feedback (more on that later). The more positive reviews an employee or the business get, the more incentive is earned.
- Make it a team goal. Set a goal for the entire company around winterizations and if the goal is met, throw a party, have a company outing, or just pay everyone a bonus. That makes each employee hold themselves and their co-workers accountable.
With software, you’ll be able to measure how long properties take to complete, setup customer satisfaction surveys and reporting and generally make tracking your incentives a lot easier.
7. Measure Customer Satisfaction
This may seem unrelated to speeding up your process, but bear with me. Happy customers are more likely to be engaged customers. Meaning they’ll respond to your emails and calls and show up to your appointments. And those actions save you time.
So measure your customer satisfaction with all of your winterizations and put together an action plan to address any unhappy customers. With HindSite’s Connect Pro add-on, you can automatically send customer satisfaction surveys after specific services. It’s the easiest way to understand who’s happy and who isn’t.
8. Target Neighbors
One of my co-workers likes to tell the story of how he got a free lawn mowing for a year….strictly because his neighbors both use the same lawn maintenance company. Instead of mowing one backyard, stopping, and driving to mow the other, it was faster for the lawn maintenance business to actually mow all three properties at once.
So how do you communicate with your customer’s neighbors? The U.S. Postal Service offers Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) that enables you to send direct mail to specific people in specific neighborhoods. Otherwise, if you want a more hands off solution, there are print shops like Target Neighbors that can also postcard your customers neighbors. It’s as simple as giving them a file with your customers’ addresses and they can do the rest, including creating the list of people to send the direct mail piece to and creating and printing the postcard and adding the postage.
Speed is the Key
Speed is definitely the key to maximizing the profitability of your irrigation winterizations. And like Lightning McQueen leveraged the speed of Guido to change his tires and stay alive in his race for the Piston Cup, irrigation business software delivers the tools you need to save time and delight your customers.