Handling Mother Nature with a Tech-Savvy Approach
The weather in Minnesota brings a wealth of unpredictability for landscape and snow removal businesses. XX years ago we implemented new technology to continue to deliver on our promise of efficient and exceptional customer service and to stay on top of the curve balls Mother Nature consistently throws.
GoPlow.com, an online service that connects the professional snow and ice management industry, based on a 2012 State of the Industry Survey, said that the majority of snow and ice professionals aren’t using technology to its full potential for their business. Only 45% are using smartphones, 14% are using GPS and an even fewer 8% are using free software and technology to their advantage. See http://goplow.com/business/smartphone-technology-for-snow-ice-professionals.html
published in November 2012. It should be noted that some of these services that can benefit these business types are free and are provided through smartphone apps, GPS technology and weather radar, for example.
At Green Horizons, we employ a variety of free and purchased technology for our business.
My goal has been to use technology that will make our internal processes more efficient and create a proper balance of in-person and automated customer service interactions. On the back end, our investment to continually upgrade and add technology has allowed our business to better manage our services and increase our customer responsiveness. On the front end, we still believe there is value in having that personal touch to our service and getting to know our customers and we continue to provide that in-person. We look to technology via the smartphone and web to help us respond to our customers’ busy lives and their immediate needs for our services.
Technology is engrained in our culture – the more our employees and customers use it and become confortable with it, the more we continue to push for advancements and new uses. The data gathering alone has helped with predictability even in an external environment, which we cannot control. Employees are more satisfied because they have the tools to be efficient in their work and communications.
And because we actively use technology, we are able to offer a more tech savvy services to a growing number of our customers who prefer our online and mobile phone scheduling service options. For example, customers get pushed real-time updates on their service status via text if they so choose. We also spend less time and expense on the job management side directly resulting in increased time to devote to our customer’s larger-picture needs and add value to their planning on a seasonal or annual basis.
Here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at how our operation is set up:
Every customer’s house has a location identification number that allows us to manage services for specific routes and crews on any given day, including routine and one-time services. Prior to dispatching any crew, they know their full plan for the shift. They also know that additional jobs may pop up or others may fall off for whatever reason. It’s all managed through our home office in real-time and only works because the crew is logging in when they arrive at each customer’s home.
Step 1: When the crew arrives at each location, they input the customer’s location ID into their smartphone and the GPS checks the location for the most current information for that particular customer’s service order. If service is still scheduled, a light on their phone turns from red to green, prompting them to read the details of the order, start the job and confirm they have started the job via their smartphone.
Step 2: Back at the main office, the crew’s timetable is updated based on estimates and is continually accessed to determine if new services can efficiently be scheduled if needed. When the crew finishes, they confirm they have completed the job via their smartphone. At that time they can also type in any notes or comments pertaining to the job.
Step 3: The crew checks their shift route to see if any changes have occurred. They proceed to the next location.
All of this information is relayed in real-time to our web-based routing program. It’s been a tremendous asset to our office staff and crews. For example, during a recent snowfall, our dispatcher, Mario, was able to check the progress of all the routes online. He noticed that a crew in West Bloomington was having difficulties and was way behind. He was able to check some other routes in the area and discovered that they were almost finished with their list of homes to service for the shift. As a result, he was able to dispatch them to the sites in need of additional help to clear all the snow for those customers in a timely manner. An added benefit: This was all done from our dispatcher’s home online in the middle of the night.
When I think of the unpredictability in our business, it becomes even more apparent to me that the integrated use of many technologies is essential and will only improve our business and responsiveness. Are you a Green Horizons customer? What has your experience been with our online services and reporting?