Today's service professional has to be careful of costs while looking for every opportunity to grow their business. Diagnostic tools are a great way to offer inspection services that can help a commercial property customer or residential customer understand the issues they face. Lets be honest, over the last several months most people have put off regular maintenance to cut a corner and save a dime. That always catches up and results in a business opportunity for the service professional.
When we talk with contractors we find that on average most charge $250 to bring a diagnostic camera off the truck. May be higher or lower in your area. Often, to make sure that a quote or recommended work doesn't slip away, a portion of that diagnostic fee is credited - sound practice to make sure that one get's the sale. But often contractors don't consider the true costs of providing that diagnostic service and allow their competitors to force them into a price.
Lets consider what goes into a typical service call. A customer contacts your company and asks you to do an inspection. A technician ($X / hr rate) is dispatched to the location. Obviously there is windshield time involved that comes at a cost. Once on the site, there is the inspection itself and the time taken to observe the issue and find all the dependencies while there. (technician's clock is ticking...) Now the technician has additional windshield time to get back to the office. Once there, copies of the media are made, reports are written, and the office manager is informed so that billing can be started. If a quote is required and the technician can't do it themselves, an estimator or manager's time is now applied. Once the report is approved and the quote, or recommendation, is agreed upon there is usually more windshield time to travel back to the customer and deliver the content. Don't think the meter stops there! On average, contractors tell us that they average two telephone calls to explain the average job report to their customer. Unfortunately, it is usually the technician that you have in the field (perhaps this is you!) that has to stop what they are doing or delay work on another job to take the call and try to remember what the issue was on that particular job.
Does this sound efficient and cost-effective to you?
There is a better way. Using the media management tools and job report functionality of RIDGIDConnect(tm) can streamline your reporting and inspection activities. No more making copies or storing DVD's in a drawer or banker's boxes. Insights observed on site can be entered into the report which allows for public (customer) and private (internal, company only) to keep everyone involved properly informed. Best of all, when the report is complete you click send and the information is made available to your customer, and interested parties, electronically. No more delivery, no more duplicating media, and fewer call backs to ask what it is they are looking at on the other end.
Existing users of RIDGIDConnect report that they have seen a substantial reduction in their overhead costs of facilitating inspections and also a faster response rate from their customers to the reports than they would have using other methods. Users also benefit from the professional presentation the online report provides. So take some costs out of doing inspections and use RIDGIDConnect today. The time you save will be money in the bank.
If this blog post has you thinking there is a great article on overhead costs and marketing expense in the February issue of Plumbing & Mechanical magazine by Randall Hilton on this topic. (http://www.pmmag.com/Articles/Column/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000756333) From a Ridge Tool perspective though, Mr. Stillson may have invented a wrench for turning pipe but RIDGID perfected the pipe wrench.
Service Technicians routinely talk to us about using SeeSnakes or digital inspection equipment to look in drains, air ducts, or boiler tubes. From time to time we will hear of user of our products that dispatches a RIDGID(r) inspection device to detect an issue in a mission critical space. There are few piping systems that are more mission crtical than a fire supression or sprikler system. Where there is a safety regulated installed system, you can bet that there is an annual opportunity for diagnostic and maintenance services.
In last month's Reeve's Journal (page 26) there is an article on the special attention that needs to be paid and annual inspection methods for wet charged fire sprinkler systems. There are numerous company's that advertise and promote annual certification of a fire sprinkler system's backflow prevention equipment and cross connection points. Increasingly, camera inspection companies are being employed to visually check the valves and stand pipe of wet charged fire sprinkler systems.
The condition of these wet charged systems needs to be monitored because the water in the lines can stagnate, and in some cases is injected with anti-freeze and other agents to fight fires. While the additives may be good for the prevention and containment of a fire, they can play havoc with pipe, valves, and fixtures. Dry pipe systems also can benefit from camera inspections from time to time to ensure ideal system performance when they are called upon. Routine inspections of the system can visually detect areas of deteriation and enhance a preventative maintenance program.
I found on one contractor's website a blog write up of their program and offering (http://atlas-inspection.com/blog/techsupt/sprinkler-system-standpipe-inspections-faster-and-less-expensive/). The only thing missing here - a RIDGIDConnect job report. This customer was presented with a paper report and a DVD showing the inspection footage. An electronic report can more concisely present the needed information, be shared with multiple parties, and referenced back in the years to come as the property owner asks for ongoing inspection and maintenance. In cases like a fire sprinkler system, most insurance company's require an annual asssesment. Beyond a certificat of inspection, an electronic inspection report could be yet another great way to prove the integrity of the system to garner discounts on premiums for property owners.
If you offer inspection services, it might be worth your while to investigate Fire Sprinkler System inspection requirments. Pehaps there is a company in your area that already provides this service that needs assistance with camera inspections of stand pipes and valves to avoid excavation or other time consuming steps to gain access to lines and valves. Value added, niche, services like this are recession proof and using a service like RIDGIDConnect to track the jobs and share it with interested parties makes its easy to extend your business into a new market without adding a lot of overhead.
I visited a some contractors that have GPS devices in their trucks today. Turns out all of those guys, and just about everyone else with a business, also has a contact list. Did you know that RIDGIDConnect can turn your contact list into a file you can load onto your Garmin so that you never get lost looking for a customer again? I am going to mention Outlook and Garmin throughout this, but other programs and devices will work as well.
First, we need to get our contacts into a CSV file. Go to the contact section of Outlook, and select Import and Export from the File menu. Select Export to a file followed by Comma Separated Values (Windows). Make sure your contacts folder is selected on the next screen and then specify where to save the file to. (There are more detailed instructions on the Contact Upload page within the site.)
Now that we have a file we can upload, go log into RIDGIDConnect. You will find the Contact Upload page within the my Contacts section. From that page click Choose File. Find the csv file you just created from Outlook, and then click Upload. If you used Outlook, then all of the contact fields should be mapped automatically for you. If you used another source, then this Match Columns page will allow you to align the fields in your CSV file with those defined in RIDGIDConnect. Click Finish Upload, and now your contacts will all be available for you to use within RIDGIDConnect!
While you are in the my Contacts section, you can click on Download Contacts for GPS. This will walk you through how to export your contacts so that you can use them in your Garmin. This is another way RIDGIDConnect can save you time by enhancing some tools you already have.
While we are talking about GPS, I should point out that RIDGIDConnect has maps integration built in as well. After searching for your accounts in the my Contacts section, click the show map button. It will map out all of the location that are displayed on the page. From any of the points shown, you can get driving directions to print or use from the site directly. This feature is also available from the mobile site at m.ridgidconnect.com .
Sorry for not giving you some new content lately. I was planning on making my next post about some of the new features we have added to the site in our latest release. Since that isn't going out until tomorrow, I thought I would explain why in hopes it gets more feedback. We try to work toward two-week goals for development. With the launch, we have been getting new ideas tossed at us from new places. Some of these turn into immediate tasks that will pile onto the current build sets goals. Most of the time, I just take a timeout from what I am doing to incorporate the new ideas into future designs. Those of you that have left feedback on the site, forum or via email know we are listening.
That said, I would like to get feedback on some new ideas for how to best support you all. Traditional RIDGID support is handled primarily via the phone so that the customer is able to be walked though a troubleshooting process. RIDGIDConnect has dedicated resources that you can reach via phone or email too: email@example.com or call us at 1-877-875-8785 (available 8am - 5pm EST, Monday through Friday). However, I think that this product is so different from our traditional products that we can explore new models of support. I don't want to shape the feedback too much, but I want to start some ideas here. PLEASE leave me comments on this site to help discuss this idea. I would normally use the Forum, but I havent decided if that is the right place to support this yet either. Here are some ideas to think about...
- Should the support be kept within RIDGIDConnect itself, or should it be a stand-alone site?
- Would you expect it to be focused 100% on RIDGIDConnect, or would related products get supported there (all of the stuff here: www.ridgid.com/upgrade)
- What do you think if the basics of the site were: FAQ (linking to top Knowledge Base Items), Developer News (Replacement to this Blog and Authored by RIDGIDConnect Staff ), Knowledge Base (Collection of help that the RIDGIDConnect team creates along with guest authors), and a Technical Forum (This would not replace ridgidforum.com for general discussion on the RIDGID brand. This would just be a technical place to get help from a community)
So that is what is rattling around in my mind now for ways to expand the support of RIDGIDConnect. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Ok, I really struggled with a title for this one. Cover Your "Butt" seemed a little crude for an audience I barely know yet, and Document Your Work just sounds boring. I soon realized I wasn't going to come up with an exciting title for this one.
There was a thread on the forum I really wanted to jump in on a few weeks ago (http://www.ridgidforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=29543). There are lots of stories like those captured here, but with the pending release of RIDGIDConnect, this one jumped at me. There are a collection of stories here that describe the benefits of documenting your work. This is an important thing to do to protect you from evil customers that are just out to scam you as much as it is to clear your name for a confused customer that really thinks you cheated him.
Whether you use RIDGIDConnect or not, you should be documenting your work. There are advantages to using RIDGIDConnect though. Your media is safe! During our beta, a contractor's laptop was stolen and he lost everything he had done prior to using RIDGIDConnect (ouch!), but the stuff in RIDGIDConnect was safe. RIDGIDConnect helps you keep everything organized and searchable by job type, customer, date range, etc. You have the ability to also keep more media associated with a job for your records than what you share with the customer by using the private media section on a report. I was surprised through beta how often this was used. When you do document your before an after work, the markup you do within RIDGIDConnect helps make all of work details clear to the user.
Please leave me a comment with how a picture or video helped cover your "butt"!