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Archive for 2013

Using Work Order Management Software to Create Efficiency In Your Business

February 13th, 2013

Handheld computing devices, like the smartphone and tablet, have seen a dramatic surge in the last decade—especially the ever-popular iPad. Their popularity comes from their convenience and the sheer potential that comes from having essentially a personal computer in the palm of your hand.

That potential has been put toward video games, various recreational apps, and methods of connecting with others, but handheld devices have quickly made their way into the business realm to improve efficiency and workflow as well. Let’s take a look at how an iPad or similar handheld/mobile device loaded with work order management software can create a more efficient business.

An Upgrade on the Handheld Concept

Handhelds aren’t an entirely new concept in work order management. They were a good way to automate processes and do away with much of the paperwork for a greener, eco-friendly workplace. In the past, handhelds were called data collection units and were available for all industries. You could customize them to work with your company’s CMMS (computerized maintenance management system).

However, most of these units were small and clunky for technicians who got their hands a little dirty in the field. Time-saving features, like simple dropdown menus, were mostly absent. Worst of all, the units were docking-type units. In order to download and upload data, you had to plug these handhelds into computers. It was near impossible to receive real-time data for reactive and emergency work. Technicians had to waste precious time plugging and docking their handheld units during the work shift just to get their work tickets.

Smartphones, tablets, and iPads are a much-needed upgrade on these handheld units. They can perform the same basic tasks plus so much more, and in a much more efficient way. Given the easy interface, your technicians can write work orders, perform preventative maintenance procedures, and review drawing and schematics in mere minutes, all from their iPads.

IPads and tablets have the added benefit of large screens on top of slick design. Your techs have plenty of room for looking at lists, drawings, and schematics, and the touchscreen gives them space for writing notes and comments and capturing customer approval signatures at the job site. With the built-in camera, your in-field technicians can take pictures for their records or send them to headquarters for advice or assistance.

Greater Speed, Accuracy, and Functionality

There’s no more waiting around when you have the power and convenience of an iPad in your hands. Dispatchers can send electronic work orders with the click of the button. From there, the technicians can locate and navigate to the work order destination using built-in maps and GPS. You can update the status of a job and ensure that everyone—client, dispatch, and technician—knows what has and hasn’t yet been completed.

The iPad and its many mobile apps offer a great deal of automation that extends to managing work orders. You can automatically calculate invoice totals, avoiding human math errors. Tracking and invoicing parts is simpler than ever, so you can stop losing money on lost parts that haven’t been invoiced. The digital format means your brand can save money on paper and paper goods as well.

All of the information your technicians collect in the field transfers into your work order system and can be directly siphoned into Quickbooks or other accounting software. The days of lost paperwork, delays with data entry, and messy handwriting are of the past.

Improved Quality

With any business, it all comes down to quality. If your team isn’t exactly on par with producing quality documentation or work requests, you can’t expect an iPad and a bit of software to fix everything. After all, paperwork is as much a part of the process as getting into the field.

Before you even get the mobile devices into your technicians’ hands, make sure they are up to speed with proper procedures and are capable of producing good written work orders. From there, you can introduce them to the upgraded tech and help them understand the value of using mobile devices.

Mobile devices can do wonders to improve quality and efficiency. With the right set up and a knowledgeable team, you should have no problem finishing the day with better work orders and asset data.

FM Work Orders

Why Settle for CRM Software for the Masses

February 12th, 2013

Your business is unique, and the CRM software used to manage it should be unique as well. A one-size-fits-all solution does not streamline most companies to their fullest potential. This leaves a business struggling to meet the format of their CRM system rather than enjoying the benefits of a platform that rises to meet their needs.

Why Generic CRM Doesn’t Work

Non-customized CRM software platforms can seem effective in theory, but in application they never reach their full potential. That’s because they are usually implemented though either software or a web-based hosting service that offers one platform to all businesses, regardless of the type of business they operate. General-needs software is not adequate for all types of businesses.

In theory, all businesses are selling something, usually a product or service, but not always. And a business that sells used cars, for example, wins and attracts clients differently than a business selling vacation packages, and their interactions with their clients are different too. The used car dealership may experience most of their customer interactions in person at the dealership, while the vacations business may conduct all of their business over the phone and online, without ever coming face to face with a customer. A used car dealership is usually working to make a one-time sale (although they still want to create customer loyalty so the buyer will return or refer their friends and family for the next car), while the vacations provider is looking for repeat vacationers and client retention.

Nonprofit organizations function like for-profit businesses in many ways, but their “sales” are unique. Not called sales at all, these organizations are effectively selling not a product or a service but a need. Nonprofit business models are fundraising based and they aim to attract clients and customers of all types. Most nonprofits rely on revenues from a variety of different places: grant-awarding foundations, individual/private donors, fundraising campaigns, and selling a product and/or service. Each revenue-earning sector of the nonprofit may be run like a different business, but the same staff may be running and managing each sector.

Most businesses operate more like the nonprofit (in a variety of unique ways) than on the cut-and-dry sales model. A successful business, regardless of industry, markets, wins clients, makes sales, and retains clients in multiple ways rather than through the platform of a confining business model. And a CRM system should help a business better manage its employees, customer relationships, and use of technology, not dictate the ways they perform these functions.

How is custom CRM different?

Custom CRM is unique like your business. When you run your business using customized CRM software, your business is operating on a platform that’s different from every other information management system out there. The platform may begin with a framework like FileMaker Pro, but it is customized to suit the business’s individual needs along the way. It doesn’t contain functions your business never uses and it can be changed and modified when it’s no longer meeting the business’s needs to its fullest potential.

A successful business is constantly growing and changing. A successful business revamps its sales and marketing techniques when revenues are down, whether it’s because of the loss of a big client or a change in the economy. A successful business also changes when profits are up, by identifying what worked and using that forward momentum to increase profits more. A business that can’t change because of an inflexible management platform won’t be able to live up to its fullest potential.

It makes sense to adopt an information management system that’s custom built to your individual needs from day one, tailored to your changing business when needed—and that comes with the technical support and expertise necessary to make those changes.

Benefits of Customer Relationship Management for Your Business

February 2nd, 2013

The changing face of the global economy has forced numerous businesses to change their strategies to keep their heads above water, and one of the predominantly successful business strategies involves customer relationship management.

As you can imagine from the name, customer relationship management handles everything that deals with the customer: knowledge, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. While most companies start with the selling item—the product or service—and acquire customers from there, customer relationship management starts with the customer and customizes the workflow and marketing to the needs of each individual customer. Starting with the customer often means collecting large amounts of data on each client and analyzing that data to better accommodate your customer’s needs and expectations.

Customer relationship management is much more than a strategy; it is a state of mind, an ideology— if implemented properly, it could help your brand achieve all of its personal and financial goals. How does a CRM strategy benefit your business?

Improved Customer Service

The system starts with maintaining a database of customer profiles that includes basic information along with purchasing habits—what the customer buys, how frequently, whether items were regular price or on sale, for example.

The database gives each employee abundant information to assist and cater to each customer’s specific needs. Customer service representatives can quickly and easily adapt their approaches. With the proper organization and experience, you may even be able to anticipate and predict a customer’s needs and provide support before the customer even asks for it.

Reduced Costs

When you implement an effective, customized CRM program in your business strategy, the chain-reaction efficiency saves you money in several ways: a shorter sales cycle, more streamlined lead acquiring process, higher sales closure rate, and expedited campaign execution. All of this leads to money (and time) saved.

From a customer service perspective, CRM software saves significant time and money. As an example, a customer service call at a call center takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour (roughly) of time, along with resources, meaning money spent. When a customer can find all the personalized help they need with your CRM software, they get their problem solved quickly and easily, and you can put those employees into more profitable positions.

More Customers through Tailored Marketing

Analysis of demographics allows you to break down the customers you have into three main levels:

  • Brand customers: Customers who have purchased from you only once but can potentially become regular clients. Discounts and special promotions can help bring them into that loyal customer fold.
  • Lapsed customers: The customers who have purchased from you several times before but haven’t recently. This is where knowing your customers and keeping a database come in handy. You can get lapsed customers buying again by making similar offers that got them initially buying your goods or services.
  • Loyal customers: These guys don’t need any convincing or coaxing. They’ve bought from you in the past and continue to do so now. They purchase at regular price. For your loyal customers, it’s all about the overall customer experience and providing them with certain special services, like direct lines to customer service personnel or making them affiliates to your business. Let them know about new products and services through exclusive email newsletters. You can also implement loyalty programs to further retain loyal customers.

Simplified Marketing and Sales

Through customer relationship management systems, you can create more effective communication channels. Websites and applications for handheld devices streamline business deals for sales representatives and the company as a whole.

CRM gives customers several options to choose exactly how they would like to be approached or contacted. You can identify individuals that have the greatest potential for future sales instead of administering mass market approaches. You save money by not using up resources on individuals who you know won’t become regular customers.

Better In-House Communication and Coordination

Under the CRM system, marketing, sales, and customer service share the same platform. Your team isn’t separated by functionality or access to data. Everyone is on even footing, allowing departments to function cohesively and communicate without any barriers. They have everything they need to work as a single, productive unit.

What Is Customer Relationship Management?

January 31st, 2013

A large amount of any company’s efforts and budget go toward finding and retaining customers. What if database and programming technology combined with innovation could automate much of this work, reduce costs, and improve customer relations, all while improving overall efficiency and value to the customer? It can, in fact! Effective customer relationship management is vital to any business, and CRM software makes the entire process much more successful.

But what is customer relationship management? Below is a brief description of the customer relationship management model, how it works, what might keep it from working to its greatest potential, and some related trends that it has recently created in the marketplace.

What is it?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing the interactions of a company with its customers, clients, and prospective sales contacts. It manages sales activity, customer support, technical support, and marketing by automating and synchronizing similar processes throughout a business. The goals of CRM are attracting and keeping customers, bringing former customers back into the fold, and streamlining activities to reduce the costs of marketing and customer service. The model is also used to simplify and organize internal company relationships.

Benefits of CRM

Although a CRM model is intended to save a business money, its primary goal is to improve efficiency and relationships with clients. The benefits of adopting a CRM model include the following:

  • Quality and efficiency
  • Lower overall costs
  • Higher productivity

A well-thought-out model will create a seamless interface and help a company realize its full potential, but businesses often experience some challenges getting into a streamlined CRM process. These initial hurdles are completely normal, and are overcome with some time and practice. Challenges can include a lack of training for employees, a lack of commitment or continuity from senior executives, and an overly complex or unwieldy interface. Certain areas of the model may be more difficult to manage and therefore can be ignored or underused by employees, which leads to fragmentation and inefficiency. If the interface is difficult to navigate, it presents obstacles for both employees and customers. Hiring talented technical staff to create an interface that is usable and can grow and flex with an increasingly complicated business model and data set, as well as securing a commitment from employees at all levels, are at the heart of a successful CRM model and a sustainable implementation.

Types of CRM

  • CRM automation uses a contact management system to track every stage of the sales process, requiring fewer representatives to initiate and maintain contact with potential and existing customers.
  • Marketing processes track and measure multichannel campaigns, including social media and direct email or mail, to generate leads. A model called prospect relationship management (PRM) tracks customer behavior and brings them to the first sale, cutting out active sales campaigns entirely.
  • Software for customer support, such as call center programs, also helps to reduce the work force required to manage existing customers. It is designed not only to assist clients with problems but also to identify and reward loyal customers.
  • CRM models have also been designed and implemented for the special requirements of small businesses, social media channels, and not-for-profit organizations.

Similar Trends

  • Cloud computing and “software as a service” (SaaS) allow customers to subscribe to a cloud and access software for a reasonable subscription fee.
  • Vendor relationship management (VRM) is a counterpart of CRM that allows customers to access vendors without forming long-term relationships with them.
  • Extended relationship management (XRM) is in part the practice of applying CRM disciplines and technologies to all levels of the enterprise and all associated constituents. This involves not only the associated customers, but other levels of partnership such as the government and the media.

CRM is changing the intricate relationships among companies, customers, vendors, and other business partners. Technology has made it possible to track consumer behavior precisely and make successful sales happen with virtually no exhaustive effort on the part of the company, allowing them to focus efforts on nurturing new and existing relationships, and placing efforts into other areas of company growth.

PCI Announces Plug-in License Manager System

January 29th, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

San Diego, CA – January 29, 2013 – Productive Computing, Inc., a Platinum member of the FileMaker Business Alliance, today announced the release of their Registration 2.0 licensing management system for use with the latest versions of all PCI plug-ins.

Prior to this registration upgrade, PCI plug-in users requested a method to review which license codes were registered to which specific computers. Furthermore, they needed a way to easily disable licenses from computers no longer in use and reassign those licenses to other machines.

To address these requests PCI developed an intuitive registration system which allows end users to self-manage their plug-in licenses provided they download the latest version of their plug-ins. Users can now easily free up licenses as necessary when old machines are no longer employed. Another new feature allows users to conveniently review their plug-in purchase history as well as the number of user seats available for each product. In addition when new licenses are purchased, the system ties directly into PCI’s shopping cart system and will now automatically generate new license codes, thus allowing customers to immediately register plug-in purchases.

“Our innovative and one of a kind registration system sets a new standard for how plug-in manufactures can license and register their software. It truly balances the need to protect the software we are selling at the same time empowering our customers to easily maintain their own licenses.” —Keith Larochelle, CFO, Productive Computing, Inc.

You can see the sytem in action by watching the video below:
YouTube Preview Image

The Registration 2.0 functionality is embedded within the latest versions of each plug-in and is free to download from the PCI web site. Customers who are not running the latest plug-in versions will need to purchase an upgrade in order to use the new Reg 2.0 functionality.

 

About Productive Computing, Inc.
Since 1996, Productive Computing, Inc. has been helping its customers become more efficient and profitable by implementing custom software solutions using FileMaker Pro. Utilizing FileMaker Pro as a rapid application development tool, their certified FileMaker developers can create custom applications that a business can run on their Windows or Macintosh desktop computers, in a web browser, on an iPad or iPhone or shared simultaneously on all of these platforms.

Productive Computing, Inc. also produces several off-the-shelf productivity solutions such as Core4 CRM, Core3 CRM, Core2 CRM, Core2 Invoices, Music Director Pro, FM Work Orders, OrgPlanner and IT Asset Manager as well as a suite of FileMaker Pro plug-ins that allow FileMaker Pro to integrate with third party applications including Outlook, QuickBooks, Apple’s Address Book and iCal, PDF forms, credit card processing, digital signatures and biometric fingerprint scanners.

In addition to building custom and off-the-shelf FileMaker Pro solutions and plug-ins, Productive Computing, Inc. is a full service FileMaker Pro hosting company. FileMaker hosting services allow customers to host their own FileMaker Pro solutions on Productive Computing servers in the cloud instead of purchasing and supporting the necessary server infrastructure themselves. These same servers also provide the infrastructure for customers who would prefer to subscribe to Productive Computing’s Core4 CRM, Core3 CRM, Core2 CRM, and FM Work Orders products under a SaaS (Software as a Service) pricing model.

Productive Computing, Inc. is one of only a few companies in the United States to have earned the highly respected Platinum level membership within the FileMaker Business Alliance and recently won the exclusive FileMaker Business Alliance Partner of the Year award.

Productive Computing, Inc.
950 Boardwalk, Suite 205
San Marcos, CA 92078
http://www.productivecomputing.com
info@productivecomputing.com
(760) 510-1200

Press Contacts:
Productive Computing, Inc.
Keith Larochelle
(760) 510-1200

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