Construction Best Practices

Want to Protect Your Construction Business? Become a Service Contractor


Adding a Service Component to Your Construction Operations Can Generate Continual Cash Flow, Helping Offset Periods When That Lucrative Construction Work Slows

Service work is an ideal complement to construction, and can bring in recurring cash flow year round.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, its abrupt impact on the businesses of construction served as a reminder that preparing for times of uncertainty can make a tremendous difference in the ability to weather tough times.

Expanding your construction business to offer service will not only help grow your business today, it can help you prepare for unpredictable market shifts and events in the future. Why? Well, service work isn’t as cyclical as construction, has higher margins and less risk. Service work is an ideal complement to construction because it requires a similar skill set and allows you to retain and repurpose talent when work slows by shifting workers between construction and service.

      Service contractors enjoy a continual stream of revenue, supporting the business when construction work slows.

      Service contracts also lead to ongoing customer relationships that can generate more construction work. With a service contract in place, an owner is more likely to reach out to your business for new projects because they have an existing relationship and trust your work. On the flip side, it’s easier to win service contracts for a construction project you’ve successfully completed. It’s a win-win in which service and construction feed each other to help grow your business.

      Successfully Transitioning to a Service Contractor

      Hiring and training the right technicians from the start will go a long way toward building a successful service business.

      Construction businesses that have expanded to service have learned that, from the start, it’s important to get a few foundational elements right.

      • Hire smart, start small. Launching a successful service business begins with hiring the right people, particularly a service manager and dispatcher, who know how to run and manage a service organization. A common mistake is assuming the skill sets and processes required to manage the construction side of the business will also apply to service. Construction projects are often completed over extended periods of time whereas a service technician may complete as many as eight work orders in a day. Most construction businesses lack the resources in-house to manage this volume and type of work.
      • Go paperless. Avoid paper-based work order processes that can slow down billing and disrupt cash flow. Instead, a mobile solution will provide technicians with everything they need to manage work orders, track parts and inventory, assign and update labor, collect electronic signatures, review and create notes on work orders, upload jobsite photos and forms, and more — all from the field.
      • Track your progress. Develop key metrics for tracking your service business. For instance, tracking how long it takes to bill customers will help identify issues that could negatively impact cash flow. Because, you may have as many as 600 service agreements, tracking each one on a granular level is impossible. It’s best to begin with a few key metrics that will help ensure your service business is performing well without requiring you to micromanage each individual service agreement and work order.

      With these important roles filled you’re ready to think about the rest of the team and the resources you’ll need. It may be tempting to go big but starting with a few service technicians and vehicles will allow you to move forward with less risk and refine your process before expanding.

      Overcoming Common Service Contractor Challenges

      Providing service technicians with the right tools, technologies and effective workflows is important in building a winning service team.

      As with any new venture, it’s helpful to understand the challenges you could face so you’re prepared to avoid them. With the right service management technology in place, these common hurdles are easy to overcome:

      • Scheduling Work Orders. With hundreds of service contracts, service managers relying on paper forms may struggle to prioritize field work orders. In this case, technicians in the field don't receive data when it's needed. This slows down their productivity, results in low customer satisfaction and delays billing. Without automation, more dispatchers are needed to manage technician scheduling and information which can really affect productivity — and the bottom line. A service management solution will automate workflows so that service managers can easily fill work orders, coordinate dispatch calls, schedule and manage technicians and deploy information to techs in the field.
      • Tracking Technician Performance. From a lack of training to unsatisfactory work that needs to be done again and inventory management problems, many factors can lead to poor technician performance. With the right technology in place, tracking performance will allow you to hold technicians accountable, identify areas for improvement and offer incentives or bonuses for peak performance.
      • Ensuring Safety. Service work can expose technicians to safety risks such electrical shock, respiratory hazards or falls. Proper safety training and risk management procedures will help keep technicians safe and protect your business from everyday risks. Even still, accidents happen. Capturing safety incidents on paper puts your businesses and technicians at risk. With software to capture and analyze information on safety incidents, you can review safety data over time to identify patterns and train technicians on problem practices.
      • Getting Paid Quickly. Requiring technicians to perform a series of manual processes to input data from the van or when they’re back in the office can lead to delays in getting paid. As time passes between the work and billing, the payment process is also extended and all of a sudden, you have a cash flow problem. Empowering technicians with a mobile solution will streamline the data and workflows, syncing with the office instantly. Technicians can quickly capture work orders from the field to ensure billing isn’t delayed and as a result, you get paid quickly and maintain a healthy cash flow.

        The Tech that Successful Service Contractors Rely On

        Leading-edge mobile technologies like Trimble Viewpoint's Service Tech or Vista Field Service solutions can give your service division a leg up over competition in the field.

        Today’s leading contractors are turning to modern service management solutions like Trimble Viewpoint's Service Tech and Vista Field Service, equipped with the latest mobile technologies that connect the field with the office. Empowering technicians by providing better access to information and more authority to make decisions in the field not only increases their commitment to the work that needs to be done, it bolsters their contribution to the company’s overall health. Technicians can focus on the actual work rather than the paperwork and customers will enjoy a deeper level of satisfaction with the speed and accuracy of the work being done.

        As part of the connected, cloud-based Trimble Construction One suite, with specific features designed to streamline service workflows, these solutions allow users in the back office to easily manage service contracts and create work orders with a few clicks of a mouse, relying on powerful client contact databases to fill in historical and site information. Intuitive dispatch boards can schedule technicians and allow the flexibility to change their work on the fly based on priority or availability. Service contracts can also be automatically drafted and sent out for review and renewals, saving countless hours of preparation.

        Want more to learn more about how these solutions could help your company expand into service, or interested in your own personal demonstration of Service Tech or Vista Field Service? Contact us today!

        Posted By

        Mark is Senior Product Manager for Viewpoint’s Spectrum solution. He has been in the service and construction software business for more than 16 years in product management and sales and lives in the Seattle area.