When I started at our company business, I had no idea what and how but I wanted change the place for the better. I am soon coming up on 11 full years there and it was neat to see the cycle of which I already have lived through. The first year when I started there we went with computerized scheduling (which was still printed out). Now I have been there so long that the software needs to be discontinued. Since that time there has been a lot of things coded.
I started there doing just website stuff, part time. Anyone who knows me knows I won’t just stop there. I’m not stopping until the company is converted into a example of efficiency and convenience. Fortunately about 1-2 years there I really started to learn about PHP & Database development. I have a good background in MySQL from my college days but never really had a purpose for it until I built Llama Punter for UT2004. With that knowledge I began to build my first software suite that is still used today (even though it shows its age) which is a complete CRM & Scheduling system for our sales staff. Originally created for us to evenly split leads anonymously between our staff so that there was no way we played favorites.
I remember the day in 2011 when our owner pitched an idea to me, “Could we send the call information to our technician?” That single request completely changed our company around. I started with a very basic script that linked with our old MDB based scheduling system. It would hook and grab call information about the day. You could push the call and it would send a URL with a very long unique code that would allow you to view the details of the appointment. In there was the call information, notes, button for directions and a quick link for history. It was the absolute basics and while it worked I wasn’t happy with it just there.
I started to work hard building out a complete customer management system, dispatch tool, workflow monitoring system, document storage engine, etc. It was not a priority (over regular job tasks) but it was what I could spend spare time on, and now the system is almost fully where I want it to be. I have built everything single tool into the program but the data it gets for customer lists and visit history is still referenced to our old program powered by an unreliable database (thank goodness for constant snapshot backups just in case.) That’s the final feature, build a scheduling system that is within my existing suite.
Scheduling apps are not easy, especially user friendly ones. I found a way to build a scheduling system without drag and drop that was still super easy to operate and in the feature I can always tweak and add the function in. The last few days I was hammering out all the “what if” situations to make sure when we are booking appointments on the phone all the options are right there in front of us.
I hope this feature will be done in the next few weeks. My programs have put us as a 100% competitive advantage over all other businesses in the area because we aren’t shelling out crazy money for development, it’s built by someone who fully understands our industry (not software developers making general solutions) and it has deep decision matrices (which it does learn and store knowledge to help in the future) which I consider machine learning. We run more efficient than ever before, we are making less mistakes than ever before. If we do make mistakes we can easily look back and learn how to fix it.
When that Scheduling feature is complete here is a list of program features.
- Fully Integrated Appointment Scheduling
- Online Linked Appointment Scheduling: allows customers to book appointments. The “machine learning” system will look at the coordinates of their home to search what open spots makes feasible sense to allow it to be scheduled. Incredibly popular feature used by many hundred each year, fully automated no back and forth they can pick the time and it’s set up.
- Dispatch board lets you queue up and send calls.
- Built in notifications will push live notices to all office users as technicians do big tasks on a job or close the job out.
- The most powerful Customer Searching System ever. You can search by anything including a super search which searches contents of notes and other odds and ends to help you find what you’re looking for.
- Multiple mini-calendars (shared among the office)
- Inventory system which helps you track product and what’s available.
- Pricing Book which supports flat rate pricing or manual overriding of items.
- Scanning system allows you to batch scan in documents to link to jobs or customers.
- Warranty workflow allows you to flag jobs for warranty processing. You and other office staff can work through the workflows posting updates to the job.
- Need to Return workflow allows us to get back to jobs without forgetting or requests not getting where they need to.
- Spiff management. Staff can see their current balances and has support for requesting items with it.
- Detailed reporting system. Generate mailing lists based on hundreds of unique reasons to make sure you aren’t wasting stamps and paper.
- Full API Library which we used to set up an online “My account” system where customers can access their records and get further information about what we have done.
- Official app for iOS for field techs. Works on iPad and iPhones.
- Has appointment info, maps integration for directions
- Call look back on prior days if you are trying to recall a visit.
- Customer search system
- On Call calendar system, see who is on call
- Interactive repair book
- Payment processing for Credit Cards
- Interactive Phone Book (everyone can work on records in it like a wiki)
- Knowledgebase supports PDF files, sorted by keywords. Techs can search the contents of the KB or PDF contents.
- Reviews (shows them reviews about them from customers)
- Timesheets allows them to fill out timesheets and submit it, saving time and paper.
- Restock Buddy helps them know what they need to pick up when they are back at the office based on parts used.
- and more more more!
I left dozens of things out because I honestly forgot about most of them. The program has been in the works since 2014.
I do not believe in cookie-cutter software and I’m not sure I ever will. Software companies make software intentionally generic to help fit a wider base and make the most profit. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s the best way to get the most money and use out of your product. I don’t settle for other’s work which I cannot see how it operates. In the next few weeks our ENTIRE company will be running on QuickBooks… and everything else is my software solutions. I am not even going to try touching QuickBooks.