There are many hands-on trades that haven’t traditionally needed technology. Yet modern tech tools help the plumber, carpenter, welder, or other trade improve productivity and competitiveness.
There are certain common tasks tradespeople face daily:
- scheduling appointments with clients, suppliers, or inspectors;
- tracking project deadlines and budgets;
- communicating with project managers, customers, trades, office administrators;
- paying employee salaries;
- invoicing and tracking payables, receivables.
These can all be done with pen and paper, sticky notes, and forms in triplicate, but technology cuts the time spent and lets you focus instead on increasing your bottom line.
The Difference Technology Tools Make
Most of us carry small, powerful computers around in our pockets every day, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet. Internet-connected devices give tradespeople access to tools to enhance productivity.
Let’s start with scheduling apps, as tradespeople are often on the move throughout the day. Signing up for a scheduling tool (e.g. Doodle) makes it easier to set appointments, and you aren’t involved in the booking process. Customers simply go to your website or link to the app and choose an available time that works best for them. You can even set it up to ensure you have buffers between appointments or prevent someone from scheduling a new, big project to start at the end of your day.
Integrating the scheduling app with your website helps customers reach you. Also, connecting also to a shared cloud calendar can help your team work together better. Everyone invited into the calendar can see who is out on a call, and where.
You can make changes to a cloud-based calendar on any connected device. Others will see the alterations in real-time. This helps you avoid scheduling conflicts. You can set a follow-up meeting with an inspector while you’re out in the field. The office secretary sees your availability in real-time to set up a new customer visit.
Your Trade Office On the Move
With cloud-based office software also available online, you can get more done out of the office. You don’t have to make a trip back to the office to enter your invoice slips and make photocopies of receipts. Instead, take pictures on your phone or tablet, and attach them to the project file in the cloud, or invoice directly from a secure cloud-based processing site. You won’t have to worry about any paperwork getting lost in the back of a truck or bottom of a toolbox.
The Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs, and cloud storage are available from iOS and Android devices. This lets you monitor project timelines, view budgets, and track invoices and payments in the field. Cloud-based accounting packages let you see cash flow or outstanding balances, and pay contractors or suppliers on the spot.
Cloud-based software also gives every employee access to business tools in the office. With a virtual desktop, they can collaborate easily (out on a job or in the office) and make changes in real-time. For instance, a contractor could access software to edit a building plan, then actually see the new design in 3D modelling software.
The great news is that technology is ever more accessible and easy to use. Embracing modern digital tools can improve customer service and trade business efficiency.