Colin Yates, Chief Support Officer at WorkMobile, discusses how moving aspects of your business to digital formats can make all the difference.

The need to stay up to date with advancements in technical knowledge for plumbers and heating engineers is widely acknowledged.

The Chartered Institute for Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), for example, requires all of its members to participate in Continuous Professional Development, by attending training courses, workshops, conferences, and exhibitions, in order to help their customers feel confident that they’re benefiting from the best possible service.

The question is – are plumbing and heating companies spending the same amount of time and effort ensuring that their business practices are equally as cutting edge?

Advances in mobile technology and the birth of cloud computing have made it possible for more businesses across almost every sector to embrace digital transformation and revolutionise the way they work.

Ditching paper and working towards a digital working environment is a great way to drive efficiency, boost productivity, save money, and free up time. Despite the significant benefits, many within the plumbing and heating industry are still failing to adopt digital solutions. Our recent Death of the Paper Trail report revealed that 67% of trade and utilities businesses are still heavily reliant on paper.

Whether it’s down to tradition, complacency, or a fear of the costs and complications that digital transformation would entail, there’s no reason for the industry’s apparent reluctance to go digital, especially when the potential rewards are so great for both businesses and their customers.

So, with this in mind, here are three ways that implementing paperless processes can benefit both plumbing and heating businesses and their customers:

Improving reliability

According to the most recent Which? Trusted Trader survey, the most common concern when hiring a tradesperson is that they won’t turn up at the agreed time, which was cited by 62% of respondents.

Replacing paper-based workflow management processes with cloud-based workflow management software is an effective way to streamline the job allocation process and provide a more reliable service.

With paper-based processes, all appointments must be allocated at the beginning of the day or week, with job sheets physically handed over to staff. This makes it extremely difficult to reallocate existing jobs, or add new ones throughout the day, and leaves managers oblivious to the progress of each task.

Implementing a cloud-based solution allows managers to schedule work and send information directly to employees’ mobile devices. It’s then possible for them to receive updates and notifications during the life cycle of a job, showing when a worker has begun travelling, arrived at the job, started, and completed the work.

This makes it much easier to see when employees are running behind schedule, meaning a decision can then be made either to alert the next customer to the slight delay or to reassign the job to another member of the team.

Complete more jobs in a day

Paper-based processes can be extremely time consuming. Not only must all documents be completed by hand, they must then be returned to the office, where any essential information can be manually inputted into a computer database and the paper documents filed away in bulky storage units.

With cloud-based digital solutions, all documents can be completed and filed without the need for the employees to physically return to the office, which improves productivity as it gives them more time to attend a greater number of jobs. 

With reports automatically loaded onto the company portal, it also greatly reduces the administrative burdens placed on staff and leaves less room for human error.

Providing superior customer service

When reliant on paper-based processes, it can be difficult to provide the optimum level of customer service. Transporting the appropriate documents for every job can be cumbersome, and it can also be difficult to ensure that engineers always have the correct job sheets, customer contact details, and job history to hand. If any essential documents are forgotten, then valuable time is wasted returning to the office to collect them, potentially leaving customers waiting.

With documents completed digitally and saved to the cloud, workers no longer have to carry large amounts of paperwork around. Additionally, any relevant historic files, appliance information and blank job sheets can be downloaded instantly and from anywhere, enabling engineers to have in-depth knowledge of each customer and helping them to provide the highest level of service.

Furthermore, with digital cloud-based solutions, customer contact information and other relevant details can be saved safely and securely in a database, which can be accessed by staff both in the office and out in the field.

This means that if a customer calls the office or their engineer, their personal information and history can be viewed with ease, enabling better and faster customer service. Alternatively, if a staff member needs to get in touch with a customer, they can do so without needing to waste time searching through paper files for contact details.  

With so many benefits, both for heating and plumbing businesses and their customers, going paperless with the help of digital technology is worth serious consideration for businesses looking to improve their operational processes.