Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

The Intersection of Client and Technician: Annual Software & User Experience Survey


600600p3069EDNmain888woman-with-ipad-615-x-350From new mobile options to the addition of sales and marketing functions, new scheduling and user experience solutions are on the rise.

In the past 12 months, since our first field services and scheduling software comparison report, the #1 change in the competitive field is that most of the new options are being designed by current or former cleaning business owners. So what does this say about what cleaning business owners need for improving the efficiency and efficacy of their operational procedures?

In this 2014 User Experience Survey Report, two new software options join MaidEasy Software, all of which are designed by cleaning business owners and designed specifically for use in operating a cleaning business:

MaidEasy Software – 1999
MaidSuite – 2014
ZenMaid – 2013

CBT welcomes a growing group of more general home services software providers. While available and accommodating to the needs of home services other than cleaning, two of the most commonly adopted systems – ServiceCEO and Thoughtful Systems – are joined by emerging service providers, many of which fill open system niches.
CompassWave – 2010
Jobber – 2010
Launch 27 – 2013
PocketSuite – 2013
ServiceCEO by Marathon Data – 1984
ServiceProz – 2009
Thoughtful Systems – 1985

More than 50 software-as-a-solution (SaaS) providers were invited to participate in our survey at no cost.

OVERVIEW

As you consider the new data provided in our 2014 survey report, CBT can make the following observations based on new data and on changes since last year.

– 60% of software solutions are specialized pieces, filling a specific portion of the larger service delivery mechanism rather than complete enterprise systems
– 80% of solutions engage on some level in core job scheduling activities, with 50% heavily focused on scheduling
– 70% of solutions offer some level of employee recruiting and tracking, with 40% offering a robust system
– 70% of solutions offer commission-based payroll calculation
– 100% of the newest (post-2010) are exclusively web-based or mobile app-based, not offering a traditional office (downloaded and installed) version
– 40% of the solutions offer a robust operational reporting collection, with 100% offering some reports
– 20% of the solutions offer a basic personnel system, with another 50% offering less than 50% of common personnel data tracking activities

CLASSIC DEBATES

As new service solutions continue to emerge and enable the cleaning industry to evolve, our annual survey continues to validate the strength of several classic debates related to how and why to select different types of software solutions.

On-site versus Cloud
The move to more cloud-based and mobile app solutions is old news. Some of the evidence of that exists right here in the microcosm of this survey: not one of the 21st-century solutions started as or offers an on-site (or downloaded and installed) version of their solution. But data security continues to be the dominant objection by those holding on to on-site versions; with the Target and Heartbleed security breaches earlier this year, it’s clear that data security remains a valid concern.

All-in-One versus Mix-N-Match
The dominant trend historically has been for cleaning business owners to adopt one of the all-in-one solutions but with the improvement in solution integrations and open APIs, connecting solutions together to reduce duplication of work and error is becoming easier. This debate may be an old-school versus new-school battle.

App versus No App
The rising trend shows that as much as 75% of internet users are on their phone or tablet rather than a computer, and 82% of those are using an app rather than a web browser. This makes the consideration of a mobile app – especially one available for consumer interaction – a much more vital piece of an overall technology-based solution.

For a more detailed look at the process of evaluating and selecting the best solution for your company and clients, check out Quantum Sweep: How to Choose Service Software for Your Cleaning Business.

PARTING ADVICE

The trickiest part of evaluating the features based on a checklist or comparison is that you still don’t know how good a program is until you’ve seen it and used it. Whenever possible, try out a free trial of a program. Create a small sample of easy, medium, and hard-to-please customers, perhaps 20, which you use to test solutions during the free trial periods. You want to confirm that essential functions are part of the solution and that they operate in the way you need them to.

And remember that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. The variety in functionality and even how solutions are priced reflects the variety of business structures among cleaning businesses. This is the challenge faced by all service businesses – software as a service (SaaS) included: user reviews aren’t as reliable as we need them to be because what works for one business isn’t necessarily what works for another. Cleaning business owners become keenly aware of this every time a bad review is posted.

Think of it this way: shop software the same way you want your future clients to shop you:
– Ask for references – current user companies whom you can call and talk to about what it really takes to make the solution work
– Ask for number of current/active users – companies love to cite lifetime adoptions, but you want to know how many are using it today, not guess how many of that larger number have moved on to a new solution
– Ask what the last two upgrades were and when they were released – this will give you an idea of how quickly the company is moving on new developments
– Ask how customization opportunities work – what is the process for reporting a need and receiving a custom solution or even an upgrade for all clients

Whatever selling point tips the scales and convinces you to adopt a new software solution, be certain to give that solution your full attention and a fair chance at meeting your needs: use every feature in at least one campaign, consult the support team frequently, give it those extra few hours each week to make sure you understand. Don’t let poor implementation be the reason the solution didn’t work for you.

Technology progresses at a rapid rate – both the hardware and software options. This year’s report and reflections are dramatically different than what we were able to report just 12 months ago; 40% of our participants this year have launched in that time.

– Investigate solutions.
– Adopt what works.
– Implement to the fullest extent of the solution.
– Stay competitive in a changing industry.

CeCe Mikell is the Editorial Director for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published June 18, 2014 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

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