Industry Blogs

Drain cleaning is in full-swing and if you’ve been thinking about ways you can add services to your business – diagnostics, inspection and locating – may be the perfect addition. Not only can it add an additional revenue stream year-round, but it’s a particularly beneficial service this time of year when home buying tends to Read More

Drain cleaning is in full-swing and if you’ve been thinking about ways you can add services to your business – diagnostics, inspection and locating – may be the perfect addition. Not only can it add an additional revenue stream year-round, but it’s a particularly beneficial service this time of year when home buying tends to pick up across the country.

While most homebuyers opt to have a home inspection completed as part of the home buying process, sewer inspection is not typically included. Many don’t know to ask for it and realtors aren’t always suggesting it as a necessary inspection.

Drain Mob, a camera, jetting and drain cleaning company in San Diego regularly provides camera inspection and drain cleaning services for clients after they’ve purchased a home and are experiencing issues, something they and other professionals think could be avoided if homebuyers and their realtors took the time to inspect the lines as part of the home inspection.

“Every day we see a lot of clients that did not have a realtor that would actually camera their sewer lines, they would always go on the inspection report from the inspector,” said Billy Teeter, Drain Mob Owner in a recent Instagram video talking to realtors. “It’s two to three hundred dollars, it’s worth the money. Hire a professional and you’ll be a hero with your client.  Protect your clients investment.”

How to Get Started

To begin offering services to this market, you don’t need to buy equipment all at once. Invest in equipment you’ll initially need most and then add-on as needed once you recoup your initial investment. For example, a RIDGID® SeeSnake® Compact2 Camera System paired with the CS6xPak Digital Recording Monitor is a good initial investment for residential jobs. All RIDGID digital monitors come standard with Wi-Fi allowing for easy capturing and sharing of images and video through the HQx Live App on your phone or tablet. This lets buyers and sellers quickly see any potential issues.

 

After your initial equipment purchase, marketing your new service becomes a priority. A few ideas as you get started are:

  • National Association of Realtors – Connect with your local National Association of Realtors chapter. The association represents 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries and has over 1,200 local associations/boards and 54 state and territory associations.
  • American Society of Home Inspectors – Reach out to local home inspectors about partnering to offer drain and sewer inspection as part of their services. The American Society of Home Inspectors, a professional organization for inspectors across the country, offers a searchable database of local inspectors on their website.

Additional Business Benefits

Incorporating diagnostic, inspection and locating services into your business provides additional benefits for a company. These include:

  • Expanded Capabilities Diagnostics is an investment that quickly pays for itself and continues to drive incremental income by letting contractors offer additional plumbing services. It also allows plumbers to take on more complex and difficult projects they previously would have had to decline.
  • The Added Value of Certainty – Clearly seeing the problem means being able to offer the right fix, no more and no less. For customers, seeing the problem that backs the estimate increases their trust in a contractor and the necessity of work being completed.
  • Find it. Clear it. – Contractors can serve more customers in less time with diagnostics, inspection and locating equipment because they can locate and repair problems faster. Many tools come standard with Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing for findings to be shared immediately with clients and co-workers, which leads to faster decisions and shorter projects.

In closing, regardless of whether you decide to target your diagnostic, inspection and locating services to homebuyers and realtors, these services and type of equipment can be a beneficial addition for your business and clients.

Article by Gina Hartman

Gina is Senior Global Marketing Manager of Underground Technologies, including inspection and diagnostic products, at RIDGID®. The company is a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at RIDGID.com.

For residential plumbers, there have been two schools of thought for plumbing a house: home run and trunk and branch. Both have their positives and negatives, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with the plumbing system. However, you may not know there’s a new (and smarter) way to design and install a residential plumbing Read More

For residential plumbers, there have been two schools of thought for plumbing a house: home run and trunk and branch. Both have their positives and negatives, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with the plumbing system.

However, you may not know there’s a new (and smarter) way to design and install a residential plumbing system that installs faster, uses less materials, requires fewer connections, minimizes your liability and operates more efficiently.

It’s called Logic plumbing.

A Logic plumbing design can only be used with PEX piping, but since PEX is now used in more new-home construction than copper and CPVC combined, you’re most likely already using it. (And if you’re not, you need to check it out. PEX is highly durable, flexible and more cost-effective compared to copper and CPVC.)

The Logic approach leverages the flexibility of PEX pipe to minimize connections and reduce potential leak points while also incorporating multiport tees located near fixture groupings to both limit the amount of pipe and connections needed while also improving installation efficiencies and system performance.

What’s a multiport tee?

I’m sure right now you’re wondering, “What’s a multiport tee?” It’s essentially a bunch of tees all molded together to create one long tee with multiple outlets. This innovative product minimizes connections and is the heart and soul of a Logic design.

For example, six regular tees will have 18 connections, but a flow-through multiport tee with six outlets will only have eight connections (six connections for the ports, a main flow-through inlet and a main flow-through outlet). Think about how much faster you could install a system when you’re making half the number of connections.

And get this — while multiport tees may resemble a manifold, they have the benefit of being hidden behind walls without the need for an access panel. Yes, you heard that right. No need for an access panel, minimizing costs and labor to help keep your projects on schedule and on budget.

Multiport tees are made of engineered polymer (EP), a thermoplastic material that has been used in plumbing applications for more than 20 years. EP has superior mechanical, chemical and thermal properties that provide dimensional stability in demanding applications, including areas of high stress, heat and moisture.

And, like PEX, the EP material in multiport tees resists corrosion, pitting and scaling, so it creates a highly durable system that’s engineered to last. Best of all, multiport tees (as well as all EP fittings) are approved for direct burial in the soil or concrete slab, so they are ideal for in-slab plumbing applications.

The Logic layout

So what exactly is a Logic plumbing layout? It’s quite simple: a main line connects to a multiport tee with distribution lines going out from the tee. These individual lines extending from the single multiport tee provide water to all fixtures in a single or adjacent grouping.

This design uses significantly less pipe than a home-run layout, with just a few more connections. Plus, it requires considerably fewer connections compared to a trunk-and-branch installation.

For example, a 2,300-square-foot, two-story home using a Logic design requires only 637 feet of pipe while a home-run system uses 1,515 feet of pipe. That’s more than twice the amount of piping necessary.

In addition to the added costs required to install all that extra pipe, the system performance is also greatly reduced due to added pressure loss and longer wait times for hot water. Plus, all the extra pipe can lead to issues isolating hot and cold water lines. This increases heat transfer and energy inefficiencies within the plumbing system.

And, while it’s true a Logic installation uses slightly more connections than a home-run layout (59 vs. 48 in the 2,300-square-foot, two-story home example above), the amount of pipe savings is significantly more beneficial with the labor and material savings you get with less pipe to install (not to mention the efficiency of the system).

A Logic layout also installs much faster compared to a trunk-and-branch system due to the vast reduction in connections. With the two-story home example above, a Logic layout uses a mere 16 fittings and 59 connections compared to a whopping 96 fittings and 165 connections for trunk and branch. That’s six times the number of fittings and nearly three times the amount of connections!

All those added connections greatly increase your liability with more potential for leaks, plus it also limits the performance of the system with increased pressure loss.

So there you have it! Just a few “logical” reasons why you should consider a smarter approach to plumbing a home that will improve your installation times, limit your liability and offer an all-around better-performing system for the end user.

Kim Bliss is the content development manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

Field service management (FSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) are best-of-breed solutions that are essential to the work of field technicians. Both tools manage different aspects of client needs, but if they’re not working together, businesses will miss out on new opportunities and more productive work processes. So how do you synch the two? FSM Read More

Field service management (FSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) are best-of-breed solutions that are essential to the work of field technicians. Both tools manage different aspects of client needs, but if they’re not working together, businesses will miss out on new opportunities and more productive work processes. So how do you synch the two?

FSM and CRM are usually integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to eliminate duplicate data entry, avoid costly mistakes due to lack of data, and share customer information in real-time. FSM software vendors and others offering best-of-breed solutions generally offer standard integration approaches, but in most environments it also makes sense to integrate FSM software with CRM software. This ensures a consistent customer experience regardless of whether a customer is interacting with a CRM user or a field service technician. It is for this reason that some software vendors have created standard integration models with ERP products.

A deeper dive into FSM
While CRM is designed to manage the customer experience, field service management software helps companies go deep into their data to ensure customers can be served profitably and successfully in the field. Good FSM software has a vast detail of built-in functionality, but here is a topline list of what it covers:

  • Dispatch and service scheduling, appointment setting, calendar-based scheduling from maintenance plans and automated scheduling optimization
  • The ability to issue and record completion of work orders
  • Contract management to ensure service agreements are adhered to, even when terms are customer-specific
  • Service inventory, including inventory on each technician’s vehicle
  • Warranty management, so technicians in the field can determine which work is covered by warranty and which carries an additional charge
  • Tools to enable technicians to upsell new services, issue quotes and secure approval on quotes
  • Reverse logistics to take parts and subcomponents back into inventory, repair or scrap them, track ownership of the part and whether the customers or subcontractors are entitled to a replacement
  • Service billing, used to collect details of billable service, pass it to ERP for invoicing, and provide customers visibility into billing activity in the field

This takes us to the heart of the issue because even when a CRM package has field service capabilities, it alone cannot enable a company to deliver all these functions – especially if competitors have a more advanced service offering. So, comprehensive FSM software is the key, but if run as a standalone entity, even the most advanced field service product will leave gaps in the ability to address the entire customer lifecycle, maximize revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

When two become one: 360-degree view

So, how does this combined view of the customer across both CRM and field service improve customer service and increase revenue? If a field technician can see in the CRM solution what service has been performed on a customer’s equipment in the field, then that technician can – based on frequency of service, cost of service and parts, and even predictive analytics – record a sales opportunity to potentially replace the equipment and make that business case directly to the customer.

In this scenario, a field service technician may learn that the customer site they are working on will be expanding and can quickly create a sales opportunity for additional equipment that might be sold. Combining these solutions is essential, as a company delivers a better experience when their employees across the organization know about recent customer conversations, transactions, service calls, open issues, customer-specific requirements and correspondence.

Identify the two-way streets
There is also specific information that should be subject to a bi-directional integration with FSM and CRM, ensuring data is created, synched and updated in both systems. Recording service history and ongoing sales activity is a must to allow sales, customer service and field service personnel to get a 360-degree view of the customer and better understand the facts on the ground. As is sales history information, which gives field service technicians better visibility into products or equipment at a customer site that may not yet be covered by a service agreement and which may represent additional revenue opportunities.

Warranty information and contract management is another important consideration, as it can provide CRM users with a better idea of warranty renewal sales opportunities for each customer and show how well the field organization is performing against contractual requirements. Current sales promotions can also be included in both systems to allow field technicians to see opportunities that are relevant to the customer and use that to upsell or provide appropriate discounts.

Open architecture means you can tailor-make your solution

Some enterprise software integrations are associated with high costs and risks, but not all systems are built the same. To avoid this, businesses should look to solutions built on an open integration architecture, creating standard but configurable implementations to CRM offerings. No two implementations of either of these CRM products is truly the same, which means that each integration will be somewhat unique. That is why the integration needs to be configurable and user-friendly – for example, using a drag-and-drop tool to add fields, repurpose fields and add tables.

This streamlined approach to integration also increases enterprise agility. As the way you do business changes and those changes are reflected in a Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution, the integration can change with you, without custom programming or external consulting fees – the result is quick, cost-effective and simple onboarding.

There are still some decisions to be made

In planning your integration, there are a few decisions to make about how you want to handle transactions as they are passed between systems. Some database fields are typically integrated synchronously, which means before a transaction relating to a particular field is recorded in one system, it must be confirmed by and recorded in the other. Others are handled asynchronously, which means the transaction is recorded in the system immediately, without any acknowledgement that it has been received and approved by the other system.

Some fields that are typically handled synchronously include quotes and estimates, which need to tie back to current pricing in CRM or ERP, inventory commitments to ensure available-to-promise status of parts, and credit approvals, which need to be checked against payment history and credit limits in CRM or ERP.

Asynchronous integration is typically used to make the full customer list from CRM available in field service. This is valuable to a field service technician so they can see all contacts at a company and have an idea of their role in the organization. The service history can also be made available in a periodic update to CRM to keep customer service and sales people informed of the nature of the total service relationship.

Better together
It is critical for the various software products you rely on to share data where it makes sense, but integration can only be considered with a sound business case. In identifying that business case, ask yourself how you want the integration to enable your business to beat the competition and how an integration can help increase customer satisfaction and revenue.

Field service management software should not be an island unto itself – it should extend into other enterprise software, including CRM and ERP. Integrations can increase solution expense and complexity, so standard integrations that easily accommodate your unique solution set are extremely valuable. When considering integration, make sure to identify the barriers you want to overcome, so you can reap the rewards of a high-quality enterprise solution.

Andrew Lichey, Product Manager, North America, IFS Andrew is responsible for developing and evolving the IFS Field Service Management software product. He has been leading field service management software development projects since 1996. Prior to that, he served as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army. He holds a degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Andrew can be reached at Andrew.lichey@ifsworld.com.

Four pro tips on how to cope with ever-growing consumer demands and better serve today’s digitally fluent customers You don’t have to be a fan of HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper to be familiar with hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines. These days, the husband-wife duo has become the face of the American DIY Dream to Read More

Four pro tips on how to cope with ever-growing consumer demands and better serve today’s digitally fluent customers

You don’t have to be a fan of HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper to be familiar with hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines. These days, the husband-wife duo has become the face of the American DIY Dream to transform an unsightly space into something chic and beautiful. And while the experienced contractor might understand the projects featured in each 30-minute episode actually take eight weeks or more to complete, home makeover shows make it look fun, easy—and unrealistically quick.

Considering the huge popularity of HGTV and DIY networks, there’s a good chance your customers are familiar with – and have been inspired by – the Gaineses and other home makeover stars.

In addition to HGTV and DIY network, your customers are likely fans of services like Amazon Prime two-day delivery, on-demand ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, and any number of other apps, websites and virtual services that have conditioned the average American to expect what they want when they want it.

This is the world in which we live and paint. In-person visits to a prospective customer’s house or business to spec out a project are being replaced by a growing number of mobile apps and web services like Paintzen, Houzz and Angie’s List that provide instant access to contractors, reviews, project estimates and design inspiration. This trend presents new challenges for the painting pro, but also new opportunities.

“Any time you can get people interested in what we do, we can add value by providing that service to them,” says Kevin Nolan, President and CEO of Nolan Painting in Havertown, PA. Nolan, who has nearly 40 years in the industry, says customers that look to platforms like Houzz and programs like Fixer Upper for design ideas are likely to have a more adventurous approach to their project and a clearer idea of what they’re after, not to mention a photo or video clip to help share their vision.

Tom VanDerkolk, 25-plus-year industry veteran and owner of VanDerkolk + Kooi Painting in Grand Rapids, MI, agrees, specifically citing how communication technology advancements have made his team more efficient. “Most projects are going to have questions, concerns or misunderstandings. We work to plan around those as much as possible, but simply knowing if our customer prefers a text, call or email allows us to solve an issue quickly.”

Here are four takeaways to help you stay relevant in the digital era and manage ever-growing customer expectations.

Get Social

If your business doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram page, start there. Both platforms offer a free and easy way to showcase your handiwork. There’s a good chance your customers will share those project photos with their networks, which could lead to additional business. Or, you could pay to boost one or more of your posts to reach a larger network of potential customers. Both Facebook and Instagram allow you to choose your budget and target your posts to specific geographic regions and user interests; for even as little as $20, you can increase the probability of getting your craftsmanship in front of people most likely to need your services.

If you specialize in commercial work, sharing with photos, videos or behind-the-scenes tidbits about your work processes on LinkedIn might help you catch the eye of other local businesses.

Many of your prospective customers look to Pinterest for inspiration specifically for home painting projects. Having a Pinterest presence will show your customers that you are up to date with current trends and can be useful in helping your customer pinpoint the paint color or design scheme they are after.

Learn to Use a New Tool: Technology

While there are plenty of ways you can spend money to get noticed online, there are also a variety of free tools. For example, VanDerkolk says his team often uses Google Maps’ Streetview and Google Earth imagery to view a new job site – a simple practice that helps them prepare for the job. You can also review your business’ Facebook page insights (they’re free) to get a better understanding of your audience’s age, gender and location demographics – information that can be of use when designing a seasonal sales push, tailoring the tone of your social media content or deciding where to target an advertising campaign. And storing frequently used sales and marketing materials on cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox allows for quick and easy access out in the field. Some painting contractors take their use of technology one step further — Google AdWords campaigns (an inexpensive form of online advertising) can help generate new leads, for example.

Own Your Reviews

Nolan and VanDerkolk’s combined 67 years of experience hasn’t yielded a sure-fire way to avoid negative customer feedback, but it sure has taught them a thing or two in how best to deal with it. Both owners recommend taking the time to respond to any negative reviews that show up on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, an effort that at minimum demonstrates to anyone who may encounter the negative review that you are genuinely concerned about your customers’ satisfaction, and in the best-case scenario may even result in the dissatisfied customer amending the negative review (or removing it altogether) or giving you another shot at the business. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask your satisfied customers to leave a positive review of your business online – having a high volume of good reviews on Google, for example, will help your business show up in search results.

Maintain Your Humanity

No amount of technology will replace the value of a human connection with your customer. So while some homeowners may opt for the ease of a website or app to get a project estimate, the reality is that many more will seek your business out because of your reputation or as the result of a recommendation from a friend or family member. VanDerkolk recommends going the extra mile with customers whenever possible; he’s been known to surprise families who are without use of their kitchen for a few days due to a renovation project with a gift card to a local restaurant or tickets to a sporting event. Similarly, Nolan recommends finding ways to give back to the community around you. Whether you are sponsoring a community event or doing pro bono work for a community organization, you are demonstrating your business’s character and culture in a way that no digital service can ever replace.

Diane Walsh is Vice President of Market Development and Sales Operations for ShurTech Brands, LLC, maker of FrogTape® brand painter’s tape. Diane also serves as director of the ShurTech Brands Professional Paint Advisory Board, working with leading contractors from across the country to explore industry trends and share innovations for the benefit of the entire trade. Diane was awarded 2018 PDCA Associate Member of the Year.

Just a couple days ago I returned from an event that has me so excited about working in the trades and what it means to be “Made in the USA”.  The RIDGID Experience is only in it’s second year of existence but its clear to me that this will be an amazing annual event for Read More

Eric standing in front of RIDGE Tool Just a couple days ago I returned from an event that has me so excited about working in the trades and what it means to be “Made in the USA”.  The RIDGID Experience is only in it’s second year of existence but its clear to me that this will be an amazing annual event for years to come. Here’s how it works: All across their social media channels RIDGID invites anyone who uses their tools, any and all of the RIDGID tools to show off their pride in the work they do with those tools. There’s an official entry process and some hashtagging involved but its super simple and fun. Once entered RIDGID picks the winners of the contest and those winners are treated to a total first-class experience with factory & hands-on training center tours, an inside look at new upcoming products and tools, meals, lodging, airfare, limo, professional photo shoots,  a box suite at the Indians ball game and even a fishing trip on Lake Erie! Oh man, I gotta tell you it was a blast!

Of course factory tours are exciting, getting to see how our favorite tool is made and even meeting the people who make them daily leaves me with a higher level of respect for the brand and excitement for my work. That was definitely the case for me after the #RIDGIDExperience.

Unfortunately we don’t always get to take the camera’s along for every step of the tour but I’ve posted a few cool shots on our Facebook and Instagram along with some comments along the way. I’ve included a video of the final steps in the assembly of the iconic 300 below; its hard to believe that machine was ever so clean and shiny!

I’d like to thank the entire team at RIDGID and those involved who organized and pulled off a truly memorable experience for all of us “winners”. It’s clear the entire company knows and cares about who their customer is. Thank you, Eric Aune.