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Residential and commercial service businesses have experienced extraordinary disruption during the past two years. Safely navigating the challenges of a once-in-a-century pandemic has meant contracting business owners across every service vertical have been making a lot of sacrifices — and tough decisions.
Social distancing, remote work and the ongoing labor shortage required companies to be adaptable and resilient.
However, businesses that have responded successfully didn’t reinvent the wheel in 2021. Many of the developments we’ve seen that have empowered our industry to respond successfully to this crisis have simply been accelerations of existing trends.
Efficiency, security and transparency remained key principles. The top-performing leaders across the industry streamlined their processes, kept their team members and customers safe and communicated effectively. Technology played a critical role, too.
Contractors who have fully embraced the efficiency and accuracy that today’s enterprise technology offers experienced many advantages during the pandemic.
While many business owners have been forced to implement an unfamiliar solution under the pressure of lockdowns and quarantines, experienced professionals were doubling down to maximize the opportunities available in their existing platform. Their employees and customers benefited from the smooth transition, while late adopters frequently experienced disrupted workflows.
For 2022, we expect the same pattern to continue as technology becomes more connected and more powerful. As we begin to approach the new year, here are some trends to anticipate:
Smart technology: Many consumers who spent more time in their homes in 2020 and 2021 are prioritizing smart updates to their lighting, heating and cooling, and kitchen and bath that do the following through simple and intuitive apps:
For service companies, a major benefit of smart technology is that it provides the technician with greater efficiency, as many smart tools deliver remote insight into equipment and service locations.
This insight can help reduce the amount of unnecessary dispatches, and can make service calls more efficient because the technician will have better information going into the trip about what needs to be done.
The right types of smart technology can allow for less time spent on assessment and less return visits because technicians can be more properly equipped.
As artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things continue to gain momentum, expect to see significant new developments emerge.
Mobile communication: The use of mobile communication will only increase in 2022. Tech-savvy millennials make up the majority of the consumer market and the workforce now, so customers and team members both expect to rely on digital platforms for internal and customer-facing business communication.
For home service business owners, that also means mobile apps for their technicians.
The rigorous protocols of social distancing and remote work demonstrated that field service solutions are no longer a luxury in our industry. Connecting the field to the office and coordinating between the customer, back office and technician, all while having notes and communication threads available so everyone is on the same page, is critical in today’s current climate.
Integrated technology: Contractors who have switched from Excel to a leading SaaS solution don’t want to bounce from scheduling and dispatch software to field service management and then to invoicing. Integrated solutions keep the field connected to the office and the customer, so everyone has real-time insight into a job.
Integrated platforms combine office functions such as scheduling, invoicing and payments, estimates, dispatch, bookkeeping that might have been performed with pen and paper not too long ago, add visual documentation and incorporate marketing, inventory and training capabilities.
Having all the data connected and not siloed provides companies with greater efficiency and more streamlined processes.
The power of online presence: In order to compete in the modern marketplace, a winning online strategy is absolutely essential. That strategy combines offense — effective marketing, content and social media management that promotes your brand and builds name recognition and positive associations and defense — responsive, responsible oversight, quick action to address negative online comments and a crisis plan.
Outside of branding, service companies must also start moving to a self-serve strategy as well as think about where e-commerce plays a role within their companies. As younger customers begin to make up the growing customer base, it is important for companies to provide them with solutions that allow them to book, schedule and pay for appointments all without calling into the office.
One advantage online outreach has over traditional marketing is the abundance of data it produces. What could once only be guessed at can now be measured, tracked and analyzed. Monitoring the performance of social media, content and email marketing will only maximize the end result.
Meanwhile, technicians are a key element of an effective online strategy. Authentic five-star reviews and customer testimonials are the most valuable advertising a service provider can get. Make sure your techs recognize that they’re the face of your company, and give them the training and tools they need to inspire positive reviews.
Sustainability: Across verticals, new technology and new products are helping us reduce our impact on the environment. Energy efficient water heaters and programmable thermostats are the new standard, and touchless faucets, leak detection sensors and other sustainable innovations are becoming more and more popular. These technologies are becoming prevalent as more sophisticated products are introduced into the market and savvy customers seek out these types of solutions.
Rick Agajanian leads the strategic direction of Workwave's product portfolio as the vice president of product management.