Quality control is all about systems, and there are many ways in which your electrical business can set up systems that will make you more efficient, and more profitable.
In this section:
Job management software
Job management software is a great way to streamline your business operations. This is one of the major ways in which digital tools can help you find efficiencies in your business, and ultimately generate more profits. Job management software enables you to combine so many stages of the sale – from lead generation through to scheduling and invoicing – to bring together all off your operational activities. And there’s many systems to choose from, such as ServiceM8, simPRO, The Service Manager, Fleetmatics, i-Man, Workflow Max and many more. The question is where to start?
When investigating your options, consider these questions:
- Does the provider offer free trials of the software? This is a great way to test usability and whether or not the software is compatible with other programs and hardware you might be using
- Does it integrate? You might like to integrate your job management software with your accounting software or customer relationship management system. Check that this is possible before purchasing to avoid costly fees for developing integration software.
- What support does the system offer? You might like to investigate your options for staff training, to see if the software provider can help you set up your new system and train your staff on how to use it. Also check that they offer support via email or phone, in case you have any technical issues with the software.
- Can you customise? If you can’t find an exact match for your current needs, see if your software provider can create a custom system for your business. This might be something as small as adding a survey function to your job management system, or something as complex as building a link between the job management software and your accounting software.
- Does it account for your future growth? Right now, you might be running a small business with only one other employee, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should find a small system. When choosing a software provider, be such to ask if the software has features that will enable your system to grow as your business does. Right now, you might not need to be using a digital invoicing system, but if you can see that tool in your future, it’s best to choose a provider that can supply it when you need it. That’s not to say that you should purchase every part of the software you might like to use one day – start with the basic package, but make sure you can upgrade if necessary.
- Does the pricing structure work for my business? This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something many businesses overlook when choosing a system. More expensive software doesn’t necessarily mean better software. It might simply mean that the software has more capabilities, and possibly some integrations you don’t want or need. Don’t be shy of asking for exactly what you want, to see if your chosen provider can customise a payment plan for your business.
These questions can provide you with information that will help you make a decision about which provider is best for your business.
Inventory management software
Having an inventory system that you can manage online has several benefits. Firstly, it can help eliminate lost or missing stock items, by accounting for every piece of inventory that is used. Secondly, it can help to manage a crisis in the case of a recall. Safety is paramount in the electrical industry, and planning for a rainy day is a good idea when it comes to managing your stock levels.
There are several options to consider when choosing an inventory management system, primarily its ability to integrate with your accounting and job management software. Talk to your current providers about software that integrates with their system – this can be a good starting point for finding an inventory management system that works for you, with limited impact on your current operations. If you’re a small business starting from scratch, you might like to consider Xero’s inventory function, or a system such as Unleashed. Larger organisations might benefit from a product such as simPRO Enterprise, which integrates many of your systems in one location.
Tips for the Electrical Industry
Make quality control your number one priority, with these four steps to implementing a simple quality control program
Step 1: Document your processes
One of the best ways to stay on track is to make sure that every member of your team is on the same page. A simple How-to Sheet for each business activity can go a long way in reinforcing company policies and procedures.
Step 2: Identify quality issues
Create an environment where your staff can approach you with issues they may be having in your current processes, and ask them for advice on how to make these processes easier and more efficient for everyone. This is one of the best ways to learn from your mistakes.
Step 3: Embrace high level customer service
One of the key processes for maintaining quality in your business is involving your customers. Giving them new ways to provide feedback – and acting on that feedback when you receive it – not only ensures your customer that you’re here to work for them, it also helps you develop your service to fit what they (and your potential customer base) actually want.
Step 4: Ensure the problem doesn’t happen again
The most important part of developing quality control systems is to make sure that you eliminate error in your business. Whilst human error is hard to completely eradicate, there is one simple way to minimise it – training. Continually training your staff, and offering refresher sessions for old systems, helps them stay on track with procedures you have developed. It also gives them an opportunity to provide feedback on any systems that might not be working.
Keeping documents up to date no longer needs to be a painful process. Thanks to improvements in cloud technology and the increasing availability of secure internet connections, it is easier than ever to make sure all of your staff are on the same page when it comes to building plans, contracts, safety checks and invoicing.
Online document services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Box all enable you to securely share files with any staff member in any location. Simply upload your master document, and grant your staff access. This is great for those times when you need to make small edits to documents, because it automatically updates at your staff members end. It also saves time in searching for documents, because you can set up client files in each system, and group together important job information in one location.
Systems and Training
One of the most overlooked areas of quality control in small business is often in systems for training. The good thing is, training doesn’t need to be difficult or time consuming. Once you have written procedures for your main processes, sit down with staff for a chat about them, and ask if they have any areas of concern. It’s likely that a system that causes problems for one staff member is also causing problems for another, so a group setting can be great to get the conversations going, and help to find areas you can improve on. Once you’re comfortable with all procedures, supply a copy to each staff member for them to keep on hand. Then, every time the manual changes, or at least every six months of so, have another quick meeting with staff to see what’s working, and what needs to be updated. Training for your internal procedures doesn’t always need to be formal; a simple chat can do the trick.