Blog page

SortScape goes on site

by Chris

Our Australian customers are currently facing the busiest time of the year with summer finally being here and Christmas approaching! Luckily some of them were still keen to take some time out of their schedule to talk to us about SortScape (Thanks guys!). We get to chat a fair bit to the business owners when trying to figure out where SortScape is going next, but this time around we’ve had a the unique opportunity to talk to the teams that use SortScape on site.

And wow, you guys have been amazing. Not only did we get very structured feedback, but there were also a bunch of creative ideas in there that will make a huge difference once implemented. Here are just a few of the things we’ve been able to tackle so far:

Adding jobs on the go

Even though the bulk of the scheduling is usually done in the office there are plenty of times when a new job or a tip run (that means ‘dump run’ to our American audience) has to be added to a job run. To make this easier you can now add jobs straight to an existing job run by hitting the “+” below the last job in that run.

Faster on mobile

Another big feedback item was general performance on mobile. We took that to heart and managed to shave off almost 50% of the time it takes to load the schedule view as well as the job view as those are the views that get used the most when on the road. While we were at it we also changed the job view to remember the position in the schedule which together with the performance improvements makes the mobile experience a lot more snappy to work with.

Mobile App for iPhone

But as important as it is to improve the experience in the browser, we heard you crystal clear: You really want a mobile app for SortScape. Obviously this means you only ever have to login once, but it also means that we have even more control over the performance as well as being able to leverage mobile features like push notifications and GPS tracking.

The good news is that we are heads down now building a first version of the mobile app which we can hopefully share with some of you in the new year to get feedback. Stay tuned!

A fresh look for the Schedule and other recent improvements

by Bill

If you’ve logged onto Sortscape this week, you probably noticed that we’ve given the schedule a fresh look. With a schedule full of jobs it can sometimes be hard to find the information you are looking for. So we took some inspiration from recent design trends and ended up with a much lighter design that removes all the fluff so you can focus on the right information.

In the day view and week view you’ll notice that we’ve removed some of the borders and gray background colours.

You’ll also notice we’ve made the month view more compact and easier to scan…

Because SortScape is hosted in the cloud, we can deliver updates to you instantly whether we’re adding new features or fixing the occasional bug. Here are some of the improvements we’ve made over the past couple weeks:

Resetting employee emails

If an employee forgets their password or you forget to send them the welcome email when creating their account, an administrator can reset their password from the “manage employees” screen. This will send the employee an email with instructions for resetting their password.

Administrators can send employees a “reset password” link

Easier to fill in fields

Web browsers try to be clever when you’re filling in form fields by trying to guess what you’re going to type. We found this was getting in the way of many customers, especially for date and address fields. So we’ve blocked the browser from trying to fill in those fields automatically.

We’ve disabled the browser autocomplete which was getting in the way

Other small improvements

  • If you specify a company for a contact, the company will now show up on the runsheet.
  • Also, if you export visits from the schedule, there will now be a column for the contact name. Thanks for the two suggestions Abbey!
  • Performance improvement – the “Add Issue” dialog is now a lot faster when you have lots of contacts. (Previously it could take a second or two to load for large sites.)
  • When exporting completed visits from the “Invoices” page, any fields containing line breaks would break the exported format. We’ve now fixed this. Thanks for letting us know, Angeles!
  • The Google Maps Streetview on each property was broken for a couple hours due to some changes at Google but we were able to fix it on the same day. Thank you to everyone for letting us know.

Keep the feedback coming!

We’re always looking for ways to help make your business more efficient and your experience the best it can be. If you ever have questions or suggestions, please contact us by clicking into the chat window in the bottom right hand corner of the site.

80% of success is showing up

by Bill

I recently spent a week with my parents who live overseas. They were scheduled to have a new concrete patio and driveway poured and were eagerly awaiting a call from the concreter to say when the work would begin. They were a frustrated with the process of choosing a concreter and talked about the troubles they had just getting someone to call them back.

Like any trade or profession, I’m sure there are high quality concreters, low-quality concreters and many in the middle. The funny thing is, most homeowners probably wouldn’t know the difference in work quality (as long as the concrete slab doesn’t crack of course). What they do notice is the quality of your service…how quickly you return their call, whether you remember their specific needs, and whether you show up when you say you will. This goes for any trade whether it’s concreting or garden maintenance.

As the owner of a garden maintenance business you might hire the best horticulturalists in the world, but the quality of their work doesn’t matter if they don’t show up when the customer expects or forget to do work the customer specifically requested. The customer will eventually stop calling you when they find someone who can show up on time and do the work requested.

Many business owners invest heavily in equipment and training that their employees need for delivering quality work. That’s extremely important. But if the scheduling process you use for your garden maintenance business is leading to missed customer visits and forgotten customer requests, it’s time to invest in a scheduling system like SortScape.

Now you can add visits to the “Unscheduled visits” column

by Bill

One scheduling feature our customers love is the “unscheduled visits” column. This is where you can drag a visit and “park” it while you find a place for it on the schedule. Most scheduling systems don’t have this.

In SortScape you can “park” a visit in the unscheduled visits column.

Currently, when you add a new one-off visit, SortScape automatically adds that visit directly to the schedule on the due date specified.  We’ve heard from many customers that they find themselves frequently dragging new visits from the schedule to the “unscheduled visits” column until they have space available.

To save you the extra step, we’ve added a “keep in unscheduled visits” checkbox you can tick when adding a one-off visit. If this box is ticked, the visit will go straight into the “unscheduled visits” column rather than onto the schedule.

 

If this box is checked, the visit will go into the “unscheduled visits” column rather than the schedule.

This is just one of the many small features we’re constantly introducing to fit the way you work and make your maintenance business run smoother. Enjoy!

 

Now introducing…the weekly summary email

by Bill

A lot can happen in your SortScape site over the course of the week and we want to help you keep track of everything. That’s why we just released the weekly summary email. By subscribing to your site’s weekly summary email, you’ll receive an email every Sunday letting you know:

  • Which visits were completed during the previous week
  • Which visits are coming due the following week and
  • Which visits are past due.
The weekly summary email shows you activity on your SortScape site over the past week.

The administrator for your SortScape site will be auto-subscribed to the weekly summary email. Learn more about managing your weekly summary subscription in our documentation.

5 key takeaway’s from Honeywell’s “Field Service Excellence” white paper

by Bill

Honeywell recently published a report entitled “Empowering Mobile Workers Drives Field Service Excellence.” The report was largely based on the results of a survey conducted by Peerless Research Group and completed by 324 logistics managers within various field services organizations. Most of the results jibe with my experiences working with SortScape customers in the landscape maintenance industry. However, I did find some of the results to be contrary to my experiences. Here are my five key takeaways:

1. Customer service is the #1 priority

By far the top two challenges for respondents were customer service related:  (1) “meeting the variety of customer requirements (46%)” and (2) “improving customer satisfaction/loyalty (41%).”

This certainly resonates with my experiences. In the landscape maintenance industry … the two biggest customer service problems I see are:

  1. Scheduling – The biggest part of meeting customer expectations in garden maintenance is showing up when you say you’re going to show up. As your landscape businesses grows and you add more employees, it becomes increasingly easier for jobs to slip through the cracks. I’ve had more than one client tell me that, before deploying SortScape, they had lost a few clients simply because they forgot to go to that client for a few weeks! When they finally realised the mistake it was too late – the client had already gone to a competitor. OUCH!!! This is why we focus so much on scheduling within SortScape.
  2. Customer request tracking – Customers also tell us that, before deploying SortScape, their customer requests would frequently slip through the cracks as well. For example, Employee A would be on site where the customer, Mrs Johnson, asks him to trim a large tree on the next visit. On the next visit, Employee B comes instead and doesn’t bring the proper equipment to trim the tree. Mrs Johnson gets frustrated because her requirements aren’t being met. It’s natural to forget things…our brains aren’t designed to hold all the information constantly being thrown at us. That’s why SortScape lets you log customer requests (called issues) from anywhere so that you can handle a variety of customer requirements without forgetting.

2. Consumer-grade phones are commonplace

A staggering 74% of organisations are using consumer-grade phones and tablets while another 48% say they use a rugged-grade version of the same. The survey mentions other types of hardware but it’s difficult to see a case for RFID, barcode scanning or barcode printing as it pertains to the landscape maintenance industry any time soon. Within landscape maintenance organisations I expect to see further adoption of consumer grade and rugged-grade phones and tablets for communicating and accessing cloud-based applications like SortScape.

3. Most organisations are ‘okay’ with the technology they’re using

A huge chunk (80%) of respondents were either “satisfied” or “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” with the technology used by their field service workers. Of course SortScape customers would all be in the “very satisfied” camp 🙂 But seriously, this is further evidence that the consumer and ruggedised hardware being used is adequate…adequate but perhaps not very exciting. I’d be interested to know more about what respondents consider to be “technology” and what technologies they were most/least satisfied with. Honeywell and Peerless don’t give much detail here.

4. Organisations are on the fence about upselling and cross-selling

Less than half of survey respondents (43%) actually direct field services employees to sell. This is both unsurprising and surprising to me. It’s unsurprising because most SortScape customers don’t direct their field employees to sell or identify selling opportunities. It’s also surprising because it seems like an obvious opportunity for landscape maintenance businesses to grow sales. There’s a fixed cost to getting field employees to the job site so any incremental business they generate onsite would be highly profitable. Field services software like SortScape would be ideal for for identifying and tracking upsell opportunities across the customer base. Surprisingly none of our customers have asked for this capability yet. Perhaps this is a level of sophistication they simply haven’t yet reached.

5. The “Internet of things” is nowhere close to taking off

We read a lot of hype about the Internet of things (“IoT”) which you can loosely define as “connecting normal, everyday devices to the Internet.” However, according to the report … “slightly less than one out of five (17%) are either now investing or planning an IoT platform, yet more than one-half of those surveyed (59%) either still have no plans or are presently uncertain of an IoT implementation.

The most obvious areas where Internet of things will impact landscape maintenance are in vehicle management and home automation. Businesses will have increasing control and insight into when and how their vehicles are being driven. For example, for USD$129 you can buy a small Automatic device to place in your car which streams data about you vehicle directly to your phone in real time. At this cost every field services organisation could/should be tracking their vehicles in real time on the phone.

Home automation is another area that will landscape maintenance businesses…outdoor irrigation systems and outdoor lighting systems will become increasingly more intelligent and connected. Customers will expect their gardener to be able to service and monitor them.

When the work you’re meant to do changes from visit to visit

by Bill

A few weeks ago, team leader at one of our customers here in Sydney presented me with a problem. As we stood on the job site looking out over Sydney Harbour, he said:

I love SortScape but there’s one thing I really wish it could do that it just won’t do for me.”

“What’s that?” I asked even though I already had a hunch what he was going to say next.

“I have some customers where we just mow lawns on one visit and then do mowing + gardening on the next. SortScape’s ‘visit instructions’ have to be the same for all visits to a given customer. How can I track what work we’re meant to do if it changes from visit to visit?”

“Damn.” I thought. I knew he was going to ask that question. I knew it because many customers had asked for it before. And, unfortunately, I didn’t have a good answer for him.

We stood on the job site looking out over Sydney Harbour

This moment reminded me of a quote from Jason Fried, a famous software entrepreneur and author/speaker… “Forget feature requests. Let your customers remind you what’s important.” At SortScape we have a mile-long list of feature requests but this one just kept coming up again and again.  Clearly it’s important. It was time to deliver a solution.

Today we are announcing the solution. To support the “mowing on one visit, gardening the next” example above, we’ve released a “work required” field for visits. Unlike the ‘visit instructions’ field, the content in the “work required” field is unique to each visit so you have the flexibility to give a different set of instructions for each visit for a given property.

The content in the new “work required” field is unique to each visit

In the example above you could create one repeating visit with work required saying “lawn mowing” and second repeating visit in between with work required saying “gardening.”

If you’re already using SortScape, you can try it now on your SortScape site. If you don’t yet use SortScape …

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces” vsc_text_scheme=”darker-overlay”]
[vc_column el_align=”aligncenter”]
[vc_row_inner]
[vc_column_inner]
[vsc-button text=”TRY FOR FREE” target=”yes” url=”http://ace.sortscape.com/tenants/new” css=”.vc_custom_1444192335163{padding-right: 35px !important;padding-left: 35px !important; background-color: #FF0000 !important;}”]
[/vc_column_inner]
[/vc_row_inner]
[/vc_column]
[/vc_row]

Did you know SortScape can track your time and materials?

by Bill

Our customers are frequently surprised to learn that SortScape can track your time and materials on visits. This makes invoicing faster and more accurate so that no visits go unpaid. Once you enable time and materials tracking, SortScape will prompt you to enter employee hours and materials used whenever you mark visits complete. It works great on a mobile phone so your employees and enter their time spent and materials used in the field.

Your office workers will then see an “Invoices” link at the top of the screen which shows all completed visits which need to be invoiced. Give it a go or learn more in the documentation.

Now available – attachment comments!

by Bill

One thing our customers love about SortScape is the ability to upload attachments to Property records. Since you probably have a lot of your customer information kept in documents and photos, you can upload those as attachments so that employees can reference those documents and photos out in the field. For example, one garden maintenance company uploads a PDF of each customer quote so that employees out in the field can see what work was quoted. Another landscaping business customer of ours uploads photos of their customers’ irrigation systems from their phones so they remember how everything fits together.

To make attachments even more useful, we just rolled out comment attachments. When uploading an attachment you can now add a comment to the attachment. For example, our landscaping customer might add the comment “6 sprinklers located in the back” when uploading a photo of the irrigation system.

 

upload_irrigation_property_attachment_image_2

After uploading the attachment, you’ll see comments displayed in the attachments list…

upload_irrigation_property_attachment_image_3

And if you upload an image, it will also show up in the gallery with comments alongside the street and satellite views…

 

property_attachment_image_gallery

Attachment comments are available now so you can log into your existing Sortscape and try it or create a new site.

Three major improvements to time and materials

by Bill

Our customers love the time and materials tracking feature where SortScape prompts you to enter your time spent and materials used when marking a visit complete. You can then use this information for invoicing the customer. Our customers submit time and materials multiple times a day, every day so we want to make it easy for them to do so whether they’re sitting at a desk in an office or using a mobile device out in the field. Here are three new features that now make it easier to enter your time and materials.

1. Enter time spent on breaks

In order to track breaks, you previously had to make multiple entries for each employee. For example, if Trevor worked at a job from 9-12 and took a break from 10:30 – 10:45, he’d need to add a line for 9-10:30 and another line for 10:45-12. This could become very tedious if you had multiple employees on one job. To make it easier to account for breaks, we’ve now added a “break” dropdown where you can select the amount of time to remove from the total hours for breaks. Now you can just add one line saying Trevor worked from 9-12 with a 15 minute break.

select_break_minutes_time_and_expenses_field_services
Select the amount of break time to remove from total hours

2. Search for employee names and materials types

When adding materials used, the material type dropdown could get quite long and therefore cumbersome to use. When adding time and materials to a visit, you can now search from within the dropdown fields, making it easier to work with a long dropdown containing items with similar names. You can also search within the employee dropdown when adding hours.

search-for-expense-types-field-service-software
Search within the dropdown fields when adding time and materials

3. Configurable start and end times

When using SortScape in the field on your mobile phone, every second of time-savings counts. That’s why we’ve now made the start and stop times configurable which lets you keep the dropdowns as short as possible. You can also set the minute interval which allows you to shorten it even further if, for example, you increase the interval from 5 to 15 minutes. The images below demonstrate how changing these settings can reduce the dropdown length.

You can fine tune this setting to get all the options you need in the list and no more.

15_minute_interval_start_time
8AM start time with 15-minute interval
5_minute_interval_start_time
7AM start time with 5-minute interval

These are just a few features we’ve added recently to make the user experience nicer and to save you time in the field. More improvements are underway so stay tuned.