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.

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.

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 …

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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.

Now use SortScape in any time zone

by Bill

As you may know, we started SortScape from Sydney, Australia. Naturally our first customers are all located here on the east coast of Australia so SortScape assumed that everyone was located in the Sydney / Melbourne time zone.

Recently, however, we’ve been hearing from business owners in the United States and Canada who want help running their maintenance businesses more efficiently.  (Evidently the world is much bigger than this little strip of coastline in the UTC+10:00 timezone.) Naturally we want to help them out we’ve just added the ability to custom your site’s time zone.

Now you can use SortScape no matter where your business is located. To update the time zone on your SortScape site, follow our online documentation.

Timezones2008_UTC+10

 

Introducing the monthly schedule view

by Bill

By popular demand, we’re introducing a major new feature I was initially hesitant to add … monthly schedule view.

Why I was hesitant

When designing SortScape, we modeled it off the weekly scheduling whiteboards seen at our customers’ offices. Scheduling whiteboards are simple and great for visibility but terrible for “update-ability” and portability. SortScape takes the simplicity of the weekly whiteboard and makes it easy to update and accessible from anywhere. The last thing I wanted to do is lose this simplicity by adding unnecessary features like (I thought) the monthly view!

SortScape keeps the simplicity of the whiteboard while adding automation and portability.
SortScape takes the simplicity of a whiteboard and adds automation and portability.

“Why a monthly view?” I thought. The landscape maintenance business is so dynamic that it’s almost impossible to accurately schedule jobs months in advance. Certainly the schedule will change somewhere along the line due to sick employees, bad weather or extra work.

How I was convinced

But by talking to customers, we’ve come to learn that you value the predictability and visibility that SortScape gives you and you want even more visibility … You want to know how much business you have scheduled this month, next month and the month after that. You need to know how many staff to hire or what open slots you can fit new customers into. All of that requires you to have a 30k-foot, monthly view of your schedule, even if it’s likely to change in the future. That’s why we built the monthly schedule view.

The monthly schedule view gives you a 30k-foot view of all your upcoming jobs
The monthly schedule view gives you a 30k-foot view of all your upcoming jobs

Not your typical calendar

The monthly schedule view displays  jobs in a more compact format than the weekly and daily views. It shows just the street address and nothing else…no suburb, contact info or related issues. (Clicking on the job will give you all that info.) You can drag and drop jobs across days just like you can in the day and week views. And if you want to add a new job, simply click on a day in the monthly view and SortScape walks you through the rest.

A unique aspect of the monthly view is the statistics feature. Click on the statistics icon to view key stats for the month like how many hours of work are scheduled and whether you have enough employee hours available to do the work. This can help you with your long term planning and hiring.

monthly job statistics
Click on the statistics icon to view key stats for the month

 

Give it a try!

The monthly schedule view is now available for all customers. So if you’d like to get a 30k-foot view of your upcoming jobs, click on the “month” button.  And don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments below.

Two new features to improve your employee retention

by Bill

Earlier this year, Lawn and Landscape listed “High personnel turnover” as one of the top profit margin destroyers for a landscaping business. When a good employee leaves, you need to invest valuable time and money finding a replacement. At the same time you miss out on billable work that employee could have been doing. Double whammy! Even when you find a replacement, it still takes time to get that person working at 100% efficiency. Employee turnover HURTS.

One way to improve employee retention is by implementing a scheduling system like SortScape. SortScape reduces a lot of uncertainty and hassle for good employees because they always know where to be, what to bring and what to do when they get there. When employees feel like they have the tools and systems to get their work done, you’re less likely to lose them.

They’re also less likely to leave if they feel recognised and appreciated as individuals. That’s why we’re introducing two new features this week aimed at helping your employees feel the love:

1. Custom profile pictures

No one wants to feel like a faceless name on a spreadsheet. They want to feel like part of the team…like an individual…like a human being. So we’ve now added the ability for employees to upload their own profile pictures. Learn more about it here.

employee_profile

2. Employee birthdays

Even if you don’t like people making a fuss over you, it does feel good when people remember to say “happy birthday” once a year. So we’ve added employee birthdays to the schedule so that everyone knows whose birthday it is. Whether you do something special for the birthday girl/boy on that day, like take them out to lunch, or just remember to say “happy birthday” it’s a nice way to recognise your employees.

What do you do to improve employee retention?

These are just two of hundreds of things you can do within your company culture to make people feel a sense of belonging. What kind of things does your company you do to make people feel like part of the team?