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In The News – When Calls Don’t Cut It

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Success Stories

This blog was originally posted by Kate Spirgen on Lawn & Landscape.

Texting and calling are generally the preferred methods of communication from crews to the office throughout the day, but when it comes to schedules and work orders, software is helping companies get the job done right the first time.

Both GPS and mobile timesheet software help managers keep track of their crews without a lot of back and forth on the phone. Plus, it saves office work at the end of the day. Integrated Landscape Management in Phoenix has been using BOSS LM since 2010, allowing crews to clock in right on their phones.

Crews are assigned a schedule for the day, clock in with a unique ID number when they’re on the property and clock out when they’re done. The software allows managers to see exactly how much time each crew is spending on each job.

“It’s good for maintenance crews,” says Dan Serio, IT and marketing specialist. “It’s not good for crews where their schedules are changing on a weekly basis.

“It’s time consuming to change the schedules around but it does work. Other than that it’s working really well and saving a lot of time in the office of administrators manually entering that information.”

Switching systems.

Steve Rak, president of Southwest Landscape Management in Columbia Station, Ohio, made the move to LMN about a year ago and says it’s the best software they’ve used so far.

Over the winter, they used the program for snow plowing and Rak says it really helps to have timestamps for when crews were on the job so that it’s easy to look up what crews were doing with just a few clicks.

“If a customer calls and says ‘They never salted this lot or they never cut my lawn,’ we can then go through our GPS and say ‘We can send you the report that shows they were there,’” Rak says, adding that he can send the report directly to the customer.

With so much tracking and communication going through mobile devices, whether it’s texting, calling, emailing or sharing photos, data usage is becoming a serious cost for many. “It’s a pretty big mountain to climb because we have like 200 devices,” Serio says.

Larry Ryan, owner of Ryan Lawn & Tree in Overland Park, Kansas, switched to Real Green Systems software in February and gets around that problem by paying a per diem to cover the company expense on workers’ personal phones. “That way we don’t have to manage minutes,” Ryan says. Plus, it allows employees to use whichever device they prefer.

Add-ons.

Crews at Ryan Lawn & Tree often text each other with information, and Real Green has a call log system to keep track of issues that arise in the field. And the pricing function helps them create work orders. “They know how to price. They do that themselves on the spot, so Real Green can do that. Information goes directly into the database and that creates the work to done without going through a call,” Ryan says.

When there’s an emergency like a fallen tree branch, rather than taking the time to track jobs with software, crews at Integrated Landscape Management simply pick up the phone and call their field superintendent, who contacts the account manager.

“In emergencies, they don’t bother with the software and then use their job tracking system when they get back,” Serio says.

At Southwest Landscape Management, foremen have parameters for what they can decide on the spot, but if the order is large enough, clients have to call the office and place work order. Using LMN, office staff can put notes into the day’s work orders so that crews have all of the information in their smart phones.

Face to face.

At Benchmark Landscapes in Austin, Texas, account managers will go out and walk a property with crews, giving specific details on what needs to be done that day. Owner Casey Vickrey says not only does that ensure that the job gets done right, it also gives account managers valuable face time with their customers.

The 500- person company deals solely with commercial accounts so routes rarely change, but the sheer size of the properties serviced makes writing out accurate instructions difficult.

“I know people that use (software), and it works well on the residential side but on the commercial side, when crews are showing up to projects that are large campuses or apartments that have 40 buildings, it’s just next to impossible,” he says.

All managers at Benchmark have a company-issued cell phone and access to Dropbox for schedules so that all of the files are available at all times. Some account managers use their tablets to take photos and then draw exactly what needs to be done.

But as for software, Vickrey says he hasn’t found anything that would work for his company. “We’ve played around with it but we haven’t seen anything for daily tickets or anything else,” he says. “There’s enough confusion and you spend more time going back and forth, or if it’s not done a certain way, you have to send someone else to do it.”

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