Small businesses are severely underserved when it comes to looking for digital tools that serve two benefits: maximizing productivity and serving customers.
A recent study found that only one in five small-business owners are satisfied with the way their businesses managed customer and employee relationships. Only 10% believe today’s business productivity software tools are designed for businesses of their size, with most believing that such solutions are built for much larger companies.
Ford’s solution to this issue is Viizr, a digital tool built on Salesforce Field Service and designed to meet the needs of small-business owners and simplify key commercial activities such as invoicing, scheduling and managing requests, so they can focus on serving their customers.
There are currently 675,000 small and medium businesses in service, maintenance, and construction vocations in the U.S. and another 200,000 or more when you add in pest control and landscaping. “Small-business owners are the foundation of our communities, and every day across America, plumbers, electricians and landscapers step into their Ford vehicles to build our economy,” said Marc Benioff, chair and co-CEO of Salesforce. “We're thrilled that our incredible new partnership with Ford will help energize millions of entrepreneurs in the trades with the power of Salesforce so they can deliver for their customers and take their businesses to the next level.”
Currently about 70% of all small commercial businesses still manually create their estimates and invoices, manually store all their job documents in their filing cabinets; sometimes they're just scattered across their trucks and vans. About half of small companies stores all that customer data in their Rolodex and notepads. And only 33% of small trade companies manage their field work schedules dynamically, and in real time. Most continue to use static solutions such as whiteboards and spreadsheets.
“Digitizing operations and streamlining workflows, that's what we're kind of looking at from day one with Ford Pro and Viizr,” said Viizr General Manager Jian Wei Hoh. “We know that we're focused around the idea of the jobs, the schedule, the customers and the team.”
The world has changed in the last few years with many functions moving to digital first and data forward. Ford Pro is attempting to lead the charge for Ford’s commercial customers in providing a complete package of digital services.
“Ford Pro helps commercial customers maximize productivity,” Ford Pro CEO Ted Cannis said. “We know the back office is a major pain point for tradespeople, who are often writing up paperwork from the cabin of their truck or van. VIIZR gives that time back, providing greater returns to these businesses and better service to their customers.”
Viizr is being offered at a cost of $39 a month per user. It is built on the same platform as Salesforce Field Service, which retails at $150 to $350 a month per user. It enables business owners to:
- Stay on track: Digitize everything – quotes, work orders, invoicing, and job management.
- Connect with customers: Manage customer relationships and jobs through an all-in-one customer profile, making it easy to communicate with them and improve the overall experience.
- Streamline operations: Scheduling, dispatching and coordination of field technicians for greater efficiency and a more profitable business.
Modernizing and simplifying
Virtually all the common office paperwork (work orders, job status, estimates and invoices) can flow through Viizr and never be lost.
“These are small businesses, and we spent a lot of time talking to them, and it's amazing how many stories I've heard of regret about missing childhoods because they've been too busy trying to keep their business afloat,” he said.
For businesses with fewer than 20 employees, Ford estimates that Viizr could reduce back-office work by more than 40% – about 25 hours a week.
"Eliminating 25 hours a week is a lot for these small businesses. They can reinvest in their customers, in their jobs, in their team, and almost most importantly, in their families,” Hoh said. “We want to free them of the office work, so they are in the field doing what they want to do best.” Using Viizr, he said, can also enable them to spend more time with family..
“it's all about simplifying that workflow from end to end,” Hoh said.
At the end of the day, productivity is about eliminating waste. Often that can simply be eliminating hours doing something you don’t need to do.
In one example, a contractor said they consistently lost 12% of their invoices a year, and it was their own fault. To compensate, prices would be increased.
“It’s just a vicious cycle, and this what we’re here to solve,” Hoh said.
Hoh said Viizr helps eliminate waste by boosting productivity – real-time job scheduling can save time and fuel; digital invoicing saves paper and ink; and a more efficiently run business ultimately saves money. All those functions can be handled by an office manager or business owner from a desktop computer. For schedule changes, it is as simple as a drag-and-drop function. By design, field workers do not have access to alter the schedule from the mobile app. However, through the app the schedules would update in real time as adjustments are made.
“Whenever there's a new job, or anything in the schedules changes, instead of interrupting the technician or field worker while they're busy on the field, they can see what the changes are when they're ready and when it's convenient for them,” Hoh said.
In addition, the job update function allows the office staff to communicate with the field workers about jobs or schedule changes. A note might be left advising the field worker to park in a particular spot because of the homeowner’s dog or provide a gate code for access.
Serving the customer
The other benefit of Viizr, according to Hoh, is allowing contractors to better serve their customers.
As an example, Hoh recalled a contractor building a patio for a ranch owner. The contractor was asked why he believed the customer selected him for the job. Hoh said the contractor replied that it was because he is dedicated to the job and specifically cited an example that he always waxes the screws before he puts them in.
However, the customer said no, this was not the reason, and she even expressed concern that it would cost more because the contractor was doing that. Rather the contractor was hired because he would always respond in a timely manner, knew her name and spelled it correctly in correspondence, and turned estimates around quickly and professionally.
Hoh said it was the customer’s final comment that really hit the mark. She said, “If I'm going to invite someone into my personal property, I better build some sort of trusting relationship with them beforehand. And if they don't appear to be organized or professional, how am I going to trust them with building or fixing anything on my personal property?”
For Hoh that summed up the mission of Viizr going forward.
“At the end of the day Viizr is about bringing the tradespeople and customer closer together,” Hoh said. “It's about leveling the playing field from the small folks with the big folks. We plan to do this by providing a simple software solution that's taken a lot of time in front of the trades, because this is not just any sort of enterprise software, but it is being built on a powerful progressive platform that 90% of the Fortune 500 companies (including Ford) currently call themselves customers of.”
He said Viizr creates an all-in-one customer profile, making it easy to communicate with them and improve the overall experience.
“Effective field service requires companies to match the expertise of their workforce with their customers' requirements and manage the complexities of scheduling – and for many small business trades today, managing customer interactions and mobile workers involves time-consuming, manual processes done on paper,” said Paul Whitelam, senior vice president and general manager for field service management at Salesforce. “VIIZR is helping tradespeople digitize their businesses, empowering them to focus less on back-end processes and more on their craft.”