The connected world has given us access to more information than ever before – every answer you could want sits in the palm of your hand. Any song you’d like to hear is instantly available. You can learn about any topic within seconds. Every single day, 2.5 BILLION gigabytes of data is created.
But the access to this vast amount of information comes with a potential pitfall – information overload. For all of the information we have available – our minds can only store and process so much of it. Being presented with too much information can cause confusion, and paralyze our ability to make decisions.
For many field service businesses, reporting can easily turn into a case of information overloa – with every work order, estimate, part, labor hour and more accounted for; this huge amount of information can suffocate their ability to drive decisions. This process can be even more challenging for a franchise network, where this data collection is repeated across hundreds or thousands of branches.
So how can business owners utilize this vast amount of information to their benefit? It starts by defining the questions you want to answer – and the importance of those questions.
Building a Reporting Strategy
At the highest level, the goal of reporting is to identify what’s working, and what’s not. In a previous blog post, we discussed strategies for assessing franchisee performance by creating key metrics that can be compared between locations.
In that article, we compared this concept to a report card – breaking down assessment into particular business functions, rather then solely looking at a revenue number. By analyzing individual factors and channels, you can build a much more detailed picture of what’s fueling your business success – and what areas can be improved to provide additional upside.
In defining the questions and outcomes we want to get from our franchise reporting tools, it can be helpful to apply the same approach – defining categories and building questions relevant to each area.
In most franchise and field service reporting systems, including ServiceBridge, we can break our analysis and questions into three major categories:
1. Operations: Efficiency in the field. Metrics including job completion time, parts used, etc.
2. Revenue: Key revenue metrics, including revenue generation. Metrics including total revenue, year-over-year performance, etc.
3. Compliance: Ensuring that franchise operations are compliant with legal regulations. Metrics include franchise territory compliance, and documentation in line with industry or local regulations (i.e. the use of chemicals in certain industries)
These questions are baselines – the basic questions that you should be able to answer with your reporting system. These questions can be explored further by segmentation and trend analysis – looking at metrics across new franchisees vs. established branches, by region, and more. These three areas and the questions contained within each provide a starting point for franchisors to begin making data driven decisions that drive their network forward.
Identifying Operational Improvements
The most common use of reporting for field service businesses focuses on operations in the field – analyzing work orders for the parts used, labor time, services provided and more to gain an understanding of trends in the field. This data is used to optimize field efficiency - e
Field service software with a full reporting platform will collect every aspect of information from a job completed – customer details such as name, address, billing details; work order information such as parts used and labor time; etc. This vast amount of information can be overwhelming, but starting with some key questions – and relating them to outcomes – can help business owners start analyzing data to see patterns, trends, and drive actionable decisions that grow their business.
Some of the key questions that your reporting system should answer to help improve operational efficiency include the following:
Improving Revenue Generation
The key area of field service reporting is revenue generation – understanding what is ultimately driving income for your business. While operational reporting focuses on finding ways to optimize field service procedures to reduce costs and ensure customer satisfaction, the revenue side of reporting focuses on the generation of new income – acquiring new customers, finding the most successful market areas, figuring out what marketing campaigns are generating real revenue.
Some of the key questions that franchisors understand revenue generation across their network include the following:
Ensuring Legal Compliance
The final broad category of reporting for franchisees, and often the most overlooked, is compliance. It’s by far the least ‘exciting’ area of reporting – rarely do these reports drive new customer acquisition, or help to optimize field operations.
But arguably, this the most important area of reporting for franchise networks. Inaccurate or inaccessible information about revenue, taxes paid, and documentation can lead to legal consequences for both franchisors and franchisees.
One of the unique questions of compliance reporting also ties into operational efficiency – ensuring that required documentation and digital forms have been completed for jobs where they are required. In industries such as medical device repair and commercial pest control, specific documentation is required on each job due to local or federal regulations. Not having this documentation in place can result in several legal consequences.
Some of the key questions regarding compliance that your franchise reporting system should answer include the following:
Importance of Trend Analysis
Being able to answer these questions, such as top services and products sold, is critical for service businesses of all sizes. But being able to compare this data over time is a major factor in being able to get real insights and come away from reporting with actionable decisions.
In a very basic sample report, we can look at Estimates Created, Estimates Won, and Jobs Completed to get a very general sense of how our company is performing year to year:
Just from looking at a very general of our Q4 in 2016 vs. 2017, we gain some strong insights into what our company is doing:
1. November sees the highest amount of estimates in both years. This could indicate that our customers are being to explore services in November, with an eye on the new year, or to prepare for the fall/winter holidays when they have visitors.
2. December sees an average number of estimates, BUT we do not complete as many jobs. This could be due to customers postponing work as they are travelling for the Christmas holiday, or it could be that we do not have enough technicians available in December.
3. Overall, we see a lower rate of won estimates in 2017 vs. 2016.
4. If the average value of the jobs completed is not increasing, this would be a signal to look at the sales process and implement a strategy to improve close rates.
5. If the total revenue is increasing despite less estimates, this is a signal we are selling more large projects, and need to adjust strategy to either emphasize these projects, or change marketing strategy to focus on acquiring more, smaller projects.
This is one of the most basic reports that you can run – and even with a small amount of data and a narrow range, we are already beginning to notice patterns in our service business.
Data without context is meaningless. Data is just zeros and ones stored on a computer. It’s what you do with it that matters – and these questions provide a starting point for service franchises to begin exploring their field service data, so they can uncover insights that help their business grow.
Today’s franchise networks have access to unlimited amounts of data about their business – but utilizing that data to drive improvement starts with asking the right questions.