By Fred Bussone and Dick McHose

With all the hoopla concerning Webpages, the Internet, Y2K, e-commerce, Palms and Windows 2000 over the last couple of years, we thought it might be time to refocus your attention on your business management software and what it can do for you.

There is software available developed specifically for a water conditioning and or bottled water business. And there are more generic versions on the market.

Many of you may be using software designed for this particular industry, such as WaterFlex, Wiseman, Tyrol, Watertight, Prism and Watercare. Others may be using “off the shelf” software like QuickBooks or Peachtree. Do you feel you’re utilizing your program to it’s full potential? This article might give you the incentive to try and be more productive with the tools you already have. Following are typical functions for which you may use your software:

Whether you’re selling, providing a service or renting products and/or services you want to make sure you get paid. This should be the primary function of your business software—to ensure all invoices and payments are promptly generated and recorded.

Your software should be designed to manage your service business. The system should quickly create a work order for you when a customer calls in with a service problem. An industry-specific software work order will state what the problem is, what equipment is installed at this service address, a brief description of the service work that has been done during the last few visits, the latest water test information and even what the customer owes you. This work order can be used as a bill when the work is completed or taken back and used as a worksheet in the office for them to calculate what should be invoiced.

From the customers’ file, you should be able to see the service history of every service call, when it was, who did the work, what was done and any comments the service man had about the repair and customer preferences.

Does your company offer service contracts? Do you have a way to manage filter changes, UV light changes, membrane changes, bed changes, etc.? Are you missing out on profitable filter changes because you don’t know when the customer needs to be changed? What about salt delivery schedules? Industry specific software will give you powerful tools to insure these services are provided on time and correctly billed. The software should remind you when to get back to each customer, what you are to do and how to bill for the contract or service.

Equipment tracking
In each customers’ file you should be able to see the equipment that’s installed, when it was installed, the condition when you installed it, who owns it, when did you initially purchase it, etc. You need this information for warranty. You need this information if your supplier has a recall. You need this information to keep track of rentals that have been left at a service location but taken off rent.

Customer service
When your customers call in, is it important to you to be able to answer their questions promptly and accurately? With industry specific software you have instantaneous access to information about billing history, service history, customer equipment, water test information and delivery information. This saves your office person time in going to file cabinets and the customer time waiting for the correct answer.

Recurring income
Do you rent automatic softeners, coolers, ROs, PEs, DIs, iron filters or any of the many other products that can be rented in this industry? If you don’t rent, you are missing the boat. Some consumers will never buy, but they will rent. Rentals are “King” in this industry and are the key to long term profitability. Rentals give you recurring income. That’s a tangible asset when you want to sell your business. Rentals provide consistent cash flow to cushion your business during times of slow sales. Rentals pay for the overhead.

To effectively manage rentals you need the proper tool, that means industry specific software. Managing rentals with QuickBooks is difficult and time consuming.

With these type of programs, you have to go into each customer file at the end of the month to bill them individually. With industry specific software, however, everyone that has a rental is automatically identified and billed when you close out the month. A system designed to manage rentals will also provide excellent reports detailing your rental income. It will also give you the tools to assist you with collections and provide professional looking statements. Your company’s image is important!

Product delivery
Do you deliver bottled water, exchange tanks or salt? Is it profitable? Some of you deliver by cycle—once a week, every other week, every eighth week, etc. Meanwhile some of you delivery monthly and some deliver as the customer calls in and requests a delivery.

The routing modules are designed to make it so you can set your routes up in a systematic stop order, so your truck works it’s way out and back without going extra miles. The routing module makes sure you don’t forget to deliver to a customer. It gives you the latest balance this customer owes you so you’re not making deliveries to customers that are past due. It keeps your drivers honest by making sure what was loaded on the truck minus what was sold equals what was left on the truck. This can be one of the higher areas of loss in this industry because routes frequently aren’t balanced at the end of the day. The software should itemize what was sold on each route for the day, who you missed on the route today and why—aside from giving you the route reconciliation report. In addition to all of that, the route module should make the billing process of what was delivered efficient.

Increase sales/service income
With billing, service, equipment tracking, rentals and product deliveries efficiently managed by your industry specific software, you can now take the time to analyze your database and find other sales and service income opportunities.

As an example your sales people can use the customer base for prospecting. Let’s say you are a new salesman and you feel very comfortable with what you’ve learned about ROs. You can search the customer base for all the customers that have, for example, an automatic softener, but not an RO. You now have some excellent new leads. When you make your sales calls, one great way to close is with references. Before you make your sales call, do a search for all the customers you have on Maple Street so you can reference them on your call with Mrs. Jones at 409 Maple St.

If you use software designed specifically for the software industry you will:

  1. Present a professional image to your customers,
  2. Provide better customer service,
  3. Save in labor costs,
  4. Increase sales, and
  5. Have access to superior business management tools and information.

Industry specific software will make you money. And, it will make your life and your customers’ life easier. That makes it a very good investment for your business.

About the authors
Fred Bussone and Dick McHose are regional sales directors for Nevada Computer Center, developers of the WaterFlex Management System. Based in West Des Moines, Iowa, Nevada Computer has been providing software designed specifically for the water industry for over 30 years. They can be reached at (800) 294-6222 or (515) 225-1889 (fax) or email: [email protected]


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