Walking back to a customer’s pool with a net, multitool and chemicals isn’t enough for some pool service technicians. These professionals have found that an essential addition to their tool belts is a smartphone. Among the thousands of apps available for these phones are some that can make a tech’s day easier and help the bottom line.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation has published several apps for use by service techs and pool owners. Four of them are calculators, including apps for chemical dosing ($3.99) and saturation index ($2.99), both available for Android and iPhones; and water flow and water volume calculators, $1.99 each and available only for iPhones.
NSPF’s Pool Service Manager app, available for both Android and iPhone, performs many of the functions that service techs need on a day-to-day basis. “What it amounts to is a customer relations management system in the palm of your hand,” according to Alex Antoniou, NSPF’s director of educational programs. It includes all the calculator functions of the other NSPF apps and adds service and repair logs for each account; invoicing; and the ability to take photos of a customer’s pool and equipment and keep them with the account. The Android version allows the tech to list a day’s appointments and its route manager will even provide the most efficient route between the job sites. The app is free to download, but a monthly or annual subscription is required for full functionality. However, one account can be used by as many service techs as a business owner likes.
A popular app with service techs is POOL360, from PoolCorp . This app allows users to find out if a specific item is in stock at their local SCP or Superior store, and order the item. “We designed it from the ground up,” said Tim Babco, senior director/CIO of information technology for PoolCorp, based in Covington, La. “We focused on end-user experience, so they could do what they need to do: find products quickly, see if they’re available, get their price and put it on an order.”
Users must have a previously established account with a PoolCorp store to use the app. The user can also get his or her order history, invoice history and schematic parts breakdowns on some products. A tech can easily find out while still in a customer’s backyard if a needed part is available, giving the customer a better idea of when a repair can be made.
For companies with more than one tech, the account holder can administer the apps in a way that limits each tech to certain functionalities, such as the ability to order parts or check pricing.
Pool Pro (free 10-day trial then $9.99, for Android) is another maintenance app aimed at service techs. It has a chemical calculator, route mapper and a function that enables techs from a company to sync their information.
BUSINESS MANAGEMENT APPS
Dropbox is a way to keep documents and images online, making them easily accessible in the field. It’s an ideal place to store frequently used documents, such as service orders, photographs and manuals. “I have pictures of all the equipment at my properties,” said Lance Sada, owner of A Clear Choice Pool and Spa Service in Menifee, Calif. “I store the pictures in Dropbox so I can always pull them up. It makes it easier if you did a repair for someone a year ago, it helps you remember the address and the equipment setup. We also keep customers’ equipment list on Dropbox.”
Keeping manuals online not only saves room in a tech’s truck, but lets the tech decide how much of the book he or she uses. “We’ve started to rip the manuals apart a little bit,” Sada said. “We save the nuts-and-bolts part that we need.”
When Sada says “we,” he’s pointing out another advantage of Dropbox. Sada shares some folders on Dropbox with a few other service techs in his area. In this way, they can share information, such as notes on equipment they’ve repaired. Techs often have colleagues who help them with big jobs, but Dropbox allows techs to work cooperatively while on their separate routes.
Another advantage of Dropbox is that if something should happen to a tech’s phone (such as being dropped in a customer’s pool) the information is safely stored on remote servers. The app is available for free for Android and iPhone.
Most major banks now have apps that allow users to accept fund transfers from customers. “I’ve signed up on Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo so a customer can pay me that way,” Sada said. Apps for those three banks are all available for Android and iPhone. For information on other bank apps, check with the bank’s website.
To accommodate customers who want to use their credit cards, there are several apps. Sada recommends Square Register, a free app available on both Android and iPhone. Once you download the app, you can sign up to get a free card reader that attaches to your phone. With that you can process credit card transactions, paying Square a fee for each purchase. Other companies’ apps, such as those from Intuit and Phoneswipe, work similarly.
OTHER HELPFUL APPS
HomeAdvisor Pro, formerly known as ServiceMagic, is an app that provides leads to service professionals. It allows the user to manage leads, schedule appointments and gives a map with driving directions to an appointment. HomeAdvisor Pro is free and is available for Android and iPhone.
One of the largest expenses for pool techs is fuel for their trucks, so it’s important to know where to get the cheapest gas. GasBuddy and Cheap Gas, both free, are two apps that use your phone’s GPS to find the cheapest fuel closest to your location. Both apps are available for iPhone and Android devices. It’s important to keep in mind that phones use more battery when the GPS function is working, so after you fill your tank, you might want to consider shutting off your phone’s GPS.
Photo editing and display apps are essential for a tech who wants to keep images of customers’ equipment pads and other features. Most phones come with a photo app, and many others are available for Android and iPhone.
There are many apps from other publishers that do some of the individual functions a service tech performs, as well as other service route management tools available for iPhones and Android. In addition, a variety of companies in the pool and spa industry provide apps for functionalities specific to their products.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation
Apps include those for making pool calculations and one to help a tech manage a route.
Service techs can order items, confirm availability and check pricing.
Service route management, chemical dosing, syncs information to multiple employees.
Stores files such as manuals and photos, enables sharing between techs.
Enables service techs to take payments from customers as well as manage bank account.
Allows service tech to accept credit cards from customers using a smartphone.
Gets targeted leads for service techs, maps driving directions to appointments.
Finds nearby gas stations with pricing so techs can save money on fuel.
Maps show cities, gives step-by-step directions.
Allows service techs to manage photos of customers’ equipment pads and pools.