Business Management Technology

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GPS tracking for Landscaping Company

GPS tracking is a great tool.

I started out buying a little magnetic battery powered GPS receiver on one truck, which would record data on an SD memory card and I would put it into the computer later. Before using time tracking software, this was great to see how long certain properties were taking us and give me a taste for future GPS implementation.

On a forum I found out about TSO mobile, Real Trak GPS which had an inexpensive rate which I think is currently right around $20 per truck per month, which you can suspend in the off season.

The GPS tracking has several benefits:

  1. I am able to see how long properties or jobs are taking us
  2. The guys know they are being monitored which helps keep them honest
  3. I can see exactly which property the guys are at, or if they are on the road I can see when is a good time to try calling them.
  4.  There are automatic records of every service performed and how long it took them if a customer ever questions that we were there.

Phone System Business Technology

At some point, you will be tired of getting phone calls to your personal cell phone, like I did. Whether it be the phone calls on the weekends or early in the morning, or just feeling like you are always “on call”. I knew I didn’t like this so I searched for a solution. I will explain each solution I worked with in the order I switched to them.

1) Google Voice

At first, I started using Google Voice. For those of you unfamiliar, Google Voice is a FREE service provided by Google. It allows you to “port” your cell phone number to the Google cloud.

Google Voice is nice because it gives you free visual voicemail (which Verizon charges about $3 a month for)

This was great, as it provides a basic phone system. First of all, it transcribes your voicemails into text. This saves time, as you can scan the message to get the jist of it, and many times it saves you from even having to listen to the message at all. You can set what time your phone rings, and what time it goes straight to voicemail. You can always differentiate between who is dialing your Voice number (customer) or your personal number (your new personal cell phone number).

You are also able to send text messages to cell phones right off your computer, which we still use for texting employees which is much faster and more convenient.

For a couple years, this worked perfectly for my needs. However, eventually I realized I didn’t like getting calls at all. I hired someone to help with customer service. At this point, I needed a phone system that would provide me with extensions.

Cost: Free!

2) Ring Central

The need for extensions on my phone number lead me into using a company called Ring Central. This was a major change for the business and major improvement in communication for us.

Ring Central is also an online phone system, but provides much more functionality. It provides a phone app, and up to 10 extensions, as well as an auto receptionist. Basically what this is, is an automatic recording that greets callers and tells them which extensions to hit for who. Right now, we have it set up for 1 for the Office Manager, 2 for the Field Manager, 3 to speak with me (hidden extension :p) and 4, 5, 6, and 7 are also hidden extensions reserved for our crew foreman and mechanic.

Similar to Google Voice, I was able to port my personal cell phone number out from Verizon to Ring Central. I now have complete call control, so I can set up on my account what time business hours are so calls can go directly to my voicemail without ringing after 5pm. This is also how we were able to get our toll-free number, for an additional $5/month.

The other advantage to Ring Central is it has the option for physical VOIP phones, which allows us to transfer calls, put callers on hold, etc, like a real office phone system. We are also able to send and receive faxes via email which has come in handy many times.

The downfall was Ring Central, for the 3 years we have been using it, do not offer voicemail transcriptions. The voicemails come into our email inbox as an attached audio file and we have to actually LISTEN to it 🙁

Ring Central is very affordable at $9.99/month and offers a 30 day free trial so you can cancel it if you don’t like it or don’t have a need for it.

Cost: ~$300 per year for our current Office plan with unlimited minutes and 1 physical line

3) Call Answering Service

We still have Ring Central, but with all of our call volume increasing, we were getting tired of sending our customers to voicemail. We decided to research into call answering services, so we wouldn’t miss any leads. So many callers will just hang up or call the next company if they don’t speak to a live person.

Right now, we have Ring Central set up so when someone dials 1 for the Office Manager, first, it will ring her cell phone and her physical office line simultaneously for 3 rings. If no one answers, it will then ring the answering service who (if you have a decent one which we discovered is hard to find) picks up in the first ring or two.

What is also great about this, is that they transcribe the messages for us. They take short messages from who the person is that called, their number, and their message. Saves us a lot of time.

Here is an actual example of a message from our answering service, coming in via email:

IN 02APR15 0929 OPR 19dmw MSG 2554
DL               OPR  TO
TEL #:   401-XXX-XXXX

Cost: $.75/ call or a minimum of $75/month and worth every dime.

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