The Future of Field Communication
Cell phones are an integral part of the plumbing world. Communicating with bosses, customers and suppliers to coordinate schedules and deliver status reports is a key part of the business. But simple cell phones, radios and walkie-talkies aren’t cutting it anymore. Plumbers need devices that allow them to get their jobs done more efficiently so they can move on to the next one. Getting the job done fast means customers and bosses are pleased - building trust and ensuring customer loyalty.
Push-to-talk functionality has become an institution in the service industry. No dialing needed. No fuss with voicemail. No busy signals. Bosses and field workers quickly communicate critical information: jobsite locations, service orders and requested part information.
According to research data from a top wireless carrier, PTT conversations typically last only eight seconds - and rarely last longer than 30 seconds. What this data means is these conversations are void of idle small talk. People get to the meat of their conversations quicker, enabling them to communicate more efficiently and get their jobs done faster.
More than just another toolWhen purchasing cell-phone devices for workforces, decision makers often think long-term:
- Will these devices last if they get wet?
- Can they handle being tossed around?
- Will they improve workforce communication?
- Will I need to purchase a new set of phones in a year?
Just like wrenches, hand saws and flashlights, cell phones are just as important for getting jobs done. Often, cell phones are the most-used tool in the toolbox, and decision makers want to purchase devices that won’t cost them an arm and a leg and will last. One of the key benefits of PTT devices is they are typically designed to last twice as long as basic cell phones. Many are water-resistant and meet military specifications so they can withstand harsh environments consisting of dust, shock, vibration and extreme temperatures.
Instant communicationPush-to-talk technology has become a powerful tool to get messages across as quickly as possible. But it is just the beginning. Cell-phone providers are coming up with new ways to use powerful single-button technology to enhance business productivity for bosses sitting behind a desk and plumbers in the field. This new age of single-button communication is called Push-to-X - “X” representing any option of your choice.
One solution for X is camera. With a push of a single button, field workers can take before-and-after photos of jobsites for their records and to potentially clear up any customer disputes with visual documentation. From a productivity standpoint, cameras come in handy when plumbers need assistance with part identification.
For example, if a plumber needs to replace a valve on a kitchen sink but cannot see any indentifying marks on it, he or she can take a photo and instantly send it to a coworker to help determine the part number and where to find a replacement. Instead of calling a coworker to talk about the part, writing a text message and attaching the photo, and getting back on the phone to talk about it, field workers can simply push one button to seamlessly send the photo and confirm the part number.
Another important solution for X is identifying location. Knowing where your people are when they call is critical for business success. When managing multiple employees and field vehicles, managers can turn on GPS location services to determine exactly where their employees are. Whether confirming location statuses to ensure your people are where they say they are, or quickly determining where you need to meet your field worker on a jobsite, GPS technology is a seamless tool for ensuring ultimate business productivity.
Sometimes, it’s more efficient to connect with multiple people at the same time, such as when a plumber on-site needs to contact the dispatcher, driver and warehouse about coordinating the delivery of parts. Instead of playing the old childhood game of “telephone,” the plumber can now push-to-talk to the group to contact multiple people at the same time. Everyone on the call can hear everyone else’s responses.
Another option is push-to-send info. Let’s face it, business cards are a hassle. Often, it’s inconvenient to carry a handful of cards around and easy to lose the ones you get from other people. With push-to-send info, plumbers easily transfer all their contact information to other devices with the touch of a button. Networking with suppliers and new customers is more efficient and important contact data is always within reach.
Secure payments on-siteIn the future, cell phones will transform into more than just communication tools, black books or appointment calendars. You will see more tangible business benefits, including the integration of near-field communication technology, which allows for the transmission of data from one device chip to another - no wires or cords needed.
What does this mean for the plumbing industry? Primarily, it opens up a world of instant payment. For example, if a plumber’s cell phone is equipped with an NFC chip, he can hold it up to a customer’s debit or credit card (if equipped with PayPass-type technology) and immediately receive payment data and determine if it’s been approved. It’s as simple as that. No check to cash, no bills to mail. Get paid when the job is done, improve company cash flow and increase customer payment efficiency.
As the evolution of cell phones introduces more convenient ways to connect with others, there is still room for infinite possibilities in the business world. The plumbing industry, specifically, is in a prime position to take advantage of the latest technologies some cell phones bring to the table, including push-to-talk options, GPS and camera functionalities. But this is just the beginning. As business use blends with personal use, cell phones are becoming the ultimate device for the toolbox and beyond.