Who is ServiceBox for?
Before we dive deep into the details, let’s be clear on the fact that ServiceBox is a service-order type tool for related type businesses. The companies and business that can use it the most extensively typically involve a standard service delivery model that gets repeated again and again from customer to customer. Highly customized service companies or product sales only companies could use ServiceBox, but a lot of the features built into its design won’t see a lot of use in those scenarios. The Internet-based system started off as a small business tool and has since graduated to both small-business and medium-sized business support, with related enhancements over time.
How ServiceBox Works
Different service systems have varying structure approaches to how they operate, and ServiceBox is no exception. Because it is inherently a database tool, ServiceBox has a critical point of entry that everything else relies on to make the good things happen. In the SB world, that entry point is the quote screen or work order screen (image 2A). From this module, all of the critical starting data, as well as editing information, is entered. And it is also from this module that the integration magic of the system and its output is generated later on. The user will start in the system with the Dashboard on first entry (image 1A), but the real work happens in the work order module.
The work order tool incorporates a number of user-friendly features that come default with ServiceBox. The best way to describe how these features come into play is as such: the more data on a given customer and work orders are included, the more association to that customer record folder comes into play through pull-down menus, name association, and linkages (image 2B/2C, image 3A). It is possible to also generate mass work orders instead of creating the initial input one record at a time, but this is a special request approach that needs to be worked out in a custom interface or delivery of a batch file with the ServiceBox team.
Another nice feature of the work order module includes the ability to add attachments, including image files (image 4A). This benefit becomes a real practical advantage for service firms, allowing the ability to document finished work or, alternatively, to include before and after photos on work provided. As they say, a photo is worth 1,000 words, especially in a work satisfaction dispute with a customer.
There is also an integrated timekeeping feature in the work order system, allowing field personnel to document their time spent on given service order and completion (image 3B). With appropriate training, field staff can generate the requisite time logs, differentiate between straight time and overtime, and add service notes as well on what exactly was done for a customer. And all of that information can be transferred to invoices after the fact of billing detail. The work order also includes a robust ability to attribute product consumption with a service order performed via job costing discussed a bit more below.
ServiceBox is a role-based system, which essentially means everyone involved has to have a set of rights and privileges assigned to them to be able to do anything in ServiceBox (image 10A). This feature, in turn, provides inherent security as well as segmentation of functions. Business owners will like this feature because no one player in the organization has a significant operation to the system and its vulnerable data. Yet every role is fully capable of doing what’s needed for his or her job. To make all of this happen, however, takes some level of customization. There is no general template of role assignments that fits every company as a default. Instead, the ServiceBox team spends a couple of weeks working with a client during an implementation phase to gain a good understanding of exactly how the business operations. Then the roles are assigned as to how they should operate in the system. Changes can be made after the fact, as is usually the case with staff turnover, but the client has to make those changes as a service ticket request to ServiceBox; the client does not access the role assignment administrative control directly.
Lots of Integration
ServiceBox is intentionally designed with integration in mind. It works seamlessly with Canadian Sage 50 or Quickbooks on the accounting/export side of things, translating the service and procurement activity into the appropriate receivable and expense side of the ledgers. The system also provides a handy job costing feature for a quick snapshot of how profitable a single work order is performing (Image 11A). The job costing data automatically exports into an Excel format, making the information immediately translatable into an activity workbook in the same as well.
Additionally, the ServiceBox work order module includes built-in mapping and location tracking for GPS-related reviews of a given order (image 7B). Not only does the system map where the order is geographically based on the given customer information, but it also can track the movement of the assigned employee to tie into the given field employee’s time spent on the order in comparison to time reported. The data does not automatically export out into a shapefile or similar geospatial format, but all of the information can be pulled in a custom report working with ServiceBox’s IT technicians on the requested design. Typical output can be provided in either XLS or CSV format, ideal for table creation in external geospatial tools.
While ServiceBox does provide the ability to input detail on what inventory and parts are consumed in a given work order, including the detail specificity and cost, the system is not yet ready for a full inventory/asset management demand. This is a feature that will be coming with future enhancements since the base information capability already exists in the way that data fields are captured for service order. However, what does exist is a very solid relationship between goods consumed and billing, which is fundamentally what a business needs to translate work materials to successful cost recapture in invoicing.
The scheduler module is a familiar environment, being very similar to Microsoft Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar for comparison (image 9A). The module includes drag and drops features, and additional parties can be added to activities that already exist. Each of the activities or events scheduled starts with the data generated from the work order and additional linkages can be edited in as well. What a user sees depends on the role assigned, so field employees only see the scheduling information they need for their function, while administrative roles could see multiple staff to manage their assignment and performance.
There is no question that ServiceBox is a different approach than what many service business teams might be used to. And the ServiceBox team knows this from experience. This is why a good amount of effort is provided towards employee training and helping folks adapt to their new digital working environment. That training provision will depend on the employee’s role and function. Where field personnel, for example, might need a 15-minute training and a dedicated job guide to follow, practicing the same procedure again and again, the accounting personnel might need more extensive training to function in multiple modules. ServiceBox provides a dedicated approach for each area of role activity, depending on how a client is set up during implementation.
Long-term training and first-level support follow an internal subject matter expert (SME) model. ServiceBox encourages clients to design an internal expert or team to learn the system extremely well and then become the first response to help and questions for the rest of the company staff as the system is put into production. Those SMEs not only function as the go-to internal training resource, but they also perform as the ongoing liaison between the client and ServiceBox on technical needs going forward. These training sessions are also augmented with static job guides, training videos and regular updating on new features as they come online.
It’s important to note that the role training is fundamental to correct use of the system. ServiceBox does not include a large amount of hard-coded controls to prevent bad data from being entered (i.e. the system stops a user from entering incorrect data). Instead, the expectation is that the client will emphasize training compliance to build a proactive environment of quality information input. This is a bit of a big expectation. Time and again, database systems have been plagued by the age-old computer rule of “garbage in, garbage out.” Without input controls, there is an increasing amount of bad data risk occurring with the greater number of users playing in the system for a given account. That said, most experienced service companies already have at least one person who handles quality control on service orders and related billing, and it’s quite possible to assign a similar role for such a person in ServiceBox on the reporting side of the system.
Customer Records Management (CRM)
ServiceBox does include an incredible amount of data capture, all of which funnels into customer records built with a default hierarchy within the system (image 7B). This is in addition to the data that builds work orders and subsequently gets transferred to billing, invoice payment, and export reports. Each customer’s record builds from the initial contact information collected, and then adds a history trail that aggregates with each service order created for that same client (image 7A). The work order history includes all of the information of specific orders as well as added notes, miscellaneous add information, data maps, and activity tracking. And, of course, all of this data can be pulled out through both the canned reports provided by default in the reporting module as well as through special queries built on special request.
ServiceBox provides a standard set of output reports that provide a fairly detailed level of activity occurring. Again, all of the output is primarily generated based on the work order structure, so what is delivered is within the standard parameters of the work order fields. The more extensive the data capture is in the work order, based on client procedures, the more data types are delivered in the canned reports provided by default. However, not every field is automatically included. For example, the geospatial data captured in mapping is not automatically transferred to reporting. However, this can be provided to a client via special request as long as the data is already captured in some field in the original work order module.
All of the default reports are provided in at least three of the major reporting formats commonly used. That includes XLS, CSV, and PDF output formats. The first two work extremely well for exporting report data to other systems and the PDF format provides a ready-to-use finished report straight from ServiceBox itself.
In addition to the system reports, ServiceBox also includes handy features where individual quotes, service orders and invoicing can all be transferred to a ready-to-send email linkage, allowing digital completion of service data to billing without generating any actual paper in the process. The invoicing detail can be kept simple or designed with extensive information, depending on what the client wants to provide to their own customer (images 12A/12B). And, the same modules also allow tracking of immediate payment as well if collected in the field after delivery of the invoice to the field customer.
Means of Access
And, of course, the million-dollar question with ServiceBox is, how do I use it? ServiceBox advertises itself as a “cloud-based” system, emphasizing that all the infrastructure is already available via an Internet connection and requiring no major capital investment by the client.
ServiceBox is utilized typically in two ways: as a website portal to main account access and as a mobile device app for field employee usage. Again, role assignment dictates how much of the system a user has access to, which makes tailoring very easy between field and administration in the same company. As long as a client already had standard computers with solid Internet connections and mobile devices that can install apps, the hardware side of the client’s picture is taken care of. The rest of the infrastructure is taken care of by ServiceBox on its side of the system.
ServiceBox as a company is very focused on the performance and support side of its system. Security is paramount; the company puts a high premium on protecting the integrity of its system as well as the related customer databases. This is why the actual administration of role assignments and changes are retained by ServiceBox and not delegated to the client. However, in the same vein, the company does not implement hard controls on input, so once a user is authorized, that person essentially could create repeat instances of bad data that would in theory only be caught by someone else in the same company looking for it. So, there’s a bit of a half-baked situation going on here with data integrity.
The above said, the company’s approach towards support is very customer-centric and proactive. They put a large premium on providing employee training specific to the client versus a canned approach of one-size-fits-all. And there is a strong willingness to work with clients on special requests and tailoring as the ServiceBox team is well aware that every client has their own nuances and needs specific to the given company itself.
ServiceBox isn’t designed for direct marketing, mass emailing or high-generation communication channels like some other CRM-centric systems may be. However, because of the fact that ServiceBox is built with a very solid CRM approach, all of the data collected on a customer is entirely retrievable in a structured format and translatable to marketing programs. So, for example, a client could easily download the customer records in ServiceBox via the canned reports or a special request, and then format that same data for usage in a marketing tool like MailChimp or similar for mass newsletters or email blasts. The beauty of this approach is that the client is in control of how the customer data is used while not bogging the system down with competing for resource consumption hits. The ServiceBox system stays focused on business tracking and revenue-collection side of things, but the same data can be transferred to marketing with very little effort or technical know-how.
Pros and Cons
The upside of ServiceBox is that, for the most part, it relieves a client of major hardware costs for network provisioning. ServiceBox handles the software and hardware side of the picture except for the end-user computers and mobile devices (which most companies have already anyways). The client only deals with staying up with the training, working with the ServiceBox team of a genuine understanding of role provisioning, and managing employees’ behavior in the system.
The ServiceBox team is repeatedly credited with providing a high level of onboarding training and guidance materials that make sense. Both field personnel and internal techs are able to adapt to the system very quickly due to its intuitive design and user-friendly navigation as well as pull-down menus. Practically no coding is required on the user’s part to trigger tools or functions. This cuts down significantly on mistakes and boosts data productivity exponentially in most clients commenting on reviews.
The only major flaw of the system found in reviews has been a limited search capability on past records. This is a hit or miss review because the reporting features are very robust, and the search involved may have been limited by the given user’s role provisioned. There is also the issue that a draft work order can be entirely lost if not saved. That can quickly create frustration for field personnel just trying to get a work order completed. An auto-save or save reminder has been recommended.
Overall, ServiceBox is a very robust, functional system that will boost a small or medium business into the digital age in one step, especially when migrating from a paper-based order tracking system. The training might seem a challenge at first blush, the intuitive design of the system makes it pretty easy to understand in a short period of time. And with the dedicated training provided to clients, most folks are able to be up and running with basic functionality within 15 minutes or so. Yes, there is room for improvement, but the overall design of the system is very solid and scalable for a growing company. Best yet, the output tools work extremely well with multiple systems because the approach and formats provided are so global in nature. If choosing a service order management system online with flexibility between computers and mobile devices, ServiceBox should be a strong contender and candidate on anyone’s shortlists.