Pricing Specialists Embrace Online Environment

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Contractors create work orders with CoolFront app

By John MacKenna

Profit Strategies Inc., a provider of flat rate pricing systems for heating and cooling service teams and other trades, is carving out a new niche as a software provider and developer with its Coolfront pricing app.

Launched in 2012, Coolfront is a Web-based mobile app that works on Apple, Android and Windows devices to provide flat rate pricing in the field. Profit Strategies President Jim D’Amico recently told Oil & Energy that the app is transforming the company’s approach to serving the mechanical trades.

In launching Coolfront, Profit Strategies was looking to provide a contemporary update to its Quality Service Pricing system, which uses a print-version flat rate pricing book that the company sells to its trade customers. “We’re trying to change how contractors and fuel dealers go to market and service the customer,” he said.

The app addresses multiple needs, according to D’Amico: lightening the contractor’s physical load; creating better impressions with customers; enabling instantaneous, electronic presentation of pricing; and capturing customer signatures on work orders electronically.

Novel Pricing Mechanism

One of the challenges in launching Coolfront was monetization, according to D’Amico. The company considered traditional subscription pricing models such as licensing for each user or device but opted instead to charge for each work order produced. Companies such as heating oil dealers buy work orders in blocks of 50 at a cost of $1.59 per order, and Profit Strategies automatically prices that charge into the end-customer’s bill. Profit Strategies calls its method “Zero Cost”, because the entire cost is automatically passed on.

Because there are no license fees, users can use any available device to access Coolfront and change their hardware at any time, according to D’Amico.

Profit Strategies has built an in-house software development team that holds a “scrum” every day to review the upgrades in development and plan new ones. “Agile development allows you to respond quickly to changing needs,” D’Amico explained.

Coolfront is integrated with Intuit’s QuickBooks small business accounting software, which enables users to instantly access existing customer accounts and create work orders with minimal data entry.

A more recent innovation is integration with the online file-sharing service Dropbox, which enables users to associate files with work orders, such as photos of equipment rating plates or documenting an equipment problem.

The developers recently added “Glanceback” functionality, which enables a company to review previous service performed and the associated notes from the last five service calls for the account with a newly created work order.

D’Amico says that Profit Strategies favors a “cloudstacking” development strategy, which means integrating existing software to add functionality. For example, Profit Strategies will be integrating the Google Calendar app to expand scheduling functionality, rather then developing new calendar functionality.

Modernizing the Company Image

Coolfront is an effective tool because it improves workflow while also strengthening customer relationships, according to D’Amico. The underlying concept of flat rate pricing is effective with customers because it presents guaranteed pricing for a repair, so the customer knows the exact cost when they approve a work order.

Coolfront further enhances the customer experience through use of mobile computing. “I think that when you hire a company as a consumer, it is nice to know the people you are doing business with are taking advantage of all the latest technology available,” D’Amico explained. “I think this is a real advantage to the company’s image. People are looking for professionalism. When you use this technology and flat rate pricing and quote repair costs in advance, it gives customers the feeling that they are dealing with a company that is staying up with the times and will be around tomorrow to satisfy their needs.”

An image of technological expertise is particularly important as homeowners embrace the “smart home” concept, in which devices like smart thermostats communicate to other devices and provide remote control via smartphone. “When you look at what Nest and Honeywell are doing with smart home technology where all the devices are communicating with each other, you can see an important shift. A technician might get a service call and might already know what is wrong because the system will communicate with him. I believe that is where all this is going with the smart home,” D’Amico said.

How Coolfront Works

When using Coolfront, companies create a work order for each job and assign it to a particular technician, who will find the work order on their device when they log on. Dispatchers can assign work orders on the fly, and technicians can update the status of their jobs while they work, so dispatch can track their progress on a Coolfront dashboard.

Coolfront is programmed with 25,000 different repairs. After diagnosing a customer’s equipment, the technician searches the database for the preprogrammed repair that matches the work at hand.

Coolfront currently integrates with QuickBooks, and discussions are underway to integrate with the specialized back-office software systems that some contractors and energy marketers use. Marketers who use back office software may have to enter data in Coolfront that is already stored in company databases, but that may be a small concession, given Coolfront’s capabilities, according to D’Amico. He sees Coolfront as “best of breed” software, whose advanced functionality and customer service advantages can benefit any service department.

Coolfront was voted No. 1 in the Technology/Business Services category in the 2014 Comfortech Product Showcase Awards. For more information, visit www.coolfront.com.

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