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Work order tracking: 4 keys to simplify your process

Method:Field Services mobile app on a white iPhone alongside a black field notes notebook and two black Sharpie markers.

From a process perspective, work orders are the foundational element that keeps the field service industry running efficiently. They are the key to managing expectations and avoiding difficult conversations after a field assignment has been completed.

So, in other words, they’re important to get right.

Keep reading for four sure-fire ways to streamline your work order tracking process and deliver great experiences for both your customers and field teams.

Work order 101

Before we get into work order tracking best practices, let’s first align on the baseline elements of a work order.

If you boil the quote-to-cash process down to the essentials there are three stages — which conveniently map to three key documents:

  1. Estimates — Outline proposed services and cost, for review by the customer
  2. Work orders — Are generated from approved estimates and represent the work that is to be done, along with the aforementioned details about the job assignment
  3. Invoices — Are the final step, outlining the actual work completed and final costs, to be paid for by the customer

Work orders aren’t complicated documents by nature as they include:

  • An outline of the work to be done
  • Pricing for the work or maintenance 
  • The date, time, and location that the work assignment is to be performed
  • The name of the field service technician who will be performing the work or maintenance

With that baseline set, let’s dive deeper into the state of work order tracking today and review some opportunities to streamline your process. 

The current state of work order tracking

Typically, field services businesses manage their work order process in one of three ways:

  1. Through a combination of document/spreadsheet templates, paper forms, handwritten lists, and whiteboards.
  2. Using workarounds via Delayed Charges or Sales Orders in QuickBooks.
  3. Through 3rd-party field service management software that may (or may not) integrate with QuickBooks to provide specific functionality.

While #1 and #2 may sound appealing at surface value, they leave businesses exposed to the trap of saving hard costs. Hard costs that often pale in comparison to the opportunity cost of not investing in technology that provides users with processes and solutions that scale long-term.

The reality is that a well-designed work order tracking system is a good investment because:

  • The time spent creating, managing, and locating paperwork is not billable, nor is it perceived as “valuable” to your clients.
  • The efficiency of your work order tracking directly impacts your bottom line. A great process will maximize cash flow, which means you can invest more in people, tools, and technology to support your growth.
  • As a field service business, most of your processes touch your customer – and today, great customer experiences are one of the biggest influences on your customer retention rate. In a competitive space where the services offered and pricing are comparable, this is your best chance to secure and retain your customers!

With that last point in mind let’s look at the fundamentals of a great work order tracking process, with a special focus on customer touchpoints. 

Step #1 – Create estimates on the go

While there are scenarios where estimates can be created over the phone, ideally they should be created on-site, in-person with the customer.

Not only is this a great chance to make a human connection but it’s also a key opportunity to ensure there’s clarity on the job(s) to be done (for both your customer and your field team). 

Equipping your team with a mobile app that allows them to do this on the fly from a phone or tablet is the key to making this a reality.

Two Gardeners At Work Checking Plans For A Formal Garden

A second benefit to moving this process from the office into the field is that you can ask for the business as soon as the estimate is complete.

Better yet, you can offer your customer the ability to sign off electronically on the spot to increase your odds of getting the business.

Not to mention that getting signatures quickly from your customers eliminates the need for your team to spend hours on the phone and sending emails to follow-up on unsigned estimates. 

More signed estimates and fewer follow-up calls are both great boosts to your profitability!

Step #2 – Take the “work” out of work order tracking

Creating work orders once involved copying and pasting information from your estimates but this is no longer the case. Today, the ideal work order process uses the information in your estimate to automatically create the majority of your work order.

A centralized system for this process, such as a field service solution, makes this possible as it automatically inputs this data for you so that all that’s left is for your Dispatcher to finalize the scheduling and assignment of the work before dispatching. 

When it comes to scheduling and dispatching, coordinating resources, managing your trucks, tools, and assets will always take an element of manual work; but your job routing is best left to software solutions. 

By leveraging field service management software that’s designed to automatically optimize the route your field teams take, you: 

  • Reduce the chance of human error when it comes to route mapping
  • Minimize the amount of time your team spends driving
  • Maximize the number of work orders your crew can complete

Moving your work order assignment and scheduling process to a cloud-based platform also brings the benefit of working with real-time updates.

In the field service industry, you know last-minute changes are bound to happen and throw a wrench into the best-laid assignment plans and routes.

Where this historically would result in scribbles across your job assignment board and a flurry of phone calls, working in a centralized software solution allows your team to have visibility into these changes and the resulting updates to the scheduling.

So, what was once a headache for the field service industry is now just a minor course correction with the proper cloud solution. 

Step #3 – Online invoices and payments

Sometimes the end of your work order tracking process marks the start of the hardest part of the process – getting paid! 

To stick with the theme of streamlining processes and delivering great experiences, this is a good opportunity to move to a digital invoicing process.

The benefits of online invoices and payments

Since the ideal work order process moves job information into a centralized location, the creation of an invoice becomes really simple when moved online.

In fact, it only involves inputting existing estimate and work order details into an invoice template that’s plug and play. Ideally, this invoice also contains a link to an online portal where your customer can pay digitally.

By fuelling your invoicing process with the right tech, you:

  • Get paid faster
  • Improve your work order tracking process
  • Reduce manual, repetitive tasks

So, in other words, this is another win-win for your business!

Step #4 – Keep your systems in sync

At this point, it’s safe to say that QuickBooks, spreadsheets, forms, lists, and whiteboards are not the ideal drivers of great work order tracking.

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure that any new technologies you invest in, integrate well with your core software solutions — like QuickBooks for example.

In doing so, you’ll:

  1. Keep your QuickBooks data clean by ending the need to house non-posting transactions there
  2. Keep your field team efficient by eliminating the need for workarounds, hacked-together solutions, or reams of paper forms to sort through
  3. Keep your data in perfect sync as the right tool makes sure that data moves between QuickBooks and other platforms, in real-time

Done correctly, your team will never need to rekey information into QuickBooks again!

Pro-tip — Perfect your work order tracking with Method:Field Services

As a software company dedicated to empowering those in the field service industry to succeed, the above work order tracking process is ingrained in the Method:Field Services solution. 

The goal for this field service management tool is to equip you and your field teams with technology that: 

  • Maximizes your productivity and work order completion
  • Is easy for users to navigate
  • Simplifies your job assignment, dispatching, and routing process
  • Gets you more repeat customers
  • Works on your mobile device
  • Keeps your software solutions in sync and up to date

If you’d like to experience these benefits, start your free trial of Method:Field Services!

Image credit: Kari Shea via Unsplash

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