Top Hat Chimney and Roofing saves $40,000 annually and accelerates sales using ServicePal
Leading services firm increases efficiency and reduces time-to-close by delivering high quality, legally compliant inspection reports and sales proposals using flexible and cost-effective field service solution.
Founded on Outstanding Service
Top Hat Chimney and Roofing was founded in 1983 after an article in Mother Earth News expressed the need for sweeps. Over the next decade, Top Hat’s business and service reputation grew rapidly. In 1998, Jake Cromwell joined the company as a technician and sweep where he mastered the trade until leaving in 2005. After spending the next 5 years learning the roofing trade, Jake returned and bought Top Hat in 2010.
As the new owner, Jake’s first action was to add full commercial and residential roofing services (not just repair) to Top Hat’s well-established chimney maintenance business. Today, in addition to Jake and his wife, the company employs sixteen technicians and office staff and serves more than 2,000 customers annually in the northwest Arkansas area.
Drowning in a Sea of Information
The biggest challenge in the chimney and roofing industry is finding qualified technicians and inspectors given the skills and knowledge required. And, when business owners like Jake can’t find them, they must invest in comprehensive training which means having proven and documented operating procedures.
“I needed our checklists and forms to be streamlined and easy – to get our people into a routine where they’re performing these functions consistently and correctly. There’s also an incredible amount of documentation required. Each time we’d send a tech out to a job, he’d have to fill out an inspection report and you’d end up with 2-3 pages of handwritten notes and chicken scratch”.
Making matters worse, the information collected had to be maintained and translated into a sales proposal with compliant boilerplate language added. The proposal then had to be followed up on and tracked including a legally binding signature.
“I realized our sales were directly tied to our ability to present these documents. We were selling inspections for $100 and then maintenance and services above that, but we were also pursuing proposals for larger deals. When you show up and provide the customer a free estimate, you need to give them something right there that doesn’t look like it was scrawled out on a form from your local print shop”.
In Search of a Life Preserver
Recognizing this had to be an industry-wide problem, Jake investigated and implemented a variety of solutions.
“With tablet and mobile computing out and getting cheaper, there was a big race among industry suppliers to offer some type of inspection and documentation system. But what they were developing was terrible. You had companies who make cameras and pipes trying to do this because they saw the need, but they didn’t have the expertise”.
Jake attended industry conferences and instantly saw the technology and usability gaps in these “systems”: users needed a laptop, a camera, a tablet and proprietary cables. Jake likened the offerings to that of a vacuum cleaner salesman pulling all of this gear out of a suitcase just to produce an inspection report.
“My idea was to solve this myself. I used Adobe Acrobat and built a 5-6 page form with content controls, drop-down fields, boilerplate, etc. I bought everyone laptops and said we’re going to get proposals out on-site to make us sales leaders. The result was a mess: training issues, people were unskilled on the laptop and despite my attempts to improve the form, I kept running into hitches”.
Jake discovered some big firms were using Smart Service – a service scheduling product – but the inspection form looked like a bulky technical document and not something you’d give to a customer. He also found the software to be very expensive and required users to back up documents to their own server.
“Form creation and management with Smart Service is poor. It’s slow and you need them to create the forms for you according to your specifications. It takes weeks to get one form created and attached to your account. Techs use the form, attach photos and all of that goes to a server in your office. You’re having to do all of the file management”.
ServicePal comes to the Rescue
ServicePal is a cloud-based offering that streamlines job scheduling and dispatching, provides real-time visibility into operations and gives staff access to the information they need to consistently deliver services. Jake discovered ServicePal after seeing an advertisement in an industry association newsletter.
“You can’t expect any app to work perfectly out of the box especially in a unique industry like ours. But, when you can call a company and speak to a developer or the President and they make stuff happen, that sold it for me. We committed to ServicePal and bought iPads for everybody”.
One of ServicePal’s most powerful features empowers businesses to create their own professional, intuitive and legally compliant forms to electronically capture, share, archive and retrieve service-related data.
“I customized our inspection report exactly how I wanted with the different drop-downs, photos and signature fields and made it legal which is required in our industry. We also have specialized inspection forms where the industrial contractor has requested specific information, forms to record staff reviews and meetings, and checklists for safety, truck and equipment inventory”.
In the field, ServicePal has delivered a dramatic increase in productivity allowing Jake’s technicians to create and close more deals while better serving customers.
“Our techs reacted really well to ServicePal once they saw how fast they could produce inspection reports and sales proposals using the iPad. Others in our industry are blown away because we can do in 15 minutes what usually takes them a day and half. That’s no exaggeration. There’s incredible differentiation for Top Hat because all our proposals go out on-site and are returned on-site”.
A Business Transformed
ServicePal is a key enabler of Top Hat’s lean operations goals and delivers value to the bottom line by dramatically reducing the time and cost associated with producing and managing professional documents that drive sales. As Jake explains:
“The benefit of ServicePal to Top Hat is about $40,000 a year because I believe it’s a full time job for someone to do. We’ve gone from a case of paper a month to not even a half a ream. Now the people in the office can focus on sales, taking care of customers and making sure our technicians are effectively deployed and stocked”.
Just as important as the economic value are some of the fundamental and longstanding problems that ServicePal has helped Jake solve. One example is forward scheduling:
“We have a field on our forms where our techs can easily set future appointments without calling into the office. This is a gold mine as there are entire apps that have attempted to just do forward scheduling. That process has been written and rewritten by people in our industry for years. You simply won’t find an easier way of doing this than ServicePal and the value it brings to retaining customers is huge”.
A Bright Future
Jake has a compelling vision for growing his business and sees tremendous upside using ServicePal to achieve even greater levels of efficiency and customer delight.
“When I talk to other companies about ServicePal, they’re amazed – especially with the coming QuickBooks Online integration to further modernize data management. Firms in our industry have multiple pieces of software, databases and paper archives. If that gets down to a single system where we can predict and plan long into the future, it will be the single biggest innovation our industry has seen”.
- Jake Cromwell (President)
- Founded 1983
- Northwest Arkansas
- Commercial and Residential Services
- Inspections, Installation, Maintenance
- 12 Field Technicians and 4 Office/Shop Staff
- Serves 2,000+ Customers Annually
- Enables 100% Paperless Operation
- Native, Easy-to-Use iPad App
- Custom, Business Forms
- Dispatch anytime, anywhere
- Mobile Access to Customer / Job Data
- Share forms with Customers
- Real-Time Service Operations Visibility
- Zero IT Investment (24×7 Cloud Service)
- No Setup Fees or Contracts
- Efficient, Flexible, Rapid Time-to-Value