By Adrienne Sachs
In an industry filled with heavy competition, landscaping businesses face the tough challenge of standing out in the crowd. Strong pricing pressure pushes landscape contractors to find new ways of keeping costs down and revenue streaming. Among the most successful are those who have discovered GPS fleet management.
Because landscape contractors work with clients more often than businesses like HVAC, plumbing and electrical, customer service is a top priority. By consistently making a positive first impression and delivering great service, businesses can increase customer loyalty, retention and referrals, ultimately boosting revenue.
Utilizing a GPS fleet tracking solution, landscaping companies can transform the customer experience, and ensure crews are delivering top-notch service. When crews are driving to jobs, it’s important that they are arriving on time. GPS fleet tracking solutions provide crews with the most efficient routes to any location, ensuring accurate ETAs for clients.
If crews get lost or stuck in traffic, dispatchers can simply log into the Cloud-based application to determine the best way around it. They can then send new routes to a vehicle’s GPS navigation device, allowing drivers to follow voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. In the event that delays occur, it’s important to keep customers informed. Using a fleet tracking solution, dispatchers have the data available to let customers know exactly when crews will arrive.
Because crews have little supervision, it can be difficult to monitor their productivity. If they are working unauthorized jobs, that’s money the company will never see. Fleet tracking solutions can provide a picture of a vehicle’s activity for any time period selected. Business owners can see exactly where their crews have been, how long they were there and where they are headed in real-time. This helps to ensure jobs are being completed on time and there is no unauthorized activity.
Being able to monitor field workers’ activity also helps to validate employee hours. Employees can clock in and out using a mobile application that turns smartphones and tablets into virtual time clocks. This can save crews a lot of time as they won’t have to drive to the office each day to check in. Alerts can be set up to notify management via e-mail or SMS message when employees approach a certain amount of hours on the job each day and/or week, helping to reduce overtime hours and improve payroll accuracy.
Landscaping businesses can also use GPS fleet tracking solutions to resolve customer disputes and hold employees accountable. If a customer complaint comes in about a job that was done, whether it was about the length of time it took to complete a service or a missed appointment, business owners can simply log into the solution and pull up a detailed activity report to determine why there was an issue and who was at fault. If an employee did in fact miss an appointment, business owners have proof to back up their case and hold employees accountable. This also works the other way around if an employee is falsely accused. Because the data is cut and dry, it helps to resolve any issues quickly and easily.
As mentioned, competitive pricing in the industry is leading landscaping companies to cut back on costs. On the up side, cutting costs doesn’t have to mean hiring for lower wages or compromising quality of service. Fuel is a major operating cost for landscaping businesses, and there are many ways a fleet tracking solution can help keep these expenses down. Business owners can keep a close eye on fuel-wasting behaviors such as excessive vehicle idling.
Additionally, features such as fuel card integration allow landscaping businesses to set limits on fuel-related purchases and provide information regarding fuel card transactions and maintenance purchases — allowing for a better understanding of overall fuel usage. Business owners can also use automated fuel reports to identify vehicles burning more fuel than they should.
Theft is another major concern for the industry. In fact, nearly 1,000 pieces of commercial equipment are reported stolen to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) each month. Because landscaping work largely depends on the equipment used, any loss would not only be costly, but damaging to job progress as well. For equipment kept in trucks or left unattended at a job site, alerts can be set up to notify business owners when the equipment leaves an unauthorized area, which frequently indicates that a theft has occurred.
Asset trackers can be installed on all types of equipment, and provide a way for landscaping businesses to quickly locate assets if lost or stolen. One premier commercial landscaping company was able to recover $400,000 in stolen vehicles and equipment with a GPS fleet tracking solution. In fact, the company was able to tell police exactly where the assets were for recovery.
Along with theft, driver safety is also a concern among service-related businesses. Landscaping companies can utilize driver safety scorecards to identify aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and sudden cornering. Scorecards also rank drivers based on their performance, so business owners can pinpoint drivers who are in need of coaching and improvement. One leading professional landscaping company was unaware that speeding was an issue within their fleet. After implementing a fleet tracking solution, they were able to reduce driver speeding by 92 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,060 people are injured each day in vehicle crashes that involve distracted driving. In an effort to prevent distracted driving-related accidents, some fleet tracking providers have developed distracted driving solutions. The technology uses a non-paring Bluetooth Trigger Unit coupled with a mobile application to prevent talking, texting, e-mailing and surfing the web while driving. This can help landscaping companies to improve driver safety and reduce at-fault accident rates.
With GPS fleet tracking technology, landscaping businesses are provided with the tools necessary to stand out in a crowded marketplace while increasing revenue and decreasing costs. Businesses that implement fleet tracking can save up to 20 percent in both fuel costs and labor costs and achieve ROI in as little as one month.
Adrienne Sachs is the marketing communications specialist at NexTraq. The NexTraq Fleet Tracking solution and its applications — Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics and NexTraq Connect — deliver real-time data needed to optimize fleet operations. For more information on the NexTraq Fleet Tracking solution, please visit www.nextraq.com.