For Earl Taylor and Karl Bates at APEC Electrical, digital transformation happened quickly – once they realized how outdated their systems had become.
“One day Earl handed me a clipboard with a piece of paper on it,” said Bates. “And I looked at him and I thought: ‘That’s archaic. Why are we still doing that?’”
Their situation was similar to many small businesses whose offices and car visors are awash in all kinds of paper: invoices, expense receipts, routing schedules, post-it notes, and other documents. But in a world where everyone — from business owners to field techs to the customers they service — use technology, they realized that software that can digitize processes for small businesses was becoming table stakes. It just needed to be easy to implement and easy for everyone in their company to use from anywhere.
Enter VIIZR – pronounced just like the work truck visor that previously served as the main filing cabinet for many small businesses — stuffed full of papers critical to operations. Powered by Ford Pro™ and built on the Salesforce platform, the cleverly named software — an all-in-one jobsite and back office app — was designed precisely with small business field service in mind. With VIIZR, businesses like APEC Electrical can manage scheduling, routing, invoicing, and more with ease.
“What we’re trying to do is digitally transform the field service industry,” explained VIIZR CEO Jian Wei Hoh – JW for short. “The goal of this type of digital transformation is to improve productivity for these companies and provide better customer experiences in the process.”
VIIZR was built on the Salesforce platform. Salesforce’s real-time data and CRM tools are built in, giving businesses and their field techs an easy-to-use interface that automates and streamlines their operation through real-time scheduling, digitized quotes and invoicing, project management, and more.
Lizanne Kiel, Salesforce’s Executive Vice President of Small-Medium Business, has a good idea of what it takes to power businesses like APEC. “I actually owned a small business, and I’ve seen what’s out there,” Kiel said. “We are in a world where everyone needs to be able to run their businesses and serve their customers from anywhere. Salesforce is uniquely positioned to work with small businesses because we meet them where they are in their journey and our technology provides the flexibility they need to be successful.”
A father-son duo transform their HVAC business with VIIZR
Steve Russell has been in the HVAC trade for more than four decades. He knows the industry through and through, even starting up a trade school to teach students, “to do things the way that an owner wants them done.” And in 2019, he took that 40+ years of know-how and started Central Mechanical Services with his son, Austin.
But along with Steve’s pedigree came the old habit of paper tickets and invoices in the new venture in Phoenix. He takes pride in being a “real mechanical guy” who ultimately doesn’t want his time consumed with paperwork and logistics. He wants to be building and fixing things.
Austin, for his part, was more familiar with digital tools and knew they needed to find a more efficient path forward, especially as business began picking up.
“It’s not too hard to remember where your technicians are going when you’re only running three people and you’re only getting 10 calls a day,” Steve said. “But when you’re getting 15 to 20 calls a day and running 10 or 12 trucks, it’s hard to keep track of it in your head or even on a spreadsheet. We had to find a newer, cleaner way.”
“There’s often a perception that these industries are antiquated, but really they just haven’t had the right tools to take them into the 21st century.”Jian Wei Hoh, CEO at Viizr
Once they implemented VIIZR, its impact went far beyond just tracking trucks and jobs. “It helped build our customer relations, send out nice reports,” Austin said. And it also let his dad focus on what he really wants to be doing – growing the family business.
“This software has made my life a lot easier. Now, I can go back to estimating and putting projects together so we have more work to get to tomorrow. It makes a huge difference in everybody’s life,” Steve said.
And even though Steve is the more outspoken and animated of the two, he can’t help but still play proud papa and give the more reserved Austin his props for pushing him and the company forward technologically.
“He’s been the inspiration and has taken me and this company into the 21st century,” Steve continued. “I’m one of those guys that believes it’s not real if I don’t have something tangible in my hands, but it’s been a smooth transition that has really opened up new doors.”
For a former U.S. Army soldier and his small businesses, time is everything
You’d be hard-pressed to find a small business owner who has enough time to accomplish what they need or want to do in a day. There’s always a surplus of work and a deficit of time – and more often than not, what you’re spending time on isn’t business-critical.
Take Adrian Habicht, a former U.S. Army soldier who now runs RZR Recycling – also in Phoenix.
“Before VIIZR, I spent an entire day – six to eight hours – making sure a route made sense. Now I can just do it in 10 to 20 minutes,” he explained.
Those minutes and hours add up into invaluable time that free up small business owners to prioritize, scale, grow, and focus on the big picture. And as the old saying goes, time equals money – and in this case, not just for Habicht and RZR’s bottom line, but for his customers.
“VIIZR helps us cut down on waste,” he said. “With the ability to create more efficient routing and pickups of materials, RZR saves manpower and fuel costs which trickles back down to the customer, because if I have to spend less on fuel, I can give them more money,” Habicht explained.
“Small businesses have all the same challenges as other businesses, but without the resources. The real power of Salesforce technology helps them automate and make their business more productive.”Lizanne Kiel, Executive Vice President of Small-Medium Business at Salesforce
When efficiency meets real-time optimization – all made easily through VIIZR and the Salesforce platform – that’s the sweet spot that VIIZR’s JW says he loves bringing to small businesses.
“We provide the right tools that make up for small businesses having less manpower,” he explained – calling it “an orchestration of data” coming from the Salesforce platform that turbocharges VIIZR’s ability to simplify and streamline a business and its workflows. “It accelerates everyone’s productivity in real time, from the front office to the field tech all the way down to benefitting the customers.”
Another unexpected byproduct of VIIZR for Habicht? “ I’m able to go on vacation now,” he explained with a smile. “VIIZRs made it so that I can work anywhere. I don’t have to be here six days a week.”
‘Surely there’s a better way’
Another aspect of the old-school paper trail that small businesses often face is one that hits their bottom line hard: the ability to get paid for work.
“We’ve seen statistics for multiple businesses where 12% of the invoices don’t get collected,” said JW. “They do the work, they’re on to the next job, and a piece of paper getting lost or buried prevents them from getting paid. We thought: ‘Surely there’s a better way.’”
VIIZR’s ability to seamlessly send and track invoices through the Salesforce Platform was exactly what APEC Electric, which is based in Honeyville, Utah needed. Looking to buck the “archaic” paper invoice workflow that his business partner Earl Taylor was accustomed to, Karl Bates took the lead in implementing VIIZR.
“We really need to be able to invoice people from our phones,” he explained. “When VIIZR was introduced, I thought, ‘Holy cow. This is amazing.’ We’ve increased the ability to receive payments at least four or five times.”
And for JW and the VIIZR team, that’s music to their ears when they hear how their software helps small businesses thrive. That also lends confidence to the businesses themselves, giving employees and customers a sense of security when working with or for them.
“Having good software to support your business definitely makes or breaks whether potential employees are actually going to be interested in the company,” APEC’s Bates said. “If you don’t have an effective way to manage customers, as well as bids and collecting payments, what employee is going to want to work for you?”
It’s that type of digital transformation that Salesforce is proud to be a part of with VIIZR. “With limited resources, a digital overhaul can be a daunting prospect for small businesses, but those who do never look back,” Kiel said. “Their customers are demanding an easy and enjoyable experience, and technology is the key driver of that for the future.”