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Are tradies better at mobile business than suits?

Armed with the latest mobile devices and fast broadband access, Australian tradies are proving more reliable and more responsive than ever. In fact, you might say they’re better at the ‘road warrior’ game than the suits.

When most people think of what a business ‘road warrior’ looks like, they have an image of a well-manicured, highflying creature that wraps up business deals on tiny laptops in airport lounges. No time is wasted on getting a deal done. They’ll happily stride out to grab a quick lunch or on the way to another meeting, all the while negotiating margins and deadlines with clients on a hands-free mobile. Busy and focused, yes. Worried about dust or dirt jamming up mobile phone controls? Probably not.

Unlike their suit-wearing counterparts, mobility has always been part of the job for Australian tradies. Tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, gas fitters and carpenters spend their working lives on the road, attending jobs that are often hours from home or head office.

But although they don King Gees instead of slick suits, tradespeople and business execs share a dislike for returning to the office to perform administrative tasks that can increasingly be done on the road with the help of mobile broadband.

Since wireless broadband hit its stride with higher data transfer speeds, increased coverage and affordable price plans, Australian workers of all descriptions can check email, browse the internet and send or receive photographs, job quotes or work plans through their mobile device. Businesses large and small can integrate office-based systems with laptops and other mobile communication devices, meaning workers are kept up-to-date without constantly having to touch base.

Scott & Sons is a plumbing, draining and gas fitting business based in Hornsby, Sydney. The business employs nine tradespeople, with eight constantly on the road, each equipped with a broadband-enabled smartphones.

Director of Scott & Sons, Craig Scott, says the customer service of his business tripled as a result of using mobile broadband connectivity to conduct many core business functions remotely.

Armed with smartphones that ‘talk’ to head office, Scott & Sons workers switch on their phones in the morning to access the day’s jobs and a list of materials needed to complete the task. While onsite with customers, they can zap details back to office such as credit card transactions and pricing estimates.

“We don’t really need to see them for a week,” says Scott. “They even put their timesheets in remotely.”

Scott & Sons workers also use their smartphones to download email, browse the internet and send photographs.

“The boys can take a picture to check something with me or the supervisor in the office,” says Scott. “It saves us physical trips to sites every day and huge amounts of time.”

Scott, also Vice President of the Master Plumbers Association, makes frequent business trips but stays abreast of his business minutiae using his mobile devices coupled with high-speed wireless broadband roaming services.

“No matter where I am, I know what plumber is on what job with what apprentice and with what materials,” he says. His ability to access such detailed business data means Scott can give customers current and accurate information if they call in an emergency.

“By the time I have hung up, a job spec is already with the plumber, with all the details downloaded to their device. When I say a plumber will be there at 7AM, I know it’s going to happen. Or, if someone is running late – I know when they will arrive.”

Remote mobile banking is another huge boon to Scott, who pays his workers weekly. “The office sends the wages bill to my mobile and I transfer the money into the boys’ accounts in two or three minutes, even if I am overseas,” he says.

Scott doesn’t underestimate the competitive advantage mobile devices and broadband services have delivered to his business. “I don’t know how some of the other guys survive without it,” he says.

“It eliminates 80% of the perception the public have with ‘unreliable’ tradespeople.”

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