Saving money is a priority for any field service business, especially small businesses, and chances are good you’re already putting in an effort to cut costs around the office.
But one thing you may have overlooked could be costing you hundreds of dollars every year. We’re talking about paper. Yes, paper is actually costing you big bucks!
Between documentation, accounting, invoicing, filing and reporting, field service businesses are notoriously paper heavy, and the costs for using paper can be surprisingly high.
U.S. organizations spend around $80 per employee on paper annually, as the average worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper each year.
Even in a small business with relatively few employees, those costs can add up quickly. But going paperless – or as close to it as possible – can save money as well as time and energy.
Benefits of Going Paperless
Here are a few ways paper usage contributes to rising costs and how going paperless can help alleviate some of the burden:
- Physical space
On average, 50-70% of office space is devoted to filing and storing paper documents. If your office is already cramped, this can be a setback to productivity. Eliminating paper can help you make room for what matters as well as reduce your physical footprints and related overhead costs. The U.S. Department of Energy also offers tax credits and rebates for sustainability, and you can use your paperless initiatives as part of your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting.
A major drawback of using paper is that it can be misfiled, lost or stolen relatively easily, and you’re often not aware of the problem until it’s too late. This is especially harrowing if that paper contains sensitive employee or customer information. Paperless file storage can lower this risk through encryption, file backups, and theft alerts. There’s also less chance of files being destroyed by disasters like fire, flood or office mishaps, so you can recover any missing data much easier.
- Remote data access
Sending your field techs out on the job with stacks of files isn’t always practical. What happens if they need information that’s not immediately available to them? Having remote access to files is an important part of a field service business, and chasing down necessary information can waste time and weaken customer satisfaction. Paperless systems can be accessed remotely, even on most mobile devices, putting the right data into the right hands, at the right time.
Where to Go Paperless
While you may not be able to eliminate the use of paper entirely, there are certain areas of your business where going paperless will be the biggest benefit.
If customers can schedule online, they should be able to sign any important documents online too. E-signatures give you and your customers the ability to process paperwork much quicker, and you never have to wait for a paper document to be returned to you.
- Invoices and record keeping
Digital invoicing can eliminate the headache of sending out invoices to customers. Digitizing will also cut down on overhead costs but will also improve your chances of getting paid on time. You can also create a digital database of records so you don’t have to go digging around in a filing cabinet to see if someone’s paid their invoice or not.
Reporting is a big deal for many in the field service industry, especially in businesses like pest control that utilize heavy chemicals on the job. Reporting can create unnecessary paper waste, in addition to taking up valuable time. Digitizing this process will help you generate reports at the click of a button and you can quickly review and export data when and where you need it, saving you countless hours of manual work.
How to Transition to Paperless
If you’re used to having stacks of paper or filing cabinets around your office, it may take some adjustment time to transition to a paperless office. Here are a few ways you can make that process easier on you and your staff.
- Choose the right tool
There are plenty of tools out there for helping you go paperless, but not all will be a good fit for your business. You have to take into account your business needs, how much access your staff and field techs need to documents, security concerns and more. Good Field Service Management (FSM) software will help make your life easier, not more complicated.
- Gather your paper materials
It’s important to make a plan to transition from paper to digital. You will probably need to scan and organize files at the beginning of the process. Just remember that digitizing will save you time and money in the long run. If you do have some files digitized in spreadsheets, you can import files to your chosen FSM system to save time.
- Educate yourself on proper FSM usage
There will always be a learning curve when it comes to technology, but most FSM software is designed to make your life easier, so training should be relatively straightforward (if it’s not, find a tool that’s more user-friendly). Make sure all of your staff and technicians know how to access the documents they need before they need it so you don’t run into slowdowns on the job.
Going paperless isn’t always completely possible, but the more you can do to minimize your paper footprint, the better off your business will be. You will find that going paperless increases productivity, eliminates waste, and saves you time and money in the long run.
You will need a solid transition plan at the start, especially if your current business relies solely on paper documentation, but keep in mind that paperless FSM software will save you countless hours and will cut costs in the long run.
For all of those office tasks that do require the use of paper, Green Business recommends using 500 sheets of paper or less per staff member per year (instead of 10,000) and businesses are also encouraged to recycle paper as often as possible.