Transparent communication

The benefits of technology can disappear if audit trails are broken, and key information goes missing, according to co-founder of Business Pilot Ryan Breslin, who told Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell about the recent updates to the cloud-based CRM and business management tool, and why he is perfectly placed to deliver them.

Business Pilot, designed by installers for installers, was launched in 2019 as a cloud-based CRM and business management tool.

Co-founder of Business Pilot Ryan Breslin is also the managing director of Cherwell Windows, and he initiated the development of the software because what was available to him at the time didn’t meet his needs.

The basic premise of the Business Pilot software is that it uses cloud-based technology to give installers complete visibility of every element of their operation, from leads and conversions to job scheduling, cost of installation, service calls, and financial reporting.

Anonymised data collected by Business Pilot is analysed to provide Glass Times readers with a monthly ‘barometer’, which highlights trends and movements within the market.

At the heart of the software is a commitment to its ease of use, without which would make any system like this useless.

“While I helped to design Business Pilot, I am also a customer of the software,” Ryan said. “Therefore, I know what makes users tick, and where improvements can be made.

“Right at the very top, we made sure that the data can be manipulated very easily. In fact, the look and feel of the software evolved from the white board system that many companies have in their offices.

“However, user error is also completely eliminated because as information is dragged and dropped into different priority columns, all conflicts are checked and resolved to ensure that when installers turn up to site they have all the material waiting for them, and the customer is kept informed throughout the project.”

This, Ryan said, has been something of a killer feature over the last 18 months as delivery times have been out of kilter, and there has been an increased level on uncertainty.

And this is where the latest update to the software has made its mark.

A new email integration was launched in August, which automatically pulls emails into the CRM, and assigns them to a lead or job, no matter who sends it, to create a clear and accessible audit trail.

This, Ryan said, has immediately delivered a step-change in prospect and customer communication: each lead or job is automatically assigned a unique email address, which ensures that all data is collated and instantly visible.

“How much time do you spend looking for emails?” Ryan said. “We know it’s a nightmare, and when you’re running an installation business with lots of people in your team and lots of jobs on the go, emails – either because they’ve disappeared or not been shared properly – can have a massive impact on your business and installations.

“Our new email integration genuinely puts an end to hunting for lost emails or asking round the office to see if a colleague sent them in the first place.

“A unique email is assigned to each lead or job as soon as it’s created. You can copy and paste it into your preferred email client in the cc or bcc box, or send direct from within Business Pilot.

“Either way you get an instantly accessible and shared record of each email correspondence within the CRM. You, and anyone in your team can see exactly where each job is, what was said, and even automate those emails that you send on a regular basis through integration with our Status Progression Tool.”

The flip-side of a regularly updated piece of software is that users can lose track of developments and not use it to its fullest potential.

Again, Ryan said that ongoing training is a fundamental part of the company’s offering, and that it was important to bring everyone on board with the new process changes.

“Over the last 18 months, there have been a lot of developments, so it is important that we bring older customers up to date,” he said. “We don’t want to simply leave the software with customers – it is important that we have a connection with them so they get the most from the software.”

Ryan believes the email integration will prove to be vital to the software, just as the software’s other features are already changing the way installers manage their businesses.

“Take the Ops Dashboard as an example,” he said. “It provides an at-a-glance overview of the profitability. Many customers don’t view this kind of data until the end of the year because they are too busy on a day-to-day basis.

“My own company, Cherwell Windows, used to look at this information quarterly, but we now view it monthly, because I believe that while sales drive businesses, we don’t often understand profitability until further down the line. This means opportunities can be missed, as can information that can help businesses save money.”

However, there are areas that are out of the control of those who want to assert it. For example, communication with homeowners and other end-users can be fraught with difficulty if you don’t have the backing of the industry.

“The lockdown really changed the way all talked to each other within the industry,” Ryan said. “And that collaborative approach was really refreshing. When I started in the industry it often felt quite lonely. Whereas now, there is more of a community feel.

“Unfortunately, this is not reaching homeowners, and I think more can be done to help installers explain supply issues to those who ultimately pay for windows and doors.

“They may watch the news, but unless glass, hardware, or even PVC resin supply issues are specifically mentioned, then we can have a hard time convincing homeowners that the problems we are facing are widespread.”

That said, Business Pilot continues to evolve, and there are developments in the pipeline that should be of interest to the software’s users.

For example, a future update will allow installations to be Fensa registered without having to separately log in to the Fensa system. And another update will allow third-party pricing tools connect seamlessly with Business Pilot.

“It comes down to ease-of-use,” Ryan said. “You have to want to use it for it to work, and that is where we are with Business Pilot.”