Service Firms – Use SharePoint Online to Stop Losing Potential Customers & Making Costly Initial Estimate Visits

This post is a result of an experience I just had in getting an estimate to repair my pool. It got me wondering why service firms need to send someone to give you an estimate when, in some or many cases, they can ask you to take a picture(s) of what you need done and either provide an estimate from them or use them for follow up questions and then an estimate.

My pool is Pebble Tec and about 16 years old. As you will see in the picture below, it has a crown around it and that crown has eroded in two place. Trying to find someone in the Phoenix area during the summer to do this type of repair is hard for two reasons: 1. They are very busy because it is the peak time. 2. It is a small job. I needed to make a lot a calls to find two contractors that were willing to give me an estimate. The first one told me it would be two weeks before someone could come out and give me an estimate. The second came out the next day, because they already had someone scheduled in the neighborhood, and provided me with the estimate. The second company seemed reasonable so I told them to schedule the work. Consequently, I cancelled the first contractor. After speaking with the second contractor it was evident to me that neither had to come out to give me an estimate, they could have done it from cell phone pictures and saved travel time and transportation. Also they could have figured out if they wanted the job, how long it would take, which employee would do it and when they could schedule it in. I would have been fine with this since it meant I did not need to hang around for the person that would do the estimate. So taking pictures would have made it easier on me and them.

I set up the simple SharePoint custom list below to track the opportunity and respond back to the prospect. When the perspective customer’s call comes in, the information can be entered and they can be asked to email pictures of the needed repairs.

The paper clips are the emailed pictures that are attached to the opportunity. In my case they looked like this:

 

I decided to do picture attachments instead of setting up a Custom SharePoint Picture column because I think in most instances a potential customer would have multiple pictures…a SharePoint Picture column can only reference one picture (of course you can have multiple columns but that can unwieldy). One drawback to attachments is that PowerApps do not support displaying attachments so you could not view the lead fully on a cell phone or tablet.

QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization

Here is a post update.

I have posted quite a bit on SharePoint and QuickBooks desktop integration and how both products can be used together. This post is on how QuickBooks Online(QBO) can or cannot integrate/work with SharePoint.

This post follows the same outline as the FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization post.

QuickBooks Online has 3 license plans: Simple Start for $13/month, Essentials for $27/month, and Plus for $40/month. The website has a comparison of features chart. The number of users that can access the application is 1, 3, and 5 respectively. This may be a hurdle for businesses that want full employee participation and communication.

Customer Synchronization

Like FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online does provide an example .CSV spreadsheet for importing clients. It also allows you to use Excel for customer import. Also like FreshBooks it requires client name on every row. If you have multiple contacts for a client, the result is the same client showing up multiple times after the import. Again like FreshBooks, you then need to delete all but one of the instances and then enter the contacts manually. So unless there is only one contact per client, you don’t want to be importing from a SharePoint list. You can export the Customer list to Excel so it is possible to sync SharePoint customer lists. Unlike the desktop version, the concept of types does not exist in the software. Meaning you can’t classify clients as commercial, residential, etc.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no equivalent of QuickBooks desktop’s “Jobs”. You need to setup a sub customer for a job or project. To quote their Help “jobs in QBO are not as fully functional as they are in desktop, in QBO a job is just a sub customer.” This sub customer alternative does not allow you to import project information from SharePoint or any other application. Importing project data into SharePoint from QBO is possible via a transaction report, invoice list, etc. but it is cumbersome at best.

Task Plan Synchronization

You can setup Activities in QBO and these can be used as Tasks. Activities can be classified under a Category so a two level hierarchy is possible. I found no way either importing or exporting Activity and Category in QBO. Thus keeping SharePoint and QBO would require maintaining information in both applications.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. Like the desktop version QBO does not have a timesheet import capability (meaning through standard features). It does provide a timesheet report that can be exported into Excel and then imported to a SharePoint site for reporting.

Billing

QBO does not provide an import capability for sales invoices. This means that you would need to enter all invoice manually. This is not an issue if you are not preparing invoices in SharePoint. You can export Invoice detail and summary data into Excel. Consequently, that allows you to import sales invoice data into SharePoint.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks desktop and SharePoint Online. QBO does not have the same custom reporting capabilities and no other easy way of either importing or exporting staff data. Consequently, staff data would need to be entered and maintained in both places.

Document Management

QBO has no document management capabilities. There is nothing comparable to the desktop’s Doc Center. See the post “QuickBooks Doc Center or SharePoint?” for discussion on when SharePoint document management capabilities vs Doc Center.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

QBO has limited import and export capabilities making synchronization between the two products difficult. CData’s Cloud Driver can be used with QuickBooks Online. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for information.

Bottom Line

Keep synchronization minimal between the two products. Use SharePoint for running your business and QBO for accounting.

NOTE: Also see post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Synchronization Revisited.