Quality software is defined, primarily, by design precepts, rock solid data structures, and functions specific to their industry. Today we are looking at an example of this last quality.

Although we could list dozens of core functions that good pest control software should provide, we will focus only on a few, and only one at a time. These short discussions are designed to help pest control companies become more informed when selecting software to use. This note represents one installment in an occasional series. To read others in this series, look for “(Intro to Software)” in the title.

In the early days of pest control software, work orders, tickets, service orders, and invoices were all considered the same thing. Most represented work needed to be done. Of them, ‘Work Orders’ has become perhaps the most widely used name. But what about Invoices? Are they the same thing? No, Invoices have grown to represent something different. An Invoice is something created to request a payment. Typically, it would be for work completed, but it also could be for some purchased product, like sticky traps or ant bait. As software became more refined through time, most software packages began to separate these two concepts because of the power this separation provides.

In brief, Work Orders represent work you intend to do, and Invoices most commonly represent work you have done and need to be paid for.

Another way to look at these two concepts, is that WOs are for scheduling and the assignment of work. Their ‘job’ is to insure that the work gets done in a timely fashion.  Invoices, on the other hand, are for tracking payments. Their ‘job’ is to insure we get paid for the work we did and for products we provided. You can also look into Employee Retirement Income Security Act to know about this scheme in detail.

This means that Schedule Books and Route Sheets look into work orders (WOs). Or, more accurately, uncompleted WOs.  Good software allows you to see schedules for any day or week, for each tech, and just as important, a daily view into the work that didn’t get done yesterday and before. Well managed companies pay close attention to the work that remains uncompleted at days end, so it can be rescheduled. Scheduled work that is left undone for whatever reason, is essentially revenue lost. When a WO needs to be rescheduled, it is a simple matter of changing its date or tech. Again, this is easy and possible if invoices and WOs are kept separate.

What about invoices? These simply exist to feed your accounts receivable system, and for the long-term record keeping of sales and the details of the products applied. But don’t think ‘simply’ implies little value. Your historical invoices will become your most valuable digital assets. (More on that in a future blog. Watch for “Mining your Data”.)

So how does any good software use these two concepts on a day-by-day basis? When a customer needs service, you’ll create a WO, putting it on the schedule. When its service date arrives (or more typically the day before), the WO is printed along with that day’s route sheet, (a single technician daily summary). Next, the invoice is created by your software after the technician returns to the office or, as the WOs or Route Sheets print. Regardless of the software you use, you will create WOs to place the job on the Schedule Book. And, the invoice will be created just before or right after the work is completed. In most cases, the software will automatically create matching invoices for you. In PestaRoo, the matching invoices are created at the same instant the route sheets are printed.

Now for a couple key details to tie things together. Knowing which WOs are completed (and which are not) is critical information to be watched. So how does your software know when a WO has been completed? Well, at the end of day you techs will turn in their WO’s. On those WO’s they will have indicated what products were used and their quantities. This is legally required. They also will have noted the amount of charge, and any future scheduling needs. In the office, these hand written notes will be put onto the matching invoice and lastly it will be posted with a single click. This posting of the invoice ‘tells’ the matching WO that the work was completed. And any reports on products used, sales per tech or area, customer statistics will always be based upon the invoice data.

What about the use of Mobile clients to save on paperwork? Yes, they are wonderful! The technician put their product usage and future scheduling needs into the Mobile app, meaning the office people no longer need to re-enter hand written notes. This is a HUGE time saver. (More on that in a future blog. Watch for “Mobile Devices”.)

When you think more about work orders and invoices, you’ll quickly realize there are many situations when they aren’t necessarily related on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps they are in some industries, but not in pest control. There will be product-only invoices with no work order, and some work orders that will not have invoices. For example, you might have a weekly invoice for bug lamp light servicing, but 3 work orders every week auto-created by your PreSched system so that the tech knows to do the inspection each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Good software in the pest control industry will always keep Work Orders and Invoices separate.

The focus of this blog, www.PestProfits.com is focused on helping you build your pest control profits. How does the separation of WOs and Invoices lead to higher profits? It turns out that managing uncompleted work is one of the things that most companies do not do well at. A sad but common rule of thumb is that 10% of scheduled WOs don’t get completed. The job of good management (and good software) is to reduce this percent to lower numbers. By carefully separating WOs and Invoices, your service scheduling software can instantly give you visual feedback of how the day’s work is progressing. In the morning, all work will be uncompleted. As the day progresses, the count of ‘open’ Work Orders will slowly drop to zero. In an ideal world, we would reach zero every evening or perhaps early the next morning. When the last posting work is completed next morning, the uncompleted work orders from the previous day will have reached zero! And since the Invoice is created automatically and separate from the Work Order, a lost or thrown away WO in the field… will still show up as a discrepancy in the office….