Ellis Air Systems

Ellis Air Systems Case Study

Overview

Locations
Killeen, Texas, USA  and Temple, Texas, USA

Industries
Residential and commercial heating and cooling systems

Services
HVAC equipment and air purifier sales and installations, maintenance and repair of all major brands, custom ductwork, duct cleaning; attic installation, and lifetime workmanship warranties

Field Technicians
75

About Ellis Air Systems

Founded in 1988, Ellis Air Systems is a family-owned HVAC business serving residential and commercial customers in four central-Texas counties. With a family member heading each department, Ellis Air makes old-fashioned customer service its top priority.

The company’s commitment to its customers has been reciprocated with their loyalty, as evidenced by the many 5-star ratings Ellis Air receives from them. Reviewers “praise Ellis Air Systems for its incredible service and honest pricing,” noted a national site that grades service businesses.

Ellis Air Systems’ mission is to provide the right mix of equipment and services to keep its customers comfortable year-round in their homes and businesses. The company’s management, however, became increasingly uncomfortable with how its core systems were supporting that mission.

In 2020, Ellis Air took action and implemented NextService and NetSuite to give its technicians and office personnel the tools they need to excel.

Ellis Air Woman and Man in Hard Hats for Rooftop Installation

Business Challenges

Ellis Air Systems has three teams of technicians. One group handles new installations of systems and ductwork. A start-up crew follows up on new installations to check all system operations, ensuring both AC and heat are functioning properly. The third group is the service technicians who perform scheduled maintenance, make needed repairs, and alert customers when systems need to be replaced.

Before implementing NextService and NetSuite, the company was using a hodgepodge of software products, spreadsheets, and manual processes to create work orders and capture technicians’ notes of what they did on field service calls. To produce customer invoices and financial reports, office personnel transcribed the notes and entered them into a decades-old small business accounting system.

The cumbersome mix of processes and siloed software caused multiple problems:

  • Redundant data entry
  • Tedious efforts to obtain missing information
  • Slow billing
  • Lost revenue because installers sometimes forgot to inform the office of jobs they had performed on weekends

Karen Welsch, Director of Operations for Ellis Air Systems and its sister companies, had considered a field service software package that would tie into the old accounting system. The vendor spent several days trying to demonstrate how invoicing would work, but that experiment “failed miserably,” she said. “We concluded our old software just wasn’t adequate anymore.”

Once Welsch received management’s approval to replace the old systems and processes, she began looking for a single centralized system to streamline field service functions for Ellis Air, as well as financial management functions for all the affiliated companies.

“Field service was a very manual process. We would manually produce a work order for each new job. Our techs would bring their notes of service calls to the office, and then we would enter the notes and print them out as the source of information needed for billing. There was a lot of back-and-forth dialogs between me and the techs for clarification and completing items not filled out. It was a constant battle to get the information we needed.”

~ Karen Welsch, Director of Operations for Ellis Air Systems

Ellis Air Two Men in Hard Hats for Ceiling Installation

Why Ellis Air Chose NetSuite + NextService

Welsch evaluated several systems to accommodate Ellis Air’s current and future requirements. She selected NetSuite and NextService because of their tight integration, robust capabilities, and ease of use.

Ellis Air Systems is one of several businesses owned by the Ellis family. All the affiliates are now using NetSuite for accounting and financial reporting. Consolidated reports can be done seamlessly for all the affiliates without logging into different systems.

$24,000 a recent multi-property invoice produced in minutes for a large company

Welsch also led the implementation of the new systems, which went “live” in November 2020. “The NextService team has been amazing,” she said. “They addressed a lot of issues and answered all our questions. They helped me find solutions when some workarounds were needed.”

Welsch plans to phase in many features of NextService as technicians become more familiar with the system and receptive to using it. Her ultimate goal for NetSuite and NextService is to eliminate paperwork for all field technicians and installers, and to improve information accessibility for the office staff.

Ellis Air Man and Woman in Hard Hats for Rooftop Installation

Business Impact

Field service

Immediately after implementation, Ellis Air began seeing results.

A large percentage of Ellis Air’s service calls occur after hours and on weekends. This means technicians go to these jobs “on the fly” without work orders.

Before NextService was implemented, when technicians returned to the office, they often couldn’t remember precisely what they had done a day or two before. Consequently, records were incomplete until office personnel could extract essential information from the technicians. This situation caused inaccurate reports and billing delays.

Even worse, the company learned that some work performed on weekends had never been reported. “When we add up unreported installations, system changeouts, service calls, and duct cleanings, we were likely missing up to $30,000 a year in revenue,” said Welsch.

Welsch came up with a solution to get information about all after-hours jobs into NextService. Technicians can now create their own cases by simply clicking on a plus sign in the NextService mobile app and entering customer information and job notes. If the job is not a current customer, the office staff can easily transfer data from the after-hours record into a new customer record.

So far, Ellis Air has created two custom forms with NextService to further improve efficiency and reduce paperwork. One is a checklist for the start-up crew, and the other is a checklist used mainly by service technicians for spring and fall maintenance calls. The checklists make it easier for technicians to ensure all tasks are completed during the first visit, reducing the need for return visits, and resulting in higher customer satisfaction rates.

“I recommended NetSuite and NextService because they would give us a truly integrated, all-in-one solution. We were impressed with how easy it is to keep track of jobs completed and to get the information needed in real-time. We can immediately see exactly what was done and easily get bills out to customers.”

~ Karen Welsch

Scheduling and Dispatching

Dispatching technicians to service calls has improved tremendously, Welsch noted. Ellis Air Systems has trackers on its vehicles, but those only show a vehicle’s current location—not its destination while in route, what the job entails, or how long the job is expected to take.

With NextService, dispatchers have a color-coded visual display of where all technicians are geographically located. They can see whether a job is a short maintenance call or a repair that may take hours to complete. For upcoming jobs, they can tell the technician what parts to take on the truck. At a glance, the dispatcher can determine which technicians should be assigned to new jobs as they open.

“We were printing out everything—the job when it goes to the dispatcher; the work order; and the work order again at job completion with the tech’s notes added. With NextService, we have reduced printing by at least 50%. And for dispatching and scheduling operations, we have improved efficiency by 85%.”

~ Karen Welsch

85% the efficiency achieved in scheduling and dispatching

Billing and Cash Flow

NextService enables large accounts to be billed sooner and more accurately, thereby improving cash flow.

As an example, Welsch cited a real estate customer that expects to receive its invoice by the first or second workday of each month. “We get 20 to 30 jobs a month on their properties, so if we have all billable work up-to-date, the bill can be $15,000 or more,” she said. “Last month it was $24,000—which was a huge increase for us. NextService makes it easy to capture all the billable jobs and get these complex bills out right away. I can invoice the customer in just a few minutes, and we usually get paid within a week after they get the statement.”

Due to the company’s rapid growth, Welsch added a new person to take over billing so she could focus on HR, payroll, and reporting duties. “NextService is intuitive to use, and that makes onboarding a new employee so much easier,” she said.

“The back office has benefited immensely from NextService. I’m able to get things done much quicker. I estimate we have increased our efficiency by 65%.”

~ Karen Welsch

65% the estimated increase in back-office efficiency

Future Plans for NextService

NextService will soon be solving a major financial problem for Welsch. “We have probably been losing more than $10,000 a year in revenue due to unbilled installations. That happens when installers perform jobs but didn’t tell the office,” she explained. “So, it has been a guessing game—we don’t know if billing was missed because an installer didn’t turn in the paperwork. Once installers are using the NextService mobile app, their job notes will flow into NextService automatically.”

Welsch is also planning to exploit more NextService capabilities, including:

  • Implementing additional checklists
  • Tracking field inventory
  • Using NextService data to monitor and improve first-time-fix rates

“The NextService team has been wonderful to work with. They have gone above and beyond to customize the service to accommodate our company’s unique needs. The team is friendly and very responsive. I just love the fact that we were not abandoned after the implementation was complete. The product works great and integrates with NetSuite flawlessly.”

~ Karen Welsch

$30,000 estimated revenue lost annually from unreported jobs

Key Business Outcomes for Ellis Air Systems

Since implementing NetSuite and NextService in the fall of 2020, Ellis Air Systems has slashed paperwork and improved the productivity of service technicians, dispatchers, and office staff. This table summarizes the challenges Ellis Air faced and the results the company achieved in one year—with more planned for 2022.

Challenges Outcome with NextService
The productivity of all involved in field service and billing was bogged down by excessive paperwork.

NextService streamlined the flow of information between the field, the dispatcher, and the back office. Printing has been cut in half. The billing process is 65% more efficient.

Dispatching and scheduling operations were hampered by a lack of automated support. NextService has improved scheduling and dispatching efficiency by 85%.
Information supplied by technicians for after-hours work required tedious special handling. A new process captures technicians’ notes efficiently, flows the information into NextService, and triggers the creation of records for new customers. The new process virtually eliminates the chance of losing revenue from unreported jobs.
Field service management was largely reliant on technicians’ hand-written notes of the work they performed. Technicians enter their job notes into NextService via the mobile app. Office personnel spend much less time trying to decipher and transcribe job notes.
Billing was slow and cumbersome for multi-job accounts. Complex invoices for large customers can now be produced in a few minutes.