Expectations of restoration contractors have been changing for several years, and we are facing a tipping point where fast is no longer fast enough — real-time is all that matters. With most of the major brands implementing real-time technology across North America and beyond, the bar is continuing to rise for all others who have yet to implement a real-time technology and culture. This article explores the case for transitioning to a real-time culture, including the challenges and benefits one can expect.

A Real-Time Culture

A real-time culture is one that relies heavily on communication from all areas of the restoration process through automation as well as the recording and sharing of data at the point at which it happens. In other words, a technician digitally gathers information in the field and the system he or she uses triggers a series of notifications, updates, adjustments to dashboards, and movement of information across third party platforms in real-time. Just as we consume news from around the globe through Twitter, Facebook, and other services as events happen, so should a real-time restoration contractor be able to collect and share what is happening on a jobsite in real-time. A real-time culture operates in a paperless environment where all involved can instantly see updates across the company.

Why Real-Time

Aside from all of the operational efficiencies, the strongest argument for implementing a real-time culture is the competitive landscape that is emerging. The entire industry is running the race to real-time, and those who are not in the race need to quickly join before they are too far behind to catch up. Most contractors know real-time is the end goal, but some are not prioritizing the transition. The concept seems simple enough to implement, but the shift takes time, and expecting to make the transition overnight is not practical so time is of the essence. Beyond the market drivers, there are tangible benefits to operating real-time. Contractors consistently report the following benefits from being real-time:

  •  Increased profit and capacity
  • Decrease in staff stress
  •  Increase in customer satisfaction
  • Carrier programs are easier to manage
  • Increased visibility into the business
  • Faster decision-making

Transitioning to Real-Time:

The transition is not easy at first, but contractors who have made the transition say the pain is well worth it. Successful transitions have several things in common:

  • Transitions that start with and are driven from the top generally succeed: One consistent element of a successful transition is owners who are the first to adopt the technology, who drive the company to make the change, and who ensure their teams are properly outfitted with the necessary and required tools.
  • Staff understand why real-time is important: Because there is temporary pain associated with the transition, it is critical that your team understands why the pain is worth it. If they understand the vision and the reasoning behind the direction, they are happier during the transition and less likely to sabotage it.
  • Manage the change: Like any major change, the better the change is managed, the higher the likelihood that change will be successful. The transition to real-time can be a dramatic shift for some, especially those who are less likely to use technology in their personal lives. It is important for these individuals to feel safe and supported while they learn the new reality. Most resistance comes out of fear, and calling that fear out into the open is an effective strategy for combatting that resistance.
  • Burn the boats: There are several stories where great things were accomplished by removing any options for retreat. Most contractors who at first struggled to transition to real-time report that change only happened once all hope of return to the old operating style was removed. Your team must feel safe during the change but should have no hope of going backwards. That hope is the enemy of progress.

Next Steps

If you are wondering how to get started, here are a few steps you can take to follow a successful path to implementing a real-time culture:

  • Drive the change, but don’t do it alone: We know owners who drive the change have a higher success rate, but going it alone is not the quickest route. Form a small core group that will help drive the change. Make sure they understand and agree with the end goal, the reasons why, and are willing to endure the pain to make the transition.
  • Be well-equipped: This is one of the most important overhauls you will make in your business, and saving pennies will cost you dollars in the long run. This transition will most likely require new hardware, software, and training, and you get what you pay for. Saving money on lesser tools will either result in failure or the need to upgrade down the line. In both outcomes, going with the right solution out of the gate would have been well worth it.
  • Training and long-term support is key: Especially with software, the strength of the initial implementation and training is a key variable in the ultimate success. Understand your options and focus on the implementation process and on-going support when choosing a software partner. Failure is more expensive than investing in the onboarding process.
  • Follow the process: Never do an end-run around the implementation process of a software partner. If a process is engineered for your success, don’t assume you are different and modify the process. Most who do this end up initially failing and restarting the process down the line.

The Time for Real-Time is Now

Know it or not, if you are not the one in your market driving towards real-time, someone else is. Soon those who are not sprinting towards a real-time culture will find catching up to those who are more and more difficult. 

More importantly, there is a world of benefits that accompanies a real-time culture, and companies that make the transition are happy they persevered through the pain to reap the rewards. Make the move to real-time with appropriate expectations and a team to help drive the change. Project a strong sense of purpose, direction, and a clear mandate towards progress. 

Choose your technology wisely and don’t let cost be the driving factor in the decision. The costs associated with making the wrong choice are higher than the initial price tag. There will be no better time to start down this path than now, and the sooner the journey starts, the sooner the benefits materialize.