Telstra increasing sales for tradies
While telcos usually target large enterprises for business apps and technology, Telstra has gone one step further and is creating a tech platform keeping tradespersons in mind. They have partnered with Master Builders to create an app for independent contractors that lets them manage jobs, order parts, service customers, conduct safety checks, and control billing – all via a simple touchscreen interface. Telstra aims to combine technical expertise with industry knowledge to deliver a digital solution that is both innovative and practical.
SMB market ready for digitisation
Telcos have recently begun to recognise that small and medium businesses are driving economic growth in Australia. Apart from partnering with different business apps for mobile devices, telcos are also collaborating with other tech companies to make technology solutions readily available to SMBs. For example, Vodafone recently included Square, a low-cost point of sale device, as part of the Vodafone Red deal, primarily aimed at mobile operators to collect payments easily. Similarly, Telstra, too, is recognising the largely untapped market of ‘mum and dad’ small business operators who need IT assistance more than the bigger companies.
Digitisation of business means using automation to make business processes more efficient. It could be as simple as automatically emailing a thank you note to customers once payment is received to systems that automatically order parts once they finish or reschedule customer appointments even while the tradesperson is busy on another job. Telstra aims to create such a game-changing solution that will let business owners thrive even in the competitive price market of trade.
Telstra adapting existing technologies
There are literally thousands of apps and solutions available for small and large businesses. For example,
- Xero – An accounting and book keeping software that lets users issue invoices, claim expenses, calculate GST and manage all their finances in one place.
- Office 365 – A communication tool that lets you manage your email, contacts, calendar, files and more from a single place.
- Act Essentials – A marketing tool that lets you survey clients, collect data and translate it into insightful action that grows your business.
However, 99% of these apps are inaccessible to tradespersons because:
- Lack of business or technical knowledge needed to be aware of or use such apps.
- High cost and steep learning curve, which means no immediate return of investment.
- Creates an additional time drain instead of assisting tradies as they go about their business. Adds more to their to-do list.
- Most of them offer way more functionality than what a sole trader needs. It is like chopping a small log of wood with an industrial chainsaw and no good tradesman would go into a job with the wrong tools.
Telstra is adapting these technologies to suit a tradesperson’s particular situation, so it can be used on the go, automation is intuitive and quick to set up and the app interface is akin to online technology the tradie is already comfortable with. To facilitate this, Telstra is doing a lot of groundwork and user study.
Extensive research needed for technology adoption
A technology solution must be strictly user focussed for it to really work and be accepted by the intended market. You cannot have something developed by technologists in a glass building who have no understanding of the ground reality. To bridge the gap between their desk bound software engineers and a mobile tradie operator, Telstra sent out its app development team to experience the tradie life. Every member of the Telstra team spent a month each with a plumber or an electrician, making notes about what they do from six in the morning to ten at night – observing their entire work day, their paperwork and all the accompanying challenges. First hand observation of the long hours, 24/7 availability expectations from clients and the one-man-army doing everything from marketing and operations to admin and finance, gave them deep insights into the technology needs of their intended audience.
Telstra has SMB expertise
Telstra has been focussing on SMBs for the last year, with ten apps already streamlined for the market. Some apps with functionality similar to the tradie platform, which Telstra has already developed, include:
Squirrel Street – This app scans and extracts relevant information from receipt photographs. It can also sort receipts into common tax categories such as transport and amenities. This app helps with accurate capture of receipt and expense information and sharing of this with accountants and financial planners. All extracted data is fully searchable and can be accessed using the web interface or mobile apps, greatly reducing administration efforts.
Geoop – This app assists in managing jobs, quotes and invoices so more time is available for operations. It creates, assigns, quotes and invoices jobs on the go, letting SMBs track their workers and assign those geographically closest to a job. The app empowers workers to create and send quotes, fill in job details and obtain signatures digitally, improve overall productivity and efficiency of the organisation.
Telstra aims to add similar functionality and more to the tradesperson platform.
What can tradespersons expect?
- The platform will launch at the end of 2017 for around 50 Master Builders members on a limited release basis, with a broader launch for its 32,000 members across the nation towards the end of the fiscal year.
- The solution is targeting sole traders and small businesses with three to five employees, initially aimed at plumbers and electricians only.
- The product will be scaled and deployed, with more features and more customers added overtime.
- The platform will cost around the sub-AU$100 mark, including carriage plans, a licence for the app, and the actual devices, which would be a tablet or smartphone.
- No locked in contracts for app usage as Telstra wants to offer customers flexibility during the trial period.
- Installation and ongoing support will be available to all customers.
- The app will be available to everyone, not just existing Telstra customers.