Cloud-Based Software Helps Company GrowBy Bob Violino Print
Software for CHHJ's scheduling and franchising operations helps the firm provide better customer service and effectively support its growing franchise business.
By Bob Violino
College Hunks Hauling Junk (CHHJ), a moving and junk removal company with 43 franchises around the country, was experiencing numerous issues with a software system that the company was using to run its scheduling and franchising operations. The system was built on the assumptions and understandings of the business as it existed four years earlier, but, since that time, the company had grown exponentially and added lines of service.
CHHJ needed a system that could be flexible for its current additional service lines and also provide room for continued growth. So, like many other organizations, it has turned to a cloud-based solution.
When the original proprietary software was first commissioned from franchise management software provider Waterstreet Technology Group, CHHJ was solely a junk removal company. It has since added new and more complex businesses, such as moving customers' goods, and the older software system did not easily support these new lines. The company needed software that could collect different types of data and perform the various types of reporting that goes along with it.
"We were creating workarounds to force the system to do what we needed it to do, and that created problems," says Steven Nickels, national head coach and Long Island franchise partner at CHHJ. "It was hard to maintain consistency and standards, which are important in a franchise system."
Nickels, who is responsible for many of the IT operations at the company, interacts with CHHJ franchise owners on a regular basis and was able to identify many of the shortcomings of the software system. The company spent months creating a requirements document and then months more considering more than 50 different options available.
"One of the most important pieces was to understand that there were things we knew we needed, but we also wanted to build a system that was flexible," such as having the ability to support a new business line in the future, Nickels says. The software would have to support not only CHHJ's junk removal and moving businesses, but its franchise operations and call center as well.
Ultimately, the company turned to Waterstreet to rebuild the system from the ground up, based on input from CHHJ and its franchisees. It would host the software on Waterstreet's servers and provide access to CHHJ via the Web.
Nickels worked closely with the vendor to ensure that the new system would meet the needs of CHHJ and its franchise partners. He also gathered feedback from partners on what they needed.
"We needed the franchisees to be able to test the system prior to launch, then to launch the system and provide feedback," says Nick Friedman, co-founder and president of CHHJ.
After working out bugs in the system and addressing other development challenges that caused some delays, the final version was complete. CHHJ began training employees on the new system in March 2012, creating videos and printed documents that show how to perform specific functions. In June 2012, the company launched the new system.
Along with the new technology, CHHJ made changes in some of its business processes to enable better use of data and reporting."Because we did it a smarter way and re-evaluated our business processes, we're not only introducing the software, we're also launching change," Nickels says.
So far, the new system and processes have exceeded expectations for the company. It's difficult to calculate ROI on the technology because many of the benefits are intangible, Friedman says. The software provides vastly improved reporting on data gathered from customers and franchisees, enabling CHHJ to provide better customer service and more effectively support its growing franchise business.
"We've really grown the business from a beat-up cargo van and a note pad to a multi-truck, multi-franchise operation with a call center and a robust software system," Friedman says.
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