Inexpensive CRM Software for Energy Auditing & Sales

I am looking for feedback on any CRM software you may be using or familiar with that offer features which can be used to capture energy audit data for further retrofit work and marketing. A tool that allows the home  auditor to easily enter the data;- structure, insulation, HVAC, windows, energy usage, etc so we can easily develop targeted marketing ( example- homes with 6" attic insulation) to increase sales/awareness. Yes, there are many energy modeling and sales-to-quote packages out there- many have a high up-front cost and learning curve. I an looking for a inexpensive cloud (Internet host-based) solution for a small energy auditing company. I don't think I want to get into a full energy modeling package or complete integrated audit-to-quote package- simply the ability to capture key energy audit data with a easy to use interface and data extraction/query for targeted email or phone.

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I really like the combination of Google Apps and Zoho CRM as a Google app.  Zoho looks and feels very much like Salesforce.  The price is amazing.  Up to three users for free, then $25 a month for their Enterprise edition, per user

Jason Kaylor
VP of Specialty Products
AC Tool Supply
480-528-4045

I use Highrise which works pretty effectively for tracking leads and sales. It does not do anything regarding "the data" but it is great at understanding your sales pipeline. It is cloud based, compatible  with any email platform, and I believe free to try for one user. Here is the link:

http://highrisehq.com/

As far as energy modeling software, that's a whole different bag of beans. I would say that the type of model you need really depends on the sort of operation you run. At Clean Energy Coalition, I use REM/Design and REM/Rate. I have seen a nearby remodeling/energy performance contractor use RECurve very effectively. I also know that our mechanical contractors use proprietary software developed by equipment manufacturers. I would need to know more about your business model to give you more feedback.

Best of luck,

-Nick

My preference is the SWAG approach -that is Scientific Wild Ass Guess. Look at everything you can see when you do the room-to-room inspection. Do a CFM50 and duct blaster test. Scan the place for thermal bypasses and obvious (to the IR camera) anomalies.

Then, here comes the experience and cheapo genetic constitution of small home performance contractor shining through, address the obvious needs: the R-11 attic with can lights launching exfiltration rockets to rival North Korea and India, rusted-through ducts that crumble when ya touch them in the crawl space, 50% efficient oil-fired furnace, uninsulated exterior walls, penetrations in attic, exterior wall top plates, slab-to-sole plate cracks where bugs migrate and dust piles up on the Berber carpets, etc. Then consider what is available to be fixed, what you can fix and then simply prioritize the air sealing and insulation options, lighting options, appliance upgrades, etc and chat with the homeowner about how much they plan to spend to do the job right, how long they plan to live here, what their hot buttons are, etc.

Personally, I think the entire situation is beyond any possible accurate treatment by computers treating one issue (say, exfiltration in can lights) and then treating another (say attic insulation) and then a third (say, shot-ducts) and then arriving at a prioritized list. Throw into the mix something down-to-Earth like the wallet or willingness to open it and we have a cluster.

For the cost and hassle and known weakness of a computer-based prioritized listing, my take is we are better off being reasoning and reasonable interpreters of human nature. After a few thousand energy audits, retrofits and sales calls, we develop a sixth sense, and we are better at relating the possibilities than a computer. The picture reminds me of "Love the One You're With"

In my humble opinion in our business, we face waaay too many factors to be relying on 'hard data' when the decision is better influenced by soft skills such as empathy when the convergence of factors is so manifold as home performance retrofits and the issues faced by the homeowner. Ultimately the sale of our services rests on their perception of who is doing the work. Data is good, but the deal will come from the heart. Look and see and show and tell. Rely on what you know rather than a cloud-based program. They're buying YOU, not a computer program. Neither is perfect, but plain folks make better sense because of how you put it, what you see and plain old chemistry. Methinks the computer may have its place, but this ain't it, YET.

But with said, let's be clear. The computer apps available have gotten stronger and more flexible and are a saving grace. Let's say a savvy Homeowner says "Seal my house, insulate it, install ERV ventilation and then size my new SEER 19 Infinity dual compressor heat pump to handle the load. How much will it cost me like that, and how much would it cost if you seal it less tight than what would require the ERV, and how much savings, how long a payback, etc?" This client would get the computer printout replete with costing details, payback year, month, day and minute along with an ROI.

Sizing equipment by computer app based on hard data versus rules of thumb will win every argument, and keep you out of trouble; but SWAG on many facets of Home Performance with many clients is perhaps old-fashioned and un-hip, but is also quicker and enables a one-call audit, estimate and close in cases where a two-call process leaves the door open to competition that the missed one-call opportunity would have eliminated. Strike while the iron is hot.

'Get a job, plan your work and make a friend in one call' is better than 'audit, depart, input, tweak, print, drive back, discover competition showed up and got the job with a hand-written bill saying "Air-seal...$500, Insulate... $1500" '

I agree with Jason. Zoho CRM is amazing and cheap. You can also easily use their web-to-contact function to create a form on your website to contact you, which will automatically create a new contact record. I actually used this to get a full profile of a home when you schedule an audit. I would send the link to the customer when they set the appointment and they just fill it out and it creates a new contact with all the data. It was pretty easy to create industry specific customer fields for your contact records, then connect them to your web form. Each of my new customers was now fully profiled with their priorities(savings, comfort, environmental etc), home data, Mechanical details...basically anything you want to know.

After a year, I was easily able to look at the data and find exact percentages of what the top priorities were for my customers going into an audit. You also know what to sell them on, before entering their house. For my business it happened to be:

Stated 1st Priority

    Conservation of Resources       48%
    Energy Bill Reduction               41%
    Comfort                                    4%

    Ice Dams                                  7%

Stated 2nd Priority

    Energy Bill Reduction               41%
    Conservation of Resources        26%
    Comfort                                    24%
    Ice Dams                                   7%
    Indoor Air Quality                        2%

Great program....support can be tough. Company is India based and the reps have really bad English. Helps if you are tech savy if you want to really use the advanced features of the program to get the most out of it. If you just doing basics, you can probably get by with the tutorials and e-mail support.





I even created additional web forms for internal use so you didn't even have to log on to Zoho. You can then customize the data set you want for certain functions as a minimum, and not have to wade through all the fields you sometimes or never use. Then data entry becomes as simple as placing a link on your web browser to your form and filling it out and hitting submit.

If you integrate Google Apps on to your domain then you can also login in to Zoho via the Gmail app.  Then all your emails are also tracked within Zoho.  With Apps on your domain it still shows your email going out how it does now. IE:  john_smith@XYZcorp.com.  Plus there are some other Google business apps that can also be integrated like mail marketing programs, etc that will also get tracked.  

As you say, if you have some know how (mainly how to make a flow chart) then Zoho is for you.  The tech that you talk about isn't really all that intensive.  The forms are mostly drop and drag, etc.  

We use it's workflow ability quite a bit.  You can get really in depth and actually have it auto email people after so many days, then if that doesn't get a call, it can set a task for a phone call, or whatever.  You might also want to make a follow up form for your customer.  Set up a workflow rule to follow up a couple of days after you are done (change status to make to make it execute) then it will auto email a form for them to fill out for a Q&A type of thing and also possible introduce more products, services, or whatever.  

It is amazing how much more revenue you can generate with a CRM via additional sales, customer services (leads to referrals, etc) and via saving time.  

You could also auto workflow those forms you already made to have the follow up automatic or at least it creates a task for you with a reminder via email or pop up, to follow up with a phone call.  

If any of you guys decide to go down this path or just have more questions about Zoho feel free to call and I can share what I know.....just too much to write down in a post.

Jason Kaylor

VP of Specialty Products

AC Tool Supply

480-528-4045

Good input Jason, sounds like you guys are as big of tinkerers as I am. We also connected our google apps account to Zoho. It was great to be able to have a list of all email communication with a customer, right in their CRM contact record. Good idea to log phone calls with notes also, so there is a full communication log - a lawyers dream if any nasty lawsuits were ever to surface, god forbid.

Hi Craig and thank you for your reply..

What struck me in your customer priority needs is conservation first with comfort being a very low priority- which we have found to be the complete opposite... Even the BPI website lists comfort first...Which is the challenge we all face in developing effective marketing for that much needed energy work. CRM is a effective tool to help us better understand the home environment data but as an example, Insulation??? yea, I know I need more and the payback analysis may look good.. but the granite countertop gets the priorty spending. So we pitch comfort...

We are looking a Zoho as well as solve 360 which got some attention in Baltimore last month.

Jose - You will often find comfort as the first priority. I believe the reason our customer base was energy conservation first is due to demographics. This business was run in Flagstaff, AZ. It is a very environmentally conscious community in a college town. I guess you would call it a "granola" community. Lots of original hippies and college professors. Our marketing strategy was also community outreach and grassroots oriented. We did zero advertising, so we interacted with a lot of greenies and were ourselves.

I didn't gather these numbers until about one year and I think it covered over 100 people getting audits. I was actually surprised by the numbers for comfort. I think often times people just turn up the thermostat until they are comfortable, so unless their houses are so bad that they can't even properly heat/cool them their issue shows up as a money issue rather than comfort.

Was that E3?  

I lived in Flagstaff during my college years.  Love that place.  You are not kidding about the environmentally consciousness of that town.  I hope to move back someday...stuck in the valley...going to be 104 tomorrow and 106 on Sunday...UGH!

Jason Kaylor

VP of Specialty Products

AC Tool Supply

480-528-4045

Jason - It is Regroup Performance Contracting. It was established in 2008 and merged with an existing general contractor in 2010. It is still operating out of Flagstaff today....great company.

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