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To Buy or Not to Buy

To buy or not to buy, that is the question! As pest companies begin the transition from paper route sheets to mobile applications, the question becomes, "should we buy the phones or should the tech use their own." Unfortunately, there is not a perfect answer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and the answer lies with the goals and comfort level in your business.

The good news is that you have a choice. We now live in a world where we don't have to purchase the $2,000 handheld device that stops working every time it rains. The mobile apps of today work on the smartphones that we already have in our pocket.


Buy - The Company Buys the Device

The most significant advantage of issuing a company device is that it is easier to support. While that does not sound like much, it can truly save time (and the sanity) of the person in your company that is supporting the mobile users. By supplying the device, you can control the type of equipment that is purchased as well as the automatic updates of the operating system. If all techs are using the same device and updating it as they should, answering questions and troubleshooting issues can be a lot less painful.

The disadvantage to the company supplying the devices is the cost. Both in the upfront money that you must shell out to purchase them and the ongoing data charges. The average iPhone or Samsung device can cost $800 or more. One of the ways that you can deal with the cost of purchasing the phones is to negotiate with the phone company. Mobile companies can negotiate with businesses much easier than they can with the general consumer. Most also offer older models (less than a year old) at significantly reduced costs. Just remember that you don't have to buy the latest and greatest to get a quality mobile device in the tech's hands.

A concern that many companies have is how the tech will treat the company issued device. What happens when they damage or break it? What if they use too much data? There is a way to deal with these concerns. Have the tech sign a policy at the time you issue the phone. Knowing they will have to pay for a broken device or data overages usually makes the tech think twice before watching a movie or tossing the device into their truck.


Not to Buy - Use the Tech's Smartphone

One of the benefits, and it's a big one, of using the techs existing smartphone is the cost. It's an inexpensive and quick way to get tech's more automated in the field. Many companies include a monthly reimbursement to the techs for the data and phone minutes they are using while working. The reimbursement is typically a flat amount added to the tech's paycheck each month. Since phone and data plans are so robust these days, a small amount for the tech usually offsets any costs they might incur.

Another advantage is that the tech is already proficient at using their device and won't have to learn how to operate something new and different. iOS and Android work differently. If the tech is using an iPhone for everyday personal use, jumping onto an Android device for field work may be challenging.

The disadvantage of the tech using their smartphone is that you are limited to the device that the tech already owns. While some people in today's world upgrade their smartphones every time the newest model comes out, others hang on to their mobile device for years (yes, flip phones are still out there). If the mobile device is too old, and your software company does not support the operating system, the tech may not be able to run the mobile application.

One thing to consider when using the tech's phone is that they are responsible for the maintenance. From a cost standpoint, this seems appealing. However, that also means that the tech is responsible for keeping the operating system up to date as well as turning on location services. Some techs might prefer not to run updates while others may not be comfortable turning on location services. Since both play a role in the functionality of the mobile app, you may experience more support questions or frustration from techs that do not keep their phones up to date.


Other Things to Consider

While cost is the biggest driver of both options, there are a couple of other things to consider before making a decision. One is scanning. If you are scanning bait stations, such as Sentricon, you might consider a device that has a built-in scanner. A single unit will make scanning easier on the tech, rather than juggling a mobile device and a separate Bluetooth scanner.

Also, if your tech spends a lot of time graphing, a tablet might be a better option than a standard smartphone. While 7 Mobile has graphing functionality on a standard smartphone, it is much easier and faster to graph using a tablet. The additional real estate that you get with a tablet can make a big difference to the tech using it.


Which One is Better?

So, which one is better? Usually, a company tends to lean one way or the other. Before deciding on an option, check the hardware and operating system requirements for your mobile application. The specifications could be a determining factor.

If you are still unsure, remember that you can always start by using the tech's smartphones. Once you start recognizing the efficiencies and cost savings that mobile apps can bring, you can always upgrade and begin supplying the devices.


Monica Stewart
Chief Operating Officer
Key 7 Software


Create more efficiency with your team today by using Key 7 Software's pest management software. 7 Software features 7 Mobile, a mobile app that allows your techs to log service while in the field. Schedule a live demo today!

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