Detailed Product Overview

This is a detailed overview for ServiceDesk. It's lengthy but well worth the read.

Imagine a customer calls for service, you begin typing in their name, and instantly, you see a list referencing every job you've done for them.  Then, with a mere click, you see the history of each job.  Or, with a different click, you instantly insert the customer's entire information set (i.e., full name, address, telephone numbers, etc.) into your on-screen, call-taking form.

But it gets better than this, for with one more click, you instantly see a map showing your entire service territory, with every job for the day displayed in its correct location, color-keyed for the tech assigned, route lines drawn between, times indicated, etc.  And, the present caller's location is also displayed!  Thus, it's a simple matter to determine how to most conveniently schedule them.

Science fiction?  Hardly.  Major corporations have had capabilities like this for years.  Of course, they spend millions for the custom software that makes it possible.  For little folk, such expenditures are not an option, so we've been limited to mass market software that addresses mere auxiliary needs, things like accounting, word processing, database management, and maybe parts lookup or flat-rate access -- not the actual operating processes, common to any service call oriented business, of things like call-taking, scheduling, dispatch, and managing job performance.

Obviously, there's a reason only major corporations have had these capabilities.  They're hard to create, especially in a software that fits more than one particular business.  Indeed, for a specific business's peculiar operating needs, the mass-market approach is helpless.

The solution?  More than merely being tailored to your needs, ServiceDesk -- like any major corporation software -- is customized, on a package by package basis, for your own unique situation.  The only difference: we make such customization affordable.  To learn more, read on, and be amazed at the power now within your grasp.

Ease of Use

Satisfying the first proper requirement for any software, ServiceDesk is easy -- even for computer illiterates.  Unlike a few packages that peripherally compete (written in clumsy DOS), ServiceDesk was written in Windows from the ground up.  Thus, displays are highly graphic, colorful, and rich with data, complimenting a user interface that's intuitive, natural and simple.  Commands may be accessed, at your option, either by mouse, on-screen command button, or quick keys, and ServiceDesk is designed to contemplate your needs, taking actions for youwhen circumstances suggest.

Managing Calls

If your business is still taking calls the old-fashioned way, you must have some kind of pad, kept near the phone, where your call-taker writes down the name, telephone number and other information taken from customers calling for assistance. It's obvious how this process works when using pen and paper, but what about when using a computer?

ServiceDesk provides a specific form for taking calls, named the Callsheet.  Indeed, it provides four Callsheets to a screen-page (allowing you to see and use more information at once), on as many pages as you care to use.  Upon receiving a call, your task is no more complicated than to move (using any of several instant methods) to the first unused Callsheet.  Here, you'll find your cursor already positioned in the correct place for typing in the caller's name.  Hit Enter and you'll be in position to begin typing the address.  If no address is wanted, hit Enter twice again and you'll be in position to type a telephone number.  Continue the sequence as you move into positions to type the kind of product (or situation) needing service, it's make, a description of the problem or request, and an appointment time if appropriate.

One thing to be assured of, each Callsheet has space for any kind of information that might conceivably be needed -- including space for multiple telephone numbers, along with a second section for additional name, address, and telephone numbers in case you have a billing name and location that's different from the service name and location.

All this information can be entered in mere seconds, each item in its appropriate place, and with the greatest ease. Indeed ServiceDesk assist you in the process in a variety of of ways.

Suppose, for example, it's a customer who's used you before.  This being the case, their entire name, address, telephone number, and so on, will already be in your CustomerDatabase (having gone there automatically when entered previously in the ServiceDesk context).  As you begin typing the name, ServiceDesk will recognize its match within the Database, and will immediately display a list showing the match (along with any others that also fit with whatever characters you've so far typed).  As you see this, you might note the address listed, then ask your caller: "Do you still live at 123 Somerset Lane?"  As your caller confirms, you can simply click on the listing, and the customer's entire name, address and telephone number set will insert instantly into your Callsheet.  You didn't have to query the customer again for the info, nor did you have to type it in a second time, having done it once already perhaps a few years ago.

Of course, you might make the mistake of spelling your old customer's name differently this time, in which case ServiceDesk will fail to bring up a reference to the previous job.  No worry.  As you begin typing in the address, there's another chance for a match, and similarly, as you begin typing in the telephone number. ServiceDesk watches the entire time, to see if at any moment it can reference a previous job.

Let's suppose in this case it's a customer you've never serviced -- so ServiceDesk shows no matches as you're typing information into the Callsheet.  That doesn't mean it can't still help.  As you're typing in the street name, in particular, there's another list ServiceDesk can reference: a unique list of streets within your service area.  This is a list we custom-create for you, here at RossWare, as part of your ServiceDesk package. As you begin typing the customer's street name, ServiceDesk looks for matches within this list.  As it finds them, it will instantly display a list below where you're typing. Alphabetically displayed within it will be a listing of all the streets, with city references, zip codes and so forth, that match whatever sequence of characters you've typed.  This list updates instantly with each of your keystrokes.  Thus, you need only enter as many characters as needed until you see the street name you're seeking, then select it, at which point ServiceDesk will insert the entire name, together with it's map grid reference and city name (adding those map grid references, keyed to whatever paper map-book you use, is also part of the package).

Do you work for home warranty clients? Is it a pain to type (or write) their entire data set (i.e., full name, billing address, telephone numbers, etc.) into each work order?  With ServiceDesk, you can insert it all with one keystroke.  Anything that reasonably can be done, ServiceDesk does for you, instantly.  Indeed, ServiceDesk has many more conveniences to help get information into your Callsheet quickly and accurately.  For the sake of brevity, however, let's discuss how it assists once that information is entered.

In the first place, each Callsheet must be active to some person's desk.  Assuming you have more than one ServiceDesk station and operator working, the Callsheet will obviously be assigned, initially, to whomever created it.  Suppose that person was your secretary, taking a call from a prospective customer who wants a telephone estimate before ordering service.  You happen to be in conference at the moment this person calls, so your secretary takes a message, typing it into a Callsheet.  She then presses a single key (or uses the mouse) to switch the Callsheet to your desk.  Upon ending your conference, you check your computer screen and notice the Callsheet.  Seeing what your secretary has entered, you instantly recognize the need to call the prospective customer.  But you're lazy.  Pushing buttons on your phone is too much work.  So instead, you just right-click on the customer's number as displayed in the Callsheet.  Would you believe, ServiceDesk dials for you?  All you have to do is pick up the phone and talk.

Perhaps you're the type who forgets to look at your computer to see if tasks are pending.  No matter.  If you neglect that Callsheet one second longer than two hours, ServiceDesk will start beeping in a most annoying fashion.  It doesn't want your prospective customer neglected any more than you do.

Suppose you make the call, get a recording, and leave a message.  You want to internally document your effort.  No problem.  Just click on the Callsheet's MoreInfo button and instantly you're positioned in the Callsheet's MoreInfo box, with time and date of your effort already inserted.  All you have to do is note what happened (maybe just type "LMOR" as an abbreviation, for example, to indicate "Left Message On Recorder").

Now suppose you don't want that Callsheet lit up on your computer, making you feel as though you've got some immediate duty in its regard (after all, you've discharged your duty for now).  No problem, just put the Callsheet to sleep, for say two hours (figuring you'll renew the return-call effort after that).  After the Callsheet wakes, it will again light-up on your screen, and if you don't deal with it in a reasonable time, again begin beeping you.


Suppose that, on your second effort to return the customer's call, she answers, you discuss probable price, and she decides to order service.  You can do one of two things.  Call over to your secretary and tell her that so and so needs scheduled, while simultaneously switching the Callsheet to her desk, or, supposing your secretary already has three lines going, you might decide to schedule the job yourself.  You're not going to believe how easy this is.

Once the address is entered (whether done previously by your secretary or by you at present), your next task is simply to right-click with your mouse anywhere on the customer's address line.  At this moment, ServiceDesk will display that beautiful map of your service area, one that was, like your street list, custom-created by RossWare for your unique application -- so it shows your own actual territory. In an instant, on this map, you can see the correct location of every job scheduled for the present day.  Not only every job, but its name, the time-frame scheduled for, and the tech to whom it's assigned.  Indeed, there are even lines between each job, color-coded to each tech and in appropriate sequence, showing the route for each tech as presently scheduled.

And that's not all.  The location and name of the person you're presently scheduling is displayed too, in bright red, to make it easy to see in reference to everything else.

With such information, it could not be easier to see in an instant which of your technicians will be nearest the customer, at what points in their schedules, and how full each of their schedules already are.  Thus, to fathom the particular time frames that would be convenient and efficient, for your operation, is almost axiomatic.  All that's needed is to find some such time frame that corresponds with what's also convenient for your customer.

If scheduling for the same day doesn't fit, incidentally, it's no problem.  Just hit your PageDown key and the map will display everything presently scheduled for tomorrow (with your present caller's location still brightly displayed in red), and so on.

Creating Job Records

Once you've got your customer scheduled, you obviously need to create the kind of documentation that goes with performing a job -- such as printing a work order for the tech to take with him, for example.  Easy.  With just one command, a work order will automatically drop into your printer, and ServiceDesk will then type the relevant data onto it -- in whatever format, and with whatever type style you have yourself specified in the setup process. ServiceDesk even numbers the work order for you, which saves the expense of having your printing company do it.  Indeed, it inserts the proper map grid reference for the street, so your technicians never again have to look such references up.

Of course, besides having that physical work order out there, we want to keep track of what's going on within the context of our automated information system.  Accordingly, at the same moment you print the work order, ServiceDesk silently takes the liberty of beginning a WorkInProgress record for the job, and enters the appointment into your electronic schedule list.  You don't have to think about these processes, or even be conscious they are occurring.  ServiceDesk does it all for you.

With so much precise automation, you might think you'd lose some of the essential flexibility that's enjoyed when doing things manually.  Don't worry.  ServiceDesk was forged in the fires of a real, ongoing service operation, so every practical need has been addressed.  Take, for example, the fact that sometimes you need to send a particular tech, rather than anyone who's convenient, to the job in question.  If you're doing things manually, you may use special notations on the work order, plus your own mental accounting, to keep track of such facts.  Is anything lost when it's all in the computer?  On the contrary, ServiceDesk gives you the option of noting, in regard to any appointment, if it can be properly assigned to a different tech or not.  In consequence, it is obvious at a glance, and to anyone who looks at the dispatch map, whether a job can be reassigned.  Now you no longer have to keep even a portion of such information in your head, and your mind is freed for other, less mundane tasks.


Suppose it's Tuesday morning.  You arrive well before your technicians, get messages from your service, schedule a few calls, then look again at your DispatchMap.  Examining each of the routes as graphically represented, you see some are less than efficient.  Some of your techs may be overloaded, some underloaded, and perhaps there's more driving back and forth than wanted.  Some shuffling of jobs is in order.  But how do you do this on an electronic screen?

Easy.  If you're looking at a job that would better be assigned to someone else (or just assigned at all, if it hasn't yet received a tentative designation), just click on it with your mouse.  At this point, its assignment will rotate between each of the technicians in your roster. Just stop at the technician to whom you presently wish to make the assignment.  Then, see how the resulting routes look. If you don't like the result, try another change.  Arranging routes is that simple.

Now suppose you've got everything laid out the way you want (pending additional calls that may come in during the day).  Your technicians begin to arrive.  You've arranged stacks of work orders to reflect each of their routes as disclosed on the dispatch map.  As you hand each tech his stack, ServiceDesk needs to be informed of the fact.  Why?  Because it wants to be able to inform you, and anyone else who's interested, of which work orders have physically been dispatched to each tech.

Making this report is simple, for your dispatch map has a second representation of the day's schedule.  Besides the small notations of each job as graphically displayed within the map, there is also a textual listing for each tech, with each of their jobs sequentially listed immediately under.  To indicate that any particular job has been physically given to the tech (or called into him, etc.), simply click on its list representation.  A check mark will then appear to the left, providing at-a-glance proof of the job's dispatch status.  (At the same time, incidentally, ServiceDesk silently makes an entry in the job's WorkInProgress record, indicating at what date and time, by whom and to whom, the job was dispatched).

As ServiceDesk thus contemplates every arcane need, it also guards against human frailties.  Suppose, for example, you attempt to reassign a job that is marked either as needing definitely to go to a particular tech, or as already dispatched to one.  In either case, ServiceDesk will stop you, and warn of the reason why reassignment may not be a good idea.  Of course, it will always yield ultimate control back to you, regardless.

Without elaborating on the means, suffice it to say that, using similarly convenient methods, ServiceDesk helps you track the history and status of every job at every step on its way to completion.  At the same time, it keeps track of the times each tech spends on the job, of the parts used from stock and those needing special ordered, of moneys collected, and so on.  It further has utilities to manage restocking of trucks, restocking your office inventory from suppliers, placing and tracking orders for non-stock items, documenting and controlling the receipt and deposit of funds, etc.  It's all there, and works extremely well.  There is, indeed, a great deal more we won't take the time here to mention.

Post-Completion Functions

When jobs are completed, ServiceDesk has a SalesJournal function that allows you to easily record each category of sale.  Obviously, it provides lookup and display functions for this journal, and allows you to create reports showing totals, portions billed, and many other useful figures (not to mention producing commission reports if you employ such means of compensation).

Since you probably bill on a number of jobs, ServiceDesk assists here as well, keeping track of your accounts receivable, and sending regular dunning letters on past due accounts.  It also facilitates the Electronic Claims process, for those servicers that do that kind of processing.

While recording and tabulating sales may seem like an accounting function (as may controlling receipts and accounts receivable), in reality, these are aspects of bookkeeping that are addressed by ServiceDesk because it is most convenient to do so from within its context.  The information that is thus produced can be plugged into your accounting system in the way of tabulated summary.  Thus, while ServiceDesk provides some of the information needed, it does not replace the need for a separate system of financial accounting.

Customer Database

Once a job is done, you might wonder what happens to its WorkInProgress record.  Simple.  It goes into your WorkInProgress archive, which, in combination with your current WorkInProgress file, forms the automatic basis for your CustomerDatabase.  In consequence of this arrangement, you can instantly see a complete and accurate history of every job you've ever done for a customer, or at a particular location (since ServiceDesk was installed, at least), along with the status of any jobs that are current.  All it takes, from any computer running ServiceDesk, is a few keystrokes.

Of course, you can also do things like creating computerized mailing lists, and just about anything else reasonably wanted, all with no separate effort to maintain the underlying data.

You might worry that such an extensive record, as this customer and work history database, will soon consume more space than your hard disk has to spare.  Don't worry.  While encompassing a lot of information, these and other records are of such efficient design that you can easily store many, many years worth (an average size business might accumulate 10 or 20 megabytes of stored data per year) without seriously denting any of today's hard drives.  Certainly, with the growing storage capacities that will be available tomorrow, you should be able to store all your ServiceDesk records ad infinitum.

Miscellaneous Functions

ServiceDesk has a plethora of other functions, just a few of which we'll mention.

First, if you use an answering service, you undoubtedly are acquainted with the chore of retrieving messages. ServiceDesk automates this process too.  Using your computer's modem, it downloads messages directly from your answering service's computer, with each message inserting directly into a Callsheet, perfectly arranged for your own processing.  Eventually, we hope to link with American Home Shield and other home warranty companies to provide direct downloading of their dispatches into the ServiceDesk environment.

Second, since your office personnel will be checking in on ServiceDesk stations to perform their work regardless, it's a simple matter for ServiceDesk to keep track of their times arriving and departing.  Thus, it provides a built-in TimeClock function, on the basis of which it will, at your behest, compile wage reports.

Third, perhaps you've encountered the frustration of planning to discuss something with one of your techs when he comes in, yet later in the day you realize he's come and gone, with no discussion on the topic.  Perhaps you've wanted to share general announcements with employees, but a written posting is unlikely to be read.  Perhaps your secretary needs to give one of your techs a message to return someone's call.  Again, ServiceDesk provides the answer: E-Mail.  Anyone in your office (even your techs, using a computer you'll want to set up for their use) can communicate easily with everyone else, simply by composing a note in ServiceDesk.

Fourth, is the matter of inventory control.  Without elaborating on the specific means, suffice it to say you can know in an instant, and with only a few keystrokes, precisely what your inventory is on each truck. and within your storeroom.  Indeed, you can instantly see a precise listing of everything that needs re-stocked to a truck, and confirm which items you actually move thereto from your storeroom.  Or, you can instantly generate an order to a supplier for re-stock, simply by clicking on items you want from a list ServiceDesk displays for you (indicating things like quantity in stock compared to minimums needed, etc).  You're not going to believe how easy it all is.

Fifth, is a problem almost every service owner feels a little guilty about.  You probably spend mega-bucks on Yellow Page advertising, yet have less than a solid idea how well each ad performs.  Worse yet, you may not even know precisely what portion of your business comes from advertising, what from referrals, from repeat customers, from home warranty companies, and so on.  ServiceDesk ends the guilt by compiling all this information in a rigorous, scientific manner -- requiring almost no additional work from either you or your operators.  All you need is to turn its Survey feature 'On' during a relevant period of one or two months out of the year (thus providing a statistically significant sample). In result, your operator will automatically be prompted to ask callers, at the time they're ordering service, a short series of questions that provide all the needed data.  If there's not enough time, or the caller doesn't want to be bothered, provision is made for that as well, along with measures to prevent the results from being skewed. In consequence, and with very little effort, every year you'll be provided with detailed reports showing precisely where your jobs are coming from (in various categories), and for those using the Yellow Pages, which ads they are using and at what rate.

Sixth, is the matter of "red-flagging" problem customers.  You know how it is: someone cheats you (or proves to be a problem in some other way), and you want to be warned before next contemplating service for them.  With ServiceDesk, it's no problem.  Simply create a "PCA" (problem customer advisory) on the person in question.  The next time anyone goes to create a job/sale for that person (or, under their address or telephone number), the system will alert to the details that you've recorded in your PCA, even if done years earlier.

Seventh, and finally, is a problem associated with usefulness. Because ServiceDesk is so tremendously helpful, you're going to soon be depending on it, and the data it compiles, in an extraordinary degree.  This, unfortunately, makes you vulnerable.  For if that data were suddenly lost, you'd be in a very bad way.  Accordingly, packaged with ServiceDesk is a separate utility that runs silently in the background, making hourly backups on a separate drive from the main server -- so that in the event primary files are lost, you won't be hurt.

There are, as stated, many other features, far too numerous to describe here.

Computer Networking

ServiceDesk is expressly designed to work in the context of multiple, networked computer stations.  The assumption is that you'll want a station for each person in your office (including the owner/manager), plus a station for your techs to use in making their post-dispatch reports.

If you're not up-to-date on what's happening in the computer world, be assured adequate hardware can be now purchased for less than $500 per station.  Networking is as simple as installing a $19 network card in each computer (or having it done for you at time of purchase), making connections with simple cable, and setting the appropriate parameters in Windows.  It does not require separate software, an expensive server, or any of the other complications that were common a few years ago.

If you have just a single person office, or want to start small in ServiceDesk with only one computer in a larger office, that's fine too.  ServiceDesk is perfectly happy to work from just one station.  You simply won't enjoy all its benefits until every dispatch person in your office, and manager, has access to his or her own station.

What it does not do

We have intentionally avoided making ServiceDesk do everything.  A do-all package doesn't make sense, for a manufacturer that specializes in accounting software will usually make betteraccounting software.  Same thing for word processing software, and several other traditional categories.  We refuse to address such functions because other companies already do them well -- far better than we could absent such specialization.  As stated, our focus is to manage the actual operations, unique to a service call-oriented business, of taking calls, dispatch, and managing job performance.  We've added related features, like customer database management, accounts receivable, funds and inventory control, surveying your source of jobs, and similar matters -- for the simple reason that all these functions can be handled most easily when integrated within a single, coherent system.

That phrase, by the way ("most easily"), is our controlling guide.  Rather than simplifying, many software systems actually increase work by imposing absurd burdens, in time and effort, for the input of information they demand.  Essentially, they make you a slave to the system, rather than themselves becoming the slave that frees you from drudgery.

In accordance with this guiding principle, do not expect ServiceDesk to do your financial accounting (there's several excellent packages available at minimum cost, or you may have a professional do it; ServiceDesk will simply provide revenue side information [such as sales summaries, accounts receivable reports, and so on] for input to whatever system you use).  Don't expect it to write your checks (several accounting packages do this as well).  Don't expect it to do word processing (aside from creating dunning letters, and similarly related functions).  And don't expect ServiceDesk to give you on-line access to industry published flat-rate schedules.

We have not re-invented the wheel in any such department. Instead, we have addressed what's actually far more difficult: the actual processes, indeed, the real nuts and bolts (at least those that exist within the office) of what your business does to earn its living!  For everything else, please get someone else's product.

Design in Regard to Job Documents

Many have wondered if ServiceDesk prints both a work order and invoice?  And, does it print job quotations?  The answer is slightly complicated.  Evidently, many businesses are setup to use different documents for each of these disparate purposes, even when doing little more than run-of-the-mill service calls.  Frankly, we think this is inefficient.  Instead, ServiceDesk is designed to work with what you might call a "unified job document system."  In other words, it's our intent in ServiceDesk that just one kind of document will fulfill all three purposes, at least for all jobs performed in a service call-like environment, and at least usually.  Obviously, this single document must be designed to serve all functions efficiently.  If you're not already setup this way, our manual helps in the design process, and, if you prefer, the installation CD provides excellent pre-made forms for you.

In regard to this standard document, ServiceDesk is completely flexible as to whether it prints the entire form (i.e., including your logo on top, graphics that indicate the spaces where various kinds of information will be filled-in, etc.) plus typing data into the spaces also or whether it just types in text only upon a form that's otherwise pre-printed.  For most operations, we think it's more efficient to do the latter (i.e., have your local printing company produce the forms in advance, in volume, on high speed machines, and in multi-parts on NCR paper, while letting ServiceDesk just type information into the relevant spaces).  But again, you can do it either way.

ServiceDesk is also flexible as to the design of this invoice/work-order kind of document.  You can use virtually any format that's wanted (NARDA, your own custom form, or anything else), and can also use whatever kind of printer you wish.  All such functions are easily and expressly customizable.

Of course, there are other kinds of documents you might need besides the general working one that we've described.  In particular, you may have occasions where you need a polished, final document, after the job has been completed.   Suppose you've finished a job that's to be billed to a third-party, for example.  Rather than submitting the partly hand-written invoice on which you've managed the job, you'd rather have something that's completely machine-printed, so it looks pretty and nice.  In an instant, you can have ServiceDesk load all the job's data (as collected during its performance) into an on-screen form that's provided for the purpose.  From there you may do any advance editing that's wanted, then watch as a perfect document scrolls effortlessly from your printer.  Indeed, ServiceDesk comes pre-packaged to print such documents in any of three formats, including NARDA, and you can create custom ones.  Plus, the same utility is used as the basis for initiating Electronic Claims (with ServiceBench, Key Prestige and others), for any servicers who may have that need.

In addition to these situations, many of our clients do over-the-counter sales, often of parts and sometimes merchandise.  ServiceDesk accommodates these processes with a point of sale feature that allows you to compose a complete invoice on-screen, and print in its entirety.

Aside from this, we know some of you bid for major jobs, not repairs per se but projects involving extended work on new installations or major retrofits.  Here you need a formalized quotation document to make a favorable impression on a prospective client.  Plus, when actually performing such jobs you may need to do periodic billing on a percent-completion basis.  We'd like to say ServiceDesk can handle these needs.  At present it does not.