As the largest company in field servicing today, Safeguard Properties will take care of hundreds of thousands of lawns this season. And that’s just cutting grass. Add in inspections, repairs, maintenance and cleaning, and the volume of its business becomes astounding – millions of vacant and foreclosed properties. But Safeguard was built with scale in mind, and a philosophy that combines intense customer focus with the technology to make it all possible.
“From day one, when Robert Klein started the company, he was investing significantly in technology,” said Safeguard CIO George Mehok. “He knew technology was going to be important to scale the business, and that we could only handle the volume through automation.”
That automation has included developing multiple mobile apps that allow staff and vendors to send and receive communication from the field. In July 2012, only 10% of inspections were done or processed by inspectors on a mobile device. That number is now more than 97%.
Now inspection requests are processed by a central system within minutes, and inspectors are routed to nearby homes. By clicking on the app on their smartphone the inspectors can answer questions at the property, and upload pictures in real time.
“We have seen fantastic results from investing in mobile, Inspectors are working much more effectively — their quality scores and on-time scores have taken off.” Mehok estimates that the new app cuts the inspection process down from days to minutes. “We’ve improved our timelines to clients as our contractors and inspectors dramatically improve their efficiency.”
Mehok’s favorite mobile innovation, however, is the Photo Direct app. When contractors take a photo of a property it is linked to a work order, and sent back to a home office. This app lets all parties see photos immediately, which provides quicker solutions to any questions.
For instance, if a contractor is sent to a home to evaluate a potential roof problem, a crew lead can look at the work order and photos right away, before the contractor leaves the property. This shared information leads to more accurate estimates. The integration with the work order makes all the difference.
“This is a clear example of technology improving quality,” Mehok said. “It changes the way these guys work and the end result again is that the time frame and quality for our clients has just improved.”
The information from these mobile apps also is integrated into the company’s MapAlert platform. This system, which Safeguard just deployed several months ago, combines geospatial mapping information and the data points from a number of internal and external sources, including all the work orders, inspections and pictures, and produces a source map for clients and Safeguard to reference.
For instance, if there’s an earthquake in one region, the company’s clients can look at MapAlert to view the affected homes, and evaluate from the data points what action needs to be taken. The data collected in the field will show the type of home, construction material, whether the utilities are on, if it’s occupied, etc. All of this informs Safeguard’s clients’ next steps, like whether it needs to send out a rush order for a new inspection, while giving clients transparency into the process.
The integration doesn’t stop there, however. When field quality control groups are sent out to inspect the work that was done by contractors, their pictures and data are added to the mobile file, and any discrepancies are quickly caught.
“It makes a tremendous difference because it’s an end-to-end control process focusing on those areas where the risk is the highest,” Mehok said. “This is a continually evolving quality-driven process as you find gaps in controls and errors, and then upgrade the controls and technology. That’s what we do on a daily basis.”