Paper-based data capture
When Sweet Causes approached us, they were using spreadsheets to plan routes for collectors along with tracking their refills and takings each day. This was manageable while the company was still fairly small but as the business grew, it became clear this method was holding them back. Just a few of the issues included:
- Daily logs couldn’t be searched and sorted very easily
- Data duplication from paper entries by canvassers and collectors to office staff using Excel spreadsheets took time to administer and was prone to error
- Delays between collection and Excel recording was evident and could be compounded through lack of attention to detail
- Reporting was by copying and pasting from one spreadsheet to another, both time-consuming and error prone
- Accounting staff were challenged when collecting data to calculate wages, bonuses and mileage
- Monitoring and tracking miscellaneous tasks such as overdue BACS payments, new customer verifications and re-routes was difficult to manage
- Missed collections were not easy to spot as this involved searching through multiple spreadsheets
- Planning routes was difficult and re-routing would mean constant replanning
Software powers the business forward
To solve the problems office staff were experiencing, we suggested customised desktop application software that could easily be downloaded and installed from a given link. As customers wouldn’t need to access the system, this was the ideal solution.
For collectors and canvassers, we proposed creating a bespoke mobile application that could be ported to both Android and iOS thereby covering the two most popular mobile phone platforms. These mobile applications could be downloaded by both collectors and canvassers to their own phones or tablets using Google ‘Play’ or via Apple’s ‘App Store’.
Cloud-based, central database storage would be accessible by all three platforms, meaning data could be shared by all users with the correct permissions and valid login credentials. Real-time updates between collectors/canvassers and the office would be possible.
Customised desktop application tool
One of the tasks that office staff found particularly difficult was route planning as they had no visual view of the route and customers on it (Issue 8). We integrated with Bing maps to create views that would show individual routes showing where customers were situated on the map, and in a specified order. Alternatively, they could also view all routes plotted within a region.
Basic and advanced filtering was added to the main customer view, solving many of the issues with sorting and searching data (Issues 1, 4 and 7). To aid in migrating the original data, we provided the ability to import from Excel spreadsheets in a set format.
So office staff would know when action was required, we added alert bubbles to menu items that showed the number of outstanding tasks for that section (Issue 6). For example, the alert bubble would show on the customer menu item, when a new customer had been added and was awaiting verification.
Android and iOS app for collectors and canvassers
Although the mobile application is used by the collectors and canvassers, the main boost for Sweet Causes in terms of maximizing business efficiency, was within the office. Much of the office staff’s time had been spent in entering the data from paperwork produced by the collectors and canvassers. Once removed, office staff had more time to concentrate on other areas of the business (Issue 2).
The mobile applications allowed both collectors and canvassers to record their start and end time, as well as mileage, and also add new customers and pictures.
The majority of the mobile application features were geared towards collectors themselves, allowing them to record each visit, add BACS payments and indicate re-routes. To make collectors’ jobs easier, each route was laid out in optimal order as planned by the office. Once clicked into a visit, collectors could instantly access directions and record all the relevant details of the visit, such as cash collected, and quantities consumed, amongst other features.
If you’d like the same kind of custom software for your company, click here. For more advice on how small businesses such as this one can benefit from new ideas and technologies, visit our news page here.