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October 26, 2018

Avoid Media Breaks

If you take a look around craftsmanship and other companies, you will quickly notice that there are media breaks in many places: Orders are passed on to employees on paper, timesheets are filled out by hand and sent to the office, and the order status is requested by telephone. The list of media breaks in the business process of a craft company can be continued as required. A media discontinuity always occurs when information has to be entered manually within an information procurement or processing process. This costs time and is a potential source of errors.

Source: zip.app

Poor Processes Also Remain Poor Digitally

Information is almost as valuable as gold. That's why it's worth analyzing business processes carefully and checking where there are interruptions and where data needs to be passed on in other forms. A bad process does not automatically become a good process through digitization. Thorsten Dirks, head of Telefónica Germany, once summed it up starkly: "If you digitize a shit process, then you have a shit digital process." It's worth taking a look at the processes and media breaks, especially in craft sector.  E-mails, faxes, plan drawings, scanned documents, technical calculations, measurements or photos must be assigned to a project or forwarded to a customer or subcontractor, as must self-created documents such as quotations or invoices, including scheduling.  Different software solutions and various hardware make it difficult to merge all data.

Double Entry and Error Devils

Double entry in the office is one of the biggest time wasters. With zip.app, every employee is able to record or retrieve the essential data using a smartphone, desktop PC or other terminal device.  In the office, the data is further processed without media discontinuity and is updated daily. An optimal flow of information also pays off for the customer. Every contact person from the boss to the trainee is able to provide information.

Concentrating on the Essentials

We looked at which processes can be implemented quite easily and where entrepreneurs and customers can participate the fastest and best. More and more tasks are being handled on the move with the smartphone: answering enquiries by email, quickly taking a few photos and recording the details of the order. This can be done quickly with a smartphone. What is missing, however, is feedback with the office and documentation. zip.app closes this "mobile gap" and is the uniform mouthpiece that maps the essential processes in the office as well as on the move - for everyone involved in construction. zip.app helps companies to avoid media disruptions in order to reduce costs and become more competitive.

Test it and use zip.app immediately: A free download of the app is now available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. A desktop version is also available.

We look forward to discussions and suggestions at [email protected].

September 27, 2018

Google & Co. — Useful for Craft?

No one can get past search engines today. If you want to be found on Google or other search engines, you have to deal with search engine optimization. The developments in this sector go on and on: more comfort for the searcher, more market power of Google & Co. The trend is clearly going to the digital assistant. For companies in craft, that means staying in touch and setting up digitally optimally. This will become even more important in the future.

Source: ZIP Software

Doing Homework

If a business entering the terms "industry" and "location" is never on page one on Google, then it's time to do your homework and define keywords as accurately as possible for various services. The point is to think about what customers are looking for. It is important to do this analytical and strategic homework at the beginning: the worse the web appearance, the more money will be burned. First, it's about transforming business goals into digital marketing, and that's a top priority. Who should be won? In what radius? For which products or services? Who wonders if all the effort is really worth it, should take a look at America.

Ok Google, Look for a Painter!

The phrase "OK Google, look for a painter!" today already triggers a complex interaction between a customer and an intelligent chatbot in the US. In the future, Google Assistant should find the right service provider in dialogue with a customer. Google announced this wizard in the US a few months ago.[1] It "understands" whole sentences and can indicate such a request. Google then uses this information to find the right business. This is still a dream of the future for Germany, but it is clear that this technology basically exists and a consequence for craftsmen is that search engine optimization and marketing are even more important in the growing Google world.

[1] https://www.blog.google/products/assistant/get-local-help-from-your-google-assistant/

The Digital Assistant for Entrepreneurs

A digital assistant, that’s also our goal. The difference is that we think and develop consistently from an entrepreneurial view. What do I need as an entrepreneur? Which information is relevant? How can I manage the business economically? With whom do I communicate? And how can all this be linked online and mobile? The answer to these questions is: zip.app. zip.app is the personal assistant for an entrepreneur: connects business partners, documents tasks and sends invoices, bundles information, organizes appointments, translates meetings, leaving more time for the essentials. While Google Assistant is still in development, our zip.app bends onto the finishing line. We believe in a future in which every person can be an entrepreneur. And we want to be this personal assistant. So that the sentence "Ok zip.app, I'm looking for a subcontractor who can take over a painter's job!" isn't a dream of the future anymore.

Test it and use zip.app immediately: A free download of the app is now available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. A desktop version is also available.

We look forward to discussions and suggestions at [email protected].

August 23, 2018

Craft: Digital Makes Sexy

With the old saying that craft has a golden floor, today nobody can be drawn from the woodwork. Competing with other industries, the reputation of craftsmanship - in defiance of all image campaigns - hangs back. This is particularly noticeable in search for qualified employees and trainees. What has to happen that young people find a job in craft attractive, again? Objectively there are many reasons to work in craft: job security, flat hierarchies in small and middle enterprises and good possibilities to become independent.

Source: ZIP Software

New Generation - New Requirements

The generation of young people born around the turn of millennium is characterized by a lifestyle that is in tune with technology. They have grown up with the internet and mobile communication, like working in teams and value the enjoyment of work. In addition, they long for professional recognition and independence. In many places craft can be an ideal breeding ground for these generations, if it is sexy enough. Young people no longer have to perform as their predecessors as petitioners, but can choose. More and more it is the companies that have to promote their favor as future employees.

Dusting and Working Digitally

Digitalisation is a decisive factor here. This starts with a craft company's own website, goes beyond the use of social networks and ends with digitizing business processes. When coworkers chat with their bosses, an order status is tracked via app, and coworkers have a realistic chance of self-employment, it's cool and sexy to work in craft, too.

Source: zip.app

Acts Inside and Out

Digitalisation in the craft sector has positive effects, both internally and externally. For potential new employees, a digital company is modern and innovative. Internally, many processes in craft can be accelerated and simplified by networking. Paperless order coordination and processing offer significant benefits for craft businesses. At the same time, customer satisfaction increases as all information can be made available to a customer in real time. Entrepreneurs, employees and customers are always up to date.

Rethink, Adapt, Take Advantage of Opportunities

We are convinced there is no way around digitization. But we also know that the craft needs workable solutions: Easy to use, without hours of training, mobile and stationary. Our solution takes these requirements into account: zip.app is always there, bundles information, organizes appointments, translates discussions, connects business partners, documents performance levels and sends invoices. This makes craft attractive. For an entrepreneur as well as for an employees.

A free download of zip.app will be available from the beginning of September 2018 in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. There will also be a desktop version.

We are looking forward for your feedback. Feel free and reach out anytime via [email protected].

August 1, 2018

Customer Loyalty via Chat? Yep!

It is completely customary within the private sector but still little used in companies: direct communication via a messenger. In the meantime many companies recognize the advantage of a direct line to business partners and customers. We believe it is worthwhile for companies to use this channel for customer loyalty and process control.

Source: ZIP Software

Why to Communicate via Messengers?

The question of why a messenger makes sense for communication within business environment can be answered quickly: Almost everybody uses a messenger service privately, knows how it works and appreciates the fast response time. Small concerns can be clarified lightning-fast. Documents, pictures and videos can be sent easy and cheap. Today, customers and business partners expect to be able to connect with a company through all channels. Messenger services offer companies a huge opportunity in overcoming the "last mile" to the customer. In the meantime one in five finds that contact with companies via a messenger service is long overdue.

Here You Are Helped

The biggest advantage is that messenger services enable customer inquiries. If the answer is well solved within the own company, a customer can be helped very quickly. E.g. when it comes to a question about the product or the order. Standardized paragraphs of text help to answer the most important questions. This will create a good customer relationship that couldn’t be more personal. Better service and customer loyalty make the difference. It's better to chat fast and efficiently than hanging in the waiting loop, landing on a mailbox, or being connected from Pontius to Pilate. Queries about an order status or for appointments are quickly done via chat.

Less Is More

There is an old saying using marketing messengers: less is more. Otherwise you will be blocked fast as a company and this channel is closed once and for all time. In general, it means to meet requirements of privacy, competition and copyright law. Therefore, we have a business messenger integrated in our zip.app that meets all common requirements. We believe communication with customers and with business partners must be as easy as possible. That's why our solution includes all the advanced features of a modern messenger, such as group chats, sending text, audio or video messages within a secure environment, sharing all sorts of documents, cross-device synchronization and cloud backups.

A free download of zip.app will be available at the beginning of September 2018 in Apple’s App Store and on Google Play. There will be a desktop version, too.

July 12, 2018

How to Deal with Office Chaos in Crafts

There are a number of studies which show that a significant part of working time is wasted by lack of working materials and by constantly searching for the right document. The craft is as affected as all other companies. Biggest timekeepers in office processes are: searching text documents or images in chaotic file folders as well as managing emails. The main cause of chaos is organization and communication. One of the key challenges of an entrepreneur is mastering the daily chaos.

Time Wasters to the Chain

The confusing storage of documents is the most serious problem, where even studies agree. Almost equally ranked the management of emails. Almost 20 percent of working time is wasted on finding information or asking colleagues who can help with certain tasks. Sorting, filing and marking of e-mails and documents consumes many hours that an entrepreneur lacks in the important tasks.

Ingeniously Simple

Fighting against chaos is like the rolling stone of Sisyphus: It never stops. It is about striving for constant improvement. As the saying goes: simple is the increase of intelligent. Therefore, we should always look for simple solutions. Those who work in crafts spend most of their time on the road, e.g. at customer's, and still have to handle the office. To have a grip on is the magic word: since everyone today has a smartphone, it is obvious to let threads converge there. At any time, all documents are at hand, whether at the construction site or in the office.

Management via Smartphone

Emails make individual conversations about specific tasks understandable; however, documents and information associated with them are usually unobtainable and must be searched for and arranged in a time-consuming process. More suitable are tools for project communication. Ideally, all communication with all text and image documents is within one application. zip.app documents can be created quickly: The offer is transformed into an order confirmation and finally into an invoice. All in one application. The office in your pocket, even more: zip.app is an interactive assistant that provides information at any time, even if there is no internet connection. This makes management via smartphone possible. Ideal for craftsmen and entrepreneurs who have enough of inefficient work organization.

A free download of zip.app will be available from the beginning of September 2018 in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. There will be a desktop version, too.

May 8, 2018

Without Action There's No Satisfaction: Controlling and Leading Subcontractors

Hardly any other company in craft today trades without subcontractors. We wanted to know how the exchange of orders between parties works, how communication is structured and how payment is handled. Around 50 craft companies have answered our questions and we find the information so exciting that we want to share it.

Without a Subcontractor Nothing Works

For the execution of large orders, a majority of craft businesses can not handle it without a cooperation including subcontractors: 75 percent of all interviewed entrepreneurs work together with one or more subcontractors. Only a quarter of respondents can work without this support. In addition to the design of contracts, other key factors for good cooperation are clear agreements and sound planning, as well as the timely resolution of problems and fast payment processing. After we want to map exactly these factors in our ZIP app, we are interested in the status quo of course.

Somebody and Nobody

Most of the companies interviewed work together with several subcontractors, usually with a small number: between three and ten subcontractors, with a company size of up to 10 employees, are the rule. Is there anything to discuss or clarify? The phone is used in about 98 percent of all cases. Around 90 percent write an e-mail and 57 percent use a chat app. Post (19 percent) and fax (17 percent) as additional communication channels are used much less. Since there is always someone working in the field who builds a mess, and no one who is guilty, binding communication with clear and unambiguous agreements is one of the most important success factors.

Mastering Chaos

Order documents can be found in a variety of folders and programs. Data archiving is a colorful hodgepodge of possibilities. Multiple answers were allowed for the question, because there are often also different filing locations: 59 percent of the respondents store documents in paper form within a regular file folder. About half (52 percent) store documents within their e-mail inbox, 54 percent on a computer, and 65 percent use the archive function within a used software program. Already, ten percent of the surveyed companies use cloud storage. Payment is usually processed by bank transfer.

Success in Two Letters: Do

The evaluation of the survey shows there is still room for improvement in managing subcontractors: in our opinion, the key to greater efficiency lies in communication and coordination between clients and subcontractors. Binding, fast communication through a mobile application that also tracks job status and integrates essential documents and photos simplifies collaboration. Faster exchange of information, precise orders and clean documentation ensure transparency. Electronic payment processing can also simplify processes considerably.

We take Goethe's two-letter phrase seriously and DO what we do best: we build zip.app that makes it easier for craftsman to organize. And at full throttle. In August we plan an open beta version and in September the "public" release.

April 24, 2018

Silence of the Hammers

We are always in contact with others, whether with or without words. This knowledge also applies to the craft. The relationship between the customer and the craftsman is a rather uncomplicated thing. That's why we asked over 50 craft companies how they communicate with their customers. Of course, we do not ask quite unselfishly: Because we want to understand the processes and contribute to an optimal organization structure.

On-Site Presence

The result makes one sit up and take notice: More than half of all customers are personally coming to the construction site in order to see the progress themselves. Around 40 percent of customers at least partially do so. From the point of view of a customer, this is understandable, since only about eleven percent of all craft companies surveyed by us regularly send customers photos of the progress of the construction site. 47 percent do this sometimes, all others partially. This is simply not enough in times when every meal and other trifles are captured and shared in photos. When tradespeople interact with their customers, they tend to call (100 percent), e-mail (96 percent) or mail (49 percent). Since most entrepreneurs use different channels, multiple answers were possible. After all, 47 percent of the surveyed craftsmen communicate with their customers via chat services like WhatsApp, Viber & Co.

Magic Moments

For every craftsman and every entrepreneur who understands his job as a vocation, there are two magical moments in projects: One, when the customer has a glow in his eyes during the consultation, feels understood and realizes that he has the right partner in front of him. The second magical moment is when the craftsman gets absorbed in his work and has an exhilarating feeling that something special is being created. The magic of a good job, the uplifting feeling when something has become good, when imagination becomes reality, these are special and precious moments.

Conjure Hocus-Pocus

Of course, we cannot do conjuring tricks. Also we do not want to. Our goal is to create conditions for an entrepreneur to focus on magical moments of his work. For all other tasks - both, necessary and sometimes annoying - we come into play. With an app that works without Hokus Pokus, that is limited to the essentials and supports craftsman in communication and organization. So in the end it's not the silence of the hammers, but the Wizard of Oz on the program.

April 18, 2018

Asked and Become Smarter

Ask. Understand. Learn.

Anyone who founds a startup is 100 percent convinced by his idea. So we are, too! But still we wanted to know if we are right with our assumptions. Does the market need a product like ours? And how exactly does it have to look so that the potential customers would be satisfied with it? That was our motivation in a non-representative survey. We surveyed more than 50 companies, all of them craft enterprises with company sizes from one to about 200 employees.

The Survey: What Needs a Software Solution?

We wanted to know this very well and asked precisely: Which software programs are used in companies? What will be sent to customers in which format? How satisfied are the entrepreneurs with electronic tools? What are their wishes?

The good and pleasant news are that digitization in the craft sector is quite advanced. There is no fear of contact with Information Technology. Around 90 percent of companies use special software programs for offers and invoices. Only 10 percent still work with Excel and Word in combination together with an e-mail account.

However, completely different software packages are used, ranging from sector programs for craftsmen to special solutions for a trade and various accounting programs to the widespread MS office solutions. Depending on the solution used and the size of the company, the monthly costs, which are between 25 and 120 euros per month for the paid subscription solutions, also differ.

The Wish: Whatsapp for the Construction Site

The picture gets clearer when the entrepreneurs describe what they lack in existing programs. These are the lack of mobility of the applications on the one hand and the lack of opportunity to take photos directly on the other hand. Many entrepreneurs find existing programs too complex, they want simpler user interfaces and the possibility to enter standard texts. Asked about what would make their job easier, requirements ranged from a WhatsApp-like site-building program, to simple and fast tools, to a digital build that included everything from inquiry through offer to billing. Data storage in the cloud is also on the wish list of craft companies. What all really have in common is the desire to make organizational processes as time-saving and efficient as possible. Time is a deciding factor for the interviewed entrepreneurs.

The Insight: Simple, Mobile and Time-Saving

The findings from this survey are a benchmark in product development for us. The zip.app must be easy to use, focus on elementary functions and be both stationary and mobile, as well as usable online and offline. The sending and filing of photos to orders is also a must. We are pleased that our assumptions have been confirmed by the surveyed companies and show us that we are on the right track. We are working hard on the implementation. With passion and the conviction that we build entrepreneurs a digital tool which helps to manage projects and simplify processes.

April 4, 2018

Rating Portals in Craftsmen Business

Online Reviews in Craft - Curse or Blessing?

Properly managed, rating portals are a key to success: Many customers today are used to searching the web for the best deals. Reviews from other customers are particularly valuable here and often make the difference in deciding which craftsman or which company gets the job. Anyone who does a good job as a company can benefit from the reviews. Good quality and perfect service get around. This brings new prospects and other customers.

Do Not Be Afraid of Negative Reviews

But there is also the flip side of the coin: even a really dissatisfied customer is enough to damage the reputation. Or, that's not so rare, the customer threatens with bad rating to push price. Especially small companies fear the consequences of negative ratings. The problem is not the individual, bad reviews in itself. What is more problematic is that dissatisfied customers feel a greater need to voice their opinions in the form of negative online reviews. For satisfied customers, the world is in order and there is less of an urge to communicate that once again. In the case of negative reviews, there is a constructive solution that has proven itself: Instead of erasing bad reviews, it is much more helpful to face criticism. By commenting on the rating of a dissatisfied customer and addressing the issue objectively, this shows how important the customer is. and customers are kept. Because: A customer wants above all the attention and interest of the service provider.

Reviews Give Orientation

Customer reviews are the door opener for new customers. In times of the booming online market, customer reviews form a secure point of contact for orientation. The neutral word of another customer creates trust in the prospect. Companies can gain new customers in this way and show that their products and services are reputable and of high quality.

The Power of the Stars

According to a study by Nielsen, 70% of respondents rely on reviews on the internet when shopping. Only the opinion of friends has even more relevance. Newspapers, newsletters and advertising are far less trusted. These results reflect the growing importance of customer ratings. On rating portals, in online stores and even in Google search, company reviews are finding more and more customers. If they are reliable, they represent a real orientation for buyers and potential new customers. Serious customer reviews are more trustworthy than advertising slogans because they are not from the company itself. Customer reviews can therefore be used by companies as a clever marketing tool: Make sure satisfied customers post online reviews. You can actively ask enthusiastic customers for references and ratings. Many and, at best, positive reviews create a good reputation. However, free word of mouth does not fall from the sky, but is always an expression of a strong and lived company philosophy.

For small and medium-sized businesses, we are currently developing an app that simplifies order processing workflows, improves data exchange, and enables real-time communication. Our experience shows that the craft must not miss this opportunity. We are convinced that customer satisfaction begins and ends with successful communication. In addition to a messenger, the evaluation option will also be part of the new development. By the end of September 2018, the app will be available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. 

Then the "grab for the stars" is also immediately possible for small and medium-sized companies.

March 14, 2018

Process Control

Turbo for Added Value in Craft Industries 

We often see crafts and process management as two poles – as compatible as day and night. Why is that? In small and medium-sized enterprises, work often seems clear, manageable, under control. If a company has good employees, one might think the right processes would come along by themselves anyway. But that’s a common perceptual trap. As a matter of fact, requirements have significantly increased due to competition and legal terms. Hence, without process management nothing works.

At the same time, we face excellent prerequisites for process optimization in craft industries: flat hierarchies, pragmatic thinking and decision-making, as well as a general willingness to quickly implement things. So you get desired effects quickly, leading to increased performance and reduced costs.

Get out of the Perceptual Trap

If we take a closer look, data exchange is in need of improvement, especially in craft industries: timesheets are commonly still handwritten, and once back in the office, transferred to the IT world. A lack of mobile data collection, media discontinuity, and non-transparent processes contribute to the waste of important resources. Data collection and evaluation are rather sporadic. At the end of the day it’s mostly about absolute basics, such as capturing and sharing photos related to a project. Existing IT-solutions are quickly hitting functional limitations or are simply too complicated.

Especially in small and medium-sized companies, employees and managers hold a high level of expertise and experience. In general, they know very well which challenge urges most and how to tackle it. However, in practice financial and thus retrospective key performance indicators (KPIs) prevail.

Close to People

What really matters is not abstract figures in the office, but added value in direct relation with people and processes. This refers to the individual decision or personal activity the customer is willing to pay for. Of course, that is captured by financial KPIs in the end as well. But added value is a much better indicator to operations than any other figure in the office could ever be: for example, if my client is satisfied with my performance, sales will increase as well. Or can I save a workstep by choosing the right material? Then costs will drop, too. Focusing on added value means being "very close": to my customer, to my employee, and to my subcontractor.

Walk the Walk

Small and medium-sized enterprises are struggling more than large corporations to raise funds for necessary process management infrastructure. However, we believe that IT and process management simply go together. That's why we're working on a mobile solution that focuses on added value, while remaining lean and easy to use. A free download will be available by the end of September 2018 in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. There will be also a desktop version available.

This one is true, especially for crafts: Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk!