5 Service Scheduling Hacks for a More Efficient Field Force

field service scheduling tips

In field service management, time is money. This means dispatch managers and technicians should be like two hands turning around a clock. It’s no surprise that the most successful field service management organizations prioritize scheduling. By avoiding common scheduling fails, field force dispatch and scheduling management can save a company thousands of dollars, and boost the bottom line big time.

In the following paragraphs we discuss five service scheduling and dispatch hacks that will keep your service crews humming, and your bottom line soaring.

1. Map your Field Tech’s Skills

Each field service professional brings unique skills, work history, and experience to the table. Two technicians might look similar on paper, but in reality they’ll have unique strengths and weaknesses. Get to know each of your field tech’s specific skills. Some may have great bedside manner. Others will bring technical brilliance to the most challenging jobs. The key is knowing who needs to be where and when. Mapping this out will help you make decisions about who to send where in stressful situations.

Wondering how? It doesn’t have to be complex. Keep a basic spreadsheet of each tech and their unique skills. Reference this document when requests come in. And do your best to get the right tech to the right customer. You’ll improve first-time fix rates, customer satisfaction, and tech satisfaction – all with a little bit of basic math.

2. Develop a Positive Feedback Loop

Dispatch managers and field techs rarely get face time. It’s simply the nature of the business. The majority of communication between tech and dispatch will happen via phone, email, or text message. But in-person meetings are the fastest route to a more efficient field force. Try getting techs and dispatch managers together at least once a month. Develop activities that can get two-way dialogue and team building kick-started.

It’s simple human psychology. If folks can make a face-to-face connection, they are more likely to work well together at greater distances. Here are a couple ways to develop a positive feedback loop:

Host Roundtables

Hold monthly roundtables on topics specific to your organization. Invite techs and dispatchers to share their sides of the story in a positive fashion. Discuss what works, what doesn’t and how to improve. Feed them pizza (everyone loves pizza), and reward folks for showing up!

Require One-on-Ones

Schedule regular one-on-ones between dispatch and techs to formalize relationships between peers. Offer templates, conversation starters, and encourage employees to use this time to get personal. When staff know each other on a first name basis, they’ll work better together.

3. Get Smart with Route Mapping & Scheduling

Depending on the size of your organization, optimizing your routes could be as simple as pulling up an online map to verify a route. Or it could be as efficient as implementing software.

Either way, reducing road-time for techs will increase the amount of jobs they complete each day. Start with some common sense. Try to steer customers in the same areas toward common service times. Consider grouping customers and offering incentives for specific appointment windows. If your appointments aren’t distributed to your liking, find a way to make it better. A few dollars on the front end may save thousands in commute time on the back end.

4. Strive for the First-time Fix

There’s a direct line between first-time fix rates and happy customers. A high first-time fix rate is also good for the bottom line. A recent Aberdeen report showed that when average first-time fix rates are above 80% for an organization, customer satisfaction hovers around 90%. But when first-time fix rates dip below 50%, customer satisfaction drops below 50%. So how do you ensure a first-visit fix?

The first step for every scheduling or dispatch professional should be to ensure they completely understand the customer problem before sending a tech. Second, you have to send the right tech. If they don’t have the right skills, they won’t resolve the job on the first try. Finally, make sure to equip the tech with everything he or she needs before visiting the customer (e.g. parts, knowledge, and equipment data).

5. Focus on Customer Experience

A full 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Service takes up valuable time that our customers would likely rather fill with Game of Thrones binge watching. That’s why providing amazing customer experiences is crucial to the success or failure of scheduling and dispatch. A happy customer is far more likely to be flexible with you, whereas a frustrated or angry customer often makes difficult demands and burdens the whole team.

As a dispatch or scheduling professional, it’s crucial that you do everything in your power to make each customer laugh, smile and enjoy their experience with your organization. You don’t have to give into their every demand, but you also should never say, “No.” Simply put, there’s always something more you can be doing for your customers. So do it!

For more advice on scheduling, dispatch and the future of field service, head to the Field Service Matters homepage.

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Field Service Matters is about framing new conversations in field service management. We invite a variety of industry thought leaders and specialists to share their perspectives on various areas in workforce management, and explore the big ideas that power service excellence and innovation.

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