Mike Karlskind

By Mike Karlskind

January 6, 2017

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“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

—Tony Robbins, Bestselling Author & Speaker

Let’s say you’re shopping for granite countertops. You find a stone slab you love, you schedule an appointment to have your home measured, and finalize your installation date. You wait with bated breath, imagining how beautiful your brand new countertops will look.

The day before your installation, you get an email that says you’ve been rescheduled. The problem is, you took the day off work. You planned to have your plumber come out right after the counters were in. Now your tile backsplash can’t go up next week. Your entire kitchen remodel is a few weeks behind. How are you feeling about your stone provider? Not great.

A dozen dispatch decisions could have led to this single poor customer experience. Maybe the scheduling and dispatch manager forgot to log the date electronically, or decided another (larger) customer was more important on that day. The point of the story is the decision-making power of a single dispatch professional has the power to jeopardize relationships with customers.

That’s why a solid dispatch team with advanced field service scheduling skills is an integral component to the success or failure of any field operation. But what sets the good and the bad professionals apart? What qualities must dispatch managers have to succeed in an era of sky-high customer expectations?

Quick thinking, a positive attitude, shift management skills, a keen understanding of service techs, and coffee are all important components of dispatch manager’s lives. But just as our story above illustrates, there’s one thing that matters more than any of these skills: decision-making.

The secret weapon to becoming an insanely good dispatch manager lies in your ability to make solid decisions in real-time.

Dispatch decisions are the bedrock of efficient service and high customer satisfaction. Making the right decision at the right moment can make or break a technician’s day (or week), and result in customers gained or customers lost. After all, there are hundreds of granite companies to choose from.

The following decision training exercises will get your dispatch team prepared to make the right decisions while under pressure. Shall we begin?

1. Use the WRAP Framework

In their 2013 book, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work,” Dan and Chip Heath laid a foundation for decision-making using the WRAP methodology, with each letter representing a step in the process. Here’s how it works:

Widen your options

First and foremost, dispatch managers should always seek to come up with as many options as possible. When an angry customer calls, or a technician gets overworked, start by developing alternative scenarios. Widening your options is the first step towards a fast resolution.

Reality-test your assumptions

Your dispatch experience has likely uncovered patterns in technician behavior, time to customer resolution, and more. Abandon your past experience by taking a deeper dive into the data. What do your top tech’s numbers really look like? What is your software telling you? No matter your service situation, try to build a comprehensive picture of reality instead of taking your assumptions at face value.

Attain distance before deciding

Once you have your options laid out and data to back decisions up—it’s time to step away for five minutes. Get a cup of coffee. Walk around the block. If a big decision is hanging over your head, you need distance from it.

Prepare to be wrong

Once you have decided the best path toward resolution, assume you have missed something. Even with all your blood, sweat, and tears poured into resolving customer and technician problems, someone is going to be upset. And that’s okay. Preparing to be wrong is about accepting that perfect is impossible. You simply won’t survive (mentally) in dispatch management without accepting that some things will go askew from time to time.

2. Practice Deciding Which Script to Follow

It’s easy to get flustered in dispatch management while interacting with customers. But the words you choose in every scenario can make or break the customer relationship. For example, with just a single word discrepancy, “how can I help you?” and “can I help you?” could come across drastically different from the customer perspective.

Try developing a bank of situation-based scripts or phrases. Then, train your dispatch team to use these phrases by putting them through mock service calls, in which customers express various frustrations.

Here are a few challenging scenarios and positive phrases to try in each:

Scenario 1: When you don’t have an answer

Statement 1: That’s a great question. I’ll need to connect with my supervisor to get an answer. Can we talk tomorrow morning when I have more information for you?”

Not having an immediate answer or resolution for a customer is tricky. Bottom line, it’s going to happen. It’s important that you verbalize you don’t have an immediate answer, but equally important that you do not waver. Saying “maybe,” or “I am not sure,” or “that’s a tough question” signals a lack of confidence to the customer. Keep it simple. Let them know you’ll get them a resolution.

Scenario 2: When a customer asks for something you can’t provide

Statement 2: “As much as we would love to be able to help with that, we simply can’t. Have you considered trying [or contacting] the following?”

Sometimes customers demand services that you’re not capable of fulfilling. It’s essential at those time to provide options, but signal clearly that you are unable to fulfill the request. Never promise to do something you can’t. This will end in frustrated customers.

Scenario 3: Ending a conversation

Statement 3: “Is there anything else I can do? I am happy to help.”

Some customers don’t like to express negative feelings. This means you’ll simply never know if a customer is walking away when you end a service call. To combat this, ensure you wrap up each conversation up in a positive manner. Keep the door open for another call, or another service you can provide.

In the end, honing your decision-making skills will take time. Stick with it, stay positive, and be confident that your improved decision making is going to positively impact both your customers’ and your field technicians’ daily lives.

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

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Mike Karlskind
By Mike Karlskind

Mike Karlskind has over 15 years of experience streamlining processes and optimizing decisions for service organizations in a wide variety of industries including computer services, utilities, telecommunications, capital equipment, home services, retail services, insurance, and medical equipment. This includes recommending and implementing streamlined processes, service policies, user roles, programs for change implementation, training courses, and defining user roles for greater productivity. He also wrote "Service is Hard" with Steve Smith and Alec Berry.

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