[A Better Process For] Scheduling and Dispatching - Striven

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[A Better Process For] Scheduling and Dispatching

Eric Kingett
November 2, 2020
8 min read

When your technician arrives at your customer’s doorstep, it may appear as the first step in the process of providing your service. But for the best field service companies, that moment is actually the result of careful and calculated prior planning. 

Did your technician arrive on time? Did they have all of the necessary equipment with them? What certifications do they hold?

The dilemmas you deal with contain an ever-changing amount of moving parts. Issues such as dispatching appropriately skilled technicians, tracking their status, and avoiding the dreaded low first-time fixed rate all plague your work day.

But they don’t have to. Modern field service management (FSM) technology—and the experts behind it—unify the variables that have always seemed to be stubbornly uncommunicative. 

With the right field service scheduling software, you can worry less about each individual dispatch and get back to growing your business. There are a lot of things to consider when optimizing your dispatching, but if you’re able to take full advantage of the technology at your disposal, you’ll see that the difficult problems didn’t have to be so difficult after all. 

Are You Prepared For Each Dispatch?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

When it comes to field services, there are many pre-dispatch questions to address. To properly service your customer, they’ll all need to be answered before the customer ever receives an appointment time. Let’s break down all of the components of a successful field service visit from start to finish:

A customer calls in who needs services X and Y at their home, and you have a feeling they may need service Z as well. This customer is near the edge of your service radius. Given the time-sensitive and difficult nature of service Z, you want someone to service this customer ASAP.

Are they nearby? The most obvious obstacle is geography. Given the time-sensitive nature of this particular dispatch, it is important that you have up-to-the-minute locations of your technicians so that you can route someone to the customer’s location with time to spare. Even for jobs that don’t require as much urgency, it is important to hold your employees accountable for maintaining high standards of customer service in regards to keeping prompt appointment times. 

Are they certified to handle services, X, Y, and Z? While services X and Y are fairly routine, service Z requires a little more expertise. Your business depends on your customers feeling as though they received top notch service every single time. Make sure the technicians you dispatch are overqualified to handle all of the possible scenarios they may encounter. With the right technology at your fingertips, you’ll be able to see what specific experience, skills, and other certifications your technicians have so that you can send out the right people accordingly. 

In the midst of everything else you’re managing, don’t let expired certifications impede the progress of a job—the right field service management software will automatically alert you when it’s time for your technicians to renew their certifications.

Do they have the proper equipment? So you’ve found that Technician A is a very short distance from your customer, and they have all of the necessary certifications to complete services X, Y, and Z. Awesome. 

Except—what if they don’t have all of the proper tools with them? 

Sure, they should already have everything they need with them. But in reality, it pays to double check. You really thought Technician A would be the one to solve this issue, but it turns out that they need to take an extra hour to retrieve the proper tools to address the service. Technician B is equally close, certified, and has all of the tools on hand, so you send them over instead.

Each Dispatch Provides Valuable Data

The job is done, the customer is satisfied, and the issues that normally surround service Z didn’t rear their ugly heads this time around. This is all great news. However, there’s a lot more still to be learned from this dispatch. Because not every job will go this smoothly.

Each service call that your business receives acts as an opportunity to gather, analyze, and act upon data. How long did the job take from start to finish? Could anything have been done to expedite the process further? Did your technician have a clear picture of the problem upon arrival?

Even though everything went smoothly, this is important to analyze. In fact, it is important to analyze because of how smoothly it went—your goal should be to learn how and why this job was a success so that this process can be replicated in the future. 

Regardless of whether a job went well, poorly, or in between, you may find yourself asking “Who has time to comb through every single dispatch?” The answer to that isn’t a “who,” but a “what.” The best field service management software is able to generate quick reports so that you can quickly analyze all of the pertinent information surrounding how your jobs went.

The best way to prevent a job from going south is to prepare as best as possible ahead of time. 54% of technicians say that a pre-visit review of service history is their toughest challenge—this being one of the many pre-dispatch challenges you’ll want to account for.

Track Your Technicians

The best way to ensure timeliness each and every time is to have a clear picture of what your technicians are up to, and when. Not only will the right mobile field service scheduling software keep you on top of your technicians location, it will keep your customers in the loop too. Impatience dominates the customer service industry—give your customers the opportunity to precisely see when they can expect to be serviced. Accountability gives rise to success. 

Avoiding A Low First Time Fix Rate

According to the Aberdeen Group, if your first time fix rate performance falls below 88%, you’re not at the top of your industry. Below 80% would qualify you as below average. Keeping this rate high is essential to retaining customers and staying afloat in this hyper-competitive industry. How can you avoid first time failures? Give your technicians all of the information they need, when they need it. Mobile apps developed for field service professionals allow technicians to obtain this data from anywhere, any time. 

In the sample dispatch we covered earlier, everything went right. Look at all of the variables you accounted for to ensure success—geography, certifications, tools, etc.—and apply those measures to each dispatch going forward

Technician Feedback

Data isn’t a one way street here—your technicians should be able to give feedback about the job from their end, too. Whether it’s simply acknowledging the completion of the job or something more complicated like requesting additional equipment, your technician should be able to swiftly communicate with you and your team at all times. 

In today’s world, you would be best served to communicate with your technicians about health and safety issues that may arise. If your customers are required to wear masks while your technician is present, and they refuse to, what happens next? Getting both real-time and post-dispatch feedback from your employees is vital.

It’s A Learning Process

When jobs inevitably don’t go smoothly, the best thing that you and your business can do is learn from and correct the mistakes and inefficiencies that led you down that path. 

The best way to avoid failure on the job is to prepare, act, learn, and repeat. Each day will present new challenges and new obstacles that your technicians have to overcome. Stay on top of the latest technology that your industry uses to facilitate their operations—it may just be the difference between success and failure.

Eric Kingett Headshot

Eric Kingett

Eric Kingett is a software consultant with over a decade of experience in supporting business software for SMBs. His background is in customer service, software support and consultation. Eric has a knack for listening to challenges that people have and solving their problems with technology. He considers Star Trek to be way better than Star Wars.