When it comes to scheduling technicians for service calls, many field service businesses struggle to get by. Many businesses today are still using old scheduling techniques, including whiteboards, emailing, and even sticky notes in the office. What ends up happening is, the technicians are often left waiting for jobs to complete with holes in their schedule. They remain unproductive for a large portion of their day where they are not billing a customer. However, the business is still paying those technicians for time on the clock. And that can skyrocket labor costs.
The solution is to move towards scheduling software and a mobile field service solution. Consider that by this year, analysis firm IDC forecasts that the mobile worker population in the United States will surpass 105 million. So, it’s more important than ever to get on board with a mobile solution and scheduling software that supports mobile tools.
“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work,” said Bryan Bassett, research analyst, Mobile Enterprise Device Solutions at IDC. “This expectation will be supplemented by new solutions specifically intended to manage the challenges associated with the growing needs of the mobile workforce.”
Here are ways field service businesses are automating scheduling and dispatch with scheduling software to control labor costs.
Reduce unproductive schedule gaps
Every hour a technician is working, they are collecting a wage. But are they billing every hour? If not, then every minute they aren’t on the clock with a customer is labor costs the field service business is eating. And that comes right off the bottom line. Technicians may not be able to bill every hour of every day, but the idea is to have them billing as much as possible. And to do that, their unproductive time needs to be reduced.
One solution when using scheduling software is to send technicians on as many emergency calls as possible using a mobile field service software to fill in the gaps when needed with routine maintenance. When a technician has completed an emergency call, if there isn’t another one, they can go right to the next scheduled maintenance call. With routing and GPS tools available inside scheduling software, this can be done geographically, rather than having technicians driving long-distances. This way, unproductive time is drastically reduced. And technicians are always on the move to the next service call.
“This extra visibility, and a more flexible and dynamic scheduling software, are cornerstones to improve productivity in the field and address key quality issues,” said one study by The McKinsey Quarterly on Improving Field Service Productivity. “Using improved scheduling software and making better use of mobile field service apps, field service businesses gain real-time visibility into the schedules of their field workforce.”
Recapture unapplied time
Without some form of automated scheduling software, unapplied time can add up quickly. And without mobile field service software, it’s in the hands of the technician to report it. Unapplied time can be anything from bathroom stops to fixing a flat tire on the road. It’s not charged to a work order but is applied to an expense account, which still eats into profits. The technician isn’t billing but yet, they are still being paid. Some technicians might slow down while on another service call until their next call is near. And service managers won’t be able to recognize it without scheduling software to alert them to this wasted time.
Without some form of technician scheduling software, trust is being placed in the technician to report all their time accurately. The problem is not the honesty of your employees, but rather, finding trends in these gaps to recapture that time and apply it to good use. If a technician has a lot of unapplied time, it tells service managers they can handle more calls. And dispatchers can start routing new emergency calls or routine maintenance calls through to their mobile field service app.
Identify Trends In Your Labor Force
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of scheduling software is the ability to find trends in your scheduling and dispatch. Reporting tools allow you to take all the information in from the mobile field service apps and turn it into meaningful reports. Knowing how long each technician spends on the road on average can help you find ways to reduce that time in a day. Perhaps by looking into scheduling work orders closer to each other. Or seeing how long each technician is spending on a job site and what kind of calls they are taking in order to reduce requests for overtime by not overbooking.
Analytics play such an important role in field service that having more detail about your technicians and their movements will only help field service businesses make better decisions later. Scheduling software provides that kind of detail that you are missing with manual processes, whiteboards and sticky notes.
“Some companies are using new technology to get a more timely and accurate view of the field force, so managers can make decisions as events unfold,” the McKinsey Quarterly study. “This approach uses real-time information flows from the field, combined with the statistical analyses of consumer demand for services. The result tends to be a more actively engaged dispatch center that helps field managers to raise the utilization rate of their workforces.”
Analytics will also allow you to be more productive and see who your best technicians are. It can drastically change your scheduling practices if you are scheduling based on strength, rather than availability. Perhaps one technician is faster are complex jobs than another. With scheduling software, you can specifically see who your top technician is and, in this case, schedule them for the complex jobs you want done fast. Then schedule your remaining technicians for emergency calls and routine maintenance. This controls labor costs by reducing requests for overtime with weaken technicians completing complex jobs that will run over their standard day.
Scheduling Software Controls Costs
Labor costs can quickly get out of control in a field service business. Without some form of mobile field service software to keep technicians on track, it’s difficult to schedule and dispatch with efficiency in mind. Scheduling software will open up a wide range of new analytics, procedures and ways of recovering lost time from your technicians. And with that, you also recover the labor cost that comes with it, and instead, are billing more hours to your customers. Scheduling and dispatch are one of the most challenging operations any field service business has to complete. But with scheduling software, dispatchers and service managers now have an automated and in-depth view of technicians’ movements and the ability to make cost controlling decisions with the right information in front of them.