Technician scheduling is a big challenge in field service operation because it relies heavily on the ability to anticipate contingencies. A business is expected to have sufficient manpower to continue with routine operations while also handling unexpected occurrences. It’s a tough balancing act that requires enough technicians, the right skills mix, and proper communication.
Scheduling can involve a lot of paperwork when handled manually. It also requires matching people’s skills with the tasks to be handled. The dispatcher needs to think quickly and possess the emotional intelligence to handle conflicts, reassure clients, and request technicians to adjust schedules without creating tension.
It gets tougher when the unexpected occurrences become too frequent that technicians’ schedules keep on changing. When this happens and results in delays in ongoing tasks, it could signal inefficiencies within the company.
Here are key best practices field service companies can employ to better handle changing field service technicians’ schedules.
Criteria for prioritization
Field service companies should have a criterion for classifying the various task requests they receive. Each task should have a level of importance and urgency attached to them.
Classifying things in this manner ensures that every task that comes in is not handled as an emergency. It does not have to halt ongoing tasks if it’s not an emergency. This reduces disruptions.
Again, if a problem has resulted in halting of critical operations in a client’s business, the field service company can handle it as an emergency. Sufficient resources need to be assigned quickly to resolve it.
Standardize the scheduling workflow
The company must also have a standard way through which tasks are scheduled as requests come in. This will minimize the likelihood of errors that result from people being sent to do something they are not trained for.
For instance, if all routine maintenance requests come in and all specialists in the area are busy, the company should not send a specialist in another area to handle that request.
Sticking to this standard procedure ensures the company hires people proportionately, depending on the tasks to be carried out.
To reduce the impact of changing technician schedules, the company must maximize the technician availability. This means scheduling tasks in a manner that minimizes commute time and idle time.
The company must make routes and assign technicians in the most efficient manner. When an emergency comes in, it should be assigned to the nearest team that can handle it.
When technicians have to drive from one side of town to the next, it increases fuel costs, fatigues the technicians, and increases clients’ wait time.
Dashboard view of technician schedules for dispatchers
While spreadsheets have been used for a while to manage scheduling in companies, they have limitations. The dispatcher must keep toggling between different spreadsheets to see how each technician’s schedule looks like. Chances are that they will routinely miss something leading to double allocation of tasks or idle time for someone that should otherwise be busy.
The best workflow approach would be to have an intuitive dashboard from where the dispatcher can query available workers, visualize workloads, schedule tasks, all from one screen. This makes it easy to handle emergencies by seeing the available teams to handle a contingency quickly.
Automation of routine tasks
Using a service management software can ease the technician scheduling process by automating some things in the scheduling process.
For instance, if the company has some priority customers’ whose requests must always be handled quickly, their tasks can be labelled as ‘high priority’ whenever they come in. In fact, they can be immediately routed to the team that handles them.
Doing so saves the dispatcher some energy, allowing them to focus on more challenging tasks, such as handling crises or improving strategy.
To increase efficiency in scheduling, a field service company should get real-time updates of the progress of ongoing tasks. This is achievable through the reliance of field service software that comes with mobile applications for technicians.
On the app, technicians can update when they get to a client’s location, begin the task, and complete it. The dispatcher can see a technician’s pending tasks for the day and decide who to assign new tasks.
This approach avoids overburdening technicians. The company can also avoid spending too much on overtime payments to workers by assigning new tasks to technicians with lighter schedules.
An easy hack to ease scheduling is to have technicians grouped according to their skills. Most field service management software makes this possible.
The dispatcher can quickly find the right technician to handle a task. This is quite helpful in large organizations where there are hundreds of technicians whom the dispatchers have no personal relationships with.
How software complements the dispatcher
The work of a dispatcher requires management skills that the average person does not have. Field service companies must therefore be careful with the choice of person they assign the work because they serve as a liaison between customers and technicians.
They must have the right customer handling skills as well as multitasking ability. A lot of decisions they will make will be on the fly albeit with a standard operating procedure.
To ease their work, they must have the best tools to complement their management skills. Field service management software enables them to compute all the different factors that go into the scheduling decisions.
In some cases, the type of work, the complexity, the customer history, the urgency, and the available technicians all weigh in making the choice. The software also enables the dispatcher to provide the technicians all the necessary information they will need at the customer’s location. This could even involve following up on a lead if the customer had expressed interest in a new product or service.
Conclusion: Fixing scheduling problems improves customer satisfaction
Changing technician schedules carry the risk of delayed fix times for customer requests. Lack of proper communication could also leave customers feeling unvalued or ignored.
However, better anticipation of issues can help manage changes in schedules without too much disruption and delays of orders in progress. A good example would be ensuring a dispatcher calls a customer to let them know that a technician might take a few more hours to get to their location and whether that is okay with them.
If your company needs help to streamline your technician scheduling, check out MSI’s Service Pro. It will help maximize on-time service delivery by easing the scheduling process, dispatching, and work order management. The dispatcher can always see a technician’s location on a map, their availability, and work order status. Schedule a demo with MSI Data here!