Balancing Service Cost With Resource Scheduling Software
Author: Hadas Lahav, Product Line Director
Most service scheduling applications – and manual processes – provide customers with commitments for field resource arrival time based on a predetermined number of slots for each geographic area, product type, and time window. These slots are allotted to customers arbitrarily as they call, until they are all filled. This is known as the “bucket” approach.
The problem with this approach is that it does not take into consideration a number of factors, such as the location of previous service calls, the actual availability of individual field resources, and the exact skill mix of these individuals. This can lead to excess service costs. One major example is the excess travel that results from customers who are located on the same street, but who arbitrarily select appointment times that are hours apart. When the offered appointments do not consider the varying locations of jobs, duration of different types of work, late arrivals and idle time, service costs will ultimately rise and leave the service business and the field workers begging for help.
Enter optimized resource scheduling. When appointment booking is optimized with a resource scheduling system, service organizations are able to identify criteria that are important to them in order to balance service costs – such as shortest route between calls – and have the system take these criteria into account to determine a time that is still convenient for the customer, but also maximizes workforce efficiency according to location, skill set, job duration and more.
Resource scheduling software looks at the existing workload versus workforce capacity in terms of geography, skills and time, rather than a predefined estimate. The schedule can also be continually re-optimized throughout the day, creating further improvements in resource utilization while maintaining customer commitments.
Traditionally, service companies have made compromises in optimization that allow easier decisions. A simple example is the creation of ‘invisible’ boundaries of coverage, i.e. any service call received within a certain territory will be dispatched to one of the technicians servicing the area. This does reduce the number of possible choices and the complexity of the decisions for dispatchers, but it doesn’t come cheap. By disregarding the overall workload balance in the field and the possibility of scheduling a resource from a neighboring territory that is actually closer to the customer, the service business could be losing 5% or 10% of potential optimization.
With resource scheduling software, it is reasonable to state that a 10% increase in productivity for a field workforce of 300 resources can be worth millions of dollars each year.
A resource scheduling solution will help balance costs by finding the best “overall” field engineer for every job, every time. Not just the closest, or the one that can respond fastest, but the one that best balances the workload, minimizes overtime, and can arrive within the committed timeframe. A good resource scheduling system will consider numerous variables, in addition to the technician, customer, and specific task – this includes geography and travel time, parts pick up and inventory, service level agreements and much more, in order to come up with the right balance for your service costs.