For most people, holidays are about spending time with family and loved ones, celebrating what matters most and likely enjoying a decadent meal. These are also peak travel times regardless of the mode of transportation, forcing airlines and other transport providers to plan for increased demand as well as allowing some staff time off. American Airlines’ recent scheduling snafu could leave as many as 15,000 flights without sufficient crew during this peak time. While eye-catching as a news item, this is also a sobering reminder for service organizations that smart scheduling and shift planning software is the linchpin of seamless service and positive customer experience.
What can businesses do to prevent scheduling snags or minimize their impact? With 20 plus years of expertise in field service management, we can confidently recommend a multifaceted approach that accounts for technology and human behavior.
Process and Protocols
While businesses with a large service workforce can choose from a bevy of vendor-supplied and homegrown scheduling solutions, these still need some guidelines to be configured and used effectively. Take time to talk through best and worst case scenarios and create protocols for handling different types of situations before they come to pass. If you know your company is likely to face massive changes in demand, or, such as airlines during holidays, will have times when increased demand for staff must be balanced with increased demand for time off, define rules to address the situation. Everything from location, to employee seniority, to previous holidays off could become a factor you can plan for, enabling software to automate some of these decisions as certain requirements are triggered.
Find Your Fail-Safes
The triggers for specific protocols can vary, so the ability to configure to a great level of specificity is critical, as well as the ability to remain flexible. Keeping scheduling software integrated with your human resources and time-off systems will ensure the right data is being passed through to support intelligent and optimized decision-making. You can also build in triggers for exceptions where an automated decision is not best, and rely on your pre-defined protocols to handle those exceptions in a speedy and consistent manner.
Understand the Service Chain
While your customer is most likely interacting with your employees on the day of service, your work begins long before and continues after the job is completed. The most agile field service organizations are predictive and not reactive. They utilize every piece of data available to effectively plan for adequate resource capacity, and accurately forecast demand. You can include historical data from your service operations, as well as weather and travel trends, and real-time traffic information to ensure customer demands are met on the day of service. Leveraging artificial intelligence based scheduling and machine learning will also make your systems smarter and more effective at addressing the unexpected over time.
Much can go wrong on any day of service, and while a massive computer glitch such as the one blamed for American Airlines’ scheduling woes is ostensibly impossible to predict, thoughtful planning, process, and rule setting built into solutions for scheduling your workforce can mitigate the risk of a staffing disaster.
To learn more about scheduling best practices, visit the ClickSoftware blog.