Scheduling optimization can be a challenge for field service organizations, which are under increased pressure to reduce costs while simultaneously improving service and increasing business. If you schedule based on instinct alone, you may be doing yourself, your employees, and ultimately, your customers, a disservice.
Employee morale influences work behavior, attendance, and on-the-job performance — which makes it a critical consideration in schedule optimization. To accomplish this in today’s digital world, service organizations are increasingly relying on technology such as field service management software. Predictive technologies and mobile devices further improve accuracy and simplify processes, leading to more sustainable relationships and continued growth.
In this post we’ll explore seven scheduling tips that will help your organization save time and increase efficiency without decreasing employee well-being or customer satisfaction.
1. Know and Respect Your Employees’ Schedules
There are a number of things you can do to attract and retain top talent, but one of the most important things is putting your employees first. Recognize that things come up: sickness, family emergencies, car problems. The inverse is true when things come up at work. If you need someone to work late or pick up an extra shift, try to ask employees ahead of time and be willing to allow shift swaps for greater flexibility. When an employee asks for a day off, do everything in your power to give it to them without making them feel guilty about it. Ever.
If you want to provide your employees with something more than empathy, consider investing in a shift planning management solution. Best-in-class solutions enable seamless shift-swapping, vacation management, and schedule viewing across devices, while still ensuring you staff accurately based on forecasted demand, skills, availability, tenure, and other organizational policies.
2. Create Your Schedule in Advance
In the field service industry, even the best laid plans can change at the last minute. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to create consistency for your employees. Equipped with historic data — demand, job duration, traffic, and weather — you can create more accurate schedules. Try to post tentative schedules at least one month out. And use your shift management solution to automatically alert employees of any unexpected changes in their workload.
3. Manage On-Call Expectations
Certain industries in field service require scheduling employees to be on-call for after-hours. You know it’s part of the job—but do they? Every organization operates differently when it comes to on-call shifts. Some hire dedicated on-call workers in an attempt to provide staff with greater stability, while others depend on their normal workers.
No matter your policy, be upfront about on-call expectations during the interview process so potential hires have the full picture before committing to the company. Everyone has personal responsibilities, and some require more flexibility than others. Springing on-call shifts on a new employee — no matter how obvious it may seem to you — is a surefire way to lose them. And, as with most things in life, it’s okay to spice things up with some variety. If you don’t have dedicated on-call staff, switch up shifts throughout the year so distribution is fair for everyone involved.
4. Know Who Is Near
Know which of your employees are near a job site and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Many scheduling solutions allow you to dispatch the nearest field service worker, but not all jobs are created equal. For example, if a job requires the use of heavy machinery and you dispatch someone who isn’t licensed to operate it, the only thing you’re bolstering is your response time. If a faster response time isn’t paired with higher first-time fix rates, your customer satisfaction scores are likely plummeting, and it won’t be long before your retention rates follow suit.
One way leading service organizations are increasing productivity and efficiency on the fly is by implementing predictive field service technology. Rule-based employee assignment enables dispatchers to automatically map the nearest, most qualified employee to the right job.
5. Color Code Your Schedule
If you can glean vital information from a single glance, you can make faster decisions. For example, an internet service provider might be most interested in the type of service being offered. Are they going in for a simple in-home installation, or are they installing underground cabling? A janitorial company might be more interested in the status of their open jobs. Whether you color code by job status, type of job, location, or tech experience, you can streamline your own scheduling and dispatch tasks if you always know exactly what all of your employees are doing.
6. Update Your Customer Database
Happy employees make happy customers. True. But so does convenience. Update your customer database regularly so when customers schedule appointments, you can put precious minutes back on the clock knowing you already have their current phone number and address, preferred appointment windows and communication methods, or anything else that could create a more seamless customer journey once your technicians are out in the field.
7. Schedule in Bulk
When you have a customer who needs recurring maintenance, strive to simplify the scheduling process — as much for your sanity as for theirs.
As your schedule fills up, it becomes increasingly difficult to accommodate customer preferences. And if you still rely on manually scheduling appointments for recurring visits, know that sporadic appointment times increase the likelihood of a no-show or a cancellation, squandering your invaluable resources. Scheduling recurring appointments in bulk not only saves your organization five to ten minutes for each appointment, but it also creates predictability in the schedules of everyone involved.
The Best Way to Simplify Scheduling Logistics
When scheduling mistakes get made due to inefficiencies tied to manual processes or scaling issues, the productivity of your field service technicians goes down. Even worse? Annoyed customers have to pause their busy lives to wait on you.
You put your reputation on the line every time you send someone out for a new appointment. And with more options than ever before, customers never have to look far to seek out organizations that can do it better. Investing time and resources in your scheduling processes, employee morale, and predictive field service management will bring you one step closer to ensuring that each and every personal interaction with your customers is impactful and profitable.
For more on schedule optimization and shift management, visit the ClickSoftware blog.