Haley Bucelewicz | 03.06.19

Have you ever stopped to think about the impact appointment booking has on the entire day of service? Just one miscalculated decision can lead to missed appointments (and unhappy customers), high travel and service costs, or severe productivity loss. It’s certainly not something you want to gloss over.

Organizations take different approaches to booking service appointments depending on circumstances like their business goals or the solution they have. But the bottom line is, the way appointments are booked seriously matters.

Many organizations book appointments based on averages—such as average job duration or average travel time. But the truth is, averages don’t reflect reality. For instance, job duration will vary depending on individual technician skills. A more experienced technician can probably complete the same job a lot faster than an employee who just finished training. Likewise, travel time will always vary due to factors like unexpected traffic, roadblocks, and weather conditions.

Relying on averages is risky when you consider that underestimating by even a few minutes could mean a missed appointment or lost customers. Meanwhile, overestimating could mean leaving a tech idle when he could be completing more jobs.

The strongest appointment booking methods rely on the truth and use actual, real-time data to create the optimal schedule. The best example of this is truth-based appointment booking.

What is truth-based appointment booking?

Truth-based appointment booking offers windows based on the actual availability of resources with the existing schedule in mind. It takes real data like work type, SLA requirements, required skills and parts, and geographical location and proximity to match the right technician to the right job.

Rather than relying on averages, this method factors in actual travel times based on a combination of predictive travel and live traffic updates. Likewise, it calculates actual job duration by factoring in the details of the job and the individual skills of the technician.

Not to mention, priorities tend to shift on the day of service when factors like unexpected traffic or emergency jobs pop up. When this method is combined with schedule optimization capabilities, appointments can be constantly reshuffled and refined to maximize the use of resources and time. All this, while remaining committed to your customers’ appointment slots.

Considering the impact of appointment booking, are you starting to see why using real data is so crucial? Let’s dive deeper:

Maximize the Use of Time and Resources with Precise Appointment Booking

In field service, every second counts. Any minute saved could translate over time into extra hours of productivity and more satisfied customers. Any time lost can be detrimental to both.

As discussed above, truth-based appointment booking considers real job duration based on things like the individual skills and proximity of a technician, as well as real travel times. Armed with this information, you have a better idea of how many jobs you can realistically fit in per day. You might even be able to identify opportunities to fit in more jobs and be more productive that day.

To illustrate, let’s consider a commonly used alternative approach that’s based on averages and managed in silos – the “bucket” approach. This approach separates appointments into different categories, such as job types. In an 8-12 window you might have a bucket for new installations and new installs, each with nine hours of capacity. If an average install takes two hours and average travel is 30 minutes, you could add three new installs into that bucket with 90 minutes remaining. If another customer calls in for an install, based on averages the tech might not have enough time to make the appointment. Either he could commit to the job and risk not making it, or make the customer wait until the next day and leave the technician idle.

Not to mention, there’s still that repair bucket to think about. If an average repair takes 30 minutes, that’s an hour per job with travel time. Though you could fit nine repairs in that window, maybe only six customers call in for repairs. Now you have three remaining hours that could be used for a new install.

If actual job duration and travel time were considered, you would know for sure how many jobs you could fit in a time slot. You might have even found that you could actually fit in four installs instead of three if you knew those customers were all within 10 minutes of each other.

And you definitely wouldn’t waste those three remaining hours of capacity by leaving the technician idle. When you’re tapped into the real-time schedule and the pool of resources at your disposal, you can easily turn that free time into productivity.

Finally, as an added bonus, you can increase your first-time-fix rate. Because truth-based appointment booking considers the skills and experience of available resources, you can easily assign the best technician for the job.

To review, truth-based appointment booking can translate to:

  • A more accurate and realistic view into the service day
  • The potential to fit in more jobs per day
  • A minimized risk of missing a job or arriving late
  • An increased likelihood of a first-time fix by matching the right tech to the job

But wait, there’s more you can do to further improve your service day. Let’s discuss how graded appointment booking, used in conjunction with the truth-based approach can ensure an optimized schedule.

Truth-Based and Graded Appointment Booking: The Optimal Combination

As mentioned previously, the approach organizations take to appointment booking often depend on their individual business policy and goals. Some might prioritize customer satisfaction above all else, while others might be prioritizing reducing travel time. However, sometimes the methods used to accommodate for a specific goal don’t work out in their favor.

For instance, consider an organization that prioritizes customer satisfaction. To keep customers happy, this organization might let customers choose their own appointment slots (or even exact times) they want until the schedule is full. In theory, this sounds like the best approach for customer satisfaction, but is it really in the customers’ best interest?

Imagine if two customers who live on opposite ends of town need the same repair, and there’s only one technician available who can do the job. If that tech runs into unexpected traffic, or the previous job runs over, he might miss the next appointment and the customer will have to reschedule, leaving them frustrated.

Graded appointment booking ranks timeslots based on your company’s KPIs and organizational goals. The system scans all qualified resources in each window until it finds the best option based on your business policy, and then compares and grades all timeslots accordingly. This makes it much easier to see which appointment slot will best help you meet your goals.

For example, let’s say the main goal of your company is to minimize travel time. If one customer has an appointment at 2 p.m. and their neighbor also requests an appointment, it would make the most sense to schedule the neighbor immediately after to minimize travel.

Another benefit of graded appointment booking is that it helps influence the customer’s choice of appointment slot so that it aligns with your business priorities. Take the example above with the organization prioritizing customer satisfaction. Instead of just letting customers choose whatever slot they want, you can let them choose from a selection of slots that will benefit both them and your business.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure an optimal day of service and meet your business goals with appointment booking is to rely on nothing but the truth. Use real, tangible data and the added visibility of grading to get the most optimal service schedule possible.  

To learn more about the benefits of truth-based appointment booking, watch our video here. For more field service management insights, head to the ClickSoftware blog.