Barrett Coakley | 02.20.19
Summary >

Not all scheduling optimization software is created equal.

A recent ad on the radio from a cable provider touted their ability to provide service within a 2 hour appointment window. This timeframe is certainly more advantageous than having to wait at home for 4 hours or longer to get someone to your home for service. The result is happier customers but only if the field service team can actually deliver on this promise. Let’s look at how a field service team can use the appointment window as a competitive advantage.

The key to being able to respond to a service call on time is determined by the ability of your FSM system to accurately predict a how long a job will take when taking into account several variables. Factors such as a technicians skill, travel conditions, and weather conditions all factor into determining how long a job should last and how many appointments you can accurately schedule in a day. While there are a variety of appointment booking methodologies used by service companies, they aren’t all created equal. The right appointment booking method enables better schedule optimization which will ensure your workforce operates at full capacity, satisfies customers, and enables the appointment window to become a competitive differentiator.

You can see the difference in accuracy by comparing 2 different scheduling methods – bucket-based and truth-based.

Bucket Based Booking

The bucket based appointment booking approach works by separating job types into “buckets” and relying on average job duration and travel times to create the schedule. The problem with averages is that they are usually much different than reality and do not take into account mitigating variables. In addition, these buckets are created in silos, making it difficult to move time from one bucket to another to best utilize available resources. Even if you could manage it, imagine doing so for tens of buckets, for every region, for every day, and every job type.

For example, let’s say a repair takes an average of 30 minutes. With travel time, that makes one hour per job on average. In theory, you could fit nine repair jobs in an 8-12 appointment window. But today’s a quiet day and only six customers called in for repairs. That means you have three remaining hours that you could use to squeeze in an install or win more business. However, because these appointments were booked in silos, you are not able to move idle resources to other calls, resulting in lost revenue and poor utilization rates.

Truth Based Booking

Truth-based appointment booking is the method of booking appointments based on true job durations and true travel time, with the complete, existing schedule in consideration. Truth based booking is an artificial intelligence-driven technology that can use predictive data to reduce idle time, better anticipate travel time, and allow for back up resources to step in quickly when necessary.

For instance, instead of leaving white space in the schedule when a customer cancels, the technician can be re-assigned to another job. The system can take the tech's location into account and send them to another nearby job, without delaying other scheduled work. This makes for a more productive day, increased revenue and satisfied customers.

These smart systems can also record disruption data over time to help with future planning. It can track trends, such as weather conditions throughout the year. In the months when there’s a higher probability for snow, the system can schedule more low-priority jobs in case there’s a storm and the tech needs to cancel. It could also look at typical traffic conditions during this weather and account for potential delays.

Because truth-based appointment booking relies on actual data and breaks down silos, it’s the best way to keep your workforce productive and optimize your time. And using this method, an intelligent field service management solution will continuously run and optimize the actual schedule. When another job can be fit in, or if a tech has too much idle time, the system can automatically reshuffle the schedule and assign tasks in a way that fully utilizes your resources.

Truth-based appointment booking can help you prepare the schedule for days, weeks, and months in advance. Because it optimizes in real-time, it allows you to maximize time and offer comfortable, and even same-day, appointments you can keep.

Actual Intelligence at Work

One of our customers chose Click to automate their scheduling. Here are some of the benefits they derived from using Click’s scheduling optimization technology and truth-based appointment booking.

  • Improves engineer utilization by 33%, equating to one additional daily work order per technician.
  • Decreases required engineer-to-customer ratio by 7% with a projected 12% decrease expected to generate wage savings of $5.66 million per year.
  • Reduces inbound calls to the scheduling department by 60%, which decreases required full-time scheduling employees by 40%, and generates wage savings of $608,400 per year.
  • Improves fuel efficiency by 32% (1.2 gallon average decrease on completed work orders) to generate an estimated cost savings of $591,072 per year.
  • Facilitates efficient coordination of service projects that generate additional revenue and improve the level of services delivered to customers.
  • Allows for extra projects to be added to regular service calls without adding additional resources.

The client commented, ““ClickSoftware continually allows us to optimize our field technician schedules throughout the day to ensure that all jobs and resources are optimally matched, even with changing service requests throughout the day. The solution’s automatic scheduling capability lets us create the most effective schedule possible while providing our schedulers with the necessary tools to react in real-time to unexpected events.”

Not all schedule optimization approaches are created equal which is why you need to understand how an FSM solution approaches booking to ensure you have the most effective system in place. This will enable your organization to be more accurate and help increase customer satisfaction and even differentiate yourself from the competition who is operating in blind silos, decreasing flexibility and reducing their ability to distinguish based on service.