Murphy’s Law, the saying that “anything that can go wrong will” might as well be the motto for unscheduled field service disasters. From traffic delays to customer cancellations to miscommunication from the front office to the field, it’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of missed commitments and additional overtime. This doesn’t just negatively affect your service costs; it also directly affects customer loyalty and employee performance. How can you make the most of your organization’s time without being forced to resort to overtime? Here are some tips that will transform your workforce and improve your use of field resources.
Empower your organization by switching to a mobility platform, including transitioning to cloud software. In all field service operations, mobility provides administrators, field managers and technicians with a wealth of new tools and capabilities. Those benefits include mobile smart devices with access to real-time data, diagnostic tools and task automation. Adapting to mobilization is the very first step in designing the right shifts to optimally cover expected demand.
Once you’ve gone mobile, you can go a step further and start creating apps that give your employees access to data directly from the field. That will further minimize overtime because the home office doesn’t have to spend time giving information to technicians and can instead deal with the more important internal bureaucratic issues (i.e., paperwork, payment processing, et cetera).
Implement an Up-To-Date Roster
In addition to keeping accurate records of who is currently employed by the company and who isn’t (I’ve witnessed the chaos that occurs when this is not kept in proper order), maintain an updated list of your workers skills, availability and shift preferences when an employee swap is required. This will give managers more flexibility and the ability to work faster when assigning available people to the right jobs since they know who can do what. The faster a new crew member can be sent the less likely operations will go over scheduled hours.
Plan the right resources.
Playing off the previous tip, having the right resources with the right skills in a given territory at the right time is key to ensuring less overtime. Or, as a teacher of mine once put it, “You’ve gotta anticipate your needs”. That means planning properly. If a service organization wants to be successful on any given day and stay inside their budgeted hours, resources need to be allocated properly. That means: If you run an internet service provider, your field employees have the right amount of cables, number of modems and other ancillary equipment to do their jobs and get through their allotted amount of jobs for the day. It also means making sure a software specialist is not sent to set up or repair physical server infrastructure. Making sure the right technician is sent to a job so it is done correctly the first time will prevent the need for additional trips and consequent overtime.
Consider a proportional staffing system.
This type of shift planning means staffing shifts according to the level of incoming work. This can be done by either setting up a static model in which quieter periods are staffed by fewer people while keeping all hands on deck during peak hours, or by relying on statistics from previous years to set up shift schedules. An example of the former would be by definition staffing night shifts more lightly than those during the day. An example of the latter is more involved but works just as well. This would involve analyzing the number of sales, phone calls, etc. received during a given year and constructing a historical model based on the information. That information in turn is used as the foundation for all shift planning and scheduling. By scheduling employees when they are most needed, you prevent the situation of being understaffed and the employees scheduled for that day’s work putting in a nightmarish 16-hour shift (with a massive amount of overtime).
Increase communication between the office and field.
While mobility opens the door to more real-time updates, the importance of communication from field employees to the back-office should not be understated. With important work-order information at their fingertips, field employees can answer inquiries faster, completing more work which reduces overtime and labor costs. However, field employees rely on the home office in case of changes in information, the type of job to be done, cancellations and the like. The more streamlined communication is, the faster your workers can get the job done.
Establish firm attendance and vacation policies
The final recommendation is one that can affect overtime the most, and that is to set up a firm attendance and vacation policy. The policy should factor in all of the reasons why an employee may be absent from work or schedule medical leave, but should also set firm guidelines for what is acceptable and what isn’t. It should also require employees to schedule unpaid leave with paid vacation so that they overlap to the utmost degree. This type of adjustment is what helped the MBTA in Boston reduce absenteeism and overtime by around 19% in just two months.
These cost saving opportunities can begin by enabling mobile workforce management. To begin improving your service, join others and begin comparing your field workforce performance to best in class industry benchmarks with the Service Index Dashboard.