In the field service business, emergency calls are an every-day occurrence. While most of your customers can schedule service in a timely manner and wait for both schedules to line up, some people need help with broken plumbing, malfunctioning HVAC, sparking outlets, or aggressive insects right away. No matter what kind of field service you're in, emergencies happen.
And as a fleet manager, it's not only your job to get the vehicles out there, you also have to figure out a strong system for last-minute emergency scheduling.
Today, we're here to talk about the different methods of field service scheduling so that your fleet can get to customers in time to save them from their emergencies. Whether you are preventing a home from flooding, mending a roof before a storm, or even providing last-minute home cleaning before a party your customers will greatly appreciate your ability to provide emergency scheduling and services.
Profit vs Scheduling Empty Time
When trying to optimize your field service fleet, the temptation is always to book each day as completely as possible. During high-demand seasons and for businesses that always see steady work orders, it can be all too easy to fully book your team's time every day from setting out in the morning to pulling in after sunset.
Basic profit calculations suggest that this is the most practical way to make the most money every financial cycle, but full booking doesn't leave any wiggle room for emergency calls. This means that you won't be able to build a glowing reputation for coming to the rescue and you may have to turn down a significant percentage of your calls simply because there's nothing available soon enough for customers who desperately need to schedule a last-minute work order.
This creates an inherent conflict, a problem that needs to be solved by every field service business in a way that works best for them. For every business, there is a way to balance profitable scheduled work and room for emergency calls. If you've been struggling with this decision or are just looking for a way to improve your current system, let's take a look at five different models of time management for taking on emergency calls.
1) Set A Time Slot Aside Every Day
If you want to always be able to answer at least one last-minute work order each day, the best way to do this is simply to work it into your service schedule. This is a practical and easy to maintain balance because it can be made into a routine and a standard way of doing things. There is little to no risk that a new dispatcher will misunderstand this policy, especially if you establish the exact same time slot availability every single time.
Many field service businesses choose to go this route because it is an uncomplicated solution that plays on a simple ratio. Unless you are getting an average of more than one emergency call a day, leaving one slot open allows you to fully book the rest of the day without worry and always have at least a small amount of flexibility to provide for emergencies. Considering the size and population of your service area, one slot a day is often more than enough.
However, where and how you officially place this slot can have a significant influence on your fleet workflow. Depending on the size and population of your service area, it may be more practical to leave this slot open for every team in the fleet, allowing you to provide one extra emergency service per team, or to cycle which team has emergency duties on a given day.
You will also want to calculate the time of day of your last-minute timeslot. Right before or after lunchtime is a great time for the teams because if there is no emergency, they take a long lunch. At the end of the day is also practical, as it allows you to provide more time if teams finish early and gives emergency customers the most hours in a day to call in and request service.
2) Award Emergency Jobs to Teams Who Finish Early
Speaking of finishing early, this leads us to the next most commonly used approach to the emergency scheduling question. For fleet managers that like days to be booked solid for the efficiency bonus, you don't necessarily have to sacrifice your emergency work order opportunities to keep your teams moving quickly throughout the day.
If the name of your logistics game is speed and efficiency and your teams are on board trying to shorten their service and drive-times each month to beat best scores and provide lightening-fast service, then your end-of-day is likely to start looking more and more roomy.
Rather than rewarding your fastest teams by scheduling them for an additional after-sunset assignment, you can let this extra time be what is provided for emergency calls. Each time you get a request for last-minute service, place the work order in an unclaimed category and let it be known that the first team to finish their regularly scheduled services can claim the request, along with the additional pay that it comes with.
This is not only highly motivating for your team, it can also be used to ensure that emergency situations are handled by your most capable and efficient technicians who will provide ideal service to a worried customer.
However, there is a small downside to this approach: when you're counting on service speed to free up the time, it's dangerous to make promises to a customer experiencing an emergency. There is always a chance that traffic or unexpectedly difficult work can slow down teams you were counting on to finish early, losing that time slot that your emergency customers may have been counting on.
If you prefer this approach, the best solution is to let last-minute customers know that you may be able to get them in today or tomorrow, then make sure to schedule them early the next day if they are not seen on the day they call.
[Continued in Part 2! contact us]