If you’ve ever had an office job around late December, you’ve probably observed a few different conundrums that arise. Usually, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a complete dead zone in offices -- at least in terms of physical space being used. Oftentimes, dependent on what day of the week January 1st is, that next week is the same way. (And heck, sometimes the week before is the same way too.)
This year, the Mondays in question are December 19th, 26th, and January 2nd. The week of December 26th likely won’t have many people in-office, and the week of December 19th might begin strong but will fade out around the 22nd or 23rd. Because January 2nd is a Monday, that week will likely be full in many offices -- but when January 1st falls mid-week, the week in question is usually a wash.
At this point, we’re talking anywhere from 5-12 working days where people aren’t physically together. But there’s a central challenge: There is work that needs to be done, but people are in various states of on-grid and off-grid, at relatives’ houses, traveling, etc. as it needs to be done.
In field service, well, people’s heaters break on December 30th. It happens. (It’s probably happened to a client of yours in the last couple of years.)
How do you keep your business running with so many people in so many places during the holidays?
Trust: This is a hard one sometimes -- global levels of trust in the workplace hover around 46 percent -- but everything flows from this step. Trust that your people will do what they need to do (as long as you are paying them), even if they have other commitments around friends or family. Short section here but needs to be said. Work order management for field service can only go so far if you still feel the need to virtually be present at every call.
Processes: This is the key logistical element. You need processes for the holidays. In most cases in field service businesses, “processes” here means “scheduling.” Your technicians will all need different times off, and those technicians have different skill sets. Let’s say you get a specific type of fix/repair call on December 28th, but the main guy you’d normally assign that call to is off until January 3rd. Now you have a problem -- if you hadn’t considered it beforehand. What we’d recommend here is using field service software to create a master scheduling document. Ideally, you'll use an integrated fsm software to keep everything in check and in line. If you know there are certain skills that only belong to a few of your technicians, have them create mini-manuals on those issues before they head away for the holidays. Those manuals can also be tied to your field service software. Now, if an urgent call comes in on December 29th, someone can schedule it from his or her home (Some field service software, like ours, is what people are calling "mobile-first", so it was built to be used on a mobile device. The scheduler doesn’t need to be on-premise at your office.), route the technician from his or her home to the site, and provide the technician with the manual for this job. Processes! They keep everything running smoothly.
Down-time tasks: If you get lucky, these couple of weeks around the holidays will not be that busy. (They always end up being busy, but a person can hope.) If you’re not seeing a lot of calls come in, it’s time to do some “down-time tasks.” You know those jobs you always know you need to do but never really want to do, and/or something else gets in the way? No time like the present for those jobs! Need to digitize some files? Maybe SEO audit your website? If you do these kinds of things now, come January 5th when you suddenly have no time for anything, you’ll be ahead of the game. If you feel like your techs have too much downtime, though, that could be a problem.
The reflective email: People (who know nothing) are fond of saying that you shouldn’t send email marketing campaigns out during the holidays. Er, um, eh. Wrong. You most definitely should -- people are checking their email during the holidays, whether it’s to check on work fires or avoid their family and friends for 15 minutes. These down periods for in-office are some of the best times for email marketing. Here’s a suggestion. Go into whatever email client you use. Create a segment based on who your best customers are. You can organize this by revenue in 2016, or just use a filter like “Interacted with the last five campaigns.” There are dozens of ways to dice this; we’ll let you decide. But, for your best customers, craft a simple email. Something like:
As 2016 ends, we’re doing a lot of reflecting on our business and how it can provide even more value. How did you think we worked together this year? We’d love to know.
Make it a great 2017,
You can even link out to a survey if you want -- but don’t make it too hard to fill out, ‘tis the holidays after all.
If you do an email like this, you’ll probably get a lot of responses. People are constantly checking their email but not necessarily seeing other things they need to respond to, so this thoughtfulness might hit them at the right moment. You can get a ton of business intel this way. Consider it -- and if you want, repeat the process for some of your worst customers, or people who rolled off from working with you in 2016. You may learn a lot that way as well.
All of these ideas -- basically, working from a location where your family always is in the shadow of some nice presents -- tie back to work-life balance. As we run our FSOs all day/week/month, sometimes we forget this -- although it’s a strategic advantage for our businesses to get it right. How do we get it right? You start with this eBook on maximizing work-life balance below. You’ll enjoy it. It helped Santa balance his busy time of the year. (OK, that’s not true. But still read it.)