If the first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club, you can probably argue the first rule of field service operations is that you don’t want field service tech downtime. Your technicians are the lifeblood of your business, whether you’re doing electric, HVAC, plumbing, roofing, or anything else. They’re the people in front of customers. Referrals and retention will come from how they work with those customers. That’s the simplest explanation for field service revenue, and we’re not even done with the first paragraph! Where’s our award?
All kidding aside, you want to minimize downtime. Usually there are five culprits to why techs have too much downtime:
- Too Many Technicians
- Practices Are Ineffective
- Poor Communication with Clients
- Slow Day
Let’s work through these one-by-one and try to eliminate some of your tech downtime problems.
Too Many Technicians: Sometimes we all fall into this trap -- see, if we feel busy, then we assume everyone else is busy. When we think that way, we can overshoot on hiring. If you have 10 techs for the work of 5, you have two options: find more work (leads, new business) so that the 5 downtime technicians aren’t sitting on their hands all day, or part ways with 5 of your techs. We don’t condone firing people normally, but five technicians with downtime most of the week is just sucking money out of your business.
Practices Are Ineffective: A lot of FSOs fall into this one, especially if they’re still predominantly paper-based. It’s almost 2017. Use a system. Specifically, use field service management (FSM) software. This will coordinate/integrate the different aspects of your business, from routing to inventory to customer information. Think of it as a route scheduling software, but with all of your other business processes integrated as well. It makes a lot of your practices more effective roughly 12 hours after installing. Do it!
Poor Communication with Clients: Communication isn’t ideal at many field service businesses (or many companies overall), but here’s the problem with the client side. If you communicate poorly with clients/customers, then your techs are usually waiting on the client when they arrive on-site (because, well, the client had no idea what window the tech would be arriving in). Almost everyone you’ll be interacting with has a smartphone by now. Get a mobile-friendly (or mobile-first) field service management software and ping (notify) clients right to the phone of the primary contact. Update technician schedules that way. Keep everyone on the same page. It drastically reduces downtime.
Off-Season: This is a hard one to fix. There are things you can be doing in the off-season, though. Here are some examples. One option is to put some of your technicians on seasonal contracts, which means they can make a bunch of money in the main periods -- and then do odd jobs in the slower periods. If you’re worried that it might not be seasonal downtime and that your business is declining, check this blog out about deseasonalizing your sales.
Slow Day: Again, hard one to beat. But you shouldn’t be having slow days, right? You should be growing your business. Again, we sell field service software so we are biased -- but we’d recommend looking into it. It pays dividends very quickly. The old business adage is: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Well, let’s grow!
We put together an entire eBook (it’s not super long, don’t worry) on in steps to increase tech efficiency -- i.e. eliminating downtime. Give it a read. If you have any questions, let us know.