Route Scheduling

Route Scheduling Software - Important for Field Service Businesses

Boosting Sales in the Slow Season for HVAC Companies

A high-quality customer experience is vital to your field service organization’s reputation and bottom line. Oftentimes, field service businesses fall short of meeting customers’ expectations when it comes to arriving on time to fix emergency issues with their HVAC units, plumbing, and the like.

To put it simply, your field service business drives revenue, secures repeat business, and more than likely receives future customer referrals when your technicians are in front of customers working on repairs and installations. What doesn’t help your business’s bottom line is when your technicians are stuck in their trucks while sitting in traffic, or even driving every which way trying to find the job location because they lack a good and reliable route planning and scheduling software.

If your company is not currently utilizing route scheduling software to help your technicians arrive at jobsites as quickly as possible, then your business is potentially losing money and future business. While your field service technicians are sitting in highway construction, or are busy zig-zagging across the map on their ways to jobsites, the customers who are waiting on your techs to arrive could be losing thousands or millions of dollars in revenue while their machines or parts are down, waiting to be repaired. This is costly for not only for your customers, but for your field service business as well.

Then, there is the Bullwhip Effect. The Bullwhip Effect happens when your first appointment of the day runs late, which causes your technicians’ second, third, fourth, etc. appointments to fall behind schedule. Falling behind schedule leads to unhappy customers and lost revenue.

In order to reduce the Bullwhip Effect and boost revenue, your company should be using field service business management software that assists in creating effective technician schedules—keeping each tech in a certain geographic area while making his or her workday driving routes more linear and efficient.

Your customers require top-notch experiences when calling upon your company to repair heating and cooling systems, busted pipes, or other similar field service issues, which means that your business needs to have top-notch route scheduling software. The quicker your technicians can get to each jobsite and complete the required repair, the better in terms of customer satisfaction and retention.

How Route Scheduling Software is Changing Field Service Management

Before the advent of route scheduling software, most field service organizations did scheduling by hand. A tedious, time-consuming task, scheduling field service technicians and creating workday routes by hand often led—and for those companies still scheduling using a pen and paper, it often leads—to ineffective technician workdays that are less adaptable to emergency field service calls from customers.

If your company is still using the pen-and-paper method instead of route planning and scheduling software, know that there is a more effective way to route your technicians, and save your office and scheduling personnel a lot of headaches. Field service business management software makes scheduling easier by providing your office and scheduling employees with a giant master calendar that uses click-and-drop functionality to organize and rearrange technician appointments.

Along with helping out your scheduling department employees, field technician software helps minimize driving time, which gets your company’s techs to jobsites quicker, and allows your scheduling department to book more appointments in a given day. Booking more jobs in one day increases your field service business’s revenue, making route scheduling software a worthwhile investment.

When your field service business uses route scheduling software that considers drive time, traffic conditions, appointment locations, and even technician skill sets, you can increase—and even potentially double—your revenue. For example, if your company has ten technicians who are scheduled for three appointments each day, and each job pays $100, that amounts to $15,000 per work week. (10 techs x 3 appointments x 5 days x $100)

However, when your company employs route scheduling software to create more direct driving routes with less traffic for your techs, you can book more appointments per day for each of these technicians. Cutting down on drive time may allow your technicians to have, oh let’s say, six appointments in one day instead of three. If your company has ten technicians who are scheduled for six appointments each day, and each job pays $100, that amounts to $30,000! (10 techs x 6 appointments x 5 days x $100)

Those numbers are certainly not insignificant.

Unlike tangible benefits such as revenue—but certainly just as important—, route scheduling software also allows your technicians to have better, less stressful work weeks. Route planning and scheduling software makes it so your technicians are not sitting in traffic for hours, or driving unnecessary amounts of miles between appointments. Better, more efficient routing means when technicians do reach customer jobsites, they are less frustrated, and are better able to concentrate on the task at hand—making the customers’ overall experiences better, and creating an avenue for future business and referrals.

Integrating Field Service Business Management Software is the Key to Success

After reading this article, you may be thinking, “I’m already investing in work order management software, a CRM, mobile technician tracking, and tons of other individual software programs, and now I have to get this too?!” Not necessarily. Your field service business can become better at scheduling and increase profitability by simply integrating software.

All-in-one field service business management software allows your entire company with all of its different departments to collaborate. The scheduling department cannot simply set up five appointments on their own. Scheduling employees need to work with dispatch on routing employees, and they need to understand customers’ needs and how those needs impact inventory levels, etc. All of your field service business’s departments need to be integrated to create excellent customer experiences. Integrating your field service business management software improves your company’s first-time fix rate, which keeps scheduling on target.

Although we understand that field service business management software presents an additional cost, it also helps generate revenue for your company. In order to help your field service business boost its bottom line, we have just released a scheduling and routing update in our Optsy software because we want to give you the ability to rearrange routes, and group these routes according to technician skill sets.

Not only have we updated our route scheduling software, but we have also put together an eBook on revenue-generating methods for small- to medium-sized field service organizations, as well as a guide to technician efficiency in field service that you can download now for free. Also, do some research and find a field service software that is right for you, and integrates the software solutions you need to reach your goals. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, and find out how Optsy works the way you do!

Technicians Efficiency


FSM Software

Increase HVAC Customer Satisfaction with Integrated Field Service Software

Increase HVAC Customer Satisfaction with Integrated Field Service Software

HVAC is an industry within field service where time and efficiency are crucial. If a client’s heat goes down in the winter (in most parts of the world) or his or her AC goes down in the summer (ditto), it could mean millions of dollars of lost revenue and affected parts and machines if an HVAC technician can’t be dispatched quickly and fix the problem the first time out.

Despite this need for more effective integration of services in HVAC companies, research has found that 74% of such companies — essentially 3 in 4 — aren’t using any field service management software systems. Of the 26% that are, most use GPS-enabled scheduling software (66%) or GPS routing optimization (61%).

A focus on GPS technologies within HVAC makes sense — it makes sense for any field service business, of course, because technicians drive revenue by being in front of clients, not by sitting in their trucks — because speed is crucial for many HVAC clients. They need technicians there now because their HQs are overheating and machines are potentially being damaged.

While scheduling and dispatch being GPS-enabled is crucial, field service software programs will typically integrate much more of the core business processes.

Typically, this refers to:

Scheduling
Dispatch
Inventory
Billing/Invoicing
Routing

… although it can incorporate other practices as well, such as an HVAC CRM, dependent on your business model.

The overall idea is tied to the customer journey or customer experience. If a customer or client has a field service need, you want this person to go onto your website or app (or call you) and be able to schedule the appointment when it is convenient for him or her. On your end, this scheduling of an appointment should be ‘speaking’ directly to dispatch — knowing where techs are and what their days and weeks look like. (And hopefully involving GPS, as the stats above note.) This also needs to be ‘speaking’ to inventory, so that you can identify what parts are needed for this newly scheduled job — and then make sure the technician will have access to those parts. The final component is billing and invoicing; the tech needs customer data loaded into his or her phone so that billing can take place on-site.

It’s important to remember that, based on recent research, the value of customer experience is trumping the value of having a strong, well-known brand.

This has always been true in field service — in HVAC, your “product” is essentially the skill and professionalism of your technicians — but as digital tools (such as field service software) make it easier for others to enter your local market, it’s more important to remember than ever.

When you integrate the bullet points we listed above — the different aspects of your business — the customer is usually happier. It’s what is sometimes called an “end-to-end solution,” meaning the customer receives the same transparency, information, and quality service no matter who he or she speaks to at your organization. This ability comes from integrated processes, as opposed to each silo operating in its own way.

The simplest way to integrate your business processes is through a field service software program where all the different variables can ‘speak’ to one another and be seen holistically. If you try to integrate core operations, without field service software, it can become painstaking and tedious and silo mentality can take over, whereby dispatch doesn’t communicate properly with inventory, and the end customer is disappointed.

When a customer is disappointed, you tend to lose money in the intermediate to long run.

That’s the basic equation here:

Integrate processes = happier, more consistent customers and clients
Happier, more consistent clients and customers = more revenue

If you’d like to know more about delighting your HVAC customers, we’ve put together an eBook on that exact topic. You can download it now. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

HVAC eBook


Stay on Track and Be on Time With FSM Scheduling Tools

Stay on Track and Be on Time With FSM Scheduling Tools

It can be a cliche to talk about how important time is to your life, but there are huge elements of truth to it. Since time is a precious, non-renewable resource, there’s much research on how successfully using time is the key to personal happiness.

Successfully using time is also a key to field service organization happiness. Here’s why.

If you were to make a list of the 10 things that irritate your customers the most, how far down the list would you get before you had something about scheduling or technicians being late for appointments? With most FSOs we work with, it’s a top two or three concern of their clients. Almost nothing annoys a customer more than waiting a long time for a technician.

Now, you won’t always be perfect in this regard. Heavy traffic happens. Car accidents happen. Presidents come to your town. There are dozens of reasons why your technicians might be late for an appointment — and oftentimes, you don’t have control over them.

That’s why you need to assume control over the areas you can.

If you use Field Service Management scheduling tools, you come much closer to this reality.

FSM scheduling tools allow you to see all your technicians’ schedules on one interactive grid. If a new urgent customer call comes in, you know where all your techs are — so you can reroute the one closest to the new need. If inventory is needed for a new job, you can route a technician closest to the inventory center. Because they all have GPS on their devices and in their trucks, you can also guide them away from traffic snarls.

All that is internal — that’s how you deal with your technicians and their schedules and the adjustments that often need to be made.

The other major advantage of these tools is external, or how you deal with your customers.

If you have an app or another mobile aspect to your business (which you definitely should, but that’s a topic for another post), you can send push notifications and messages to customers about adjusted technician arrival times. If it’s going to be much later than they expected, you can call them and then send a message explaining the situation. The customer might still be frustrated, but it will be a lot better than a technician arriving 5 hours late with no context.

Schedule mix-ups are a mess for everyone. Controlling them is all about effective communication and using the technology at your disposal. FSM scheduling tools allow you to do both without distracting your employees from other business functions.

FSM scheduling tools are just one reason to buy FSM software, but we understand it can get costly. If you’re a small business with limited resources, this is even more true. We put together a checklist of reasons (and rationales) to help you convince your boss about the value of FSM software. Download it now — and if you have any questions about your business model or market, let us know.

6 Steps


FSM Solutions

What Are the Most Pressing Fixes for Your Business with FSM Software?

What Are the Most Pressing Fixes for Your Business with FSM Software?

We’ll be honest with you upfront, although sometimes it’s tough to hear: your small business (or larger business) field service organization is not perfect. (**Ducks as you throw stapler at us!**) No business is perfect, whether you make a lot of money (i.e. Apple) or are constantly seen as a great place to work (i.e. Google). Every business has challenges, flaws, process adjustments, and pain points.

What tends to separate a good business — one that thrives and grows — from a bad business — one that stagnates and dies — is how you respond to the challenges and pain points. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It’s the same with running a small business or any type of field service organization. When things are going well, everything feels and looks great. When things aren’t so good, it’s about how you respond.

It can vary by the type of field service business you run, but typically the biggest challenges you’ll see in a FSO include:

Inventory: It’s hard to access or poorly organized.

Scheduling and Dispatch: Technicians are always running all over your metro area with no real plan, and appointments seem to change every two hours.

Sales: Your funnel and customer information isn’t organized to give you any type of advantage in your market.

Customer Relationships: Customers are annoyed by lack of communication, late-arriving technicians, or problems that take two to three visits to solve.

Mobile: Customers expect a mobile solution, because they use their phones for everything else anyway, but you don’t have one.

There are other types of pain points that might result in your organization, but that’s a basic list.

If any of the above — or something we didn’t mention — resonates with you, then you need to fix that pain point. It’s the only way to grow your business. If you let it sit there and ignore it, it will continue to get bigger until it seriously hurts your future potential.

Typically, one of the faster ways to start resolving FSM pain points is through the use of FSM software. The primary advantage of that approach is integration; FSM software integrates different aspects of your business. It allows for better communication and more transparency, so that different areas within your business all can arrive at the same page. This usually makes your decision-making and data analysis more effective.

The problem, though, is this: FSM software costs money. If you’re a small business, your financial decision-makers might be concerned about spending that money, especially if other priorities (e.g. a new truck or other new equipment) need to come first.

To help you out here, we’ve put together a checklist of items you need to have ready for a discussion about FSM software. It’s a ‘cheat sheet’ to moving you toward a more effective integration of different business practices. You can download it now. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us.

Checklist


Scheduling

Is scheduling an important FSM solution for your team?

Is scheduling an important FSM solution for your team?

A top-quality customer experience is at the heart of good field service organization management. You want your customers to like and respect the work you’re doing. You also want them to remain customers, and to refer others to your service. Additionally, the effective, productive use of time is most people’s biggest concern.

When you combine these two truths, here’s where you arrive: for your customer experience to be excellent, your scheduling has to be excellent. That’s the cornerstone of field service.

If your scheduling is poor and customers are always waiting for service or they don’t have details on when something might be fixed, those customers don’t tend to stick around for long. Remember: while your technicians have a lot to do in any given day, oftentimes these customers have machines or parts down that represent potentially millions in lost revenue. They want that fixed and fast.

The other phenomenon at play here is the Bullwhip Effect. If your scheduling is poor and the first appointment runs late, your second appointment also won’t start on time. If a technician has six appointments a day, imagine the lag time that could build up. We’re sure the customer wouldn’t be too thrilled.

In short: scheduling is crucial for your FSO.

That said, how do you get better at scheduling?

Integrate

One of the main reasons scheduling backfires on FSOs is that different teams within the FSO aren’t collaborating. Scheduling can’t simply set up five appointments. They need to work with dispatch on routing, and they need to understand the customers’ needs and how that impacts inventory. All the parts of your organization need to be integrated to make the customers’ experiences valuable ones. You improve your first-time fix rate, which keeps your scheduling on target, by integrating the various aspects of your company.

Utilize GPS:

Traffic congestion, unfortunately, is a fact of life. But most modern GPS devices take heavy traffic into account, so GPS needs to be utilized by all your technicians. This will help prevent many scheduling back-ups.

Communicate quickly and effectively with the customer:

If the last appointment of the day is running an hour or more behind, the customer needs to be notified. That customer also needs to be given additional options — another day, a discount, etc. — so that he or she feels valued and heard. The communication has to be proactive (it comes from you, not the customer) and transparent (tell the customer what’s really going on).

Those are three big buckets for your FSO — integrate, use GPS technology, and communicate better — so how can you pull those off in addition to everything else you have to accomplish in one day?

There’s an easy answer: implement an FSM software solution. FSM software tools will help integrate your business, typically come with GPS already installed, and allow for seamless communication with customers, often right to the customers’ phones.

We understand FSM software presents an additional cost. But FSM software also helps you generate revenue, and that’s a crucial goal of any small business. We’ve put together an eBook on revenue-generating methods for small business FSOs, and you can download it for free. Look it over, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Revenue Generator


Small Business Growth

3 Ways Small Businesses Handle Growing Pains with FSM

3 Ways Small Businesses Handle Growing Pains with FSM

It’s a mostly well-known fact that about half of small businesses fail within the first five years. (In some industries, like restaurants, that number is significantly higher.) Small businesses encounter any number of growing pains, from ‘ineffective ability to scale’ to ‘maintaining their company culture from two employees to twenty.’

Field service is no different. At Optsy, we work with hundreds of small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) in the industry, and as a result, we see hundreds of different challenges. They vary by what specific service line you work on, and what your area of focus is (plumbing, HVAC, IT, etc.) But amazingly, you can solve a good deal of field service SMB growing pains with field service management tools and software. Here are three key areas you can improve upon with Field Service Management software.

Integration of core operations
Typically, this refers to:

Scheduling
Dispatch
Inventory
Billing/Invoicing

… although it can incorporate other practices as well, depending upon your business model.

The concept here is tied to customer journey. If a customer or client has a field service need, you want this person to go onto your website or app (or call you) and be able to schedule the appointment at a good time for him or her. On your end, this scheduling of an appointment should be ‘speaking’ directly to dispatch — knowing where techs are and what their days and weeks look like. This also needs to be ‘speaking’ to inventory, so that you can identify what parts are needed for this newly-scheduled job — and then make sure the technician will have access to those parts. The final component is billing and invoicing; the tech needs customer data loaded into his or her phone so that billing can take place on-site.

All these elements need to be integrated to (a) assure a good customer journey and experience through the process and (b) improve your first-time fix rate, which will also keep customers coming back.

The simplest way to integrate them is through a software program where all the different variables can ‘speak’ to one another and be seen holistically. If you try to integrate core operations without FSM software, it can become painstaking and tedious and silo mentality can take over, whereby dispatch doesn’t communicate properly with inventory, and the end customer is disappointed.

The big data movement
Most companies these days are trying to compete on some form of data, with the underlying question being “What can data tell us that will make our processes more effective and profitable?”

Many companies think the core concept is having the data, which is actually flawed — data doesn’t mean anything unless it can drive decision-making in some way. For data to drive decision-making, you need two things to happen:

The data has to be easy to access and see holistically
The data needs to be analyzed and contextualized

This is especially true in how executives tend to approach data. Those are often the busiest people in your organization, so they don’t necessarily have time to cull through data sets or pockets of information. They want to know, rather quickly, what the data says and how that impacts future business.

With Field Service Management software, all your core business data — from customer information to technician metrics — can be housed in one place. It’s comparatively easy to pull different elements together and provide context on the results. These broken-down chunks of information can then be presented to decision-makers with different options.

In short: doing data right is about way more than just having data, and it all begins with ease of access to the data. FSM software helps you there.

Process improvement
This is often overlooked, but it’s very important. We don’t necessarily mean standard process improvement here — we covered that above in terms of integrating different processes and operations to drive your business.

What we mean here is that FSM software can usually (and needs to, to be successful) integrate with your existing processes, i.e. your e-mail or other platforms your company has been using.

If the software solution seems like a brand new object that doesn’t connect to any existing processes, people will be slow to use it — because they’re comfortable with how things have been going, as most human beings are. Remember: change is hard for a reason.

FSM software, when done right, is customizable and can work within existing workflows and processes that a field service SMB already uses. This will drastically increase the rate of adoption.

What other SMB challenges have you seen in field service? We’d love to hear and see how we could help you. And as you’re on this page, consider downloading a free eBook on paths to revenue-generation in field service for SMBs. We go through different steps and ideologies to consider in an effort to begin really making some money from service offerings. And yes, FSM software is a key aspect of that. Enjoy, and contact us with any questions.

Checklist