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The ultimate guide to automating job scheduling in Field Services

Image of Madhu Sekhar, IGBC-AP
Madhu Sekhar, IGBC-AP
Team working on job scheduling optimizations

The success of the field service business is heavily dependent on the productivity of your field service engineers and technicians. While the statement is true, only a part of it has to do with the skill or the quality of the technician's work. A large part of it still relies on how effectively the jobs have been scheduled, whether the correct technicians have been assigned to the right jobs and whether they have the tools and the knowledge to successfully complete the job in the first attempt itself. Having had the opportunity to advise a number of companies in the field service management space, I am intrigued by the number of companies who still rely on manual techniques to schedule jobs for technicians.

This blogpost attempts to provide insights on the challenges and best practices field service management companies must follow to ensure they are best poised for robust business growth.

Key Challenges

  • Manual scheduling is ineffective. A research study[1] suggests that even in 2020, as many as 25% of FSM companies were still using spreadsheets for job scheduling, while the rest still use whiteboards and other manual methods. Understandably it leads to messy results, such as missed appointments and unhappy customers. Not only is it chaotic, but it also requires more effort in terms of coordination.

  • Assigning the right person for the right job. There are various variables at work when a dispatcher makes the scheduling appointment. Some of them are customer availability, specific technician skillset, proximity, technician availability among other things. Imagine how overwhelming and unscalable it might be for your dispatcher who is manually trying to suggest the best alternative for the company.

Technician doing field services
  • Avoiding scheduling gaps and conflicts. Ideally, the technicians should spend a majority of their time on service calls. However what inevitably ends up happening is that the lack of communication between dispatchers and technicians leads to unnecessary gaps in schedules or appointments which lead to a terrible customer experience.

With the goal to improve the profitability and enhance coordination between the dispatcher and technician, let’s explore some of the aspects which your company could work on to improve technician scheduling.

  • Standardizing your scheduling process. This starts with creating a well-defined criteria for prioritizing service tasks. Additionally by pre-defining workflows and processes of how the task is assigned to the right technician, you could potentially minimize the chances for errors. It might be a good idea to give technicians specific jobs based on their experience and skill set. Assuming your technicians specialize in one area of your field; it makes sense to ‘reserve’ their skills for jobs that require their expertise. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on business when your experts are all booked up with routine maintenance tasks – something that could be handled by a generalist or more junior tech. Another approach would be to group technicians based on domain and skill-set. This would help you assign the right technician for the right job.

  • Automating the scheduling process. Automations save you both time and effort by automatically performing repetitive tasks so your dispatch managers and field technicians can focus on providing service to customers wherever they are. For example, the dispatcher could choose set a service task priority to Urgent based on the contact or company associated with the service task. Automating these functions will save you time to focus on the tasks that add value to your business, like improving your strategy and dealing with issues around improving customer experience.

Customer accessing service information real-time
  • Access real time data to make educated decisions. A last minute request by the customer has the potential to derail the entire schedule. Having a digital channel of communication could help with real time coordination through notifications and updates. Having the access to real-time data allows to maximize technician availability. Schedule and manage technicians to ensure they reach the customers closest to them and meet the job’s skill requirement. Your customers will be happier if the technician is not only showing up to the appointment on-time but also resolves their problem on that first visit. Additionally having a unified single view of all the important data could help you make tweaks real-time so maximize customer experience and profitability.

Benefits of an FSM Solution

Technician scheduling management solutions simplify the complications, improve logistics, prevent scheduling gaps, and reduce errors. Additionally, it is proven that having a dedicated FSM solution which helps in scheduling allows to:

  • Reduce operational and administrative costs

  • Saving time and avoiding service delays

  • Improving customer experience

  • Allowing for all stakeholders under one unified platform

  • Ability to be future ready – integration with any emerging technology

 

According to another study [2] 89% of customers want to see modern, on-demand technology applied to their technician scheduling, and nearly as many customers would be willing to pay a premium for it. FSM solutions like that of Steer would be a cost-effective way of improving job scheduling for business growth.


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