As competition intensifies, businesses have no choice but to make field service hyper-efficient. Improved efficiency enables field agents to perform more tasks during their shifts. The benefits include a better asset utilization ratio, improved productivity, and lower costs. Customer satisfaction also improves. Such efficiencies help businesses survive today’s challenging business environment.
Challenges faced due to ineffective field service scheduling and route management.
Inefficiencies in scheduling and dispatching lead to several issues, such as:
- Increased time-to-resolution. The service provider becomes unable to meet service-level agreements (SLAs). Longer resolution times degrade the customer experience.
- Inefficient use of resources. The service provider incurs more overheads. They incur excess costs to reach customer destinations and consume more fuel for service vehicles.
- Low worker productivity. When scheduling is inefficient, field agents cover less number of tasks per shift. Low productivity leads to lower employee morale. It increases customer wait time and degrades customer satisfaction.
The stakes of field agents covering the maximum number of jobs per shift and on-time arrival are higher in field service than on-time arrival at a regular job. Field agents engage with the customers directly and often undertake emergency jobs. Any delays, for whatever reason, degrade the customer experience.
Read more: Can Scheduling and Dispatching Software Make Your Business More Productive?
How field service scheduling and route optimization can drive productivity
Scheduling field crews is not as easy as assigning the next-in-line or the nearest available field agent to a job. The scheduler has to consider many factors and make changes each time anything changes.
1. Certifications and skill-sets.
The first consideration of the scheduler is to shortlist eligible field agents from the general pool of available agents. Not considering field agent skill-sets or competencies cause serious issues.
- Some complex jobs need the services of very skilled or experienced work crews. Agents without the right qualifications may make an improper fix. The service provider will have to schedule a revisit for no extra payment.
- Getting some equipment serviced by non-authorised workers may void the warranty.
- Assigning the technician who serviced the equipment last time leads to faster resolution and better work output.
- A skilled agent may take offence to being assigned mundane or basic jobs and quit. The business would then incur more recruitment and training costs.
2. Field agent availability.
Not all field agents in the muster roll will be available. Many field service companies mix full-time, part-time, and contracted employees. Each employee category will have work arrangements that cover work timings and other particulars. Even full-time regular employees may work in predetermined shifts.
Optimized scheduling depends on preparing duty rosters considering:
- the field agent’s work hours and shift patterns
- Leaves applied for and approved
- Business working hours and holidays
3. Preventing field agent burnout.
Field service jobs are draining. Making field agents work overtime or cramming jobs one after another may deliver short-term results. But soon, the agent develops stress and burnout. The scheduler must
- Ensure adequate breaks between jobs.
- Balance the workload among all field agents.
4. Ensuring minimal travel time.
Plotting schedules in advance improves efficiency manifold. Imagine a field agent traveling to the other side of the town for his second job of the day and then returning for his third assignment a few meters away from the first job site. The field agents waste unneeded time traveling, the businesses waste fuel, and a lesser number of jobs get done in the day. Effective scheduling:
- Plots the jobs linearly, where the field agent progresses from one job to the nearest job, and so on.
- Ensuring travel through the best routes. The shortest way to a job site need not always be the fastest. Road works, congestion, or traffic regulations may lead to longer travel. Relying on live maps and traffic information guides the work crew through the best routes.
5. Factoring in unexpected changes.
Field service scheduling is dynamic. Inevitable changes occur at the last minute, which has a domino effect on other schedules.
- Field agents may call in sick,
- The customer may request a schedule change.
- Inclement weather may cause hold-ups.
Read more: Tips To Make Your Field Service Business Competitive With A Job Scheduling Software.
How ReachOut Suite can help with scheduling and route optimization
Scheduling and dispatching is a complex exercise. Scheduling depends on considering several permutations and combinations and making optimal tradeoffs. Route management depends on getting accurate, real-time information. Many companies lack the proper tool to get these critical processes right.
Spreadsheets, emails, and online calendars are inflexible, time-consuming, and error-prone. Such methods are also stressful for the scheduler and limit the bandwidth. Field agents end up doing lesser work than they could during every shift. Customers are also put off by the long wait and opaqueness.
Many field crews use third-party navigation apps such as Google maps or other GPS systems to reach their work sites. Such tools have several limitations in business settings. Field agents find it difficult to toggle between such piecemeal tools. Getting information and tracking communications becomes difficult. Critical information may slip through the cracks, leading to further delays or low-quality output. Multiple tools also endanger safety, as field agents have to divert their attention when on the road.
Ensuring the right worker does the right job at the right time is next to impossible without the right field service software. ReachOut Suite streamlines scheduling and dispatching. The suite offers:
- Easy calendar views and smooth drag-and-drop functionality. Schedulers may get easy views of the field agent work assignments at any time and schedule accordingly. Making changes to schedules also becomes easy.
- Flexibility. Schedulers may add many field agents to a project and assign individual responsibilities to team members. Likewise, a skills depository details the certifications of each agent.
- Integrated resources. Robust APIs and native integration ensure seamless maps, CRM, and inventory integration.
- Automated paperwork. Manual methods place an extra burden on field agents. They have to take notes and re-key information to the management information system or CRM at the end of their shift. Such non-value-adding documentation takes away time to serve more customers. Also, the process is error-prone and could cause serious gaffes. For instance, failure to include a task could lead to faulty billing and the company losing revenue.
- Notifications. Automated push notifications keep field agents, customers, and managers in the loop of all schedule changes.
- Real-time tracking. Real-time GPS tracking enables notifying customers of accurate ETA. Supervisors may also intervene to resolve any delays.
ReachOut Suite integrates all field service functions, including work order management, inspections, and invoicing. The suite streamlines workflows, speeds up things, and enables seamless field service.
Contact our experts today to know more!
Ashmitha works with ReachOut Suite as a creative writer. She collaborates with the Digital Marketing team to deliver engaging, informative, and SEO friendly business collaterals. Being passionate about writing, Ashmitha frequently engages in blogging and creating fiction. Besides writing, Ashmitha indulges in exploring effective content marketing strategies.
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