Whether you're a home service shop that offers emergency services or exclusively provides scheduled service to homeowners, how you schedule your team has a huge effect on how efficient—and profitable—your business is. Nearly every field service professional has a story about losing a day's productivity due to some scheduling mistake... and the urgent game of catch-up they had to play to get their bottom line back on track.
Optimizing your schedule to complete as many jobs as possible takes vigilance and, often, quick thinking, but there are a number of best practices all home service shops can adopt to make this process as effective as possible. Below, let's take a look at some proven tips for better field service scheduling.
1. Take Stock of Your Team
Before you can schedule effectively, you need to have a concrete understanding of what kind of manpower your shop can offer on a consistent basis. Many shops have a variety of employee types working for them in a field service capacity.
These employee types include:
Apprentices/trainees Make sure that your office—and each individual employee—has a clear understanding of what their status is and how/when they will be scheduled for the foreseeable future.
2. Plan Ahead (as Much as You Can…)
For some shops, adopting scheduling practices may seem like a moot point. Isn't it all going to get rescheduled anyway? The brutal truth is: Yeah, probably. But that doesn't mean your business shouldn't be intentional with how you schedule future appointments.
Having established scheduling practices should allow you to regularly release a tentative schedule four-to-six weeks ahead of time for your team. Not only does this give your techs important insight into their prospective workload, but a tentative schedule will also help CSRs and/or dispatchers make better, actionable adjustments as needed when new scheduling curveballs are thrown your way.
3. Categorize Incoming Jobs
Optimizing your field service schedule isn't just about making sure your team stays as busy as possible, it's also about making sure they're as efficient as possible. Geographical and skill set factors should often play a role in which tech gets assigned to what job.
For instance, you don't want a single tech zig-zagging across town all day—that racks up fuel costs and requires a lot of commute time. Instead, try to cluster assignments in a single area so your techs don't spend an exorbitant amount of time on the road.
The same goes for certain skill set and equipment needs. Train CSRs and dispatchers to learn about job types and your techs' strengths and weaknesses. You'll be surprised how quickly they become acquainted with matching incoming jobs to just the right tech to get the job done.
4. Favor the Mornings
If you’re a shop that offers emergency services (or same-day service), it’s important that you maintain the resources needed to respond to urgent calls from customers. For a lot of shops, this means scheduling known appointments in the mornings when possible, leaving more space in the afternoon schedule to respond to new customers and make same-day appointments.
This practice isn't right for every shop, but those that specifically aim to dispatch for profit have also found it useful for maximizing the number of jobs they can complete each day.
5. Take Advantage of Recurring Appointments
Maintenance agreements and contracts aren't just great because of the dependable revenue you can count on during your slower seasons—they're also great because they present an opportunity to get recurring appointments in the books.
If your shop offers recurring services to homeowners, train your team to suggest regularly scheduled upon agreement. Not only is this often the preferred option for homeowners (who can become squirrelly if made to schedule new appointments every pay period), but allows you to bulk schedule for months into the future.
6. Leverage Modern Scheduling Tools
The days of whiteboards and sticky notes are over. There are a lot of digital tools out there that can help with field service management scheduling and shops of every size are using calendar and map programs to squeeze the most efficiency and profitably from their schedules.
If possible, look for scheduling software that integrates with other solutions you're using at your shop. If your CSRs, dispatchers, and technicians are all on different systems, details can be lost and conflicts and mistakes are more likely.
7. Maintain an Effective On-Call Policy
On-call policies are a fact of life for many home service companies and often essential for keeping promises to customers and maintaining a productive schedule. That said, it's important for home service shops to operate with an on-call policy that is both effective and fair to technicians.
When establishing/modifying an on-call policy, be sure to answer the following questions:
What's the least number of on-call employees I need at all times?
Which employees are eligible for on-call?
How will rotations work?
How does on-call compensation differ from a normal shift?
Is there a voluntary on-call option for employees?
What fitness for duty requirements should you enforce?
8. Be Mindful Your Employees’ Time
Field service scheduling is complicated and so are many individuals’ lives outside of work. A crucial part of attracting and maintaining reliable talent means practicing policies that are fair and sensitive to employee needs and concerns.
If you're finding that your schedule practices are a frequent source of frustration and stress for employees, it is likely time to re-evaluate. Accessible management is part of fostering a healthy work culture, so being aware of employee sentiment around important policies like scheduling is central to maintaining loyalty and efficiency from your team.
ServiceTitan is the cloud-based, industry-leading software solution for home service professionals. Not only has our all-in-one platform helped thousands of HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and electrical shops improve customer service and supercharge operational efficiency—but it has also helped businesses increase their revenue by an average of 25% after just one year, as well.
To learn more about what our field service business software can do for you, contact ServiceTitan today to schedule a demo.