Jessica Smith says there’s more to running a dispatch board than meets the eye.
“The dispatch board is a puzzle I like to solve,” says Smith, business operations manager for Hurley & David, an HVAC and plumbing company that’s been serving Western Massachusetts since 1960.
She says it’s not just answering the phones. A dispatcher has to determine how far away a tech may be from a job site. They also have to match the experience level of techs to every call that comes in.
"It’s very much a dance,” Smith says. “It’s like a symphony.”
In the early years of Hurley & David, the company was heavily commercial. Now, they’re doing 90% residential, with 40 employees and $9 million in annual revenue.
Smith shares her thoughts on working in a family-run business with her father and brother, being a woman in the trades, and helping others in the industry through peer groups and business tools.
In a family business, how do you keep work and personal lives separate?
It’s a little different, being that we all see each other all day, especially in the summers. We all end up at my parents’ house at the beach and we’ll go there to enjoy it.
It’s very much a case when that line blurs and you have to pump the brakes and say, “Can we talk about this at work on Monday?" But, sometimes being out of the office is the place to talk about personnel issues, when no one is around to hear you.
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What does a business operations manager do?
It’s a fancy title. I oversee our customer service and dispatch, accounting and finance and human resources and benefits. I didn’t think “office manager” fully encompassed everything I did. So, I made my own title.
Talk more about why the dispatch board is “a puzzle you like to solve.”
I don't get to do it a lot anymore, but I love organizing the board, making sure guys are going on the right calls, people aren't passing each other on the road, and get the right tech in the right place at the right calls.
ServiceTitan helps a lot with that. Skills and zones. It lets you know this guy can handle these calls, and never, never send this guy on these other calls.
What kind of coaching do you typically focus on?
Every other week, my two CSRs and my dispatcher have a half hour with a coach where they listen to their own calls. They talk about the concepts and they listen to samples of really good calls and really bad calls. They learn the tenets of helping a customer.
Given what you know now in 2021, what would you have done differently in business?
I’ve done a little bit of everything. I started out answering the phones. I’ve been the sales lead coordinator, handling all the residential sales leads. I’ve been a project manager in our commercial installation department. I’ve done accounts payable. I’ve done everything in the office. If I could go backward and start over with today’s knowledge, I would keep it the way it was—because I learned everything about every aspect of the business.
What defines a procedure that works well?
A procedure that works well is a procedure that everyone follows every time, and gets the information into the system and to the right people as it needs to. And, the customizability of ServiceTitan allows us to do it a lot better than the old software we used.
You’re in the ServiceTitan Masterminds group. What are some common obstacles you help people overcome?
So much of what I’m helping with is figuring out how to make the software work for people. They need help running a report or customizing a field. Helping people make the software do what they need it to do is the main thing. It varies from business to business.
Talk about one of the biggest obstacles you’ve overcome in your career.
In 2012, the woman who was the office manager left us. I asked my dad if I could put my hat in the ring for the job, and he said, “No.” He hired someone else, who lasted four months.
I asked again, and he said “No,” again. I spent about eight months teaching that new hire how to do the job, but that also didn’t work out.
When I threw my hat in the ring for the third time, he finally said, “Yes.” I’d just gotten my bachelor's degree in Business Administration. It took a year of asking, but he finally gave me a shot.
What’s it like being a woman in the trades?
It’s different now than it was 15 years ago. I’d go to trade shows with my dad and my brother, and 10% of the attendees would be women. In the last five or so years, that percentage has become more equitable. Today, I see women who are owners, managers and techs. There are women everywhere now.
Talk about your history with Titan Advisor, a tool that guides users to turn on specific ServiceTitan features based on their goals.
I love it. I was in the beta for Titan Advisor, so I’ve had my hands on it a bit longer than everyone else. Titan Advisor gives you the sections and items in the software that ServiceTitan thinks you should be using to be successful. It gives you points for using them.
I started out by going through each module, quickly, seeing what I wasn’t doing that I could be doing that could be helpful. Then I went back through and made a list of the things that weren’t quick. I tackled that list piece by piece.
So far, I’m told to have the highest Titan Score in Titan Advisor. I challenge everyone to beat me.
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