When Chris Hunter owned and ran Hunter SuperTechs in Ardmore, Okla., he had technicians who drove an hour to work. Then they got in their trucks to drive some more.
In reflecting, Hunter said he wishes he had paid closer attention.
“If you’re not strategic about it, it’s easy to pile up drive-time minutes, and it weighs on people,” said Hunter, founder and co-owner of the GoTime Success group and ServiceTitan’s Director of Customer Relations.
Drive-time matters. A ServiceTitan study into churn in the trades tells us that time spent in a car is one of the leading causes.
Data shows that technicians who drive more than 50 minutes are likely to look elsewhere, and techs who rank in the upper 70% of a company with high drive time also are more likely to churn. The highest commute times were found in five states: California, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Georgia. The data showed the problem is common, especially in plumbing.
The key number: Techs who drive more than 50 minutes for more than 20% of their jobs are 27% more likely to churn.
In a time when skilled labor is scarce and in demand, it’s important for owners to recognize what excessive time driving does to an employee, and what that does to a business.
“That information would've helped me a whole lot in hiring right off the bat, because I would've placed a little red flag alert if there was a little bit more of a drive time just to even start the work day and really weighed that carefully,” Hunter said. “Second, with the way that we dispatched technicians and especially me, I had a big geographic area so there was a lot of windshield time.”
Set aside the tedium of spending a lot of time in a car. A worker in a truck navigating a highway is not taking care of a customer, building goodwill or perhaps selling more of what the customer needs. There can be real effects, especially if an employee works for performance-based pay.
“When they’re getting paid for what they sell on a job, an hour of drive time wipes out possibilities,” Hunter said.
Hunter said there are several ways to address the issue, starting with simply being aware. Company culture, he said, is at the root of what a company is.
Scheduling jobs at the start or end of the day close to an employee’s home can help. Perhaps agree to a certain area for certain employees – make them a “managing partner” in their area, he said. It’s important to be aware that if that employee leaves, it will prompt adjustments to an area you are committed to. It’s also important to understand that employees are human.
“Everyone has a bad day,” Hunter said.
How can ServiceTitan help?
“The software can help reduce this significantly, even optimizing routes,” Hunter said. “Say they had a route for the day, let's optimize this thing to make sure there's less drive time.
“Software is an important tool -- besides just the leadership and painting the vision and making a company a place where people wouldn't want to leave.
“The next part is getting into the operations of it. Let the software help us actually reduce these things that are going to cause this churn.”
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