Toolboxplaybook-back-btn Playbookplaybook-back-btn Chapter 8

CHAPTER 8

Call Center Practices

CSRs are the first contact customers have with service companies, and their ability to gather information, empathize with clients and book calls can make or break a business. Spend time training and nurturing those important voices.

SECTION 5 OF 5

Cancellations & Rescheduling

How to Avoid Job Cancellations When You Need to Reschedule a Customer

Despite your every effort to create the perfect schedule—one that not only meets your customers' expectations, but also gives your techs opportunities for success—home service companies need to reschedule customer appointments from time to time.

It may be because of a new customer who needs emergency repairs today, and the only wiggle-room in your schedule happens to be an HVAC tune-up scheduled six months ago by an existing customer. Or a spring storm rumbles through, downing power lines in the area, and your techs forgo a scheduled electrical service inspection in favor of providing emergency services to help get the power back on.

Reasons for rescheduling might even come from the customers themselves. They make appointments for an air conditioning tune-up, for example, then remember they need to work that day, or call to say they double-booked you with their dentist. Others might schedule appointments with a local plumber or electrician, then find better pricing for new equipment online and decide to DIY the work.

No matter the reason, service providers need a process in place to track each job, avoid double-booking or overbooking, and reschedule jobs to the homeowner's satisfaction—all of which leads to more booked jobs, and fewer cancellations. 

Still, requests to reschedule a service call can also result in job cancellations, despite your team's best efforts to avoid them. Rather than simply accepting the job loss, service providers can utilize data gleaned from ServiceTitan reporting to learn from the experience. Cancellations speak volumes, and can tell you when you need to hire, adjust pricing, or offer more training.

Below, Vanessa Gonzales, ServiceTitan's Senior Product Manager for Utilization and Customer Experience, explains the best practices for:

  • Rescheduling 

  • Putting Jobs on Hold

  • Task Management

  • Cancellations 

Reasons for Rescheduling

Rescheduling a customer's job happens for many reasons (by your request or the customer’s) but results in one commonality: The customer cannot meet an HVAC contractor, plumber, or electrician on the job site at the original time and date, but does not want to cancel. For example:

  • Customer requests a reschedule

  • Tech requests a reschedule

    • Needs more time

    • Needs to order parts

    • Needs more help with job, scope of work is larger than anticipated

  • Better route planning for tech

  • Act of God 

    • High winds 

    • Snow

    • Flooding

    • Tornado

  • Reschedule due to tech reassignment:

    • Job not right for tech's skill set.

    • Another tech finishes job early and becomes available to take on a new assignment. 

Be upfront with customers and explain how rescheduling can result in more efficient routes, increased customer satisfaction, more accurate performance reporting, decreased windshield time for techs, and decreased down time between jobs.

Steps to Reschedule:

  • Define your company's reschedule reasons

  • Define team members responsible for rescheduling

    • Dispatcher

    • CSR

    • Tech

    • Manager

  • Define your reschedule script to prep the team to follow same process

For instance, crazy winter weather in some parts of the country can wreak havoc on the most strategically planned schedules, Gonzales says, resulting in your team scrambling to reschedule an HVAC service maintenance call in favor of an emergency repair.

"We would call that customer and say, 'OK, Mr. Customer, we know we have you scheduled for HVAC system maintenance today. We have customers who have absolutely no heat. Would you be willing to have us go ahead and reschedule you a little bit later? These are dates we have available,'" says Gonzales, who co-owns Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in New Mexico. "Most of the time, the customers are like, 'Oh, yeah. No, I can wait. That's not a big deal. Don't even worry about it.'

"Once they know there's another human being who doesn't have something they have, and it's a life necessity, it's amazing. Customers go to each other's aid. They're like, 'Yeah, not a problem. Reschedule me for next week, get them taken care of, and we'll get that set up.'"

When your company asks customers to reschedule, you should offer a service discount in exchange for the inconvenience.

Some customers will refuse to reschedule their appointments, regardless of the reason.

Gonzales simply labels those customers appropriately on the company's ServiceTitan dashboard as a "hard appointment" that cannot be moved. Utilizing specific tags to filter jobs on the dashboard, dispatchers can easily see which jobs are waiting and which ones can be moved without needing to click on every ticket.

"That way, if a tech finishes early, they're able to call Susie Smith who's scheduled for Friday and say, 'Hey, guess what Susie, we can come today. Is that going to work better for you?' Or 'You've been such a great customer of ours, we moved some things around, and we can get out today or tomorrow morning, instead of next week. How does that sound?' Usually they're thrilled," Gonzales explains.

Leave a message, then chat with customers in real time.

If your CSR fails to reach the customer right away, simply leave a message by text, voicemail, or email and let them know you'll keep the appointment open for the next 30 minutes before offering it to the next customer. With ServiceTitan's chat feature, companies can communicate with customers in real time, then attach the chat to the customer's invoice, so the tech stays in the loop throughout the customer's journey.

"It actually looks like you're running a professional business, because the tech knows what happened," Gonzales says. "They say, 'Oh, Mrs. Smith. I'm so glad we got to come out earlier. Thank you for being available. We're super excited.' The customer thinks, 'He knew I was on the waiting list. He knows my furnace needs to be worked on.' It just makes us look like a 5-star act."

When techs need to reschedule to order parts or require more time on the job.

Sometimes, troubleshooting heating systems can take two full hours, especially if you're waiting for the coil to unfreeze on a heat pump or some other issue beyond the tech's control. Ordering a special part to temporarily fix an old heating system, rather than installing a new system, also takes longer. In both instances, rescheduling may be needed.

"Usually, customers are OK with that, they understand we're not going to have every part," Gonzales says. "If we were to show up with every single possible part we could ever need on your job site, our truck would show up—and three other semis would come behind him—to make sure we had every part we might need on your job. Do you have room for that on your street?"

If customers insist techs show up with every possible part to fix their broken air conditioner, they may not fit your ideal customer profile, she adds.

Putting Jobs on Hold

Companies often place jobs on hold while they wait for an updated purchase order, part, permit, or change orders. Placing a job on hold removes it from the ServiceTitan scheduling dashboard, but doesn't reschedule or cancel the job. Rather, it remains in a hold bucket for dispatchers or CSRs to follow up at a later time.

When the pandemic hit a year ago, Gonzales says, Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling had close to $350,000 worth of work sitting on hold while they waited for customers to decide whether to let essential service techs into their homes and businesses. High winds, unexpected snowfall, and other weather-related issues can also put jobs on hold.

"Put the job on hold, and then follow up with the customer and reschedule it," Gonzales says. "It's a great way to keep your board clean, keep your follow-up queue clean, too, and it gives your CSRs and dispatchers a little honey pot they can guard and say, 'OK, this part's in, I now can get this scheduled.'"

The tags and filters available in ServiceTitan help you label "hold" jobs appropriately, so you don't need to spend time tracking down all the details.

"That's one of the things I love the most about ServiceTitan. It cuts down on a lot of the phone tag," Gonzales says. "You're not having to pick up the phone and ask somebody. They're not having to ask you. It makes it so much more efficient."

Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating & Cooling earned the business of several commercial accounts through its pure persistence with follow-ups regarding "on-hold" jobs, Gonzales says. 

"I expect my team to have gone in there every three days and updated it. They know if I go in and look at a whole ticket, and there's not a note from three days ago, the day before, or that day, that's unacceptable," she says. "That means we're not staying on top of our hold queue, we're not servicing our customers, and that's not how we play."

Task Management

Task management allows you to plan your business day with consistency, and streamlines the steps your team needs to take to ensure they follow the same process each time. Establishing a set of task-management standards helps when addressing:

  • Customer concerns

  • Permits

  • Refunds

  • Responding to customer reviews

  • Team performance reviews

  • Parts ordering

"Task management in ServiceTitan—in addition to the techs using forms—allows you to keep whatever needs to be addressed right in front of their faces," Gonzales says. "There's a little red dot that pops up every time you log in, and it stays there until you address the task. It keeps everybody accountable."

ServiceTitan's forms and checklists also help walk techs through an AC unit inspection or leaky faucet service call, for example, to make sure nothing gets missed, providing better customer service and consistency.

“Once we started tracking our customer concerns in a task management system, we saw the days to resolve them decline to 48 hours," Gonzales says. "Customers' concerns stopped falling through the cracks and we were able to follow through with promises made. We were also able to change workflows to ensure customer satisfaction.”

Cancellations

While most business owners prefer 0% cancellations, Gonzales says a 5% or below cancellation rate is acceptable, especially for larger service companies. More cancellations occur during peak busy seasons (such as spring or fall for an HVAC business) or during periods of growth for a smaller business.

"When we were smaller and had maybe five to six technicians, we didn't have nearly as many cancellations," Gonzales says. "As we grew to what ServiceTitan calls an enterprise shop, our cancellations moved up, but we were booking a lot more jobs."

It's important to remove the negative filter from a canceled job, Gonzales says, to better understand how to prevent them. By tracking cancellations and the reasons why, you'll be able to provide more capacity during peak seasons, offer better training for your team, adjust prices more competitively, and create an overall better process.

It’s important to define that cancellation process. ServiceTitan recommends:

  • CSR takes incoming call from customer indicating they want to cancel their appointment. 

  • CSR asks customer when they would like to reschedule. 

    • If the customer declines to reschedule, CSR asks the customer to share their reason for the cancellation to better understand areas for improvement. 

    • CSR unassigns tech scheduled for the job. 

  • Dispatcher reviews invoice.  

    • Removes any unnecessary line items.

    • Cancels job. 

  • Service manager reviews cancelled job report on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis to spot any trends and create an action plan to improve and correct any issues. 

Customers cancel jobs for a variety of reasons, some of which they'll tell you and some they won't. Just explain your company's efforts to learn and grow from any mistakes.

"We felt like we had a high cancellation rate," Gonzales says. "Once we started tracking, we noticed it was not as high as we initially thought. We were able to track if it was pricing, or truly capacity and we needed to add techs. It also showed holes in our CSR training to fight for the right calls.”