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Operations • Business Tips • Productivity • 55 minutes

Dispatch is Both an Art and a Science, says The Eco Plumbers’ Barbara Pfeiffer

October 19, 2021

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Episode Overview

Dispatching is like playing chess. You're picking your pieces and trying to make the greatest outcome that you can out of the day.

— Barbara Pfeiffer

After choosing the trades and moving from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Barbara Pfeiffer found the perfect work culture at The Eco Plumbers. During her early 20s, Pfeiffer learned quickly on the job as a dispatcher, and now is a trainer who also leads a team of six. 

On “Toolbox for the Trades,” she talks about the moving pieces involved in the profession, on-the-job training and the difference between a good and a great dispatcher.

Here are Barbara Pfeiffer’s top tips for dispatch excellence in the home-service trades:

Dispatching is like playing chess.

At her first job, Pfeiffer felt confused and overwhelmed working for a company that did plumbing, HVAC and electrical. 

“A couple of months in, I realized dispatching is like playing chess,” she says. “You're picking your pieces and trying to make the greatest outcome that you can out of the day. I fell in love with it at that moment—just being able to choose how the day went, being able to pick the puzzle pieces and put them together.”

The school route is not everybody’s career path.

Pfeiffer grew up thinking that you needed to go to school to be successful. She started college a few times but always ended up working in a job that felt more compelling.

“I became passionate about not needing to go to a traditional school,” she says. “There are a lot of great careers in the trades. And during difficult times, we are an essential business.”

You never know which interview will land a dream job. 

When it was time for Pfeiffer to interview with The Eco Plumbers, she’d already landed another job offer. At the last-minute, she went anyway. 

“Aaron (Gaynor) hired me on the spot,” she says. “For some reason it felt really right. Even just walking around the building it felt like a good match. It felt like there was something different about the place.” She took the job. And wound up meeting her fiancé there.

Zen and the art of dispatching. 

There’s instant gratification in dispatching if you send somebody to a call and you see quickly that it works out, Pfeiffer says. The job becomes more complicated, though, when a company is bigger and there are more techs and dispatchers. 

“You can’t be an expert in your head,” she says. “You have to be an expert on ServiceTitan. You have to be an expert at putting the notes in and being able to communicate properly intra-departmentally.”

Dedicating dispatchers to specific departments. 

“We do currently have a couple people in the service department that are directly doing service only,” Pfeiffer says. “And we have a lady that is doing sewers and focused on sewers. We’re trying to transition and get everybody up to speed.” She says the hope is to get more dispatchers directly tied to a department. “I think it's going to make everybody's life so much easier—knowing that they have the same goal as the technicians,” she adds.

A quick tip on training green dispatchers.  

Pfeiffer says new dispatchers are usually either very location-driven or very customer-focused. “People usually pick one or the other,” she says. “It takes a little bit to understand the urgency plus location, and then adding in who is the best technician.” 

Pfeiffer says to help with training, her company usually sends dispatchers to Service System with Nexstar, along with techs.

There’s no substitute for on-the-job training. 

Though dispatchers get two weeks in the beginning, Pfeiffer says it’s a very difficult thing to train for. 

“Dispatching calls for on-the-job training,” she says. “I cannot prepare you for every situation that will come up during the day. We have to tackle them as they come in, and talk through them. 

“A lot of it is very subjective. I can’t train you for the first day. I can get you ready for that first day.”

Getting from good to great as a dispatcher. 

Pfeiffer is a huge proponent of history checks. 

“I’m big on checking the history of every customer that’s called before sending a technician out to their home,” she says. “We get so much valuable information looking at customer history. Is this a job where an older technician went there and they loved them, so we should send that person back? 

“If we utilize the history, we can make better decisions even beyond who the best tech would be.”

Incentive programs for dispatchers. 

The Eco Plumbers has an incentive program for dispatchers that is tied to daily revenue, lead turnovers and average ticket, Pfeiffer says. 

“We also implement random incentive days where we choose a random thing to track,” she says. “We did a hose bib day. And a toilet day. If we get to 10, we buy everybody lunch the next day. It helps switch up the monotony.”

Advice to managers of dispatch units. 

“The biggest change for us was focusing on job types within ServiceTitan,” Pfeiffer says. 

The company used to have a job type that was called “repair or replacement.”  It covered just about every job that got booked.

“So, we made the big move to be very intentional with job types,” Pfeiffer says. “We can track metrics and see what technicians do at job types. Getting the granular details has made a huge difference.”

Recommended research and reading

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, by Patrick Lencioni

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About the Show

Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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