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How to schedule jobs efficiently as a field service business
Having a field service business means that you have many clients and jobs that need to be efficiently scheduled. When you’re first starting out as a young business, it may be easier to schedule jobs and estimates as they come. As you grow, this approach can become a little bothersome for your team and downright inefficient. You’d be making your routes super long with many random stops at random times throughout the day. Your team may even work in a specific neighborhood in the morning, go to a different one in midday, and come back to the same neighborhood in the afternoon.
Besides an unorganized workforce and improperly scheduled jobs, you also risk a high employee turnover. If you aren’t able to schedule jobs efficiently, that will leave your employees stressed and unhappy. Especially now that we are dealing with the infamous “Great Resignation”, talent retention is among the highest priorities for many companies. In 2021, the turnover rate for workers in the construction industry alone was 56.9%.
This is why it’s important to utilize strategies that help you prioritize saving time on routing and minimize downtime, while simultaneously attending to all your clients and keeping your workforce satisfied. Some things may not work for the particular type of field service business you have, but with a little trial and error you’ll figure out what works best in no time. We’ve compiled 6 tips to help you do just that!
6 Ways to better schedule your jobs in the field
Try to schedule according to location
The first and simplest change you can make to your scheduling is grouping jobs that are in the same location (or within a specific range). This will make sure that your team is well prepared for each customer and won’t be too tired from long and random routes. Depending on the number of jobs you have coming in each week, you can try to separate locations and ranges for each day.
Assuming your work is mainly located in one city, one option to divide your labor is by dedicating one day per region. This would mean that on Monday, for example, you schedule all jobs located in the north of the city, on Tuesday all jobs in the East, and so on. If you have a large workforce and many clients per week, you can even try dedicating specific neighborhoods for a day in the week. This way, you can schedule clients right away, because you know which day your workers will be in their location. Of course, you will most probably have to adjust your days and scheduling to meet demand. In certain cases when you’re completely booked, you can even tell the customers you’ll call when you know you’ll be in their neighborhood. This way, for small jobs you can do the estimate onsite and even do the job as well.
Keeping needed products in-stock will considerably ease your situation
This is especially important for field service businesses whose work relies on specific products. If you are specialized in painting, for example, you can only schedule customers once you know that you have the right paint available. It is extremely difficult to schedule any work without readily available products. You can also opt to tell customers that once you have the material, you will figure out a time to do the work. But try to keep track of all your products so you know when you need to restock. This way you never have to turn away customers because of a lack of material.
Invest in devices to do estimates on-site
Being able to do estimates on-site will greatly improve your scheduling. The more on-site estimates that you can give, the easier it is to know what day you can send a team. For businesses that focus on one service like painting, you can try to do complete interior and exterior estimates (including sometimes carpentry) onsite. The entire process can take about 1-1.5 hrs. To help with this, many businesses have a boilerplate of a very detailed proposal, and an estimating system is set up in Excel. Nowadays you can even create contracts and offers right there on tablets and offer your clients to sign them digitally.
Start qualifying your potential customers
Qualifying your potential customers essentially means that you can establish that customers are able to pay for your services. You should not be selling yourself short, but accurately price your services to meet industry and market requirements, and afterward look for clients that can afford them. For field service businesses, it can be helpful to set a minimum that covers certain square footage for the work you do. Half of the time someone would schedule a site visit and then balk at the minimum. To avoid such cases, you can quote a loose ballpark on the phone and filter out customers who immediately respond with ‘thanks anyway.’
To further help with this, make a list of qualifying questions to ask on the first call. Anyone rushing off the phone most likely isn’t going to be a paying customer. Some of these questions include:
How long have you been planning this project?
When do you want the work to be completed?
Are there any special considerations?
Are you prepared to move forward today if we can meet your needs/wants?
Are you selling soon or is this your forever home?
With the help of these questions (and others, depending on your industry), you can filter out those who are shopping for quotes and start talking about issues like rain gutter capacity and coil thickness. This type of trade talk usually indicates that your competitors have spent hours educating these potential customers and they still haven’t committed. This wastes your time and resources that could be better spent on getting new clients and scheduling your paying customers.
Try to schedule estimates for a specific time
What some businesses do is schedule estimates for a certain part of the day or week. If you do estimates on Monday and Wednesday, for example, you know that the other days in the week are for the actual job itself. This way, you don’t have teams who have to get their clothes dirty while doing estimates and have to do an actual job at another client’s location right away. Your employees also will feel less pressure to look professional and clean in a very short period between estimates and jobs.
Use a time and GPS tracking tool
We all know that technology has evolved so much that there are multiple resources out there that businesses can use to better their internal processes. Field service businesses can use time and GPS tracking software like Atto to help with better scheduling. You can track when your employees are clocked in, routes taken to every job site, how long a project lasts, if they’ve finished a job and are ready for the next, etc.
You won’t just be able to know the location and movements of your team, but also the process in which they work. This will give you more insight into what they do, as well as help you stay in the loop of your field teams without having to call them or meet them personally. If you had an urgent job pop up, you can see which employees you can schedule. Knowing which routes they take to jobs will also help give clients precise appointments, which greatly impacts your customer satisfaction rates.
With a good plan and time tracking software, you optimize your business and efficiently schedule jobs. It will make your scheduling experience easy, intuitive, and simple. To keep your business running smoothly, you should invest in a system that helps you manage field service teams. This strategy will promote accuracy, accountability, and a positive attitude towards work.