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Service Management for Field Service Companies
Maximizing efficiency and streamlining expenses have always been a challenge in the trade services where customer satisfaction is not only judged by the price of the services but also by the time of response to the client's problem. In today's economy that challenge has become even more pressing. Rising fuel costs, skyrocketing overhead, and reduced consumer spending have driven many out of the marketplace all together. Those who remain must utilize all their resources to reduce spending and maximize the profit potential. That is not always an easy balancing act to achieve. That being said, by following these five simple steps, you should be able to mitigate overhead considerably.
Do More with Less
It sounds simple enough. However, most companies struggle with the loss of efficiency. All too often, the work staff begins to feel overworked while the client base loses patience for the lack of assistance to their problem. Do not try to overextend your resources. Doing more with less is a great thing in terms of the profit margin. Overextending your resources, both human and electronic spells long-term catastrophe. Every system in your organization has a maximum level of operations. When pushed beyond that limit for an extended period of time, efficiency is lost. Scheduling 10 service calls in a period that can only reasonable accommodate 7 service calls will leave your customers frustrated, your employees frazzled, and damage the overall business.
Organization is Key
Organization and time management are key components here. Utilize time management software to compare the estimated length of a service call with the actual time a service call needed. Monitor this information over time to establish a clearly defined guideline for projects and duration. While not all projects are the same and unexpected issues will arise from time to time, this will allow dispatchers to effectively plan for service calls and alert customers well in advance of any delays which may occur. Remember, customers prefer to know upfront it a service call can be met at a certain time. It’s more important to be upfront about any scheduling conflicts than to promise a customer something which is unattainable.
Location! Location! Location!
Plan service calls based on location. Several years ago, UPS conducted an internal study of its fleet to discover where inefficiencies caused additional costs. The results were amazing. Simply utilizing GPS route planning software allowed the company to avoid unnecessary left turns saving more than 29 million miles in a single year. What can this mean for the average business? With today's fuel costs, a company could recognize thousands of dollars in reduced travel costs in addition to shorter trip times from one client to the next. Plan routes effectively to maximize the distance traveled. If possible, service all clients in an area before moving to the next service area. Crisscrossing across town wastes not only time, money, and fuel, but it also increases the wear and tear on company owned vehicles adding to maintenance costs and additional down time for service.
Reward Efficiency In the Field.
No matter how much technology is put into place, the bottom line in running an effective operation comes down to the employees who make each and every service call. Don’t be afraid to offer your servicemen and women rewards for running a tight ship while they are on a service related call. This can be in the form of a cash incentive or extra time off. In this way, they become an invested member of the organization. If they understand that they will benefit directly from utilizing effectual time management and customer service skills, they will be more likely to provide the highest possible service without bleeding the clock. Include all service employees and track the results. While not everyone will excel at every task given, tracking your human component will provide lots of answers as to the overall efficiency of your operation.
Keep Billing Simple
Lastly, it goes without saying that you have to keep the revenues flowing. In some cases, payment for services may be collected onsite at the time the service is completed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and there must be a well organized method to collect any outstanding balances owed. Once again, technology and rapid communication often provide the most efficient method to address this problem. Cell phones, laptops, and tablets can easily be integrated with relatively inexpensive software which allows for billing information to be instantly uploaded into the main accounting software system for the organization. The billing department should never have to issue a separate invoice for the services received, yet they will be able to track that payment through their system without the slightest hesitation. In many cases, off the shelf accounting software offers this feature for a small additional charge. It can be a small price to pay to ensure that payments are received in a timely manner.