Dispatch Despair

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Who, what, when and where the difference is between profit and loss

Setting up a GPS tracker in company vehicles will help make dispatching technicians even easier.

By Glenn Mellors

This article is a shout out to the people that we call dispatchers, one of the most difficult jobs found within any type of service company. These people go unnoticed and unappreciated yet have total control of our daily destiny of success or failure. Or rather I prefer to say “satisfied or unsatisfied” customers.

With the onset of everyone having to cocoon in the safety of our homes to protect ourselves from the pandemic, our home comfort systems are not keeping up with the extra demands and equipment that has been neglected. They are failing at a higher rate than usual. This additional service and replacement work is putting our companies under tremendous pressure. Coupled by the lack of technicians and shortages of equipment and repair parts, it is increasingly difficult to have who we need, with what we need, where it is needed and when. This is where our unsung “hero dispatchers” can shine.

I really feel for the 10-person or possibly two people in the office. The greater than 10-people locations have equal challenges, but have the labour force to flub their way through the day, not efficiently but nevertheless make it look good. Regardless of size there are some common flaws in many of our company’s processes. Being a business coach in the HVAC industry for more years than I care to count, I have had the luxury of travelling to many companies across Canada and seeing the good, the bad and the ugly.

Out with the old, in with the new

I remember the old filing system of timecard racks filled with service work orders with a technician’s name on it. The stack would be so thick some days that they knew they did not have a chance of getting them done, leaving a trail of follow up visits that may or may not get attended to or invoiced. Followed up by chalkboards full of names of customers and technicians, I have even seen computer monitors covered with Post-it notes.

Companies allowed me to interview their technicians to find out how they felt about the success and failures of their dispatch process, the following is a list they created that we all can relate to and learn from.

  1. Passing their own vehicles going to worksites close to where they just came from.
  2. Given only a short amount of time to do a repair that should take hours.
  3. Homeowners not home when they arrive.
  4. No history of the equipment and lack of repair parts.
  5. Technician’s skillset doesn’t match the repair requirements.
  6. Wrong address or phone number.
  7. Arriving to do a maintenance on a non-functioning piece of equipment.
  8. Unable to collect fees for the repair, or homeowner is not prepared.
  9. Given unreasonable workload for the day.
  10. Lack of appropriate paperwork.

Ensure that your technicians have all the paperwork required for the job.

Solving the mystery

If you were to interview your own staff, you might find that these concerns also come up. Let’s see how many we can resolve. We will try and do so on a limited budget, and later we will discuss more complex resolutions that require a significant investment and commitment.

  1. Crisscrossing trucks: Start with a simple area road map and pin the locations of each vehicle’s current location, move the pin and the technician debriefs after each call. Assign each call based on time and location. Advanced method would be to install GPS tracking and view vehicles location and dispatch accordingly.
  2. Not enough time allotted: If you have been following my articles, you would know that I am an advocate of the flat rate system. Identify the amount of time it would take to do a repair, assume around 30 to 45 minutes for a proper diagnostic, and then based on all the information the technician has gathered, determine the potential repair code and time. Dispatch accordingly.
  3. Not home: A simple pre-call the night before and then again at time of dispatch to make sure the customer is going be home. Collect cell phone numbers at time of booking.
  4. No history: Not unlike a visit to the doctor, provide the file information on the equipment to the technician. If no previous records, dispatcher should gather as much detail as possible including, make, model and serial number of equipment. Any service history that the homeowner may add can be helpful.
  5. Skillset matches the job: Make sure your dispatcher has the appropriate information for each technician, including strengths and weaknesses. They can use this information to send the most appropriate person. This list makes a great starting point for creating a training calendar in slower times.
  6. Improper homeowner information: Make sure that this information is updated frequently, and try to collect different means of contact (i.e. email, cell phone, work phone, etc.)
  7. Non-functioning piece of equipment/fee collection: Proper scripting will ensure a successful visit. When the phone rings and the customer asks for service, it should go something like this.

“Have you ever done business with us before? Yes.

“May a confirm your address please? Confirm address.

“What seems to be the issue?” Repeat back to them in their words and confirm.

“Is the equipment running at all?” No, it is not.

“We will schedule a call with one of our technicians (name if possible). When they arrive, they will take as much time necessary to diagnose the situation and put together a few options for you to review and quote you on the repair, for this service we charge a fee of $119.00. How will you be paying today?” Close the call.

If the customer has not done business with you before ask for the homeowner’s information and then follow the script.

If paperwork has always been an issue, make sure to provide your technicians with all the necessary paperwork and audit them regularly.

In the next issue, we will discuss software systems that can do almost all the above for you. It does require an investment and a commitment—both of which are mandatory to deliver exceptional results.

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