In today’s fast-paced cleaning business, field service scheduling is crucial to customer—and employee—satisfaction.
In recent study, Software Advice found that the majority of respondents prioritized scheduling (81%) and dispatching (66%) as things they’d like to see in their field service software. The scheduling statistic in particular demonstrates that a desire exists for field service scheduling to be more streamlined and ultimately more effective.
If you’ve been in the cleaning business a while, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Field service scheduling always has been—and probably always will be—a pain-point for most commercial cleaners. It’s not simply a matter of creating a schedule, which can be tricky enough, but sticking to it as well. And while the pain-point still exists, there is a lot you can do to treat the problem.
The importance of effective scheduling
Think about the times you’ve had to call a utility company for an appointment, and they give you a four-hour window a week later. That’s frustrating enough, but now think about the times that they didn’t show up in the designated time frame. Pretty frustrating, right? Something as simple as a scheduling mistake can be the fatal blow for a service provider trying to maintain customers.
The reality is that everyone’s time is valuable to them. Waiting makes customers unhappy, being sent somewhere on short notice and unexpectedly detracts from employee satisfaction, and operations managers don’t want to spend all their time fielding complaints from either party. That’s why it’s in everyone’s best interest to have an effective field service scheduling protocol in place.
10 Fool-proof tips for improved and efficient scheduling
1. Scheduling automation
Even in the age of technology, many smaller companies fall back on manual scheduling methods, such as paper or Excel. While these methods do work, they’re complex and often prone to error.
Investing in something like janitorial inspection software that includes automated scheduling, however, is usually worth the money. Manual labor and hours decrease drastically when you automate this function, especially if the software provides two-way communication between the dispatcher and the field employee.
Speaking of communication, the practice is critical for field service scheduling of any kind. Especially with the availability of mobile devices these days, there’s virtually no reason to fall short on communication. And remember that there are two parts to communicating: informing and listening. Most of us are ready for the first one, but not the second. Encourage your employees to talk to you, and keep that line of dialogue open at all costs.
3. Keep updated records
If a customer has moved and you don’t have their current address, or if some other critical piece of data has changed, you could be looking at a significant hold-up for everyone involved. Avoid this by staying up to speed on where your clients are and what they’re up to. CRM software will help with this as well, but the best way is to stay in touch with customers, check in with them regularly, and make sure to enter any changes into whatever database you’re using.
4. Establish the best routes to and from job sites
This one sounds tricky, but with today’s GPS capabilities on most mobile devices, it should be a breeze. All your field employees have to do is enter the client address and then search for the fastest route. That said, it’s not a bad idea to have a rough idea of the fastest routes in case of a data outage or other unforeseen circumstance.
5. Provide adequate training
Part of on-the-job training is setting expectations for how an employee should approach and tackle the work day. Scheduling might be left off the training list because it seems like a basic enough task. But leaving it out could be a critical mistake. Train your employees on best practices regarding field service scheduling so that they can minimize their own mistakes while also being prepared to respond to delays caused by others.
6. Encourage electronic communication
Whether your employees have smartphones or not, using data-based apps to manage field service scheduling is an increasingly popular way to disseminate information. Offering to reimburse a portion of a smartphone bill or providing inexpensive company phones allows you to take advantage of mobile technology in a way that improves productivity and, as a result, increases revenue.
Field service scheduling fixes aren’t all up to your employees. It behooves you to create forecasts for your business, not just for sales figures, but for scheduling as well. On a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis, take a look at who your clients are, where they are, and which of your team members is working with them. This allows you to streamline the work and anticipate issues as you go along. (And with any forecast, remember it’s not set in stone; you can tweak it along the way.)
8. Send the most skilled
When deciding who to send out to each job, consider the skill level of each employee. Send more skilled employees to the more challenging jobs. Obviously, that should still fit with other scheduling nuances, but generally this is a good way to keep jobs on schedule and to keep employees moving.
9. Preventative maintenance
Take some time to make sure that all the equipment your field teams use is in order. If you check equipment regularly and provide maintenance, you’ll be able to better anticipate breakdowns, which will reduce delays.
10. Know where your people are
Sometimes things come up that are out of our control. Don’t let it interrupt your field service scheduling. Know where your employees are so that if someone is late, can’t come in, or there’s an accident, you’ll know who’s effected and be able to better plan for what corrective action to take.