Time is what we measure on the clock and what we charge out to customers, thereby putting food on our families’ tables. It all sounds so simple. But using our time efficiently and ensuring that time recorded always goes on the invoice is a chore – and that’s just the start of it. Why is so much of my engineers’ time non-chargeable?
Which engineers charge more time than others – and why?
If you are unable to get to grips with such questions then your company is simply never going to reach its full potential and might even run at a loss.
How do you manage your personal diary?
It is not difficult to keep a personal diary, whether you’re using a pencil and a notebook, or a Google or Outlook calendar. However, when it comes to managing a team of people, such as service engineers, the possible permutations increase exponentially with each additional individual.
Who has been to which job? Have multiple engineers gone? How many visits did it take to complete the job, and if so, did a different engineer go on each occasion?
How do you manage your team?
When you are managing a team out in the field, perhaps across a wide geographical area, further complications arise. How much time is spent travelling to each job and how much onsite? What is the best way to combine several service visits?
How do you identify your engineers?
And critically: how can I quickly identify an engineer who is not currently on a job and use his time more efficiently? How can I reschedule the team’s jobs to get more work done (and thus charged for) in a single working day or over the course of the week?
Answers to questions like these are vital if you are to maximize engineers’ performance/productive hours, create accurate and timely invoices for your customers, to achieve acceptable margins, and yet at the same time remain competitive and attractive to customers.
But answering these questions efficiently is simply impossible if you are relying on manual rosters and the filling in, collection and entry of timesheets.
Engineers often lose them, forget to record all of their time, or submit them late. And when they do turn up they are often illegible!
Do you invest in a complete system?
Help is at hand if you have a system that integrates engineers’ individual diaries with team or company-wide scheduling. It will help you avoid situations such as double-booking jobs and it will help you to quickly reschedule an engineers’ diary, for example when a customer cancels an appointment at short notice. The engineers themselves will benefit from less frustration and idle time during the day – they will be empowered to finish work on time while you will benefit from higher billings.
Do you use mobile devices?
Of course this will only work to maximum effect if the system is fully synchronized between your head office and your engineers out in the field, using their mobile phones or tablets. The engineers need to be able to see any changes to their schedule in real time – ideally even when they are working in a cellar or in a remote location that is out of range of the mobile network.
What’s more: your life will be made much easier if the engineers can use the same mobile devices to record the completion of a job while out in the field. Their time is automatically entered – together with any parts used – on the central system, ready for immediate invoicing.
Plus there are many other benefits, such as the ability to manage holiday and sick leave to ensure that you are always covered and employees get their correct holiday entitlement.
In the next and final article in this series we will address another common challenge that especially affects plumbing and heating companies: How do I keep customers “warm” without spamming?