There’s more to growing a field service business than having lots of return customers and contracts, though. Before you start planning your exciting new growth path, it makes sense to make sure your field service business is scalable.
‘A scalable business is one that has certain processes and systems in place to ensure that, when the business grows, it has the capability and the infrastructure to grow with it,’ writes Ben Lobel in a Small Business UK article about how to scale a business. ‘While demand will certainly play a large role in how and when a business decides to scale, it is vital to have a competent growth strategy in place from the get-go.’
If you aren’t set up to scale before taking growth actions, you’ll hit a wall when your field service business outgrows its software and systems. ‘As field service operations increase their reach and customer base, their field service software capabilities need to grow with them,’ according to an article on Software Advice about the software needs cycle for field service.
For example, take your scheduling system. An operations manager can handle only 15 - 20 engineers per day using a traditional diary management system. If you try to bring more engineers into the business without upgrading the system, the result will be higher expenses, unhappy customers, worn out operations managers, and lower revenues.
That’s what this article is about: the challenges a growing business faces when it relies on a manual scheduling system. For the solutions, please download our free report on how automated staff scheduling systems are helping growing field service businesses streamline their scheduling.
Why You Can’t Scale Your Business Without an Intelligent Scheduling System
Here are the reasons a manual scheduling system is a roadblock for growing field service businesses:
Manual labour doesn’t scale well. You need more engineers as you grow, and there’s no way to centralise their labour; however, you can scale the scheduling needs that come with more engineers.
You have to keep hiring operations managers. When you rely on manual scheduling, you have to hire a new operations manager every time you exceed 20 engineers. That’s the opposite of the scalable growth you need, where revenues grow and expenses stay low.
You can’t keep up with customer demand. Late arrival rates start creeping upward when your scheduling system can’t keep up with the growth of your customer base. Late arrivals = unhappy customers = stalled growth.
Below, we have research and details that will convince you to upgrade your scheduling—and that will help you get buy-in from your executive team as well.
1. Manual labour doesn’t scale well.
Some aspects of a field service business are impossible to scale. Take jobs, for example. For each job, you need an engineer on site. And unless your operations manager is skilled at bending the space-time continuum, an engineer can be in only one place at a time. There’s no real way to centralise the process of manual labour.
So you can’t avoid hiring more engineers and the more engineers you have, the more complex your operations manager’s job becomes. Luckily, you can scale your scheduling with the right tools.
Say you have 30 engineers, and each one has five jobs per day, five days per week. That’s 750 jobs per week. Even if your operations manager uses a scheduling tool that suggests the best engineer for each job, and that can optimise the daily schedule, if you truly want to scale at this point at you need an automated system that can schedule multiple jobs to multiple engineers at the same time.
2. You have to keep hiring operations managers.
Again, more engineers (and more jobs) means a more complex schedule. If your business relies on a traditional diary management system, your next move on the growth path would be to hire more operations managers to handle the load.
There’s a difference between traditional growth and scalable growth. ‘The traditional growth model has fostered a vicious cycle of inefficiency,‘ says Jason Albanese, co-founder and CEO of Centric Digital, in an article in Inc. magazine. ‘A company gains a few new clients, so they hire more people to service those clients, adding costs at nearly the same rate that they're adding revenue.’
What you want is scalable growth, where revenues grow and expenses stay low. Adding a new operations manager every time you exceed 15 or 20 engineers is not that. Replacing a manual scheduling system with many-to-many job optimisation software gets you back on the scalable growth track.
3. You can’t keep up with customer demand.
How do your customer service and customer experience scale? If the point of scalable business growth is more revenues with fewer expenses, the point of scalable customer service would be having happier customers—and more of them—while not using more resources.
On-time engineers are an important aspect of your customers’ satisfaction levels. The more customers and jobs you have, though, the more engineers you need to service them, and the more complex the schedule becomes. The result? Late arrival rates that start creeping upward. Talk about a vicious cycle!
According to Software Advice, 67 percent of customers will never rehire a service business if they’re over an hour late to an appointment, and 36 percent wouldn’t rehire if the business is over 30 minutes late. A manual scheduling system that can’t handle the number of customers, engineers, and schedule changes you’ll see as your business expands, will put a stopper in your growth.
If you’re seeing any of these problems in your plumbing and heating, HVAC, electrical, fire and security, or property management business, we have some solutions. Learn what they are by downloading our free report “How Intelligent Scheduling Is Changing the Way Field Service Businesses Plan Their Work” below.