Note: the original article by Linda Formichelli, posted in 2018, has been updated with new insights.
To say that times have changed would be an understatement, but you’re no stranger to adapting, rolling with the punches, and doing what’s necessary to take your business further.
Whether your service business is the new kid on the block or has already been around it a few times, it’s important that you’re capable of adapting to change. This is especially true when it comes to digital transformation.
While you’ll still have the essential brick and mortar elements that come with running an electrical, gas repair, HVAC, or other type of service business, it doesn’t mean everything should be focused on the physical things.
Gaining oversight of the physical resources of your business (whether it’s your stock, vans, or your engineers themselves) is easier thanks to digital tools that can make work feel substantially more freeing, compared to sticking with more traditional paper-based methods.
If you want to expand your marketing, hire more engineers, track service vans, or even franchise your business to open up in new locations (perhaps not right away, but definitely in the future) then you need the right digital set-up and all these goals rest on one thing: how efficiently you organise and carry out your work.
In order for you to do that, you’ll need to adopt an automated intelligent scheduling system that lets you get your jobs done better and faster.
- Manual labour doesn’t scale well
- You have to keep hiring operations managers
- You can’t keep up with customer demand
For your scheduling system, an operations manager can handle around 3 - 5 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.
An intelligent scheduling system, to put it simply, is just better. It can save you time, stress, and will lead to greater productivity which means more jobs in the same amount of time and therefore more profit. No matter the situation you find yourself in, efficiency that’s matched by great productivity should be a primary business goal.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you need an intelligent scheduling system, and don’t forget that at the end of this article, you can download our free guide to Getting Started with Automated Service Scheduling.
Why You Can’t Scale Your Business Without an Intelligent Scheduling System
Adopting intelligent software solutions isn’t about putting in temporary fixes, but adopting long-term solutions that will help your business adapt for years and years to come.
"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 Small Business UK. "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. While making sure you can cope with demand is one reason to upgrade, on the other hand, we’ve seen many businesses shifting to a digital set out of pure necessity.
While recent world events have, understandably accelerated this process in 2020 , the other reason for transitioning to digital sooner rather than later has been around for far longer. Simply put, digital tools will help you keep up with the competition and continue to be financially competitive by doing the same work in less time and using fewer resources.
“Over half of the new software purchased for temporary use during the circumstances created by COVID-19 will actually be permanent tools by 2021.”
Even before the pandemic, you’ll have been toying with digital solutions to some degree and seen the benefits in terms of communicating with customers or employees, as well as streamlining finances and admin processes. Digital tools whether it’s smartphones, email, or other apps have made it easier to communicate and stay in touch with and it’s true that an intelligent scheduling system can give you a boost in much the same way.
While it may be a necessity to enhance communication now, these changes were always going to be necessary to not only keep up with the competition who have already gone digital, but to also
- Enhance communication
- Optimise and reduce administration work
- Win more jobs
- Appeal to customer convenience
- Grow your business.
Below, we've listed a three reasons that cover why you need to digitalise scheduling, and which also indicate the reasons that a manual scheduling system is a roadblock for your service business. We’ll dive in to detail below and, at the end, provide you a free resource to help you get started with automated, intelligent scheduling:
- 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.
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.
Remember: Efficiency that’s matched by great productivity
should be a primary business goal!
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 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.
Besides, 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 5-10 additional engineers is not that. Replacing a manual scheduling system with intelligent 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 strategies 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 up 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 a growing number of customers, engineers, and schedule changes will put a stopper in your progress.
Whether it’s now, or sometime in the future, setting your business up for success with quality digital tools is going to be necessary. Implementation needn’t be tricky and while a learning curve to adapt can take time, like any obstacle, it’s worth overcoming.
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 and a way to help you get started with automation for all your scheduling needs.