3 Ways to Improve Time Management for your Field Service Business

Rhys Pattimore
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Time’s a funny old thing, isn’t it? Some days it can really drag, while on others it zooms past in a blur. In either case, it's pretty much always a challenge to manage.

You could probably list at least 10 time-related quotes off the top of your head without trying, right? "Time is money," "time is of the essence," "time waits for no one", the list goes on. That in itself is a testament to just how concerned we are with it. After all, people have been philosophising, joking, and giving advice about time for millennia.

Ultimately though, whether it’s personal or professional, at some point we’ve all wished we had more of it, or that we could put it to better use.graphic_crystal_ball_purple-01

While questions about time are important, it’s perhaps best if we avoid getting too philosophical in this article (there’s many mindfulness blogs out there that can do a better job)! However, what we can do here is provide you with some insight into the ways you can manage your time more effectively, all thanks to your job management software.

Having a better way to organise an engineer’s schedule is great, making use of reminders is even better, while tracking deadlines so that everyone stays on target is a true mark of excellence.

So, with the right set-up, let’s see how you can treat time like the valuable resource it is and divvy it up to create a far more efficient business:

  1. Time keeps on ticking.
  2. Divide and conquer.
  3. Why you don't have to watch the clock.

1. Time keeps on ticking...

Whether it’s connecting the right wires, or tightening nuts and bolts, you and your team know that a great end result is made up of the sum of its parts. You want every bit to be great, but it can be tricky, especially if time’s not on your side.

So, if you want to be more efficient, the first step is to understand what’s slowing you down, so you can figure out what to change.

graphic_clock-01

Thinking about the best way to do this can lead to asking a lot of practical questions about your service business. No doubt business owners will deliberate with their office managers and operational staff in an effort to make sure everyone is organised, but many questions you have and the goals you want to achieve will likely centre around both money and logistics.

While it’s not difficult to keep a personal diary, whether you’re using a pencil and a notebook, or a Google or Outlook calendar, it becomes harder when you have to manage a growing team of people. You know by now that those solutions don’t work as well when your employees number 15, 25, and more people, the types of jobs vary greatly, and with some staff working out in the field, and others in the office: it’s a challenge to keep everyone in the loop as time ticks, ticks, ticks on by!graphic_customer_database-01

After all, time is money and it makes sense you’d want to maximise both. Questions you might ask, then, as you look to make improvements could include:

  • How can I increase the chance that a customer will book with my business?
  • How much time is spent travelling to each job and how much onsite?
  • How can I quickly identify if an engineer is free to take on an urgent job?
  • What is the best way to combine several service visits?

For those points above, you may already be on the right path to getting some answers. You might be interested to find out more about things like intelligent scheduling—which can help you reduce travel time by optimising diaries—or online bookings tools—which make it easy for customers to both inquire and arrange a service through your website, whilst also keeping your team notified.

The solution starts with thinking about the individual touchpoints between the customer and your business that directly impact these aims. By optimising each journey associated with a touchpoint, you’ll eliminate each obstacle customers hit when trying to hire you.

Take a moment to think about what you might already have in place, particularly if you’ve gone paperless during the last few years; it means a significant portion of admin time is already being saved and it should be easier to communicate with your customers and colleagues, but there is always more you can do.

Without a doubt, continuing to innovate will allow your company to realise its full potential.

success in the field, watch the new web series now. image of a screen with a man's upper body playing in a video

2. Divide and conquer

There isn’t a tool out there that can let you solve everything in one fell-swoop, but by dividing what you want to achieve, you can split the goal into more manageable chunks. To make sure you’re acting as efficiently as possible, you’re also going to need to exercise some patience.

After all, it might take a bit of time to get to grips with the full extent of your new potential, but when it comes to cold hard numbers, you’ll soon be seeing your revenue soar so hang in there!

If I may express a personal thought for a moment:

It’s this very reason why I think New Year’s resolutions are often so hard to maintain. We can often get carried away thinking about the end-goal instead of what you need to do to actually get there, day-by-day, week-by-week.

If you do take that approach though, then by breaking down the task into more manageable chunks you’ll find it more likely you succeed. For instance, just to round out that analogy, let’s say you decided to pick up and learn an instrument.

First, you need to learn the basic chords, from there, you can then move on to learn a melody, and after you’ve mastered that step, you’ll find it even easier to play an entire song. But if you had simply picked it up and tried to play your favourite song straightaway, it would’ve seemed impossible.

The same sort of approach is needed, say, if you want to improve the way you manage schedules and diaries by using intelligent scheduling: it’s going to need more than a simple flick of a switch!graphic_brain_lightbulb-02

If you’re eager to improve efficiency and even increase revenue, then you need to automate what can be an otherwise manually intensive task— (reconciling complex routes and diary management isn’t exactly a walk in the park). As a result, you'll eventually be able to maximise an engineer’s time, decrease driving time, and even save on fuel costs.

However, to get there, you need to make sure that basic, essential information is correctly fed into the system so that the tool can work its magic. This means organising details like:

  • Company address: i.e. it helps to have a starting point, whether it’s your office or an engineer's home, make it clear where an engineer begins their journey, and the system can plot out a route that makes sense.
  • Service windows: by establishing time slots (i.e. morning, afternoon, or evening) then you can set up windows of opportunity to fit teams within. This helps set realistic expectations.
  • Shifts - who works what times? If your system has the information to know who’s working and when, as well as when things like breaks and time-off are expected, then it can help find the right person for the job. This level of information not only means getting jobs booking efficiently, but it can also help indicate when someone might need a break. Add in costs associated with overtime or weekend work, and you’ve got an efficient payment workflow too!

There are other factors that will play a role here, but getting the basic building blocks right means you can at least get started resolving complex, time-consuming problems at large!

This also means you can look ahead and forecast bigger plans by focusing on the work itself, rather than the logistics to get you there, thanks to software taking over repetitive, awkward tasks and even if it just means minutes are saved, they can ultimately lead to many more hours reinvested to the business.


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3. Why you don't have to watch the clock.

A great benefit of saving time is how it helps you deliver efficient service that keeps you competitive and that customers will be sure to appreciate as a result.

Help, then, 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 as well as manage those random reschedules that can throw a wrench into even the most organized of schedules. Quickly edit an engineers’ diary when a customer cancels an appointment at short notice or they’ve forgot all about it and no one answered the door.graphic_computer_tools-01

All this without having to watch the clock yourself!

Notifications and messages combined with automated tools keep schedules organised, reducing frustration from idle activity during the day. The impact that a timely, fully-automated notification can make is huge, especially if it lets staff know they’ve got a new task, or that their diary has just opened up. Naturally, this stands to benefit engineers, customers, and admin teams alike.

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, rather than wait to get updates over the phone, or when they return to their desk.

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.

graphic_download_mobile-01By saving time in one way, it allows them to make use of it in others. For instance, when clocking out on a job, their time is automatically entered to the system—together with any parts used—so the central database can compile the information ready for immediate invoicing, all without them having to take many manual steps to get there, reducing the chances of making a mistake, too!

From humble beginnings and all that, right?

The knock on effect of saving time can be truly powerful!

The Takeaway

Okay, so we aren’t going to win any philosophical prizes, or join the ranks of Nietzsche or Aristotle with our advice; but on the plus side, you’re more likely to save time, particularly when it comes to scheduling!

Besides, you already know that your time is valuable! If you use yours wisely, you can secure revenue that will support your business, improve customer journeys, and while I know we often say it, no harm in really driving it home that by saving time you can do more of the things you actually find rewarding.

After all, who doesn’t like finishing work on time?

In short: don’t work harder, work smarter with job management software that can support your business day in, day out!

To learn more, take a look here and explore more of the options that are available to you and your business, and be sure to make use of some of our resources (like the one below).

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