5 Fire And Security Technician Scheduling Challenges And How To Overcome Them
September 3, 2019 - Management - 8 minutes
Raise your hand if scheduling technicians is your favorite part of the day! Anyone? That’s right. Technician scheduling challenges abound and they’re never the best part of someone’s daily to-do’s. We often hear fire and security companies, in particular, complaining about the woes of scheduling a big team. It’s normal – they’re the field service business dealing with many commercial contracts which imply strict schedules and tight deadlines with serious consequences if mismanaged.
This is why we’ve decided to list 5 of the most common technician scheduling challenges and how to overcome them. Read on to find out more!
#1 Challenge: Manual scheduling takes a lot of time and resources.
And we do mean A LOT. Enough that when you’ve hit the 25 technician mark, you’re bound to start looking for a second operations manager just to keep on top of the schedule. Not to mention all the other responsibilities like invoicing, sending feedback requests, planned preventive maintenance, etc.
Manual scheduling is prone to human error as it is but if you try to force things and make that poor employee do everything, you’ll end up with a jumble of harried appointments that no technician will be able to keep up with. Which just spirals into tardiness and unhappy customers, killing your hard earned growth.
But if you hire a full time admin every time your schedule gets too complex, your company will still be wasting its potential. What you want to do is hire more techs to do more work orders that bring in profit, while keeping your admin costs down.
#2 Challenge: Fitting variable labor costs into tight budgets is a hassle.
In a perfect world, every technician would have the same availability and work for the same rate, without anything unusual ever happening. Pigs would fly and money would grow on trees, of course.
In the real world, however, any fire and security manager – or field service manager in general – needs to juggle senior, junior, and apprentice-level techs who all charge different rates according to their knowledge and skills. Not to mention emergency work orders that require you to send your most experienced (and most expensive!) technician out in the middle of nowhere, at 10PM. Sometimes, asking employees to do overtime is inevitable. But since it affects their work-life balance and can easily lead to burnout, it’s only fair to pay them extra.
All this brings on more technician scheduling challenges. Managers are under even more stress. And since situations like this are pretty much the norm, rather than the exception, manually keeping track of any overtime work and labor costs can become impossible.
Factor in that everything must fit into a budget so overtime will not always be an option and it all adds up to the perfect recipe for admin chaos.
#3 Challenge: My fire and security technicians work different shifts.
In the previous challenge we mentioned employees with variable rates and how that doesn’t make for a pretty picture for your operations manager. Take that and then add variable shift patterns too and you’ll find yourself with some of the worst technician scheduling challenges of them all on your hands!
Techs often appreciate the fire and security industry for its flexibility. Considering it’s a 24/7 line of work, it’s normal to have employees doing odd shifts. Instead of the usual 9 to 5, you’ll get the overnighter, the 4AM starts, the weekenders, and many other variations.
Depending on your style of management, your admin staff will have to deal with all these types of shifts and schedule them accordingly. All while keeping in mind that some techs only work part-time, while others would love to do overtime.
#4 Challenge: Scheduling my fire and security technicians according to their location is impossible.
Let’s say you have a tech that’s working at 8AM, at house number 21. There’s another work order at 11AM, at number 22. But since that’s one technician out of dozens, your operations manager loses track of the appointment. She then schedules a completely different tech to do the second one. He’ll drive from the other side of the town to arrive there while the first tech goes off to another appointment.
As coincidences have it, that takes place very near to where the other tech was working earlier. This means that you’ve effectively criss-crossed your technicians on a map. You’ve lost an hour or two of billable time on driving around, not to mention fuel costs and truck usage.
It’s easy for your admin to check the location of each appointment and make sure the techs are not taking needless detours when there are only 5 of them.
Once your business has taken off and you’ve hired more employees, however, it becomes impossible to check every time – one of the many technician scheduling challenges. Imagine how long it would take if you had to compare travel times every time you scheduled a work order.
#5 Challenge: Customers these days want to be in the loop about everything.
Customers these days… Need we say more? Between Lyft and FedEx and Uber Eats and all the other Silicon Valley darlings, everyone’s gotten used to knowing exactly where their driver or delivery guy is. So, are you surprised that now they expect it from every service they use?
Whether we’re talking about commercial customers or domestic, fire and security companies are often challenged with keeping everyone in the loop. Technicians need to receive work order confirmations in advance so they can be prepared for the tasks ahead. Customers need to adapt their own schedules to accommodate work being done in their house or building.
What does this mean back at the office? It means that for every appointment, some poor admin needs to sit down and send emails to every party involved. Repeat this for when the work order is booked, on the day of the appointment, in the morning and an hour before the technician is due to arrive (don’t forget to include a link to the technician tracking portal!). Then do it again after the appointment, send an invoice and request feedback too. Again, this is an ideal situation.
The customer is on site, the tech arrives on time and doesn’t need to provide an estimate. Then everything goes smoothly and there’s no need for a recall. Anyone working in the fire and security industry, however, knows how rare these perfect situations are!
One solution for all technician scheduling challenges: automate your schedule!
Automation is a one-fits-all remedy these days so it’s easy to just wave it off as a gimmick. However, for a fire and security company – or any other field service business – automation is the perfect solution. Why? Because there are many small, repetitive tasks associated with industry practices.
A software can handle all of them. Precious “human hours” should be put to better use for tasks that require creativity (management, training, etc.) or empathy (customer service).
A great fire and security software isn’t just about having digital access to a list of appointments. You could do that with a Google Calendar or a spreadsheet. It’s about making life easier for your admin. Technician scheduling challenges like the ones we mentioned need a specialized solution.
A simple software will do well for small businesses that aren’t looking to grow. But for someone who’s already established and experienced, automation software that offers features like mass scheduling and intelligent scheduling is a must.
These features will allow you to schedule technicians in bulk, dozens or hundreds at a time, within certain parameters (what shifts they’re available for, the time range you need to get the appointments scheduled in, etc.), calculate labor costs, produce a report and ensure you’re staying within budget.
Additionally, it will take into account the addresses assigned to the work order so that the suggested appointments are optimized for the ideal route that won’t waste your resources or your techs’ time. All this in a matter of minutes. Find out more about Commusoft’s mass scheduling feature or click below to download our free scheduling automation guide!
Hi! I'm Cristina Maria
And I want to bring next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for a sci-fi novel to beat The Foundation.