Michael Blumberg reveals some of the key findings of the latest research into field service Scheduling and Dispatch to come out of Blumberg Associates…
A critical success factor in managing a Field Service Organization (FSO) is the ability to effectively schedule and dispatch field service engineers (FSEs).
It is about making sure that technicians arrive at the customers’ site at the right time with the proper tools, knowledge, and resources to resolve the problem during their initial visit.
First Time Fix is the name of the game in field service. FSOs run the risk of incurring additional costs and damaging their customer satisfaction any time their First Time Fix target is in jeopardy.
There’s a lot at stake for FSOs when it comes to effectively scheduling and dispatching FSEs. There are significant challenges for FSOs, particularly if many service visits are required each day, dispatching is made from a large pool of FSEs, and the FSO is financially penalized by the customer when response time commitments or Service Level Agreement (SLAs) are not met.
Over the last 10-20 years, FSOs have turned to advanced tools and technology to automate the scheduling and dispatch process to improve this activity.
These tools range from appointment setting applications to dynamic scheduling software based on artificial intelligence and operations research algorithms.
To understand how these tools are deployed in the field as well their impact on service performance, Blumberg Advisory Group and Field Service Insights in conjunction with Timing Software conducted a benchmark study among 150 FSOs. In this article, we will examine the impact of automated appointment booking applications and dynamic scheduling functionality on performance.
Most FSOs had limited flexibility in their appointment booking process.
- 59% offered their customers the first available time slot while the remaining 40% provided their customer with alternative options
- Approximately half (49%) set appointments 5 days out or longer. This reflects that they have limited ability to handle emergency and/ or expedited requests.
- Less than one-third (30%) were capable of booking appointments 1 to 2 days in advance. However, nearly two-thirds (65.7%) utilized automation to help identify or locate available appointment times.
- Almost three-quarters relied on the automation supplied by their CRM/ERP software vendor.
- Less than 9% utilized a separate, best of breed scheduling solution for appointment booking, while the remaining depended on a customized system developed in-house.
FSOs who utilize automated appointment booking offer a better customer experience than those who do not.
There is a higher level of customer engagement because it provides the customer with options and a feeling of control when service is provided.
Companies that utilize this functionality are four times as likely to handle a 500 or more service requests per day and experience a higher FSE to Dispatcher ratio that those who do not.
The second step from booking an appointment is the actual scheduling of FSEs.
- One half assigned FSEs to customer sites based on their skill set, availability, and proximity.
- Remaining 50% either determined the schedule for their FSEs by dispatching the same FSE to the same site every time or assigned the same FSE to the same site having the FSE determine their own schedule.
Two-thirds of survey respondents utilized an automated process/system.
Approximately half (51%) used software that contains some type of algorithm which optimizes scheduling based on specific criteria (e.g., cost, travel time, etc.) or pre-defined factors. Less than one-third (31%) have a scheduling system on a rules-based engine. The remaining 17% have an AI based system that improves their scheduling process based on dynamic variables.
The use of automated scheduling software has several benefits to FSOs. Our survey results indicate companies who utilize this type of software are 45% more likely to handle 100 or more service requests per day.
They are also 39% more likely to experience an SLA compliance rate of 90% or higher. In addition, they are twice as likely to have FSE rates of 85% or higher.
FSEs who use automated scheduling software are 47% more likely to complete 5 or more service visits per day.
Our findings suggest that appointment setting functionality plays a critical role in improving customer experience, increasing service productivity, and operating an efficient dispatch centre.
Automated scheduling software provides measurable improvements with respect to FSE productivity and efficiency. In the last year, 99% of FSOs surveyed incurred a financial penalty or were required to provide a customer rebate for missing SLA/response time targets. Almost half (45%) missed these targets more than 24 times last year.
The use of advanced tools and technology like automated booking and scheduling software will have a significant improvement in reducing or eliminating the frequency of these occurrences.
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