Tips for Managing Peak Work Efficiency
This article originally appeared here.
Phones are ringing off the hook, your technician’s work schedules are booked out, and your company’s reputation is on the line. Sound familiar? It’s your busy season! While you may think it’s better to have more business than none at all, this time of year can be overwhelming for your customers calling about their urgent home issues and your technicians working around the clock trying to solve them. And when you’re in the thick of it, it can be difficult to find a quick and efficient solution to handle it all.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be proactive. During your shoulder season, when business may be slower but steady enough to keep you busy, you can use this time to plan for peak season to help streamline your business and lift the load off that first wave of non-stop calls.
Why wait? Let’s put you in control of your busy season and help you become an industry leader. We can get you operating at peak efficiency during peak season by introducing a few strategic adjustments to your operations and management style.
For extra expert advice, we spent some time with Schedule Engine’s VP of Sales, Ray Clark, to gather insider tips on how to operate your business efficiently during peak season.
Management Efficiency: Guiding Operations from the Top
From our conversation with Ray, he describes peak efficiency as “maximizing your technicians, the labor supply a contractor has working in the field, with the highest-priority and highest-value homeowner jobs coming in.”
With that said, “be prepared” is more than just a saying; it’s the key factor in not just surviving the season but thriving. Two critical areas in which you can manage efficiencies in your operations that benefit your workforce and your customers are relationship management and planning and scheduling.
Setting Customer Expectations
More job bookings are often a good thing. That means more revenue, right? Not always. If you’re getting overwhelmed with job bookings, it can poorly impact your customer service level and your employee morale, which in turn can affect your bottom line. Unfortunately, in this age of cell phones, text messages, and the need for instant gratification, customers today are less patient than in previous generations.
This evolution of customer behavior means your customers may not have the patience to wait a couple of days—or even after the first phone call—to hear back from you after leaving a voicemail. Regardless of the hour, after repeated missed calls, you may learn that they’ve gone with a competitor.
You may be asking, amongst your competitors, how can you stand out? From Ray’s own experience, you have to prioritize availability. If a homeowner’s air conditioner breaks at night when it’s 100 degrees outside, they’re going to search for the quickest solution, and if you’re readily available, they’ll know they can rely on you in the moment and for future home issues.
If availability is a challenge based on your current resources and you find yourself understaffed, a lot of contractors will strongly recommend you to:
- Be honest: Say your staff is working diligently to reach everyone, but that you may have at-risk customers with severe issues (no heat) that your team needs to prioritize.
- Communicate expectations: Try to provide a rough time estimate for when you can serve your customer to prevent an endless game of phone tag. And unless their need is urgent, be comfortable asking if you can push their appointment out one or two days.
- Acknowledge the inconvenience: Consider offering your customers an Amazon gift card or a discounted home service to show you value their time, help prioritize your own schedule, and claim a high-value ticket in the pipeline.
Whether you’re alerting potential customers through your CSR team on your website, email blasts, the phones, or your voicemail greeting, make sure to let your customers know the situation.
To relieve your CSR team from an ambush of calls, Ray advises considering alternative ways for your customers to book appointments, such as online booking, text messages, emails, among others. Not only will these technology-enabled methods ease the booking process for your customers, but they also enhance your operational efficiency and off-load a high call volume during peak season.
Are you interested in online booking to help manage your business during peak season? Visit Schedule Engine and book a demo.
Employee Relationship Management
When it comes to your employees, communicate your expectations clearly and directly. They should know which processes and jobs to take on and which ones to leave until things start to slow down again.
To actually enjoy the extra bookings of peak season, it’s critical to prioritize the calls coming in from your customers. For example, suppose you have one homeowner calling about a simple thermostat setting and another calling about an unexpectedly broken furnace. In that case, it’s in your best and most timely interest to send a technician to tackle the latter job first. In short, prioritization is key—and Ray agrees:
“Without prioritization, you have a completely random chaos of jobs, and you’re only as profitable as where you can send your technicians to help families and ultimately build tickets and revenue.”
With a lot of virtual solutions contractors use today, you’re able to gather specific information about what a service call entails: the problem, the trade (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.), the size of the home, and the level of emergency. These questions help your dispatcher make qualifying assumptions about which technician is best suited for the job and the tools and materials they need to complete it.
While it’s important to prioritize incoming calls, keep in mind that the busy season can be stressful for your employees inside and outside of work. Build a culture that celebrates and recognizes the wins, especially during peak season. This helps keep your team engaged and reminds them of your brand’s core mission and values. Additionally, make sure to communicate with empathy and prioritize their mental health and well-being. Don’t forget about your #BigRocks, or the things that matter most in life. Encourage your employees to work hard, but not at the expense of their families or their health.
To work alongside your relationship management, focus on proactive planning and scheduling.
Planning & Scheduling
Busy season calls for a lot of delegating, empowering lower-level employees, and extreme planning to ensure smaller tasks that often fall through the cracks still get accomplished. While planning may not be as exciting as executing, it’s equally (if not more) important to set your business up for success during peak season.
First off, reserve the time you need to plan and develop a thorough and efficient strategy. Keep an open mind to your team’s ideas and suggestions, get everyone aligned on the same page and priorities, and create a collaborative work environment. For example, if one of your top priorities for peak season is to handle missed calls, make sure everyone from your bookkeeper to your warehouse manager can step in to help answer calls and book customers. Once you’ve established a strategy, optimize your schedule and determine the resources you’ll need going forward.
Adding buffers and blockers to your schedule can help you control your booking volume and provide your team with a built-in bandwidth to prioritize jobs as they come through. Buffers allow you to define the earliest possible appointment times available to your customers while blockers (also known as Out-of-Service dates) allow you to block off annual holidays, monthly training, weekly company meetings, extreme weather days, or other events for times you’d want to prevent your customers from booking an appointment. You can apply both of these methods to your entire business or to specific parts of your business like certain service zones, trades, or service codes.
Avoid letting paperwork, administrative tasks, scheduling, and managing inventory take a backseat to stellar customer service when things get moving. Otherwise, you’ll deal with it during the slow season and struggle to catch a break. To operate at peak efficiency and optimize planning, you should consider two common strategies for staffing: staff for peak season or staff for shoulder season.
Staffing for peak season entails hiring a number of customer service representatives and technicians to help you manage an influx of demand. This strategy covers you during peak season, but it leaves you with potentially too many employees during slow season, creating idle productivity and profit losses due to higher, unnecessary labor costs.
Staffing for shoulder season entails filling your small staff with temporary CSRs or contracted technicians to help your team fluctuate with demand. This strategy helps ensure you’re not wasting labor costs but also means you’re hiring temporary staff who may not be as committed, knowledgeable, or dedicated to your brand, sacrificing the quality of your customer service.
If neither of these options sounds appealing to you, you may want to consider looking for support in a different way. And you don’t have to look any further than Schedule Engine.
How Schedule Engine Can Help Increase Efficiency
Through our Online Scheduling tool and live services: Live Chat and Live Voice, you can leverage our team of industry-trained agents to take your overflow, after hours, weekend, and emergency calls and website chats when demand picks up during busy season.
Adopting our Online Scheduling services means your customers can book online with no effort, attention, or sign-off from your team, and our live services are pay per use—so you only pay for what you use. Whether you need us for an hour, a day, week, month, or year, we’re here to support you at any time and help your expenses mirror your revenue and demand. Better yet, you’re not locked into any deals or commitments, so you can push calls or activate chats when it serves you and your business best.
Our industry-trained agents are available 24/7 to help build your brand with unparalleled customer service and book appointments that integrate right into your dispatching software.
During peak season, you no longer have to play phone tag with customers, your techs avoid burnout, and you book more jobs with schedule support that fits your needs. It’s a winning formula for operating at peak efficiency.
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