6 Habits that are Ruining your Dispatching or Scheduling Team
Posted on 12/10/2017 by Samantha Cliff.
Posted on 12/10/2017 by Samantha Cliff.
Calls are being picked up quickly, hold times are low and your field team’s diaries are filled each day. From a managerial position it couldn’t be better – or could it?
Due to the scale and complexity of dispatching thousands of jobs to hundreds or thousands of technicians, particularly when planned work runs concurrently with emergencies, understanding whether you are running efficiently is very difficult.
During my time at Field Dynamics, I’ve worked alongside countless organisations looking to improve their field operations as a whole. Even the most advanced organisations have little idea how behaviours in their dispatching team are affecting their total operational efficiency – and why would they? They’re focussed on the day job.
If any of these 6 bad habits are present in your scheduling, it could indicate that more could be done to optimise your teams and save time, lower costs and increase customer satisfaction.
I’m not saying that the manual override of a scheduling system is a bad thing. It can be useful to make an occasional, quick change when unexpected situations such as sickness, traffic disruption or emergencies alter your workforce priorities. However, if this is a regular occurrence in your dispatching operation then it is likely to lead to a spiral of activity where dispatchers override a system that is working sub-optimally because dispatchers have overridden the system. As your dispatchers are actually trying to deliver the best results, this behaviour often indicates hidden issues in the way that work is being assigned.
This lack of faith in the schedule can be contagious amongst field operatives, leading many more to set jobs based on their own knowledge rather than that of their dispatchers, creating tension between field and desk.
When we see very efficient operations we usually see very low levels of manual intervention, and processes in place to spot and check the ever present temptation to “improve” the system’s choices.
Library times, the time a system thinks a particular job should take to be completed, are a fundamental element of your scheduling system. If they aren’t based on information provided by your field team’s actual performance they can be very destructive.
Too short and your workforce will constantly be fighting an ever-increasing backlog of jobs, running late and failing SLAs. Too long and productivity is sure to take a dip, wasting the working day. If your dispatchers are armed with accurate job times for every activity covered by the field, they can devise a schedule that maximises productive time.
We see measuring and aligning library times to actual team performance as a critical first step in making an operation hit its peak performance.
Your field activity data underpins all of the planning of your field and dispatching operations, but frequently we see more problems in these building blocks than anywhere else.
The first issue comes from your choice of data source. If your data is coming from your scheduling system then it will tell you what should have happened – not what actually did happen. If your data comes from a mobile terminal controlled by your technician then your data depends on what your technician decides to tell you. Maybe they are inputting the data accurately and correctly – in which case great, base your business on that data. However we often see technicians not understanding the system and its purpose, so they shortcut it so they can just “get on with the job”. This means you are basing your business on incomplete and inaccurate data.
If your operational efficiency is based on your field data, then surely you need another source of data that you can actually trust to validate what your field team is telling you. GPS and customer generated data is a very good counter-point, but intra-team, intra-technician data modelling can be a good start.
If you had a 1:1 dispatcher to technician ratio then you would be able to schedule every day in an extremely efficient manner. Each dispatcher would have a detailed understanding of all the factors and compromises that made up the optimal day for each technician. A great idea in principle, but operating in that way just isn’t profitable.
On paper, having one pool of dispatchers managing your field team can look the most efficient. While this solution does give you the greatest flexibility in terms of leave, sickness and demand flux, the resultant impact of all of this interference is inefficiency.
When we model technician schedule efficiency we see a consistent drop-off when more than 4 dispatchers routinely impact on a technician’s day. Unfortunately this ratio is usually much higher when a generalised pool manages the whole technical team. So the solution for your optimal operations is a balance between your dispatching team’s flexibility and field team’s efficiency.
Your technicians are experts at their technical tasks. They are so focussed on these tasks that they have even developed a whole new language to tell each other what they do. Their language is so full of abbreviations and acronyms that you struggle to keep up.
Your dispatching team are experts at dispatching. They are so focussed on these tasks that they have even developed a whole new language to tell each other what they do. Their language is so full of abbreviations and acronyms that you struggle to keep up.
Surprisingly, your dispatching team and technical team struggle to communicate. What turns this into such an issue is that it happens at the most basic level – how big is the hole? How serious is the leak? How long will the fix take? To add insult to injury, what most systems, processes and analyses do is add complexity to a situation created by too much complexity.
Where we see success, we usually see a common language or lexicon that enables the teams to communicate at the most basic level about the most basic elements of their work. As in so many other areas of communication, less is definitely more.
Most operations are split at the level of dispatch vs. field and on an operational level this makes sense. Dispatch teams will tend to be measured and rewarded on dispatching activity – call numbers, abandons, jobs per day, SLAs etc. The same tends to be true for field teams, being measured and rewarded on technical activity – fix times, on-site times, recurrence etc. These KPIs often miss the direct link between the quality of the dispatch activity and the quality of the schedule that the technicians follow.
Simply put, the true test of your dispatchers is how well your field team are organised. With that in mind, the measure of quality of technical organisation needs to be their first metric used to analyse your dispatching function.
This linkage is usually in place at a high level, but we only see it at the direct causation level at the best and most efficient operations.
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