At one point or another, most of us have faced the frustration of waiting for a cable or repair person to arrive between 1pm and 4pm, only for them to finally arrive at 6pm. As a customer, it’s often an inconvenient, irritating reality of scheduling and receiving a service—and one that drives us to switch to another service provider.
On the business’s end, this all-too-common situation indicates overarching inefficiencies in the scheduling and time management of dispatched employees. It’s a familiar challenge for companies who rely on deskless workers to deliver their products or services, as the complexities of scheduling mobile employees (e.g. lack of visibility, poor communication, and insufficient tools) hinder their success.
But society is coming to rely more and more on deskless workers, who now make up 80% of the workforce. For organizations to ensure an excellent experience (for customers and employees alike) and remain competitive within their respective industries, they need a strong, efficient scheduling and dispatching process. It’s an integral part of operational excellence and enables more accurate forecasting, predictable business outcomes, and—ultimately—an improved bottom line.
While common challenges in scheduling and dispatching can threaten your organization’s ability to operate efficiently and deliver exceptional customer service, a strong practice (backed by a powerful solution) can help streamline your business to boost revenue.
The Difficulties of Scheduling and Dispatching
Any inefficiencies in your scheduling and dispatching process can diminish your ability to provide an excellent customer experience, which, in turn, can negatively impact revenue. Some common challenges that limit scheduling success include:
Lack of transparency into employee pool
Companies with a deskless workforce, especially those in the healthcare, utilities, and field service industries, must schedule and readily dispatch employees with specific certifications and expertise in order to adequately meet customer needs. It’s also essential to match mobile workers to jobs based on their seniority, vacation schedules, and previous customer history. But it can be difficult for both small and large companies to organize, update, and leverage this information, especially if they rely on manual scheduling and dispatching methods.
Visibility into staffing helps drive related business objectives and outcomes; like when you might need to start recruiting for more employees, how you should prioritize based on productivity metrics, and where you can optimize processes to streamline operations. But if your scheduling and dispatching process doesn’t offer transparency into your employees’ current locations, availability, and work in progress, you can’t possibly understand individual performance, broader customer demand, and whether or not your team is meeting client expectations.
Lack of communication with employees
It’s no secret that a lack of proper communication between deskless workers and their supervisors, managers, and customers can cause extreme operational inefficiencies. So why do so many organizations struggle to enable real-time contact between relevant teams and individuals? It often boils down to fragmented tools, which require mobile workers to toggle between email, phone calls, texts, and other messaging apps to receive and send updates from the field. In an effort to better support their deskless employees by leveraging a variety of technologies, companies actually end up burdening them with too many tools, which limits their productivity, decreases their satisfaction, and leaves them unprepared to do their best work.
Companies with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower turnover rates, so it’s crucial to implement scheduling and dispatching processes and tools that facilitate clear communication. If your mobile workers can’t seamlessly communicate schedule changes, potential delays, or the need for extra resources, their performance, engagement, and ability to satisfy customers can deteriorate.
Inability to adapt to changes
Deskless work, by nature, is dynamic, and maintaining mobile workers’ schedules is an ever-changing process. Employees call in sick, have family emergencies, and take time off, so if your scheduling processes and tools aren’t flexible enough to handle these changes in real-time, you risk no-shows, employee burnout, and poor customer service. A reactive approach is stressful and takes precious time from staff schedulers, who must track down available, qualified replacements at a moment’s notice.
As daily (and hourly) schedule changes occur, traditional scheduling tools—like spreadsheets and email—just won’t cut it. They don’t offer the visibility, flexibility, and functionality for handling those inevitable last-minute changes. Over-booking, double-booking, or emergency booking lead to an operational nightmare and an inability to sufficiently serve customers. Over time, these issues affect the perception and quality of your brand and drive customers into the arms of your competitors.
Providing necessary equipment and materials
Your deskless workers can only perform well if they have access to the necessary tools for support. They need the proper equipment, documents (e.g. contracts, training materials, customer information, and manuals), field data collection tools, and vehicles to do their jobs.
Traditional scheduling software and manual tools don’t offer the capabilities you need to forecast demand, anticipate customer needs, or help your deskless workers understand which specific tools they need on any given job. They make it difficult for field workers to access the right information and request assistance, different equipment, or additional resources to get the job done right the first time.
Inadequate software solutions
Though the number of deskless workers has increased, most software solutions aren’t keeping pace with employee needs. They offer a fragmented approach to scheduling and deskless productivity, with disparate tools that only address individual issues. Organizations often fail to realize the unique needs of their mobile workforce and invest in the wrong technologies, leaving employees ill-prepared to serve customers efficiently and productively. Inadequate scheduling tools impact the employee experience, too, since they aren’t robust enough to take into account all of the details that affect daily operations. Mobile workers often have to travel from one side of town to the other for jobs, which means they spend more time in the car and less time doing what they do best: serving customers.
Deskless workers want autonomy, influence over their own schedules, and predictability in their work, and failing to meet those desires impacts employee morale and increases turnover rates.
Since companies with engaged workers are 21% more profitable than those that fail to engage their employees, it’s crucial that the software you leverage is tailored to fully support and engage your mobile workers. Plus, the consumerization of apps has led to an increased expectation of the technologies that employers provide for their staff, so if the tools you choose don’t hold up to those standards, you risk losing your top talent.
The good news is that there are modern software solutions that take a holistic, optimized approach to scheduling and dispatching. They support the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce, with tools for intelligent job matching (based on location, qualification, preference, and more), automated dispatching, and centralized communication. Because these technologies eliminate the need for manual scheduling, they streamline operations, improve productivity, and enable your mobile workers to focus on delivering excellent customer service—all while boosting your bottom line.
Solutions for Efficient Scheduling
Your mobile workers should feel satisfied and empowered by your company’s scheduling practices. By implementing some key best practices—and leveraging robust and adaptive tools for support—your organization can overcome the obstacles associated with scheduling and dispatching its deskless workforce.
Define your needs
It’s difficult (if not impossible) to build a successful scheduling process without first establishing what you’ll need. Thus, it’s crucial to identify the skills, equipment, and number of deskless workers required on any given shift so you can allocate your resources accordingly.
Powerful software solutions can help set rules and permissions for specific tasks, which enables staff schedulers to balance scheduling requirements based on your customers’ needs, workers’ availability, and overall business objectives.
Build your team based on skills
It’s vital to build shifts around your existing employee pool, including their locations, availability, skills, certifications, job history, and seniority. A home healthcare organization, for instance, should give scheduling priority to its most qualified and experienced home health providers. This helps to ensure both employee satisfaction and a positive customer experience, as clients are met by seasoned caretakers who are well-equipped to provide excellent care.
Some software can store mobile workers’ skills and expertise, and can programmatically dispatch qualified employees to customers needing their specific expertise. Optimizing your team and schedules based on these details helps you to avoid the need for repeat visits that arise when employees are matched with the wrong job—which improves workforce productivity and efficiency.
Real-time communication/adaptability is key
The ability to communicate with your deskless workers and customers in real-time is essential for ensuring preparedness, providing detailed updates, and accessing broader company news. Customers have come to expect instant viability of service thanks to apps like Uber and Grubhub, and providing that same level of support also extends to their interactions with deskless workers.
Intelligent scheduling technologies have centralized communication capabilities, with tools that send automated booking confirmations, appointment reminders, arrival updates, and feedback forms. Mobile workers can access their schedules and interact with their colleagues in a single, user-friendly app, so nothing falls through the cracks. The result is a more streamlined operation that increases workflow efficiencies, drives collaboration, and supports better customer interactions every step of the way.
Collect and analyze data
A key part of improving operations, uncovering potential inefficiencies, and making strategic decisions is the ability to capture and analyze workforce data. You need real-time data that can help you measure individual performance and employee effectiveness (among other things) to help you optimize your scheduling and dispatching process—which means you need tools that enable easy data collection in the field.
With the right data, you gain visibility into revenue-generating activities and workflows, key metrics that impact business decisions, and information that can improve customer service and profitability. Armed with a complete view of your organization’s overall health, you can make more precise predictions to capitalize on revenue opportunities.
Some scheduling tools offer streamlined, secure mobile data collection and customized reporting to help you quickly identify negative customer trends and opportunities for growth, all without requiring the tedious, manual data entry methods of the past. Actionable insights help you ameliorate problems before they become larger issues, so you can drive better business outcomes with minimal disruptions.
Efficient Scheduling for Streamlined Operations
A strong, efficient scheduling and dispatching process is the cornerstone of a successful deskless workforce. Getting it right means increasing visibility, offering flexibility for changing dynamics, and enabling real-time communication between mobile employees, back-office workers, and customers.
By eliminating the challenges surrounding manual and inadequate scheduling practices, organizations can reduce operational efficiencies and boost their ability to provide competitive customer service. And when you implement scheduling tools and processes that center around robust, trustworthy data collection and analysis, you can ensure more accurate financial forecasting for highly predictable outcomes.
Skedulo offers intelligent scheduling and dispatching software that helps businesses streamline processes and drive operational efficiency. With robust tools for automated scheduling, easy data collection, and seamless integration with existing systems (including Quickbooks, Kronos, Salesforce, and more), Skedulo can boost the productivity of your deskless workforce for a better bottom line.