How Field Service Scheduling and Route Optimization Drives Efficiency
For field service organizations across every industry, efficient scheduling and route optimization are essential for success. Yet, the complexities of managing these processes make it difficult for many companies to get it right; especially those that lack the proper tools for support.
Inefficient scheduling and routing causes significant operational challenges—each of which negatively impact the business’s bottom line—including excess travel costs, an inability to meet service-level agreements (SLAs), and poor customer service. Plus, it hinders worker productivity and diminishes their ability to maximize the number of customers they’re able to serve.
To overcome these challenges and maintain their competitive edge, field service organizations need sophisticated tools that optimize their scheduling and routing processes. With the right technology, they can boost worker productivity and efficiency, drive down operational costs, and increase customer satisfaction.
Operational Challenges Preventing Route Optimization
There are several reasons why so many field service organizations still struggle to optimize their routing process, each of which are a direct result of the complex nature of field work. Unlike businesses that operate primarily in a traditional, office-based setting, field service companies must contend with these common challenges:
Sure, a bit of unexpected traffic, bad weather, or highway construction might impact a desk-based worker’s ability to arrive at the office on time; and they may face some consequences as a result. But the stakes are much higher for field workers, as their capacity to consistently arrive on time (and safely) to customer sites affects their performance, client perceptions, and—ultimately—revenue.
Many field service workers still rely on third-party navigation apps (like Waze, Google maps, or other GPS systems) to get from one appointment to the next. While these tools might work in a pinch, they’re simply not enough to optimize travel time as a business scales, serves more customers, and attempts to maximize their workers’ time. Plus, they require deskless workers to toggle between their work app and navigation tool, causing inefficiencies and risky distractions while on the road.
Schedulers and dispatchers take on a hefty burden, too, as these external factors can also include post-appointment documentation work, unanticipated detention time for fleet vehicles, or difficulty accessing job sites—each of which hinders their ability to effectively create (and adjust) schedules with appropriate time between appointments.
These often unforeseen considerations can take a toll on field and back-office worker productivity and the client experience. Finalizing logistics through time-consuming, manual methods limits scheduler and dispatcher bandwidth and inhibits the number of jobs each field worker can complete.
Inadequate scheduling tools
Optimized routes depend on effective, efficient schedules, but many field service organizations don’t have the proper scheduling tools and processes in place. In fact, 72% of executives say that worker productivity is negatively impacted by their existing technologies.
Paper-based, manual scheduling tools simply can’t handle the complexities of a deskless or blended workforce. There are myriad factors to consider when scheduling and routing a field worker to a job site—including skill sets, certifications, current locations, job progress, preferences, customer history, time of day, work distribution, and more—and outdated tools complicate the process even further.
If your team is using spreadsheets, emails, or online calendars, they’re burdened by a time-consuming, error-prone, and inflexible process that makes proper routing an even bigger challenge. Inevitable schedule changes and other last-minute updates (like worker illness, cancellations, or reschedules throw a wrench in routing, and both workers and their customers pay the price.
Without the right scheduling tools to quickly and accurately solve for these changes, field workers rack up unnecessary travel time, gas and mileage costs, and vehicle wear and tear. They’re also able to serve fewer customers throughout the day, since routing inefficiencies eat into the time they can spend actually performing their jobs.
Even if schedulers and dispatchers somehow manage to manually track and handle changes, they can’t quickly update employee routes so as to avoid disruptions to their productivity or issues in customer service. If, for instance, a customer cancels their appointment at the last minute and your team lacks the necessary tools to automatically update the relevant field worker’s schedule and route, they may waste time traveling to that canceled appointment anyway.
It’s a domino effect, as inaccurate, inefficient, and inflexible scheduling leads to poor routing practices (especially when changes occur), causing even more missed appointments, delays, and travel expenses. Plus, manual scheduling tools don’t enable staff schedulers to easily sequence jobs in a way that reduces unnecessary travel, so workers spend more time on the road and less time focusing on delivering quality customer service.
Complex work patterns
For many field service organizations, scheduling and routing their workforce isn’t as simple as receiving a work order, finding the right deskless worker for the job, and sending them to the job site; and even that’s not exactly simple. They have a mix of full-time, part-time, and contracted employees who all perform specific tasks during specific time periods so as to cater to their customers’ needs throughout the day.
Scheduling and routing these workers is particularly complicated, time-intensive, and expensive when you consider the details surrounding single shifts versus recurring appointments versus irregular work patterns. Getting the right worker to the right job at the right time—and managing to do so across a large pool of workers and customers—is next to impossible without the right tools.
Operational challenges escalate further when workers call in sick, and schedulers and dispatchers must rush to find and route a qualified replacement to their appointments. This typically requires them to sort through a list of available workers, individually contact potential substitutes, adjust the schedule, account for how this might impact other appointment times, and recalculate how they’ll get workers from one job to the next.
It’s a time-sucking, inefficient process for schedulers and dispatchers, and if they make a single mistake, a customer could easily be left high and dry. That means risking customer satisfaction, brand perception, and, of course, revenue.
Advantages of Route Optimization
Route optimization is much more than getting field workers from point A to point B. By leveraging strong processes and intelligent tools, field service organizations can optimize routes to achieve several key benefits, including:
Less travel time
By reducing time spent on the road, field service organizations maximize their workers’ value. Less time traveling means more time serving customers and focusing on delivering excellent client experiences.
The right tools enable teams to easily schedule jobs that are in close proximity to one another, so field workers aren’t stuck traveling from one side of town to the other to complete their work. Their routes are designed to facilitate more predictable working hours and reduce overtime, which leads to happier, more efficient employees and lower operating costs for the business.
When field service teams aren’t held back by the limitations of manual scheduling processes and tools, they’re able to focus on their work and remain as productive as possible. Instead of spending time worrying about frequent schedule changes, verifying worker qualifications, adapting to customer preferences, and accommodating job locations, schedulers who use robust technology streamline their workflows and ensure accuracy—which helps them maximize productivity across their entire operation.
Deskless workers benefit from strong scheduling and routing tools, too, since they always have seamless access to the most up-to-date information in the field. They can swiftly get from one appointment to the next without toggling between various apps to send and receive updates, access optimized routes, and perform their daily work.
As a result, both staff schedulers and field workers have more bandwidth, so they can focus on scheduling more appointments and prioritizing their customers’ experiences, respectively. It also means fewer disruptive errors occur, allowing the team to operate like a well-oiled machine.
Increased customer satisfaction
Efficient scheduling and optimized routing ensure workers are where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there. Instead of being held up by insufficient scheduling practices or routes that don’t account for a wide array of potential factors (e.g. schedule changes, construction, weather, etc.), field workers have everything they need to arrive on time and well-prepared to customer sites.
The right tools help teams avoid the miscommunications, scheduling and routing errors, and productivity challenges that otherwise lead to missed or canceled appointments. They’re able to provide their customers with accurate arrival time windows (which are updated in real time) to ensure customer satisfaction and reduce churn. Field workers can fulfill the business’s commitments to meeting customer SLAs because their tools and processes better support predictable service.
How Scheduling and Route Optimization Software Drives Efficient Operations
Optimizing scheduling and routing processes is undoubtedly valuable for field service organizations, as it enables them to boost the operational efficiency required for success. But those leveraging a manual approach—or those who rely on fragmented tools for support—likely won’t be able to properly manage the complexities of scheduling and routing a deskless workforce.
To drive efficiency within their operations, field service companies need powerful scheduling and route optimization software. The right tool can help field service teams by:
- Automating their processes – Robust scheduling solutions use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the scheduling and routing process. They instantly match the right worker to the right job to reduce errors, decrease the cost of services, ensure all resources are used to their full capacity, and improve customer satisfaction; all while relieving schedulers of time-consuming, manual scheduling tasks. Modern tools take the guesswork out of the equation, so deskless workers can always get from one job to the next without wasting extra time on the road.
- Offering real-time updates – Unexpected weather, newly-added appointments, traffic, and other influencing factors are a reality for deskless workers. But sophisticated scheduling and routing tools automatically find, share, and update the best routes to job locations in real time, so employees are never left wondering what’s next. Instead of having to switch back and forth between disparate tools to find the fastest route to their next appointment (which puts them at risk for arriving late, accepting jobs that aren’t actually within a realistic location range, and being unable to serve customers at an efficient rate), field workers can send and receive job and travel updates as they occur. They spend less time ironing out the logistics and more time delivering excellent customer experiences.
- Centralizing data – A single source of truth is crucial for accurately capturing, tracking, accessing, and managing valuable workforce data. Without a centralized source of data, information is often duplicated, disconnected, or lost altogether. Employees then have to spend precious time reconciling that data from various systems and records before it can be utilized for strong decision making. But intelligent scheduling and routing tools centralize all of that data, so field workers, staff schedulers and dispatchers, and leaders can all quickly find, share, and analyze the information that’s crucial to their productivity. Schedulers have historical and real-time data at their fingertips to build the best, most efficient schedules possible, and deskless workers have seamless access to the most up-to-date routes (plus all their other essential information) in a single, mobile-friendly platform.
Powerful Tools for Optimized Scheduling and Routing
A field service organization’s scheduling and routing processes can either become a productivity-hindering problem that threatens their success, or their competitive advantage. A strong process that’s bolstered by robust tools can help them boost worker efficiency, reduce operational costs, and increase customer satisfaction; giving them a profitable leg up against competitors.
Skedulo’s intelligent workforce scheduling and routing software eliminates the time-consuming, manual tasks associated with getting the right worker to the job. It automates the scheduling and job matching process and offers fully optimized routing, so your team can boost productivity without sacrificing accuracy. Skedulo’s mobile-first solutions ensure both back-office employees and field workers always have everything they need to deliver quality service to customers at a highly efficient rate.
Learn more about how the right scheduling tool can impact your business, or book a demo today.