Eliminating Conflict between Technicians and Dispatchers

By Brandi Loudermilk, CSR Coach at Service Excellence Training

The ongoing conflict between field staff and office staff is not new. It has been a pain point for business owners for years. It is like siblings bickering over who gets to sit in the front seat of the car for the short drive to the grocery store.

This does not only does this conflict annoy leaders, managers, and owners. It can also negatively impact business. Depending on the severity of the conflict, everything from the quality of customer service to revenue may suffer from the fallout. Another huge side effect of this conflict is employee turnover.

So, what causes this costly and time-consuming conflict? If you ask the technicians, they will say the dispatchers are at fault. And if you ask your dispatchers, they will say the technicians are at fault. However, the truth is, there is fault on both sides.

In core training that Service Excellence Training provides to CSR’s and dispatchers, there are always four major pain points that escalate the ongoing conflict between office and field workers. These four points are universal, and any company can fall victim to the consequences of these issues.

 

  1. Misaligned Goals

The dispatcher has a goal to keep the schedule moving on time. The technician has a goal of diligently working through their calls, making money, and getting home to their family at a decent time.

The Fix: Get their goals aligned and communicate those goals to everyone.

  • Dispatch the correct technician to the correct call. ServExtra recommends dispatching based on performance and communication style of both the client and the technician.
  • Provide exceptional client transformations on every call. If goal one is accomplished, this one should fall into place.
  • Create an environment where everyone wins. The client wins with a great service experience, the technician wins by getting to the right calls, and the dispatcher wins by having a clear protocol to follow. The company also wins because everyone is working together.

 

  1. Lack of Appreciation for Teammates

The root of this conflict point is the “us” vs “them” mentality. It is vital to help team members understand the importance and challenges of different roles in the company.

 

The Fix:

  • Have your dispatcher ride along on calls with a technician. This will give the dispatcher a deeper appreciation for the process that technicians do, the challenges they face, and the discomfort they deal with.
  • Have your technician sit with the dispatcher, and not during a slow time! Let the technician see the game of “Tetris” that dispatchers play every day. Make sure the technician understands that when they do not communicate delays or hiccups with the office, the level of service to the client decreases and the job of a dispatcher is much more difficult.

 

  1. The Ever-Changing Schedule

 

When a technician sees their whole schedule and then sees it change for any number of reasons, they feel like they are being slighted. As any dispatcher knows, schedule changes happen all the time. It is important for the whole team to understand that until they are actually dispatched to a call, the schedule is tentative.

The Fix: Only show the technician one call at a time. That way, they are not aware of changes. They can also focus on the call they are on and not the other calls on their schedule.

 

  1. Communication.

This is by far the biggest hurdle in ending the conflict between dispatchers and technicians. The reason is, dispatchers always want more communication and technicians do not want to feel micromanaged. It leads to a lot of animosity between the two groups.

The Fix: Set up non-threatening communication channels. For example, have the dispatcher text the technicians 30 minutes or so before their next scheduled call asking, “How much longer do you need on this call?”

This is a very non-threatening message. It is not putting pressure on the technician to finish faster, it is not interrupting them like a phone call would, and it gives the technician a reminder in case they need to notify the office that they need more time.

It is also important to reinforce the need for communication both to the dispatcher and the technician. Dispatchers need to know if a call is going to take longer than anticipated so they can notify the next client in line. No one likes to show up to a call where the client is already angry. The technician may just need to understand the ‘why’ behind the communication requests. This will help them feel supported instead of micromanaged.

 

The conflict between the office and the field does not have to happen at your company. By eliminating this conflict, your company can continue to grow, provide amazing client transformation, and retain quality employees. It all starts with a culture that supports team members and does not pit them against each other.

If you would like more information on how you can help your CSRs and dispatchers improve their communication skills with your technicians, you can contact me at Brandy@ServExTra.com.

Brandy Loudermilk is a CSR coach at Service Excellence Training. She teaches call takers to close more calls, increase client satisfaction, and outbound for season leveling. 

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Breaking Habits or Creating New Ones?

By Steve Mores, VP of Training and Sales of Dynamic Air Quality Solutions

We have all heard this before: “You just have to get into the habit of doing it.” And that’s sometimes the advice and solution that owners and managers give their team when discussing how to correctly work a service, maintenance, or sales call to increase average tickets and close rates. Well, that may be easier said than done, and just saying it doesn’t make it happen. We all have habits, some good, and some bad. From our personal morning and daily to-do’s, to things we go through at work every day. We all have dozens of habits that get us through our daily routine. Some are bad like smoking, and some are great like regular visits to the gym.

Work-wise, some are bad as well. Like just going through the motions on a call to get it over with, and others are good like working with enthusiasm and sharing equipment problems, solutions, and accessory benefits with a homeowner on every call. Since we realize that our habits can be useful or detrimental behaviors, we often strive to correct the bad and improve the good.

Let’s take a deeper look at habit forming for a better understanding of where you may be in your company culture when it comes to promoting great habits.

Our phones now have apps that count calories, steps, and many other functions designed to help us form habits. These apps can be very useful if used regularly, and over time will form better habits. The question then becomes, “how much time does it take?”

There have been many scientific studies on the amount of time that it takes to form a habit. In Maxwell Maltz’s book titled “Psych-Cybernetics”, as plastic surgeon, he noticed that it took approximately 21 days for his patients to get used to their new facial look. So, many of these apps and other forms of creating new habits, or breaking old ones, base their time span on this 21 day assumption.

Yet, in 2009 Researchers from University College London studied the new habits of 96 people over a 12-week period and found that it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to stick. The time span in this study varied from 18 to 254 days.

Psychology Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne says that sometimes a habit can be broken quickly. “In extreme cases, the habit can be broken instantly, such as if you happen to become violently ill when you inhale cigarette smoke or nearly get hit by a bus when texting and walking. But in most cases, it’s going to take longer than that, and you should probably allow for at least two months.”

When examining several of these types of studies on the subject, many researchers throw out the low and high time span numbers and we end up with an average of 90 days. The take-away here is that to develop a new behavior, it will take nearly three months of constantly repeating the desired habit daily to get a positive result. As you stick with it beyond the 90 days, you’ll end up with a habit that you will keep without thinking about it.

This goes the same for breaking unwanted bad habits. As psychologist Timothy Pychyl explains, there are two sides of the same coin. “Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new pre-potent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).”

Neuroscientist Elliot Berkman reports that “It’s much easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behavior…That’s one reason why smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum or inhalers tend to be more effective than the nicotine patch.” It’s replacing one habit for another. Berkman also says that, “People who want to kick their habit for reasons that are aligned with their personal values will change their behavior faster than people who are doing it for external reasons such as pressure from others.”

Experts agree that other factors fall into play for breaking habits or creating new ones, and the right recipe is going to be a mix of personality, motivation, circumstances, and the habit in question.

You can see how all of this can apply to our personal lives, yet let’s address how we can apply this information when trying to mentor and motivate our team members.

  • Meet with team members one-on-one to set personal, family, and career goals. This is to give them skin in the game and something that they want to shoot for, not pressuring them to just do it for you and the company.
  • Discuss with them in this meeting their strengths and weaknesses. Then identify behaviors to start doing and those to quit doing to create great work habits that will help them achieve their goals.
  • Post their goals in the training/meeting room as a daily reminder of the purpose for their new behavior that will help them progress.
  • This should be a 90 day-plan where bad habits are substituted with a good replacement behavior. (i.e. Try to replace rushing through a maintenance call with pulling the blower wheel on EVERY call, cleaning off two fins to show the homeowner the dirt that’s getting through their current filter, and asking, “Would you like to see a better filter to prevent this from happening in the future?” This opens the door for an IAQ conversation and solution options.)
  • Hold them accountable to the new behavior by identifying the new behavior or task such as a KPI that is watched and measured.
  • Make it fun by adding it to your weekly training sessions and have a group discussion about the successes that the new habit is creating. This will also create comradery and support from other team members to keep each other on track to succeed in achieving their goals.
  • As you get closer to the 90-day mark, they will realize that the old habits have faded away, and they have become comfortable with the new habit that they will continue to do without thinking about it. It becomes habit!

To successfully break a habit, you need to think of your strongest motivation and goals, which will drive you along. Always think of replacing a bad behavior with a positive one. Just trying to stop a bad habit without a replacement is much more difficult to accomplish. And be patient with your team. The longer they’ve had a habit, the longer it will take to get rid of it.

Neuroscientist Elliot Berkman explains that “Longtime habits are literally entrenched at the neural level, so they are powerful determinants of behavior. The good news is that people are nearly always capable of doing something else when they’re made aware of the habit and are sufficiently motivated to change.”

As a closing note, I would encourage you to share this quote from Margaret Thatcher with your team. It says it all.

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
Watch your words, they become actions;
Watch your actions, they become habits;
Watch your habits, they become character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Top Five Things to Prepare For Before Implementing Service Management Software

By Lynn Wise

Spring is in the air! Or should I say…Service Management software is in the air? We have received a lot of inquiries from clients and potential clients about changing or implementing Service Management software in their business. Some of this is due to clients changing server-based software to cloud-based software or the need for additional functions such as purchase orders, marketing reporting, or better details for the customer records. Regardless of the reason, you need to be prepared for this change in your business. After many engagements to help clients clean up after they have implemented this software, I wanted to provide a check list to do BEFORE you begin the on boarding or migration to scheduling software.

  1. Will you be using QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop (Enterprise), Sage, or other accounting software? Your choice is determined by a few things: inventory tracking for multiple locations (trucks), job costing, the amount of transactions in your business, and the need for 24/7 access for you and the trusted partners. You need to consider each of these functions and determine what is best for your business. One thing I would like to point out is that this is accounting software and is designed to do accounting functions. Do not confuse this with your operations that should be a key part of your Service Management software.
  2. Determine the Chart of Accounts and process of classifying sales in your accounting system. The best approach to a Chart of Accounts is to have the correct accounts that sales, cost of goods, expenses, assets, and liabilities that can be classified to allow for you to review the summary of the totals in a way that provides you transparency to your business performance.
  3. Do you have a price book? Are you using a third party book? You must have a price book to be successful. This book needs to have associated parts, supplies, and equipment itemized so that you can build tasks easily and track costs to jobs, departments, and projects.
  4. Review your customer lists to understand how work orders and billing are organized. Commercial or property management customers are set up to either be billed to the main billing address or sometimes billed to each work location for payment. Understand your customer’s billing needs and be able to describe this as a requirement for the new software company. Prior to onboarding or migration, take the time to clean up your customer list, specifically delete old information, and revise the information you want to keep. This will enable the import to bring across the information that your business needs.
  5. Lastly, build a list of business requirements for your needs for customer experience, marketing, service agreements, operation reports, time keeping, compensation such as commission, and proposal presentations for your quotes. Service Management software is a framework for you to implement your business requirements and processes. Software is dependent on you to load your content and your rules to optimize it for your business.

In conclusion, be prepared before selecting and implementing new Service Management software. Most Service Management software will perform the same or similar for booking job appointments, dispatching, maintaining customer records and transactions, and integration to an accounting software. Key differences in software generally are in operation reporting, proposal presentations and price book display, and purchase order and job costing capabilities. If you know you are going to deploy these key functions, you may need to accept the software process and understand that it may not be the way you want it but in general, it will work! Be flexible and be prepared when making your decision on your Service Management software partner.

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Get Off Your Duff!

By John LaPlant

We constantly read and hear about the labor shortage around the country, and it is not just occurring in the contracting industry. Yes, and then we stomp around and complain ad-nauseum. So, what are you doing about it? It is not going to get easier! So what is your move? Take action.

First Question: What or Who is Our Industry Competing Against for Labor?

Recent reports suggest the fastest growing opportunity position for the foreseeable future is fork lift operators. Why? A one-word answer: Amazon. With approximately 75 distribution/fulfillment centers with a typical size of 1,000,000 square feet and 800 associates who “fulfill the customer promise” every day of the week. Amazon has a huge labor requirement for fork lift operators.

A high school in Patterson, California, near one of these Amazon fulfillment centers, spent a few million dollars constructing a mock warehouse facility to teach students distribution and logistics, warehouse management, supply chain, and fork lift skills. This is because Amazon estimates they will increase employment from the current level of 100,000 associates to over 125,000 associates for warehousing functions over the next six years. And then there are others with comparable demands such as Walmart, Big Lots, Target, Costco, and the list continues. That is considerable demand for warehousing jobs.

And these forklift jobs pay between $14.00 and $18.00 per hour – approximately $30,000 plus per year, which is an attractive wage to a high school or junior college graduate.

Now think what our heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical industries can offer. It’s so much more. There is absolutely no comparison…in dollars, independence, professionalism, career…you name it, we win! With technicians, plumbers, and installers on performance pay are making over $40 per hour, key managers making in the $70,000 plus range, and comfort specialists making six figures a year! This can be life changing for young talent.

We have the challenges and glitz of technology, not only in product and system controls, but in diagnostic testing and now applications of the IoT (Internet of Things) with smart homes.

 

Second Question:  How can we reach this young talent?

  • Company Sponsored Job Fairs – A number of top tier companies in our industry are holding one-hour, on-site Job Fairs from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm once a quarter. The Job Fair is promoted in want ads, digital and social media.

Interested applicants register to attend. On the evening of the Job Fair, applicants are given a brief tour of the facility, background on available positions, and clear definition of expectations and clear articulation of company culture.

Resumes are collected, evaluated, and offers are extended. Companies report it is an excellent way to bring folks in from outside the industry. It also attracts a diversified age group. It is an effective way to present career pathing opportunities and long-term benefits of connecting with a future oriented organization.

  • Outreach Presentations at High Schools, Vo-Tech Schools and Junior Colleges – One owner of a very unique, top tier company works hard to get himself in front of high school and junior college student groups, particularly on career day agendas.

He walks on stage, introduces himself and his company. He holds a 16” x 16” rigid card covered front and back with brown paper. He holds up the card and tears the paper off the front revealing a Range Rover. He says, “Even though I am the owner of the company, this is not mine. It is one of our team members. His name is Jimmy John, he is a field service specialist.”

He turns the card over and tears off the paper revealing a Hummer H2. He says, “This is not mine either. It is one of our team members. Her name is Nancy Wyatt and she is an installation production manager.”

He is speaking the language of young people and he grabs the participant’s attention. The overall message is that college is not a requisite for success any more. He lets students know that the training is there, the teamwork is there, the technology is there, and the door is there to be opened.

  • Up Periscope – Be on the lookout for retail talent. Constantly be observant of employees providing a service in a retail setting. If a server in a restaurant is impressive as a communicator and attentive to detail, then that person is viable candidate for your team. If the manager of an oil change/lubrication establishment is really good at explaining and educating you about the benefits of additional services, then that person is a viable candidate for the team. Always try to find those people that present the WOW FACTOR. Most likely, that person will be an excellent fit for the team.

So driving a forklift may be a job, but joining a HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical company can be a lifestyle far surpassing any personal dream! It’s a real career. Do things that open the eyes of the next generation to our industry. Get off your duff!

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Love is in the Air – So Share it With Your Customers

By Chris Lonergan

You know you love your customers…

If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have developed a brand and marketing efforts to attract those customers. You wouldn’t have spent so much time training yourself and your team to provide customers with the services they need. And you wouldn’t have followed through with the best customer service possible at every job.

 

So it makes sense that you should show your customers some love. We’re not talking about flowers and chocolates here. We’re talking about demonstrating appreciation to your clients all year long.

Whether it is your sweetheart or your best customer, it can be difficult to put the right words together to really say what you mean. So let’s go over a few simple ways to demonstrate your appreciation and show your clients that they mean the world to you!

 

Be Thankful – Starting At the Job Site

In a day-and-age where many companies are trying to find ways to improve marketing automation and build up additional digital customer service touchpoints, we sometimes forget about the face-to-face interactions that build businesses.

Dealing with a contractor or home service provider in an abstract way, like booking appointments online, processing printed documentation, and emailing reports, can all be considered cold, impersonal experiences.

Building up that human connection is key to make them remember you. They aren’t going to recall the great web form they used to fill out an estimate request. They’re going to remember the people. It’s phone calls, onsite visits, and personal interactions that forge stronger relationships between business providers and customers.

If you’re on a multi-day project, when you meet with a client or call in with a report on your progress, it provides daily opportunities to thank someone for their business while ensuring open customer communication.

When the job is done, a look in the eye, firm handshake, and an honest “Thank you for your business” can go a long way.

 

Customers and PDA – Public Displays of Appreciation

When you receive a review online, take the time to interact with that customer with a reply for a great way to again make your customer feel they are valued.

Since they did you the favor of leaving a positive review (and making you look good over your competitors), the least you can do is thank them for their business and kind words in a public way.

Likewise, when you finished job that can be documented with pictures as well as a review, sharing that content on your social media accounts can be another great way to publicly display your appreciation while promoting your business at the same time.

 

Saying Thank You for Spreading the Word with a Formal Referral System

If you do good work, you certainly may get some referral work on accident.

But just as how you have a formal process for active customer review management to gather reviews quickly, having a formal referral system can help to incentivize past customers and generate additional referrals.

Having formal channels, like a referral program on your business card and/or a custom form on your website, can help to drive leads to you with little to no effort.

Whether you offer movie tickets, restaurant gift cards, or cold hard cash, having a nice incentive for taking part of your referral program makes the process even more appealing.

Rewarding your past customers for telling stories about your good service 1) makes your past customer feel appreciated all over again and 2) predisposes your new customers to trust you and your abilities, which makes for an easier sales process.

 

A Follow Up and Thank You in The Mail

A simple thank you card is a low cost way to simultaneously follow up on a client’s satisfaction and demonstrate appreciation to your customer.

Such a follow up offers you another opportunity to secure a positive review from a happy client or to remedy a poor experience before he or she can contribute a negative review online.

 

Just be sure your thank you card is authentic. Anecdotes from a job or custom note can be a nice way to create a more personalized customer touch point.

Like thank you cards, holiday cards are a simple, low-cost way to reach out to your customers from the calendar year or even your complete past client base. These types of simple reminders help demonstrate your love for your customers while also building your top-of-mind awareness for future service needs or referrals.

 

Going Above and Beyond for Your Best Customers

For some customers, you may want to deliver more than a thank you card. Whether you use the size of the job, the number of referrals completed, or recurring nature of service as your criteria, a gift basket at the holidays or on a service anniversary gets opened and acknowledged much more quickly than a greeting card envelope.

 

BONUS: Don’t Forget to Show Your Employees that You Care, too!

Your employees need love, too. While they certainly recognize your appreciation in the form of their paycheck, personal recognition for going above-and-beyond normal duties can give an employee a warm, fuzzy feeling that cannot be matched by dollars and cents.  Demonstrating to your employees that you care fosters a connection between them and your business, which helps all parties involved.

Without your customers, your business wouldn’t be here, so take the time to show them that you care and help grow your company in the process.

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These group of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!