Al Levi: Busting the multitasking myth
It doesn’t have to be "déjà vu all over again."
It’s déjà vu all over again” is a famous quote by the late, great Yogi Berra. I’ve lived this scenario, and I’m betting you have, too. I’m talking about callbacks — the woe of the contracting industry.
I worked in my family’s plumbing, heating and cooling business (today they also do electrical), so I know firsthand how demoralizing and damaging callbacks can be.
Here’s why they’re so damaging:
- Your customers have to needlessly take off extra time from their paying jobs to be there for your techs again;
- Callbacks rob your ability to do new service and install work because you have to redo a repair for no money; and
- They ruin your good reputation, especially when unhappy customers go online and tell the world.
The Causes Of Callbacks
Here are just four of the many reasons unnecessary callbacks keep happening at your company.
Communication has broken down. This starts with the customer service representatives (CSRs) not capturing the right information and then handing off the wrong information to the dispatchers. Then, the dispatchers hand off this inaccurate information to the techs, who go to the job with bad intelligence. The last common break in communication occurs when the techs either don’t hand off all the information to the Dispatchers, or it’s incorrect.
Note that callbacks absolutely apply to service work and install work. Bad or broken communication is a direct result of not having policies and procedures in place — and not having what I call a strong “triangle of communication” between CSRs, dispatchers and technicians.
There is no standardization. Techs doing service and install work their own way vs. doing it your company’s way of doing it causes callbacks.
Techs have holes in their knowledge. How do I know? I had them, and I was the second-best tech at my company of 25 techs. And I was the boss’ kid. I purposely didn’t sell repairs when I was not confident about my ability to do that work. I, too, set up the likelihood of callbacks. They happened on my jobs, too.
There is no checklist. There is no set approach for how to properly do the work, let alone exit each job properly. Checklists would reduce the likelihood of a callback.
Note that operating without a checklist for the work you do is dangerous 80% of the time. A callback is only a matter of time if techs leave a call without verifying that things are operating as they should. The kicker is it can operate properly, but if there’s a breakdown in a customer’s clear understanding by not explaining how things work, then you’re begging for more needless callbacks.
Breaking The Cycle
I recommend what I did years ago: Create comprehensive operating manuals. These manuals allowed us for the first time in our company’s 50-plus years of operation (that was back in the 90s) to get control of the life-sucking repeat calls.
It took us hiring a professional writer to work with our team and build my outline of tasks, department by department. He helped us run the group meetings and write the policies and procedures it took to run our company. Minimizing callbacks meant we recovered the $153,000 investment (in today’s money) for the manuals in two years’ time.
There were other benefits to the manuals. For the first time, the techs filled the holes in their knowledge without exposure or embarrassment. After all, we’re from New York, and we love to break each other’s chops. It’s an art form. But, it’s absolutely worthless in fixing our company. We worked together to get better once we had the manuals.
One of the main goals of manuals is to address the breaks in communication. The biggest break occurs from the office to the tech and back. But, it also is from the techs to the customers. The manuals address how to create the right checklist to use on calls for minimizing repeat visits.
Yes, it speeds up the process when a callback arises because everyone knows what the job history is and the next steps. The real beauty is it improves communication at every turn in the process. Everyone, starting with the customer, is better served.
Isn’t it time to break the cycle of unnecessary callbacks at your shop?