One of my many jobs at my company was being the install manager. That meant I was responsible for assigning five installation crews each day to the appropriate install job.
It was a tough job to keep things on track. A little like managing on roller skates. But by this time, I had learned some management tricks like proper communication with my lead installers early and often to make sure things were tracking the way they were supposed to. And if not I could jump in early enough and make it better even if it meant climbing into my truck and putting on my coveralls to help.
One day, I finished handing out the install jobs to the installers and had them repeat back in a quick way what they were being asked to do. Check! I got this covered. Or, so I thought. I walked out into the yard and there was my dad, Irving, telling the installers and their apprentices all new instructions. Many of which was contrary to what I told them to do.
Yikes! I was angry!
I pulled my dad into our office after the crews drove off and said, “Here’s the deal. Either you’re the install manager or I am. There can’t be two install managers. The guys get caught in the middle and promises get broken. So, if you want something done, you come to me and let me know and I’ll do my best to make that happen. Are we clear?”
To my dad’s credit, from then on, he came to me with what he wanted and didn’t bypass me with the install crews. Life got better for us, for the guys and surely for the customers.
Think this doesn’t happen at your company?
Do you think this doesn’t happen at your company? Bet it does. It will happen especially if you have more than one manager-owner getting calls directly from customers and then going in and stealing techs who are already assigned elsewhere. And when there is more than one person ultimately in charge of either the service schedule or the install schedule, havoc will ensue.
How do I know?
I’ve watched this happen at a number of companies I’ve consulted with over the years. First of all, it’s very discouraging to the CSRs (customer service reps) and dispatchers who get caught in the cross-hairs of this tug of war. They can’t win and neither can you…in the long run.
One company had three branch managers and they had trained their big commercial customers to call them directly to bypass the dispatchers. This seems good at first except the branch managers would hijack the schedule and techs who were assigned elsewhere. They were always throwing one another under the bus and pretty much always setting each other up to disappoint their customers.
One company had an owner, a service manager and an install manager. They too would get calls directly from clients they had trained to call them vs. the office staff. So then they would jump in and steal techs away from one another and leave the office staff feeling they had been run over by a truck. It caused stress for all, bitter feelings and it didn’t really serve the clients’ needs best in the long run.
5 steps to better dispatch scheduling
So, how did we make this better? Here are the five steps we took:
We created a “special customers” list that named specifically the only customers who get to jump the line. And we made sure everyone at the company knew who these “special customers” were and that there is a list and they are highlighted as such. This also needs to be in the software.
Note: For this “special customers” list to work, it can’t be longer than a page or it defeats its purpose.
We had the dispatcher and the service manager nearby one another and made it known that they get the final call on the service scheduling because it was based on the written priority list in the manual. If the other managers or owners needed something done, they now know they must go to the dispatcher and service manager to figure out what if anything can be done to tweak the service schedule and assignments.
We had the install manager be solely responsible for all install scheduling.
Once again, if the other managers or owners need something done, they must go to the Install Manager and Install Coordinator (if one exists) to figure out what if anything can be done to tweak the install schedule and assignments
Note: If you have many install crews, have an install coordinator assigned to work with the install manager together to prioritize.
We had the service manager and the install manager meet for five to 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day to work together on tech and work assignments so any assignment adjustments could be made in a more logical and smoother way.
We shared with all the staff that despite our best efforts there will always be times we’re scrambling during our peak periods. That’s true because if we had enough staff to handle the peak periods it would mean we’d be automatically overstaffed the rest of the year.
There’s a reason we’re called managers. The three ugly truth questions come home at the end of the day when you’re super busy and they must be addressed proactively:
- Which customers do you need to continue to love you?
- Which customers do you need to continue to like you?
- Which customers aren’t going to like you as much now so what are you going to do about it to make it up to them?
Stop the Dispatch Scheduling Hijack and see how much less stress, how much more can be done and how you can actually be more productive.
Al Levi helps contractors solve problems and turn greater profits while making it possible for them to get their lives and free time back. Now he’s written a book that tells you how it’s done. Go to www.appleseedbusiness.com/bnp to purchase The 7-Power Contractor and download your free BNP exclusive extras, today.