Inefficient Field Service Scheduling holding you back? Challenge your limiting beliefs.

I have spent over a decade as a software consultant specializing in field service software implementation for SMB and Enterprise organizations. Through my work with companies in dozens of industries, I have observed  a common barrier to success –  limiting beliefs that drive how companies manage their field service operations. A change in mindset can drive efficiencies for organizations and increase satisfaction for customers at the same time.

Often when introducing a field service software product into a business, many companies insist on retaining outdated methods for scheduling work. For example, some companies believe that matching an individual resource to a list of zip codes is the ideal way to prevent increased travel time or resources passing each other during their work day. Others express that their customers are unique, and they must be notified exactly when the service resource will arrive at the job location. Still, others refuse to automate scheduling decisions at all in fear of missing their commitments. Some of my clients have even claimed all three of these excuses – and more!  Yet, all of these clients chose to make significant investments in a new field service software solution to support their digital transformation. Why would a business decide to undergo such a complex endeavor without also questioning the ways in which they manage their field operations?

Scheduling field service work is a complex task for any business and its customers. Although it’s true that we are typically coordinating two schedules (in the simplest of cases,) what happens behind the scenes is much more complex.

Choose an option that works for you 

For Sales and Service operations across nearly all industries a variety of jobs require candidate resources with  specialized knowledge. Jobs may range from simple check-ins to detailed troubleshooting or repairs that could last days or weeks. Regardless of how simple or complex an individual job is, it is highly unlikely that only two schedules are being coordinated. On the contrary there’s much more to coordinate than meets the eye.

Let’s imagine that you own an HVAC company, Myopic HVAC.

When calls come into the office, jobs are created for on-site sales quotes and demos, installations, and service work. As an owner, business decisions you make guide the way the schedulers handle the call and impact the overall approach to field service scheduling. Let’s consider the scheduler’s two options:

Option 1: Get the job on someone’s schedule



Option 2: Find the ideal spot on the schedule


The wording of these options may be nuanced but as we examine them closely, we see that the scheduler’s goals shift to align with their chosen option.

Option 1: Get the Job on Someone’s Schedule

When a person thinks “I need to assign this job to someone” they are often also saying, “I need to fit this job into someone’s existing schedule.”

This perspective is very linear or myopic. The individual is prioritizing their focus on a specific or small group of resources capable of doing the work. This perspective considers the schedule as inflexible, thereby establishing it as a constraint to be reckoned with.

Consider a scenario with our HVAC Service team at Myopic HVAC and their customer Ms. Freeze. They employ five Service resources typically maintaining an average utilization of 85% each day, or about 6.8 hours of utilization for each resource. Trying to place a 3-hour heater replacement on the schedule is difficult for Myopic. The scheduler manages to find a large enough gap in the schedule for the job, but over one week from today. Myopic HVAC books the appointment with the customer, telling them that a Service resource will be there on the selected day at 10:00 AM. Waiting nearly one week for service isn’t good for Ms. Freeze, who lost heat during the latest bomb cyclone weather event. And boxing your business into an exact time prohibits  flexibility in the schedule. What’s more, a 85% utilization per resource translates into 30 hours of white space on the schedule each week.

5 resource * 40 hours / .85 = 170 hours of utilization

For you, this represents 30 hours of lost opportunity and potential revenue that can’t be captured. Meanwhile, while Ms. Freeze was pleased to get an exact appointment time, her frustration in having to wait a week to get her  heater repaired prompts her to call a 5-star competitor, Objective HVAC.

Option 2: Find the Ideal Spot on the Schedule

When Objective HVAC receives the call from Ms. Freeze, they face the same issue scheduling the 3-hour job for completion. However, in this scenario Objective HVAC’s business strategy empowers schedulers to take a  broader perspective that allows them to place work on the schedule more quickly – increasing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. While service resources still maintain an 85% utilization day-over-day on average, the schedulers have a few tools to help them get things done.

The schedulers know that by digging into the details of the jobs already scheduled they may gain insights into ways to shift appointments to accommodate more work. Upon closer look, the scheduler sees there is an average of four  jobs per service resource per day, giving each job an average duration of 1.7 hours – there’s room for more work. At Objective HVAC, customers are initially offered appointment arrival windows. These windows range from four  hours down to 1 hour and are defined by business policies. Most work on the schedule has a 3-hour arrival window.

Objective HVAC is able to adjust the schedule easily because of the flexibility offered by the appointment arrival windows. After some thoughtful adjustments, the scheduler is able to schedule the heater repair for this afternoon, increasing the utilization from 85% to 86.5% for the day. At first glance this may seem as a small victory, but this approach has a compounding effect on the schedule as more calls come in and jobs are added.

Why Perspectives Matter

As the two scenarios above demonstrate, alignment between the company’s perspective and individual schedulers can have a significant impact on the committed schedule. But if we scale this scenario to include not only the service team, but also sales and installation teams, the impact of Objective HVAC’s holistic approach is exponential. If schedulers narrow their focus on the task of scheduling as a problem to be solved, the opportunity to achieve greater efficiencies is lost. In contrast, if each job for a given period is viewed as missing a piece to a larger puzzle with multiple roles and interpretations, then the focus shifts to broader opportunities – greater flexibility, improved resource utilization, and increased customer satisfaction.

At scale, and endorsed from the top-down, this perspective allows for a new approach to resolving many field service scheduling challenges and enables the business to gain efficiencies across their field operations.

Of course, there are many points to consider when transforming field service operations but above all is a willingness to take a close look at your current business processes. Could it be that some limiting beliefs are at play and might be contributing to less-than-ideal outcomes? Let’s get back to the limiting beliefs we outlined earlier and drill deeper.

Sound familiar? These are just some of the many statements I have heard from my project teams when working with clients. But each of these limiting beliefs can be overcome when the business and project team is willing to take a step back and look at the business from a new perspective. Failure to think about and look at Field Service operations from new angles will surely result in limited efficiency gains and a slower than expected ROI when adopting a field service platform like Salesforce Field Service.

If your business wants to take full advantage of your field service solution then first start with identifying the limiting beliefs that have been holding your operations back.

If your organization can change the beliefs from the top down and across all areas of the business, you’ll generate (more positive) results for your organization, and deliver a better experience for your customers.

Next, find a partner that understands your business challenges, has the know-how to enact business change, and the technical skills to transform business goals into reality. With the right mindset and partner you’ll begin to reap the benefits of your field service digital transformation.

By Gary Patterson, Principal Consultant