Should Techs Confirm Their Own Work Orders?
Get to the Point
- Build Relationships - The relationship between the technician and the customer can begin sooner if the tech is calling to confirm work orders. This can often be a comfort to a customer and adds a layer of trust to the relationship.
- Set Expectations - The technician will know better than the dispatcher if they are running late, need to get gas, or are available to come early. Clear expectations, especially on arrival time can form a very strong first impression.
- Watch out for Over-The-Phone Diagnosing - Your techs are being called to a job to either diagnose or fix a problem. When they call, train them not to get into the habit of starting to ask questions that try to diagnose the problem before they even see it.
In most service companies, a dispatcher typically calls the customer to let them know that the technician is on his way. They may give an estimate and let them know who the technician will be. A dispatcher may even promote the tech's expertise and tell the customer that "you’re in good hands with him." None of this changes the fact that when the technician shows up, he's still a stranger. I have noticed a movement in the past several years to have technicians confirm with the customer themselves, rather than have dispatch do it. It has its advantages yes, but it has its drawbacks to, so let’s discuss.
First, having the technician confirm their own work orders helps build a relationship with the customer. The customer hears the technician's voice, learns his name, and begins to build rapport with the technician. All in a short phone call before the job begins.
Second, the technician can set clearer expectations for the homeowner than a dispatcher can. The tech is leaving the previous job and knows if he will need to make any stops: to get gas, eat, use the restroom, or grab parts from a supplier. The tech already knows what may come up prior to arriving on site at the customer’s location and can give a more precise arrival time. This also gives the tech a chance to ensure the homeowner will be home for the duration of the job.
Most importantly, it gives the tech a sense of ownership of the job. He'll feel that this is his job, his customer, and his relationship. This lets the tech head into a job with a sense of duty instead of just clocking in for work. You'll be surprised what that little sense of purpose does to a technician’s confidence and how that translates to a better performance on the job and in building relationships that lead to future work.
The main drawback is that a technician may try to diagnose the problem over the phone. He may be across town or it may be later in the day (especially on a Friday) and he just doesn’t want to go to the job. A tech may try and talk the customer through solving the issue or, at least, putting a band-aid on it until Monday. If this was your dispatch team, this visit would be booked and someone would be following up but if a tech does it there is no guarantee that the call – and all the other opportunities with the homeowner – will ever happen.
Another drawback is that technicians may try to call the customer once and give up if they don’t get a hold of them on that call. A good dispatch team will try the home, then the cell, then the office, and so on in an attempt to get a hold of the customer. A technician may feel they done their part by making that initial call and fail to follow up until they reach the customer.
I think the advantages for having technicians confirm their own job far outweigh the drawbacks associated with it. In fact, both of these drawbacks can be alleviated with a small incentive for the technician arriving at the customer's home. If you are doing a piece-rate or commission plan, you may consider assigning part of the payment on the dispatch fee, so the tech has the incentive to take the call. Or, on the other side of the fence, any booked call that isn’t run could ding the technician and make them more likely to take a job.
However you incentivize your techs, in order to implement this plan you have to have a surefire way to get all of the customer's information in the hands of your technicians. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, and notes about the customer and the history of service at the property. In addition, with commercially owned accounts or landlord / tenant situations, you need both location and billing contact information.
The best way to accomplish this is to look into work order management software that includes a dispatch and mobile component that provides customer information to the tech. With a mobile components you not only want access to phone numbers but also notes, as there will be situations with hearing impairments or speech impediments where a short note on the account could save your technician from an uncomfortable situation.
Overall, having your technicians confirm their own work orders makes sense, helps build stronger customer relationships, alleviates pressure on dispatchers and gives you the ability to grow your business faster. It's another small step toward A Better Way To Field Service™.