Busy season is here for many commercial service contractors.  Being busy is much better than the alternative, but this busy season may be a good opportunity for you to examine your current operations and workflows and ask, “What are my people busy doing?”

Busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. In fact, busy often means hurried, overwhelmed, and constantly running in reactive mode.  This isn’t good for you or your company. Eliminating the unnecessary busy work can go a long way in improving morale during a stressful busy season. Instead, focus on working smarter and increasing productivity across the board for all your employees.

For the purposes of this post, we are looking at the busy work that arises when customers are calling in emergency repair work.  Let’s look at four basic stages or phases of an emergency repair job to identify areas where you can potentially reduce busy work, and reduce stress levels for you and others in your company.

Phase 1: The customer calls

A customer with an emergency calls in a repair request.  One of your front office staff members fields the call and gathers all the necessary details.  They may scribble notes on a piece of paper, or type information into a spreadsheet saved to their computer.  Either way, it’s likely the beginning of information about the job being recorded everywhere but one central location, which is going to cost you a lot of time over the course of the job.

Busy work time drains:

  • Retyping job details into the work order.
  • Failing to have an online emergency request form. (Which could reduce the amount of information your staff has to type in to a work order, or even allow the customer to go directly to phase 2.)
  • Searching for the customer’s contract to find the SLA for emergency service calls.

Phase 2:  You schedule the service call

Once the work order is created, it’s time to schedule the service call, and fast. But unless you have real-time visibility to your techs’ schedules, an increased volume of emergency calls can create a lot of distracting, time-consuming phone calls in just getting the tech to the job.  The pace that comes with the busy season can make even the best organized spreadsheet or whiteboard outdated by mid-morning.

Busy work time drains:

  • Identifying techs who can take the emergency call.  
  • Figuring out which techs are nearby.   
  • Distracting phone calls to technicians who are on another job.

Phase 3: Your service techs do the work

Once the tech is on site, questions they have about the location or facility will require that they search through a stack of papers, search their email, or call the office to get more information. Even worse, you may find the information your tech needs is on a piece of paper you can’t find, or in the head of an employee who is on vacation.

Busy work time drains:

  • Techs driving to and from the office to pick up paper copies of work orders and schedules.
  • Techs calling around to get facility or equipment information.
  • Phone calls to the customer to let them know the tech is on the way.

Phase 4: You invoice the customer  

Once the tech drops of the paperwork (unnecessary in and of itself), the fun for the back office begins.  

Overwhelmed techs are filling out paperwork faster than ever.  Sloppy handwriting and incomplete descriptions can be an even bigger than usual source of frustration for your back office staff. Someone in your back office has to retype information from work orders into your accounting system. Techs are hard to get a hold of when your accounting team has a question about the paperwork, or, even worse, an irate customer calls in with a question about their bill.

Busy work time drains:

  • Trying to decipher tech handwriting and notes on paper work orders.
  • Double data entry – retyping all information from the work order into your accounting system.
  • Searching for the contract to find the customer’s agreed upon rate for emergency service calls.

All these time drains assume the paperwork is already in the office. Waiting on paperwork to get back to the office is a common problem for commercial service contractors. Techs keep paperwork in their trucks until the end of the day or week, and then bring it into the office for back office staff to process. (Unless they’ve lost it somewhere along the way.)  While it’s more of a bottleneck than busy work, it’s a huge opportunity for companies who want to streamline processes. While you are identifying busy work tasks, take a look at this process within your organization to see if there are opportunities for improvement.

Use this busy season to better your business

Commercial service contractors can save time for techs in the field, front office staff, and back office staff by reducing busy work that comes with a higher volume of jobs. Use this busy season as a discovery period to identify inefficiencies in your processes.  Then, you can use your slower season to implement solutions based on your findings. Otherwise, you’ll be losing time and money from the same busy season busy work this time next year.

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