If your organisation has people and equipment out on the road, chances are you have some untapped service capacity. You probably sense this yourself, that there are inefficiencies – often in the field – that you can’t quite identify.

What if there was a way to bring tools on board that would give you greater visibility into this area and, even better, help you fix the problem? Technology is getting increasingly useful and user friendly when it comes to improving operational and field efficiency. The right software can make a big impact.

The astounding haemorrhage effect of inefficient service organisations

Our experience tells us that inefficient service organisations can have up to 50% untapped capacity. The numbers might vary but the occurrence of this is surprisingly common. Worse, it tends to drag on, causing masses of largely invisible haemorrhaging that only becomes apparent at key moments such as end of financial year or when an annual audit reveals an overspend on outsourcing – by which time it’s too late to fix. And, at a time when a constructive approach is required to assess what happened and prevent re-occurrence, it is easy to see why the blame game can seep in instead.

The first step is visibility – signs you may have untapped capacity

We were alerted to the enormity of the issue by a customer who suspected overspending but couldn’t pinpoint it. Sure enough, their end-of-financial year reconciliation showed that while they were outsourcing extensively to third party contractors, they were only using about 50% of their in-house resources when averaged over the year – resulting in an unnecessary spend to the tune of millions of dollars. Their processes and systems were not efficient enough to level out surges in demand and backlogs in resolutions, and so the only solution was to throw money at out-sourced contractors to plug the gap.

Based on their experience, and others like them, here are some warning signs they had which may assist in helping you understand if you too are facing a similar problem with your people, equipment or facilities:

  • You’re still relying on manual scheduling. If you are still manually scheduling staff appointment, the use of facilities or equipment for hire, chances are you have some significant efficiency gaps. Your utilisation rate is only as good as the manual process that in turn relies on disparate spreadsheets and calendars and the inside knowledge of one or two individuals.
  • Your people are busy with the wrong things. Everyone is frantic but are they really focused on the right thing? Technicians or field staff are clocking up big kilometres but only seeing a few customers a day. You witness a lot of trips back and forth to office or warehouse – are they all necessary? You have a staff member in the office dedicated purely to taking calls from field staff to check inventory or customer history.
  • Your ‘for hire’ resources are often sitting idle. By all accounts you are ‘at capacity’, you may even have excess demand and an extensive waiting list, but your ‘for hire’ equipment is sitting on the shelves while it could be earning revenue, your warehouse is often empty or rooms in your rental properties appear available even though the schedule looks full. Something is amiss and every day it’s not resolved, you’re leaking profits.
  • Your tools of trade are always available. Like the example we used above, your technicians or delivery staff appear to have a full diary but your company vehicles are often sitting in the parking lot – who exactly is servicing your customers and how much is this costing you? Look out the window right now!

What these warning signs mean for your organisation

There are three major areas of impact if any of the above signs are ringing bells for you.

  • One: You may be clocking up way too many administration hours (when it takes longer to gather information for scheduling than do the actual schedule, you have a problem).
  • Two: Staff feel they can’t trust systems and schedules, so have a ‘fend for yourself’ attitude that can cause conflict, stress, double-booking of vehicles and equipment and even sloppy field work.
  • Three: You end up hugely overspending on external contractors because it seems as though there is too much to be done in-house – when in fact it’s just efficiency that is lacking, not capacity.

Consider the following. Which experience would you like to provide for your staff and customers?

  • Scenario 1– A field technician arrives at a customer’s site to fix a broken air conditioner, only to find the warehouse manager, who reported the problem, away at lunch. The technician waits (wasted time). When manager returns and describes the problem, the technician realises he needs a part. He calls the office to check inventory and technician availability (wasted time). Part is available, but no staff for another week (another trip = more wasted time). The customer is rightly infuriated, the unit is supposed to be under warranty after all, what does this even give them? He starts looking for other options to fix his problem (a potential irreparable customer relationship).

In contrast:

  • Scenario 2: This technician has his appointments auto-routed, with text reminders sent to customers. The technician can see the warranty status of the broken air conditioner. He uses fault statistics insights to identify the likely problem and takes the relevant part with him. It’s a smooth call out. The customer has received the text alert so is in the warehouse waiting. The technician mends the broken unit within 15 minutes.

Which scenario would you prefer for your customers and your organisation?

The solution exists to create scenario two

Imagine how much staff time you could save, unnecessary hours you could reduce, external contracting you could minimise and extra output you could reduce if:

  • Your technicians had constant, instant and remote access to scheduling, inventory and customer history
  • You could eliminate the calls back and forth from field to office to sales to warehouse … and the people managing those calls could use their skills elsewhere
  • Your field staff could be out on the road with everything they need for the job they are attending
  • Information collected on site could be added instantly to client history, rather than staff having to try and recall it and input notes back at the office
  • Scheduling happened automatically and didn’t take up valuable admin hours

Put any of these improvements in place and you might find you save one hour per day for every technician on the road – and that’s a conservative estimate. Across a network of 50 technicians, that’s 50 extra work hours suddenly available. What could be achieved with that? How much more efficiently would your operations run? How much more satisfied would your customers be? How much more empowered and motivated would your staff be?

Another customer we’re working with carries out house inspections and was largely at the mercy of a manual scheduling process and a similarly inefficient data collection and reporting workflow. The solution we are implementing is helping to automate so much of this process that they are expecting to double the number of inspections they do per year. Double.

How do your operations stack up?

Untapped capacity is an insidious problem in that you don’t know its impact until it’s too late. But it’s also a solvable problem via technology that is cost-effective and itself efficient to implement and use.

If you’d like to find out more about what’s possible, get in touch. We’d love to assist. Alternatively, take our 3-minute assessment to benchmark your field operations against five core success criteria and receive your personalised report with top tips for improvement.