By Tom Paquin
It feels crass, sometimes, discussing how software can help drop dispatcher-to-tech ratios for field operations. I know dispatchers, and I don’t want to support tech that makes them redundant. In spite of this, I think we all understand that automation of back office processes lessen the workload in the back office, which will lead to the flexibility to limit headcount. But I don’t necessarily think that’s the best way to think about it.
I’d argue, more than anything, that service automation software shouldn’t be seen as a way to limit back office workers, but instead as a way to eliminate the need to do simple, repeatable, time consuming tasks, like setting appointment schedules, thereby freeing up back office time to manage more call ins, develop broader service strategies, and focus on more complex, fulfilling, and consequential business decisions.
There are a few avenues where we can parse out the importance of automation as it relates to day-to-day office tasks, so let’s go ahead and put together a few examples.
Scheduling automation is one of the lowest automation bars that can be cleared, but its benefit for the back office is immediately tangible. Under ideal circumstances, service visits will be triaged and triggered through a variety of different channels. This starts with simple distinctions like an online scheduling portal, and can evolve into smart scheduling through alerts triggered by connected assets, chatbot-triggered scheduling, predictive scheduling through IoT, or simply automating routine appointments to take away the onus from the customer and the business.
A fully automated environment changes the role of dispatcher from order-taker to nuanced qualifier and quality expert. Their job transforms away from data entry to dynamically addressing complex or ambiguous requests, and providing the “human touch” that ties the business together.
This, as a component of service scheduling, is one of my favorite topics, mostly because getting it right can be a huge asset for your business, and getting it wrong can saddle you with mediocre software for what can be a long time.
Let’s say you have 2,000 employees at a specific branch of your business, and they schedule, say, 10,000 appointments over the course of that day. With new appointments, exceptions, callouts, weather issues, and other unforeseen circumstances, a dispatcher could spend the entire day tweaking schedules, cancelling appointments, and doing just about anything other than ensuring exceptional customer service. Therefore, a system that automates these processes has the potential of being a huge benefit for dispatch, giving them more time back, since they don’t have to do that level of micromanagement.