Improve Service Provider Efficiency With GPS-Enabled Dispatch Software
For home service providers, common customer pain points include lengthy arrival-time windows and waiting on late technicians. GPS-enabled software offers a solution to these pain points by providing more effective scheduling, routing and dispatching.
Software Advice surveyed consumers and business operators to determine what impact implementing dispatch software with GPS-enabled capabilities can have for home service providers. This report will explain how companies can use these systems to improve service provider efficiency and punctuality.
Punctuality should be a top priority for service providers: 67 percent of consumers will never do business with a company again if the technician is even one hour late.
If a technician is running late, text messages with updated arrival times can help: 73 percent are more likely to hire the company again if they receive arrival-time notifications.
Ninety-five percent of businesses in our sample see an improvement in technician punctuality after adopting software with GPS capabilities.
Eighty-nine percent of businesses see an improvement in the average fuel cost per work order after adopting dispatch software with GPS capabilities.
Ninety-five percent of service providers say the average number of work orders technicians complete per day improves after adopting GPS-enabled software.
Customers don’t like waiting around for service—especially when it comes to home repairs. In Software Advice’s 2014 Customer Preferences for Residential Services report, the top pain points cited were lengthy arrival-time windows and having to wait for late technicians.
Similarly, a flash survey by John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association, found that the “dreaded eight-hour appointment window” is customers’ biggest pet peeve.
Scheduling, routing and dispatching software with GPS-enabled capabilities can help overcome such pain points. Among other benefits, this functionality—which includes service dispatching, street-level routing and smart scheduling—can help technicians plan routes more efficiently and provide more accurate arrival times.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that another Software Advice report on field service software found that scheduling, routing and dispatching are the top-requested functionalities among buyers.
For this report, we surveyed operators of home-service businesses currently using GPS-enabled dispatch software to learn what impact these solutions have had. We also surveyed a random sample of U.S. adults to gauge how accurate arrival times can help sustain a loyal customer base.
These findings and expert commentary will give business operators the information they need to select and leverage GPS-enabled solutions.
67 Percent Won’t Tolerate Lateness of Up to One Hour
Waiting around for technicians is a top customer pain point—but how late is too late? We asked respondents how long past a scheduled appointment they would be willing to wait before deciding not to do business with that service company again.
Two-thirds say they won’t re-hire a company if its technician is up to an hour late—and 36 percent will only wait half an hour or less. Clearly, it’s critical for service companies to ensure workers are scheduled and routed as efficiently as possible.
Duration Consumers Will Wait Before Deciding
Not to Re-Hire Company
Joanna Rotter, content marketing manager at MSI Data, a field service management software provider, says these findings reflect market-wide trends. She believes being able to shorten arrival-time windows, and to arrive consistently within those windows, are key differentiators for field service companies.
“From a consumer’s perspective, I don’t want to be sitting at home all day waiting for a service company to get there,” she says.
Rotter believes companies that don’t have GPS-enabled software could lose their customer bases to companies that do have them because they offer more punctual technicians.
“That’s a scary thought for a lot of our [clients]: that if they’re not achieving scheduling accuracy, they’re going to lose customers,” says Katelyn Burrill, product marketing manager for ClickSoftware, a workforce management solution.
Though this finding may be a wake-up call for companies, there is one thing that can lessen the blow of a technician arriving late: improved communication.
Updated Arrival Notifications Increase Likeliness to Re-Hire
GPS-enabled service dispatching, routing and scheduling software provides more efficient daily routes, alleviating travel time. Still, unforeseeable incidents will inevitably arise, causing workers to show up late. In these cases, technology can help.
Many GPS-enabled dispatch systems feature automated customer-alert capabilities. These systems geolocate technicians’ mobile devices—which might be smartphones, tablets or GPS hardware that is connected to software in the main service office.
Based on the worker’s location, the software then sends automated text messages to customers with updated technician arrival times. The alerts also ping the back office to inform dispatchers and managers when a technician is running late.
We asked both consumers and business operators how this technology impacts customer attitudes toward tardy mobile workers. Seventy-three percent of consumers are more likely to re-hire a late service provider if they’re notified with an updated arrival-time.
Likewise, 76 percent of business operators say customer attitudes toward late technicians have improved since implementing automated alerts and messaging.
Consumers: Likelihood to Re-Hire Late Service Providers Using Arrival Notifications
Service Providers: Customer Attitudes Toward Late Technicians Using Arrival Notifications
In line with the data, Debra Mielke, director of strategic alliances for FieldAware (a mobile, cloud-based service dispatch software provider) believes that what customers want above all is proper communication.
“It’s amazing what communication does,” she says. “My favorite analogy for it is: Say you’re on an airplane sitting out on the tarmac, and you can’t get to the gate. If the pilot doesn’t say anything to you, all you do is go nuts—whereas if he tells you it’s going to be 20 minutes, you’re much more accepting.”
Rotter adds that customers are likely to expect automated text-message updates as they become more prevalent across the wide spectrum of field service companies.
“That’s where I see GPS capabilities being a necessity in terms of meeting customer demands today,” she explains.
Using GPS Software Leads to More Punctual Technicians
Next, we asked business operators what effect implementing GPS-enabled scheduling, routing and dispatching software has had on technician punctuality. An overwhelming majority cite an improvement in this area after adopting a GPS-enabled solution.
Furthermore, 90 percent of business operators say the number of work orders completed on time have increased. Consistently completing work orders in a timely fashion can help service technicians stay on schedule throughout the day.
Technician Punctuality After Implementing GPS Software
On-Time Work Order Completion After Implementing GPS Software
Smart Air Austin is an Austin, Texas-based heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) service company that recently implemented GPS-enabled software. Before adopting the software, Smart Air had no way to track nearly any aspect of its field operations, says company president Shane Bryant.
“Now, we can tell if a technician might not make their arrival-time window, and give the customer a courtesy call,” Bryant explains. “Punctuality has improved considerably.”
The software’s dispatching capabilities also enable Smart Air’s dispatchers to monitor workers in the field more effectively so they can update jobs based on technician availability.
“I don’t have to contact the technician to see if they have time for more [jobs],” says Jeanne Pickering, dispatcher for Smart Air. “It is apparent when a [job] is very long, so adjustments can be made to the schedule accordingly. Having GPS has allowed so much more efficiency and visibility. We don’t know how we survived without it.”
Since mobile workers are typically assigned regions or zones in which they operate, GPS-enabled software can map out the most effective daily routes based on the location of jobs within the zone.
In the screenshot below, for example, the purple route shows a mobile worker traveling from the first job (1) to the second job (2) and then on to the third and fourth jobs of the day. The jobs are ordered based on the most efficient route to get to all four.
Routing functionality in FieldAware dispatch software
Some systems can even offer updated routes based on traffic patterns.
“As the schedule is being created, it’s taking into account what the typical traffic patterns are in a given area, and prevents technicians from having to sit through a lot of traffic to get to their first job,” Burrill says. “This way, they can maximize the number of jobs they’re doing in a day.”
GPS Software Results in More Efficient Technician Travel
Field service technicians are mobile by nature, requiring the use of a vehicle to travel to jobs. Fuel and maintenance costs can be expensive, especially with the ever-fluctuating price of gas. However, proper driving habits can prolong the distance traveled on every gallon.
A report from vendor ClickSoftware found that “aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.” This staggering statistic can account for serious revenue seepage.
Clearly, encouraging proper driving is a good idea for business operators—but encouragement may not be enough.
GPS-enabled software elevates this encouragement to accountability, enabling managers to monitor workers’ driving habits and fuel consumption in real-time, via the drivers’ mobile devices.
We asked business operators whether holding technicians accountable for their driving habits can translate into real returns. A combined 89 percent of business operators indicate improvement in their average fuel costs after adopting GPS-enabled software.
Likewise, an overwhelming majority of software adopters (92 percent, combined) see improvements in average work order travel times.
Effect of GPS Software on Work Order Fuel Costs
Effect of GPS Software on Work Order Travel Time
GPS-enabled systems also provide both technicians and the back office with real-time alerts, Burrill and Rotter explain—allowing managers to enforce proper driving habits on an as-needed basis.
For example, Burrill says, “If a technician is excessively speeding, the back office would get a flag.”
As Smart Air Austin learned, the transparency that GPS-enabled systems offer also holds drivers accountable for any extracurricular activities they might be using their company vehicle for.
“The first few months we had GPS, we found that one technician we considered very trustworthy was taking the company vehicle several hours outside the city to go camping,” Pickering says.
“We were able to compare gas charges on the company gas card against the GPS to verify that he was also using the card to travel. He was also taking several-hour lunches or time at home and recording this as time [spent] on jobs.”
GPS-enabled mobile devices can also streamline tedious operational and managerial processes. Jim West, product manager at service dispatch software company HCSS, says some dispatching systems automatically clock employees in and out via geolocation enabled on mobile devices.
Similarly, when a safety meeting is held, the mobile app’s time-stamped geolocation functionality automatically tells the back office which workers are in attendance. Without this technology, both of these processes would involve workers signing in on paper, which someone would then have to manually input into the system.
Mobile Technicians Using GPS Complete More Work Orders
Given that GPS-enabled software can help increase technicians’ punctuality, it’s logical to assume this would result on the completion of more work orders per day.
According to our sample, nearly three-quarters of companies say work order completion rates are “significantly” (31 percent) or “moderately improved” (40 percent) after adopting GPS-enabled software.
Effect of GPS Software on Work Order Completion Rate
Technicians are often measured by how many jobs they’re able to complete. As such, an increase in completed work orders equates to better performance. Likewise, for business operators, an increase in work order completions is an increase in total revenue.
Burrill says the street-level routing in many GPS-enabled dispatch systems enables these increased job completion rates; the reason being that it’s more intuitive than the “as-the-crow-flies” routing.
She gives an example: Say a technician has two jobs to complete that are only a few hundred yards apart, but sit on opposite sides of a river. The only way to cross the river is to drive across a bridge 10 miles downstream.
With “as-the-crow-flies” directions, these jobs will be assigned back-to-back. But with street-level routing, the jobs will be assigned based on the location of other jobs scheduled that day.
This way, a worker might complete several jobs on the way to and from the bridge—and end with the job across the river from the first one.
Rotter also says that visibility into utilization data (i.e., information about the equipment and parts workers have in their vehicles) is paramount for keeping workers busy in the field.
As mobile workers log their daily activity, most dispatching systems can track what equipment and parts have been used, compared to what the vehicle left the office with. By delivering this information in real-time, the software enables dispatchers to assign new jobs based on what equipment remains.
“You can track what parts are in the technician’s van, which is great for scheduling and really reduces truck roll (how many times technicians need to return to the back office before finishing a job),” Rotter says. If you get to the right job site with the right parts, obviously you have a higher chance for success.”
Similarly, HCSS’s West says that utilization data can be tracked for larger equipment used on construction sites. This allows managers to view equipment inventory as well as what condition it’s in. Having this information helps foremen determine whether they need to rent additional equipment and incur more costs to complete jobs.
Mobile Apps Improve Communication in the Field
Just as the back office is privy to data on technicians in the field, GPS-enabled dispatch software allows service companies to create customer profiles that workers can access in the field via apps on their mobile devices. This allows them to view important information such as work order history, or whether there’s a dog on the premises.
“There [are] so many things that go into good customer service,” Mielke says. “[With mobile field service software,] I have all the information about the consumer in my hand. This makes me smarter and more efficient once I’m there; I have a better ability to communicate with my customer.”
By facilitating seamless communication and data-sharing between workers, customers and managers, mobile apps thus help streamline business processes. According to Burrill, this is where the real operational benefits come from.
“Without mobility, [business operators] would just be giving the technician a schedule for the day that he’d be going out and doing without any kind of connectivity to the back office,” she says.
“But if emergency jobs come up throughout the day or priorities change, the schedule needs to be readjusted. If the [technician] doesn’t have a mobile device so he can receive updates as emergent work comes in, then you’re not serving customers in the most effective way.”
GPS-enabled routing, dispatching and scheduling software helps field service companies improve efficiency and better serve customers by:
Providing real-time, traffic-based routing that helps technicians be more punctual
Automatically sending customers arrival-time updates when technicians are late
Encouraging safe driving that lowers fuel costs
Allowing technicians to schedule more jobs when time allows
Tracking equipment in the vehicle to make scheduling more efficient
Keeping workers, customers and managers connected through mobile apps
The positive impacts of this software can be seen both on the front lines, by customers and technicians, as well as in the bottom line, by management. GPS-equipped software can give service businesses the edge they need to carve out their share of the market in an increasingly tech-driven world.
To collect the data in this report, we conducted two one-day online surveys of four and six questions, and gathered 392 and 262 responses from random consumers and operators of service-provider organizations, respectively, within the U.S. We screened our sample to only include respondents who have used service providers and who operate a service business. Software Advice performed and funded this research independently.
Results are representative of our survey sample, not necessarily the population as a whole. Sources attributed and products referenced in this article may or may not represent client vendors of Software Advice, but vendor status is never used as a basis for selection. Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.
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