Items of Interest

Leveraging Technology for Smarter Dispatching: Proximity vs. Profits

May 15, 2024

By Travis McGee, Product Manager

ECI Software Solutions

Travis McGee, Product Manager
ECI Software Solutions

Traditionally, service dispatching is a tedious process that covers many steps, including managing, coordinating and assigning tasks to technicians or field workers who perform the onsite services. There’s also scheduling, route planning and communication between dispatchers and field teams to make sure the job is completed effectively and efficiently. On top of all that, making sure the right person with the right skills is sent to the job at the right time can mean the difference between happy customers and negative reviews.

Smart dispatching uses advanced technology to do the heavy lifting. It takes advantage of up-to-the-minute information, smart predictions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and sometimes even the Internet of Things (IoT) to ensure tasks are assigned, scheduled and completed in the best way possible. This creates a modern, automated process, virtually cutting the more manual parts of the tasks.

Better Business Processes for Your Bottom Line

Smart dispatching uses past data to predict future needs or problems. AI helps service management leaders learn from what happened before to make better decisions on the fly. Instead of being bogged down by a lengthy list of tasks, they can focus on things like how long services take, how satisfied customers are and how well the operation runs. Additionally, smart dispatching opens the door for setting up service times and efficient driving routes automatically.

The immediate impact covers better schedules and routes, cutting down on wasted time, helping service providers do more in less time and making customers happier because of quicker responses, accurate timing and proactive problem solving. There’s also a money-saving part with using less fuel and reducing overtime pay. Over time, collecting data with smart dispatching helps gain a deeper understanding of a business’s unique performance, identifying what certain types of customers want, spotting trends in an industry-specific market and making smarter choices for using resources more wisely. In the competitive world of service-based businesses, mastering the art of smart dispatching can mean the difference between surviving and thriving.

Consider this:

On a particularly sweltering summer day, Kevin, a maintenance technician, is working on an annual air conditioning check-up at Mrs. Smith’s home. Across the street, the Jones family watches, dealing with their own malfunctioning AC unit and wondering about the convenience of having a technician so close. Spurred by the unbearable 90-degree heat inside their home, Mr. Jones reaches out to Kevin’s company, hoping for immediate relief. Mr. Jones doesn’t realize that Kevin, while excellent at maintenance checks, is inexperienced in handling complex heat pump issues. For a dispatcher, sending Kevin to the Jones’s home might seem like a time-saving move, as opposed to sending a heat pump specialist, who is currently in another part of town.

This is a pivotal decision-making moment for dispatchers: Should Kevin be sent to address the issue based on proximity, or should the call be fielded to a more experienced but distant technician? This dilemma between dispatching by proximity and dispatching for profit can substantially affect the bottom line.

Dispatching by Proximity

Consider the operational costs involved in running a service fleet. With an example of a Chevrolet Express 2500 service van, we break down the expenses:

  • Fuel Consumption – The van averages 14 miles per gallon with a 31-gallon tank.
  • Refueling Frequency – The van gets refueled about four times every week.
  • Gas Prices: One gallon of gas is $3.68, which leads to $114.08 per fill-up and $456.32 in weekly gas costs.
  • Fleet Operations: For the company’s five vans, gas costs $2,281.60 per week and $109,516.80 per year.

At first glance, sending the closest technician seems like a good way to save money, possibly saving tens of thousands of dollars every year just on fuel. But this approach might be short-sighted because it misses out on the big advantages of sending technicians based on a plan.

Dispatching for Profit

Now, look at the potential of dispatching based on each technician’s strengths and profit maximization. Three technicians—Bob, Will and James—serve as our case study, each with distinct proficiencies. Here’s a snapshot of their performance:

  • Bob excels in new system sales but falls short in maintenance agreement conversions with an average repair ticket of $275.
  • Will shines in securing maintenance agreements with a 45% success rate, though he lags in other areas.
  • James has the highest average ticket value, surpassing Bob in maintenance agreement conversions and demonstrating moderate success in new system sales.

Analyzing their performance, it becomes clear that making dispatch decisions based on each technician’s strengths can significantly enhance revenue. Here’s what could happen:

  • Bob could potentially double new system sales revenue if assigned relevant opportunities.
  • Will might double the maintenance agreement customer base by focusing on his area of expertise.
  • James could increase the service department’s earnings by 26% by focusing more on repair tasks.

Despite the potential increase in fuel costs by $28,000, the strategic dispatch could lead to a revenue surge nearing two million dollars, illustrated below.

The numbers tell a compelling story, proving that service dispatching based on each team member’s strength is essential. Sending the closest technician can save money in the short term, but using the data to make smarter decisions and planning who is best for the job means much greater benefits in the long run.

Smart dispatching helps the work go smoother and brings in more profit. The most efficient way to apply this approach is through advanced technology because the data is tracked and collected, freeing up time to find those trends. Even though the examples of Bob, Will and James are simple, they make it clear that dispatching by skill strengths has the bigger impact for businesses over time.

Bio: Travis McGee, product manager, ECI Software Solutions

As product manager at ECI Software Solutions, Travis McGee has led the advancement of ThermoGrid—from an ambitious startup to a world-class field service management SaaS offering—used by HVAC, electrical and plumbing businesses all over North America. His keen customer service aptitude and technical expertise help empower small and medium-sized businesses to better compete and grow.