Over the last several months, we at Directions have been hearing a lot about the impact that GPS-enabled dispatching systems can have on the performance and profitability of companies that provide in-home service technicians. Granted, most of it has been coming from companies that sell the systems. When we saw that Software Advice, a firm helping businesses simplify the selection process of dispatch software process, had just released the results of their survey of service providers using GPS-enabled systems, and of consumers of their services, we had to find out more! We reached out to the author of the study, market researcher Justin Guinn, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about his findings for us.
Q: In your opinion, based on your survey findings, has it become critical for service providers to implement GPS-based dispatching systems? Why? What are they risking if they don’t?
A: It has become absolutely critical for service providers to implement GPS-enabled dispatching systems. Not only are these systems more accessible than ever, but they are central drivers in overcoming service customers’ greatest pain point: late technicians. Our data shows that 95 percent of businesses see an improvement in technician punctuality after adopting software with GPS capabilities.
Q: It’s certainly no secret that consumers hate being told they’ll need to wait all day for a technician to show up, but just how devastating that can be to a company’s bottom line was certainly a surprise! Can you tell our readers what your survey revealed about customer attitudes toward arrival estimates, wait times and tardiness, and what that means for in-home service providers?
A: Time is a valuable resource in our fast-paced, go-go-go society. This doesn’t bode well for the typical 3-4 hour time windows that are synonymous with service business appointment times. It likewise doesn’t bode well for late technicians who make customers wait idle around their homes. In fact, two-thirds (67 percent) of consumers won’t rehire a company if they’re an hour late to their scheduled appointment. So service businesses need to do all they can to increase scheduling accuracy to assign more realistic times and to increase routing efficiency to get techs from A to B as quick as possible.
This number, 67 percent, is quite staggering for service companies, as it should be. But we did find a temporary fix to lessen the pain of late technicians. If a technician is running late, 73 percent of consumers are more likely to rehire the company if they receive an updated arrival-time notification. This could be an email, text or phone call. Some GPS-enabled dispatching software are able to use geolocation to automate this process, saving valuable customer relationships while keeping drivers eyes on the road and not their phones.
Q: One of the biggest advantages to GPS-enabled systems seems to be the transparency they create between the driver in the field and the back office, particular in terms of driver behavior, and sometimes the insights that are gained can be unexpected. Can you tell us about a few, possibly unexpected, benefits of this type of transparency?
A: The transparency these GPS-enabled systems offer can be leveraged in many different ways. For example, back offices can now see in real time where a technician is throughout their day. So now they’ll know if Jim the plumber is completing jobs ahead of schedule and sipping down Slurpees at 7-Eleven instead of picking up more work. Likewise, back offices can now see Jim’s driving habits. Does he speed? Does he accelerate and brake appropriately? Monitoring these factors allow the business to make recommendations to drivers that increase safety and improve fuel costs. In fact, 89 percent of businesses see an improvement in the average fuel cost per work order after implementing GPS-enabled dispatching.
So, GPS-enabled dispatching systems result in lower fuel costs, improved driver behavior, improved technician punctuality and most importantly, better customer retention, but that’s not all Guinn’s research uncovered. Companies using GPS-enabled systems also gain:
- The ability to track inventory being carried by the driver, which allows the back office to schedule additional jobs for the driver that take advantage of the equipment on hand.
- Street level mapping, rather than “as the crow flies” routing used by more traditional methods, which allows technicians to service homes along street routes on the way to other appointments, increasing the number of job orders a driver can complete in a day.
- The ability to build and access customer profiles onsite, so technicians have access to important customer information, like whether the household includes pets or has had previous issues with the company’s service. That type of information allows for a higher level of customer service — the kind that determines whether or not a customer calls again or moves on to another provider.
So if you’re a provider of in-home services and aren’t yet using a GPS-enabled dispatching system, it’s time to look into it. The full report of survey results from Software Advice is available on its website.