Hello, my name is Zak and I have been a dispatcher in Washington State for nearly 20 years. I have been given the opportunity to expound on my post found here.
We’re taught at a young age to always give 100% (or oftentimes 110%). While that is very true in most things, I’m going to talk about in the world of dispatch why scheduling 100% of your company’s ability is not always the best course of action. In a perfect world, we’d schedule 100% and everything would be smooth as silk, alas, ours is not a perfect world. Unexpected technician callouts, traffic issues, equipment issues, supplier issues, you name it, they can all impact how much we can all get done in a day. If you leave no room for the unexpected, a smaller problem can become exponentially larger.
What do you do when the unexpected occurs? You know the capabilities of your company better than anyone else! Planning for 90-95% of your maximum leaves little room for the unexpected. For example, my office is located on a peninsula in Washington state, to get to one side requires ferries that have become unpredictable due to staffing, and to get westbound a draw bridge that just the other day was closed for seven hours due to a jackknifed truck. One of those issues was something I could have planned for, and the other was completely unpredictable. Let’s examine some procedures that I’ve come up with to minimize the impact of the things that can (and do) go wrong.
When the unexpected happens, my motto is “the cause isn’t as important as the cure.” What I mean by that is don’t dwell on why something happened, leap into action to come up with your next steps for immediate action. If a technician calls out unexpectedly (even worse on no notice) the very first step is to ask them if they think that they’ll be in the next day, this will help to prevent a mad scramble two days in a row.
Next, analyze their entire day. If they have five to six jobs on the schedule is there a way to divide up some if not all the work between your remaining technicians? In smaller companies this may not be possible, let’s plan as if we can’t just divide up an entire day and absorb it into the remaining technician’s schedules. The first step, you know your priority customers by how your business is driven. What is emergent? Start there, you may have to rearrange every technician’s schedule based on one call out.
Be flexible. Look at everything you have scheduled for the entire day and prioritize every job. You might have fifteen jobs and time enough for twelve, so start with your emergency calls, then your club members, and so on down your list. Make use of your tags, for example, immediately you should know who a club member is, who has been rescheduled before, and should be treated as if you cannot reschedule. Whom to reschedule and how to do it. You know who the lowest priority customers are, the routine tune-ups for example. If you had been planning about 90% the next day and 75% or so for the day after, absorbing the excess should be easy. When calling a customer always apologize for the inconvenience and recognize that you value their time. Offer them options for the reschedule, for example: “I’m very sorry (customer’s name), we unexpectedly had a technician call out and I would like to reschedule you. I could offer you (this date and time) or (this date and time) or is there something that would work well for you?” Often, people are very understanding, and it is just that simple. In the event someone is unwilling to move you can shuffle again (there’s that flexibility) and see about perhaps moving a different customer, maybe a technician finishes a job earlier than anticipated and that buys you a little time. Maybe a technician can work overtime that day and can get one more person in. There is always a solution.
Now we can move on to “the cause”. What happened? Did a technician call out? Was there a traffic accident? If it is a technician calling out, look for patterns. I’ve seen it all. Callouts every Monday after a Seahawks loss, or the Monday after the Superbowl. Do they call out every payday Friday? If you can spot a pattern it needs to be addressed. Predicting callouts is possible some of the time. Was the technician noticeably sick at work? The next day, the odds are increased that they may call out. Did they request a day off that wasn’t granted?
You aren’t just a dispatcher; you are the office/field liaison, and you know the team better than anyone else. There will be countless truly unexpected things that will impact scheduling but wiggle room will help to prevent some of the issues from the unexpected. In conclusion, always have room for a backup plan. Just like driving on the highway, giving yourself extra room can make a difference.
Please send me a message if you have any questions or comments and I will happily get back to you. Thank you very much for reading my very first article.