Guide to Scheduling and Dispatching for Field Service

Written by WorkBuddy

Gone are the days when scheduling and dispatching field workers to a job involves whiteboards, diaries, and post-it notes. Allocating field workers to a job involves thoroughly understanding their skills, current workload, availability, and location. Field service businesses are constantly being challenged by the volume of job requests, last minute job changes and efficiently scheduling their team members to a job. Scheduling and dispatch software optimizes how you assign work by automating the process, so you don’t have to do everything manually. This guide explores why your business needs job scheduling and dispatch software for effective field service management.

What is job scheduling and dispatch software?

Job scheduling and dispatch software helps field service businesses s plan and optimize their workforce. The software serves as a technician database, showing dispatch managers a calendar view of everyone’s schedule and workload. When your company receives work orders, job scheduling software can process crucial details like appointment dates, deadlines, budget, labor requirements, and locations. You can then cross reference these requirements against your database to find the most qualified technician for the job. At its core, job scheduling and dispatch software allow you to allocate the right job to the right field worker, at the right time.

There are three main types of job scheduling and dispatch software available for businesses:

  • Drag-and-drop – This type of scheduling software lets users set appointments by dragging and dropping work orders onto a specific time slot.
  • Assisted – Assisted scheduling systems will analyze work order requirements and suggest optimal dispatch times. These make it easy to plan weekly and monthly workloads while giving you control over who to assign the job to.
  • Automated – Automated scheduling is an increasingly popular solution among field service businesses. It instantly processes work orders, finds the best technician for the job, and mobilizes them within minutes after you receive a service request.

What types of job scheduling tools are there?

Calendar apps

Many calendar apps include great scheduling and event tools. They usually include a daily planner where you can choose tasks that need to be addressed based on priority. Teams can see meetings and tasks in one place, and share job progress to keep teams informed.

Format: Online, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Cost: Free or low in cost.

Integrations: Most calendar apps are usually able to integrate with project management tools.

Types of calendar apps: iCloud Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, or Google Calendar.

Field service scheduling software

With powerful, automated scheduling capabilities, field service scheduling tools give you all the necessary information to make intelligent scheduling decisions. They are smart enough to optimize complex scheduling based on business needs, customers and field workforce. The right software should help your business reduce travel time, cluster appointments by priority and schedule jobs automatically controlled by constraints and business logic.

Format: On-premise, cloud-based, web-based, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Cost: Varies depending on the feature set, storage, scalability and user requirements.

Integrations: Should be able to integrate with most systems.

Project Scheduling software

Project scheduling software is a tool that helps you schedule work and assigns the right resources to the right tasks. A sound system should consolidate all relevant information in a single platform, allow you to visualize workflows, and help prioritize tasks while pointing at dependencies and potential bottlenecks.

Format: On-premise, cloud-based, web-based, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Cost: Varies depending on the feature set, storage, scalability and user requirements.

Integrations: Should be able to integrate with most systems.

Why do field service businesses need scheduling software?

Field service companies need scheduling software to better manage their team’s workload and mobilize technicians quickly. The faster you can dispatch your team, the faster you can resolve a client’s request, resulting in increased customer satisfaction. Job scheduling software also optimizes your team’s schedule, so they can service more clients and bring in more revenue every day.

Another benefit of using scheduling software is that it helps you prepare for seasonal workloads. Rather than manually keeping track of recurring jobs for specific seasons, you can schedule everything in advance. You can schedule recurring work orders depending on the asset and how often they’re likely to break down during extreme weather conditions. What’s more, you can standardize scheduling plans for jobs you do regularly, so your team can go straight to the execution phase.

What industries use job scheduling and dispatch software?

Job scheduling and dispatch software is suited for organizations that need to meet job or project deadlines and deliverables. It is particularly valuable to the following industries:

  • Construction companies
  • Plumbing, electrical and HVAC contractors
  • Solar, landscaping and pest control services
  • Facilities and property maintenance
  • Engineering firms
  • Kitchen and bathroom installers
  • Architecture and design
  • Field service businesses

What are the key benefits of job scheduling and dispatch software?

Job scheduling and dispatch software are vital to the success of field service businesses. However, many companies still manage this process manually, using antiquated systems like whiteboards, business calendars, and emails to coordinate their field workers. While manual scheduling may work for a small crew, it’s easy for details to get mixed up if you’re handling several projects at once. This increases the risk of late arrivals, project delays, and disgruntled clients. Instead of relying on manual processes, field service businesses can utilize job scheduling and dispatch software.

Job scheduling and dispatch software helps you improve work efficiency, reduce costs and schedule all of your resources with just one tool. The right job scheduling and dispatch system can provide many benefits to your business, such as:

  • Advanced visibility of contractors and employees
  • Better time tracking and attendance
  • Reduction in availability conflicts
  • Effective route planning and optimization
  • Job information access sent to a field app
  • Enhanced collaboration between teams and customers
  • Simple file access and sharing
  • Gaining valuable insights from jobs for future scheduling

How does job scheduling software help dispatchers?

Dispatchers are the people responsible for assigning a work order to field workers.  Not only do they receive work order requests, but they are also tasked with scheduling the right technician for the job. Scheduling and dispatch software helps dispatchers review and manage:

  • Appointments and availability
  • Work orders
  • Job tracking and work completed
  • Customer information
  • Emergency tasks
  • Job cancellations and rescheduling

The basic job scheduling and dispatch workflow

Having a well-documented scheduling workflow process is one of the best ways to create structure on how to use job scheduling and dispatch software for your administration team. A basic job scheduling workflow can be seen below:

  1. An event triggers a job request such as a phone call or an email from a customer.
  2. The request gets logged into the scheduling system and reviewed.
  3. A technician is scheduled to attend to the work.
  4. The technician commences the job and logs their job progress using the field app.
  5. The job is completed, and an invoice is sent.

Varied scheduling options to maximize efficiency

  1. Runsheet Scheduling

Runsheet-based scheduling prioritizes jobs based on proximity between jobsites to minimize travel time and fuel costs. Most systems should enable you to:

  • Automatically prioritize based on proximity between jobs.
  • Save your field workers travel time by scheduling jobs close to each other.
  • Get your jobs done faster.

2) Priority Scheduling

3) Appointment Scheduling

4) Availability Scheduling

5) Certification  Scheduling

6) Recurring Scheduling

Common features of job scheduling and dispatch software

The following features are commonly found in most job scheduling and dispatch software solutions.

Work order processing – processes service request details and turns them into actionable work orders

Priority setting – allows managers to create schedules based on the urgency and importance of jobs.

Automated dispatching – automatically assigns work orders to technicians based on skill level, experience, history with a client, availability, and proximity.

Drag-and-drop customization – gives you the option to easily adjust assignments in case of absences or sudden change requests.

Route planning – uses accurate GPS technology to help technicians find the quickest route to the job site.

Instant notifications – sends mobile alerts to technicians when they have a new job.

Tracking and reporting– provides visibility into employee productivity and performance so you can make data-driven decisions with job schedules.

What features do field service businesses need for effective job scheduling?

When choosing a job scheduling and dispatch solution for your field service business, you should look for the following features:

Timesheet tracking

Keep track of employee time and attendance and record accurate timesheets with timesheet tracking. In most systems, you can easily collect and verify timesheets, increase payroll accuracy and track job progress to see who is working on a job and what jobs are running later.

Drag-and-drop customization

Scheduling and dispatch software will search your company roster for field workers who fit the criteria of a job based on their certifications, prior work experience, and availability. Once identified, dispatchers can drag and drop the job on that technician’s schedule.

Most systems can notify field workers of a new assignment through an instant alert on the  field app through their mobile device. The drag-and-drop functionality makes it easy to adjust schedules when customers reschedule or when technicians are suddenly unavailable. Once you’ve found the right field worker, you can schedule a week’s worth of work orders with drag-and-drop ease.

Seasonal scheduling of jobs

Better systems allow you to set up and adjust recurring jobs based on seasonal changes. Recurring schedules can be set on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or seasonal basis. In strong solutions, it’s easy to apply a periodic schedule to a job, simply:

  • Create a job
  • Set the frequency for return visits, and
  • Never miss a job again.

Job scheduling dashboard

A centralized scheduling dashboard gives dispatchers complete visibility overall job scheduling and dispatch operations. It displays pending service requests, technician schedules, locations, travel times, and job progress updates. The scheduling board helps dispatchers determine which field workers should service a client at what time. It does this by automatically processing client service requests to identify appointment dates, job priority, and the skill sets required.

Route planning and optimization

Route planning features calculate distances between job locations to schedule appointments based on proximity. If a field worker is finishing up a job in Parramatta, it makes sense for their next appointment to be within the Greater Western Sydney area. This way, crews spend less time on the road and more time servicing multiple clients in a day.

Strong project and service management systems address these issues with built-in route optimization features. Dispatchers can look at each trades’ schedule and check the distances between jobs. This allows them to schedule appointments in an order that’s based on the closest routes rather than the next available time slot. More advanced solutions also integrate with leading navigation apps like Google and Apple Maps that use real-time data to find the fastest and least congested routes. This way, trades can make their appointments on time, service more clients in a day, and spend less fuel doing so.

Smart web portals to simplify scheduling

Web portals allow you to efficiently distribute work to contractors and clients and connect your teams from site to the office. These external web portals save your business time by streamlining administrative tasks and simplifying the process of requesting, reviewing or submitting information.

Contractor portal

Give your contractors access to a secure contractor portal. The portal contains all job-related information where you can:

  • Schedule and allocate work orders directly to the contractor portal
  • Communicate and send instant notifications related to a specific job
  • Report on job progress

Client portal

A dedicated client portal provides real time data on job progress and completions to your head contractors or clients. Reduce the time you spend calling and emailing by providing them with real-time access to their own client portal. The portal allows you to:

  • Share and view job information, communication and updates
  • View work orders currently in the pipeline
  • Retrieve job history, evidence, sign offs and completed checklists.

Notes and checklists

Service delays usually happen when technicians are not fully prepared for their assigned job. Some field workers may not know the correct work procedures for particular tasks, hindering productivity and leading to serious incidents. Other technicians may also forget to bring the necessary tools and equipment for a job, requiring them to make multiple trips between headquarters and the job site.

Scheduling and dispatch software prevent these problems by enabling managers to provide comprehensive notes and checklists before technicians get to work. Notes can communicate real-time job information such as client-specific requirements to technicians. Meanwhile, pre-made checklists can remind technicians which tools to bring, how to inspect a job site, and what steps are required to finish a job. Work checklists can even be modelled after safe work method statements , so your field workers understand their moral and contractual obligations.

Technician field app

The technician field app allows trades to check their schedules and report their progress. It provides a user-friendly way for trades to:

  • Document work progression through photos, videos, and time-stamped notes
  • Instant communication with integrated messaging
  • Log timesheets

This data is fed directly into your operational dashboards, where you keep an eye on assigned jobs and anticipate potential delays.

Manager field app

The Manager field app gives supervisors all they need to make smarter decisions and manager teams on the go.

  • View jobs, notes, photos, files and work orders
  • Perform workplace safety and compliance
  • Apply SWMS control measures to jobs
  • Raise defects, perform quality checks and approvals

Mobile compatibility

Scheduling and dispatch software are compatible with various mobile devices running major operating systems like iOS and Android. This allows dispatchers to send detailed instructions to on-site field workers. Field workers no longer have to make frequent return trips to the dispatch desk to check for scheduling changes with on-the-go work orders.

Calendar integration

Connect your job scheduling and dispatch software with your calendar or choose from a wide range of third party integrations to gain even greater functionality when and where your business needs it. More sophisticated systems offer two-way integration with leading calendar apps such as Google Calendar, Calendly Trigger and Apple iCalendar.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.