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FIMCO-MEISTER
06-15-2008, 08:09 AM
When you go to a restaurant that is crowded you put your name on a list and wait til a table clears out and your name is up. I bring this up because irrigation service scheduling may be the toughest kind of scheduling out there. When i handle the calls I can immediately factor in my knowledge of the system, the customers expectation, location, landscape, (I can remember the names of dogs my customers had 20 years ago.) In my head I also have stored all the incomplete jobs we have to leave time gaps open for. i can also predict the troubleshooting problems, type of valve it most likely is, material needed to remind myself or Henry to pick them up a day or two ahead of time. Which customers need a courtesy call and which customers we can use as flex time to make the day work. In other words scheduling is this symphony playing in my head and I'm a maestro putting it all together. Only problem is that it consumes a lot of time and requires me to handle the calls and be in constant contact with customers and service techs. In turning scheduling over to a person who lacks the knowledge of what irrigation service entails all that goes out the window. I'm wondering about no longer giving exact appt times but just putting people on a list and giving them a 1 week out or whatever your backlog is time frame and when there name comes up on the list calling them to schedule. This allows for existing jobs to be completely finished before moving on. Time to sell add ons without worrying about getting to the next job on time. Avoids the gas expense of return trips to finish. Avoids the headache of rescheduling due to weather. Allows for scaling back when it gets hot to protect the health and attitude of the service techs. (It is already hot here for June) Best of all the phone answerer can just explain that we are running a list and are two weeks out when we get close we will call you and schedule. Just to assure the customer they are being treated fairly they can go to a website to see their name moving up the list like when you check the restaurant list.

Thoughts please.

Wet_Boots
06-15-2008, 08:35 AM
The customers without internet access won't be thrilled, but it might work. All praise flex-time customers!

zemzabob
06-15-2008, 09:00 AM
interesting concept.

DanaMac
06-15-2008, 09:46 AM
Peter, you have hit the nail on the head, absolutely dead on. I am just starting to train my sister to do the scheduling and office work for two months. She has already gotten frustrated at how I have done things over the last 13+ years. But it's the way I have done it and it works.

She will not know to schedule any jobs that need go backs unless we tell her. And I sometimes can't get my guys to tell ME for two or three days, or I find it on their work order when I finally get all the paperwork from them.

But I don't know how well what you are thinking about will work. Maybe it will in your area where you don't have the overwhelming aspect of start ups and freeze damage. I would want to know when you'd be coming out. Not a 1-2 week "range". What if the day before you can get there, you call the person up, and they can not meet you due to other commitments? Will it be another week when you are back in the area? Or will it be the next day? If the HO doesn't need to be there - outdoor controllers and shutoffs -then it may not be a problem if it's not an emergency. I do that with some easy problems - clogged nozzles, slightly leaking bonnet, one head hitting the house kind of problems. Do you give an EXACT time? Or a time window? Mornings I give a one hour window, afternoons a two hour window.

If you can make it work though, that's great.

CAPT Stream Rotar
06-15-2008, 09:48 AM
not a bad idea pete..

recently i thought of an idea where if the customer is not home email them pics of the install or new clock..

kind of like a safegaurd that their plants and turf are ok..
just another thought..
ed

londonrain
06-15-2008, 10:01 AM
Peter I am the same way with customers when they leave a message...I know their names , their location, the type of systems, their pets, valve locations, etc... This really helps in scheduling how much time is needed. I have been doing an average of 10 service calls a day solo....I am scheduling calls about 5-7 work days out for new customers and 2-3 days for existing customers. The problem with making your loyal customers wait 2 weeks for 1 head replacement is they will call someone else and that is a easy repair job. Maybe put new customers on the 2 week list or the ones that want more that 1-2 hrs worth of work. This time of the year I only do repairs on getting the systems up and running and tell them I will do revamps... IE move heads, add heads, etc... in the fall and winter.

I give a 30 min window on when I will arrive...10:00-10:30

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-15-2008, 10:01 AM
Peter, you have hit the nail on the head, absolutely dead on. I am just starting to train my sister to do the scheduling and office work for two months. She has already gotten frustrated at how I have done things over the last 13+ years. But it's the way I have done it and it works.

She will not know to schedule any jobs that need go backs unless we tell her. And I sometimes can't get my guys to tell ME for two or three days, or I find it on their work order when I finally get all the paperwork from them.

But I don't know how well what you are thinking about will work. Maybe it will in your area where you don't have the overwhelming aspect of start ups and freeze damage. I would want to know when you'd be coming out. Not a 1-2 week "range". What if the day before you can get there, you call the person up, and they can not meet you due to other commitments? Will it be another week when you are back in the area? Or will it be the next day? If the HO doesn't need to be there - outdoor controllers and shutoffs -then it may not be a problem if it's not an emergency. I do that with some easy problems - clogged nozzles, slightly leaking bonnet, one head hitting the house kind of problems. Do you give an EXACT time? Or a time window? Mornings I give a one hour window, afternoons a two hour window.

If you can make it work though, that's great.

You would keep calling to get that customer scheduled. In other words they stay at the top of the list until done. Never schedule more than two days out. Three at max. Keep a float person (me for now) who handles the quick easies to get them out of the way. Have the call screener get as much info as possible to save you phone time and allow you to think. Ultimately you will end up doing the final scheduling.

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-15-2008, 10:05 AM
Peter I am the same way with customers when they leave a message...I know their names , their location, the type of systems, their pets, valve locations, etc... This really helps in scheduling how much time is needed. I have been doing an average of 10 service calls a day solo....I am scheduling calls about 5-7 days out for new customers and 2-3 days for existing customers. The problem with making your loyal customers wait 2 weeks for 1 head replacement is they will call someone else and that is a easy repair job. Maybe put new customers on the 2 week list or the ones that want more that 1-2 hrs worth of work. This time of the year I only do repairs on getting the systems up and running and tell them I will do revamps... IE move heads, add heads, etc... in the fall and winter.
Do you bump new customers to make way for existing if you get a bunch of calls? Treating old customers better than new has always been a struggle for me. To me rescheduling is a sign of failure. When you call a customer to reschedule you are telling them that you mismanaged your time.

Also redos are a strike while it is hot type of deal. The same enthusiasm for a redo may wane by fall and winter.

DanaMac
06-15-2008, 10:08 AM
But there is no way we run all over town for one job. I won't have us running back and forth to different parts of town, wasting billable time, and fuel. My customers know that we schedule neighborhoods together.

DanaMac
06-15-2008, 10:11 AM
Do you bump new customers to make way for existing if you get a bunch of calls? Treating old customers better than new has always been a struggle for me. To me rescheduling is a sign of failure. When you call a customer to reschedule you are telling them that you mismanaged your time.

Also redos are a strike while it is hot type of deal. The same enthusiasm for a redo may wane by fall and winter.

I'm the same as London, existing customers are getting the 5-7 day treatment now, and new are 7-10. Revamps and add ons are starting to get scheduled for late this month. Some for July.

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-15-2008, 10:11 AM
Biking with the DAWG time. I'll catch up later.

DanaMac
06-15-2008, 10:12 AM
Biking with the DAWG time. I'll catch up later.

We're going hiking with the dogs in a bit as well.

londonrain
06-15-2008, 10:34 AM
Do you bump new customers to make way for existing if you get a bunch of calls? Treating old customers better than new has always been a struggle for me. To me rescheduling is a sign of failure. When you call a customer to reschedule you are telling them that you mismanaged your time.

Also redos are a strike while it is hot type of deal. The same enthusiasm for a redo may wane by fall and winter. No bumping of customers.. I schedule enough time between service calls because I know a loyal customer will call about a head or a backflow test will be called in.... I never reschedule a service calls unless it is raining or they reschedule....

I average 10-15 calls a day even with a message of a 2 week back log on the phone...I am scheduling right at 7 work days and have had 7 new calls since Friday...

Waterit
06-15-2008, 11:30 AM
I've been scheduling 125% for each call: if I think it'll be an hour, add 15 minutes (duh). This way I can have the extra moments to sell an upgrade or walk over to check out the next door neighbor's system. By the end of the scheduled day, I may have an hour or better still free and can pick up an extra call.

We schedule in a 2-hr. time frame: tech'll be there between 11 and 1 - and try to arrange with inside controls people to leave us access by hiding a remote in the BBQ grill, or a key with a neighbor, etc. Many of our long-time customers have given us keys, gate and alarm codes, garage-door openers, or the keypad code.

One thing I always try to sell is to move everything outside - that way we can do our thing whether customer is present or not. No need to e-mail anyone - we leave a flag on repaired heads or near front door to show we've been there. Customer will also know that because we bill each call on the spot instead of letting them accumulate and making me give up my spare time to wade through service orders and figure out what was done.

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-17-2008, 07:22 AM
I've decided to try 3hr time frames. 3 Appts/day per tech with three hours total time including driving etc. Hopefully will average 2.5hrs billing per 3 hr time frame. I hate missing out on the quick/easy calls but I'm adamant about selling add-ons and upgrades and having the time to do them. try to squeeze loyal customers into the schedule as time allows.

I'd love to move the timers outside but that is so uncommon here. If I ever get back into installs which is highly unlikely all my systems will have the timers outside with yearly service contracts.

AI Inc
06-17-2008, 07:29 AM
I'd love to move the timers outside but that is so uncommon here. If I ever get back into installs which is highly unlikely all my systems will have the timers outside with yearly service contracts.

I started putting them outside about 5 yrs ago. I wished I had 15 yrs ago. When a customer calls with a dead clock we try to convince them to let us put the new one outside.

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 09:38 AM
I hate missing out on the quick/easy calls but I'm adamant about selling add-ons and upgrades and having the time to do them.

Do you take your trucks to the dealership for service? I Rarely do, and it's in part because of how they always try to push me for different services and upgrades.

EagleLandscape
06-17-2008, 02:59 PM
Do you take your trucks to the dealership for service? I Rarely do, and it's in part because of how they always try to push me for different services and upgrades.

No, I don't take my trucks to a dealership. But if there is a way to make money, and give the customers a better product, I will pursue that route.

I used to have the view of only fix what you came there for. ( I obviously don't anymore) But two problems with that.

1) you arent doing your customers any favors by not fixing something that needs attention.
2) you are leaving money on the table.

We aren't talking about installing gold plated controllers, and swapping 10yr valves to 50yr valves. We are talking about updated controllers to save them money/water, installing heads with check valves in low areas to save them money, things of that nature.

We are not selling chrome plated running boards, neon lights that go under a car, or soft fuzzy dice that hang from rear view mirrors...:cool2::cool2: We are selling them irrigation repair products that will save them money on their water bill, and enhance the efficiency of the sprinkler system so they can have a nice lush landscape to enjoy.

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 03:17 PM
I'm not saying I don't try to upgrade, but I absolutely hate it from the dealerships. If I only scheduled 3 jobs a day hoping to upgrade, I would be leaving money on the table by having all these calls go to someone else.

Mike Leary
06-17-2008, 03:34 PM
I started putting them outside about 5 yrs ago. I wished I had 15 yrs ago. When a customer calls with a dead clock we try to convince them to let us put the new one outside.

Ditto with us, the ease of service, not having to move the exercise bike &
all the other crap everyone has in their garage convinced me years ago.
A big plus is no one has to be home to wring their hands while you try to
figure what the hell is wrong.

EagleLandscape
06-17-2008, 03:35 PM
I know Peter's customers will wait for the next available service time. From what I can tell, he's got an extremely loyal customer base. Shoot, he even knows the names of their pets!! That's trust right there!

Mike Leary
06-17-2008, 04:03 PM
I know Peter's customers will wait for the next available service time. From what I can tell, he's got an extremely loyal customer base. Shoot, he even knows the names of their pets!! That's trust right there!

When you have the same phone # for twenty five+ years, you're doing
something right. :clapping:

k911lowe
06-17-2008, 04:05 PM
When you have the same phone # for twenty five+ years, you're doing
something right. :clapping:

thats not a bad idea.

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 04:07 PM
I know Peter's customers will wait for the next available service time. From what I can tell, he's got an extremely loyal customer base. Shoot, he even knows the names of their pets!! That's trust right there!

But, as I've said before, for our cold weather cities, most of us have to build our customer base so we have a lot of blow outs to do in the fall to carry us thru the winter. Everytime I turn someone away, that's another $60-$70 gone in the fall.

I just turned away a broken manifold, preventing the system from running. I know they can't wait two weeks. Sent it to Tom, if you're reading. :)

nemow
06-17-2008, 05:33 PM
When you go to a restaurant that is crowded you put your name on a list and wait til a table clears out and your name is up. I bring this up because irrigation service scheduling may be the toughest kind of scheduling out there. When i handle the calls I can immediately factor in my knowledge of the system, the customers expectation, location, landscape, (I can remember the names of dogs my customers had 20 years ago.) In my head I also have stored all the incomplete jobs we have to leave time gaps open for. i can also predict the troubleshooting problems, type of valve it most likely is, material needed to remind myself or Henry to pick them up a day or two ahead of time. Which customers need a courtesy call and which customers we can use as flex time to make the day work. In other words scheduling is this symphony playing in my head and I'm a maestro putting it all together. Only problem is that it consumes a lot of time and requires me to handle the calls and be in constant contact with customers and service techs. In turning scheduling over to a person who lacks the knowledge of what irrigation service entails all that goes out the window. I'm wondering about no longer giving exact appt times but just putting people on a list and giving them a 1 week out or whatever your backlog is time frame and when there name comes up on the list calling them to schedule. This allows for existing jobs to be completely finished before moving on. Time to sell add ons without worrying about getting to the next job on time. Avoids the gas expense of return trips to finish. Avoids the headache of rescheduling due to weather. Allows for scaling back when it gets hot to protect the health and attitude of the service techs. (It is already hot here for June) Best of all the phone answerer can just explain that we are running a list and are two weeks out when we get close we will call you and schedule. Just to assure the customer they are being treated fairly they can go to a website to see their name moving up the list like when you check the restaurant list.

Thoughts please.
I dont do irrigation but this is exactly how I do my schedules. Fall cleanups mulch hedgetrimming etc.

Waterit
06-17-2008, 06:35 PM
Ditto with us, the ease of service, not having to move the exercise bike &
all the other crap everyone has in their garage convinced me years ago.
A big plus is no one has to be home to wring their hands while you try to
figure what the hell is wrong.

Amen, brother! We prefer if the HO ISN'T home, we can usually get in and out faster!

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-17-2008, 08:36 PM
No, I don't take my trucks to a dealership. But if there is a way to make money, and give the customers a better product, I will pursue that route.

I used to have the view of only fix what you came there for. ( I obviously don't anymore) But two problems with that.

1) you arent doing your customers any favors by not fixing something that needs attention.
2) you are leaving money on the table.

We aren't talking about installing gold plated controllers, and swapping 10yr valves to 50yr valves. We are talking about updated controllers to save them money/water, installing heads with check valves in low areas to save them money, things of that nature.

We are not selling chrome plated running boards, neon lights that go under a car, or soft fuzzy dice that hang from rear view mirrors...:cool2::cool2: We are selling them irrigation repair products that will save them money on their water bill, and enhance the efficiency of the sprinkler system so they can have a nice lush landscape to enjoy.

John has figured out my MO. Upgrades get you referrals. Fixing and running turn you into a commodity. (Yes I know Dana different markets. We work year round.)

EagleLandscape
06-17-2008, 08:55 PM
Ding ding ding, great minds think alike!

I am amazed at how geographic location completely alters methods of operation, and even materials used in irrigation. In some respects, its almost two different trades.

londonrain
06-17-2008, 10:41 PM
This time of the year all I can do, is fix and repair...15-20 calls a day for repairs keeps me at 65-70hrs a week....I save upgrades for the fall and winter....

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 10:43 PM
This time of the year all I can do, is fix and repair...15-20 calls a day for repairs keeps me at 65-70hrs a week....I save upgrades for the fall and winter....

Bingo. Upgrades and add ons are late July thru Sept. Can't do winter here.

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 10:44 PM
John has figured out my MO. Upgrades get you referrals. Fixing and running turn you into a commodity. (Yes I know Dana different markets. We work year round.)

So I'm a commodity now? Hmmm... glad to know I don't advertise and get more work than three guys can handle. Yup, guess I'm a commodity.

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-17-2008, 10:51 PM
So I'm a commodity now? Hmmm... glad to know I don't advertise and get more work than three guys can handle. Yup, guess I'm a commodity.

I qualified my statement Dana. But in following the threads on winterizing it does seem to have a commodity component to it. We don't winterize obviously but I see a lot of irrigators looking for service opportunities here. I'm always amazed when people can get somebody the next day. If you don't have a weeks worth of work per employee this time of year in Dallas you are either sending out anybody you think can fool a customer or you aren't very good.

DanaMac
06-17-2008, 11:43 PM
sorry, just tired, cranky, worn out, beat down, hot. But at least I got a belly full of sushi :) I know you weren't beating me up with the "commodity" thing. just the way we have to do it here.

aric43085
06-17-2008, 11:46 PM
I've decided to try 3hr time frames. 3 Appts/day per tech with three hours total time including driving etc. Hopefully will average 2.5hrs billing per 3 hr time frame. I hate missing out on the quick/easy calls but I'm adamant about selling add-ons and upgrades and having the time to do them. try to squeeze loyal customers into the schedule as time allows.

I'd love to move the timers outside but that is so uncommon here. If I ever get back into installs which is highly unlikely all my systems will have the timers outside with yearly service contracts.
__________________
I have been scheduling that way for years. 8-11, 11-2, 2-5. I tell my wife to never schedule more than three a day. This way I have plenty of time for all my repairs. I don't leave the site till i'm completely done. My normal billable is $800-$1200 every day.

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-18-2008, 12:28 AM
I have been scheduling that way for years. 8-11, 11-2, 2-5. I tell my wife to never schedule more than three a day. This way I have plenty of time for all my repairs. I don't leave the site till i'm completely done. My normal billable is $800-$1200 every day.

How do you work winterizing and turn ons?

ShovelMonkey
06-18-2008, 04:09 AM
I schedule mine first come first serve, I give and aproximate time (thursday between noon and 4) and I narrow down from there. A large percentage of people don't need to be there when I do the job, so it works well. If a customer has an urgent problem, I will give priority but that ccomes with higher rates. If its not really an emergency, then people will usually wait rather that pay higher rates. Of couse, most of my work is repeat customers or referrals from same, so they just get in line. apparently I am worth waiting for! hehehe

FIMCO-MEISTER
06-18-2008, 07:54 AM
Leaving out the winterizing and turn on issue I think this boils down to a different philosophy. Max out the potential of each service call or see as many customers as possible to keep them in your fold. Once again going back to the restaurant theory if the restaurant is too crowded you go to another place to eat but if you really love the food at this place you'll definitely try again. My attitude is that if someone goes somewhere else I don't fight it or go for the threat. I just assume they will see the drop off in the service, knowledge, and attention to detail and will be reminded as to why they liked us in the first place. I have a lot of trouble walking away from issues and putting them off to another day.

aric43085
06-18-2008, 08:41 AM
How do you work winterizing and turn ons?
For turn-ons I schedule 3 per day. For wnterizations I schedule between 6-8 per day. My blow-outs are different. I don't blow and go, I set the controller for 3 minutes per station and walk the system looking for leaks and bad seals on PGP's. I note every detail on my paperwork so I have it for the spring. This is how I also keep 85% of my turn-ons versus the home owner turning their system on.

SprinklerGuy
06-19-2008, 12:32 AM
Dana...I think you are leaving money on the table...and I think you know that...and I think you are okay with it......that being said.

What if you had one guy.....probably you...that went back to the houses you were just at....that needed upgrades...this one guy should be great with people and they should trust him and what he recommends....this one guy would bid and schedule with a two man crew just upgrades and small installs.....

This one guy would keep the other two guys busy all season...wouldn't get in the way....and wouldn't detract from the service guys....



this is how it would work....


Service guy shows up for small repair.....he immediately realizes it is too large in scope and calls this one guy....I will call him "The Closer" or TC for short....

TC comes by later in the day and gives a bid to fix and / or replace.....he keeps in mind the service call that the service tech did NOT collect....he adds that to the estimate of course.....and if they say yes to the estimate they waive the service call if necessary to get the work..of course that is already built in just in case....if they decline the work they know they must give the service call check to TC....we both know that if TC is good, they won't decline the work....and if they do TC gets paid for being there anyway....

I guarantee this will work.....TC's job would be worth about 75k for the season plus bonuses.....and he would make you 40-50k more per year.....also guaranteed.


Just some thoughts...
TC

Wet_Boots
06-19-2008, 01:02 AM
Service guy shows up for small repair.....he immediately realizes it is too large in scope and calls this one guy....I will call him "The Closer" or TC for short....http://img364.imageshack.us/img364/7838/thecloservh2.jpg

DanaMac
06-19-2008, 01:09 AM
Dana...I think you are leaving money on the table...and I think you know that...and I think you are okay with it......that being said.

What if you had one guy.....probably you...that went back to the houses you were just at....that needed upgrades...this one guy should be great with people and they should trust him and what he recommends....this one guy would bid and schedule with a two man crew just upgrades and small installs.....

This one guy would keep the other two guys busy all season...wouldn't get in the way....and wouldn't detract from the service guys....



this is how it would work....


Service guy shows up for small repair.....he immediately realizes it is too large in scope and calls this one guy....I will call him "The Closer" or TC for short....

TC comes by later in the day and gives a bid to fix and / or replace.....he keeps in mind the service call that the service tech did NOT collect....he adds that to the estimate of course.....and if they say yes to the estimate they waive the service call if necessary to get the work..of course that is already built in just in case....if they decline the work they know they must give the service call check to TC....we both know that if TC is good, they won't decline the work....and if they do TC gets paid for being there anyway....

I guarantee this will work.....TC's job would be worth about 75k for the season plus bonuses.....and he would make you 40-50k more per year.....also guaranteed.


Just some thoughts...
TC

You do realize the limited amount of qualified and experienced irrigation guys in this town don't you? This is why two large landscapers have my company as their service department or just give us the customers, because they can not keep anyone fulltime as a service person.

Either way, this isn't something I can deal with mid season. as well as teach my parttime office person. barely have time to breathe right now. Oh and you know how I feel about doing installs.

SprinklerGuy
06-19-2008, 12:38 PM
Was just a thought.....not a critique.

DanaMac
06-19-2008, 03:17 PM
Was just a thought.....not a critique.

Later in the season when I'm slower I want to talk to you about these kind of things anyway. You can be my little consultant.

Without A Drought
06-19-2008, 03:52 PM
I would hope the techs can do this type of thing. or at the very least get a fairly accurate idea of what's needed to get the job done, from which i or the boss can generate an estimate.

with us i reschedule at least 2 calls a day. get it up and running, tell the customer where the revamp/ additional repairs are gonna be, and move on. with our company, if i don't do it this way, we'll slow to a crawl in july and august.

pg

SprinklerGuy
06-19-2008, 06:34 PM
Yeah Yeah.....