(Want to know more about mobile workforce management? Read our feature report, Mobile Workforce Management: The Brave New World.)
Time truly equaled money for One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating. Until it deployed a mobile workforce management solution, the company was absorbing 15%-20% of all service costs by failing to fulfill its slogan: "Always on time or you don't pay a dime."
One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating knew that a good way to differentiate itself as an air conditioning service provider in the greater Phoenix area was to focus on customer service. Not only are its techs knowledgeable and efficient when it comes to installing and repairing home air conditioning and heating systems, but they also show up when they say the will. One Hour takes this strategy so far that it promises: "Always on time or you don't pay a dime."
In looking for the best way to live up to this promise, One Hour Air realized it needed to improve the way its field technicians were communicating with dispatchers. Previously, techs had to call dispatchers every time they arrived at a job, and then again once a job was completed in order to summarize the work that was just done and get their next assignment. This process not only wasted tech's time, but it also kept dispatchers tied up on the phones with technicians instead of answering calls from customers.
Issues with cell phone service in some of the more far-flung areas of the county also made this system difficult and time consuming for techs, which made it difficult to keep accurate business-related data on things like tracking job completion times.
The business was also expanding and One Hour Air executives knew something had to change in order for it to continue making good on its marketing slogan.
"At first we were just looking for a more convenient and more affordable communication tool between dispatch and technicians," says Jessica Kelly, One Hour Air's Office Manager. "But we also hoped to find a solution that would help keep better track of technicians times."
Along with the inaccurate call-in system, techs filled out paper time cards at the end of each week. Kelly says that there were problems verifying those sheets, and often technicians were unable to accurately recall the in-and-out times of each job.
The first step was replacing the technicians' cell phones and service with Nextel Direct Connect-capable Motorola i355 handsets via Sprint's cellular network, One Hour Air noticed an immediate improvement in communication between techs and dispatchers and a cost savings as well.
Kelly explains, "Before, we were spending so much on cell service. Direct Connect really helped cut down on that cost." Known within One Hour Air as the "walkie-talkie" function, Direct Connect allows techs and dispatchers to instantly connect, without tying up phone lines or waiting on hold. The service was reliable and easy to use right from the start.
One Hour Air then heard about the TeleNav Track application from the Nextel sales rep. "We didn't even look into another solution," says Kelly, "the Nextel rep did a pretty good job explaining how the application worked and we started using it almost right away."
In the beginning, One Hour Air was just using TeleNav Track's messaging application, which allowed dispatchers to send technicians details of their next job in a text message. One Hour Air used this one function for about a year, in part because "just that was such a huge improvement," says Kelly. "We were intimidated by the job function at first."
But after the company began to realize how much more it could do with TeleNav Track, it started looking into deploying more functions.
"It took us being down a dispatcher to really dig into the job function," says Kelly. "At first I started working with a few techs on it, testing the different functions, and in about two weeks we got all the techs practicing. Once we saw how much more we could do, we decided this is the new way we're going to do things. And it's been really great ever since."
With TeleNav's Track application, technicians don't have to start their days in the office jockeying for their first work order. They each receive their first work order on their phones. Techs click a button to accept the job and say they are en route. When they get to a job, they click 'arrived', and when they finish they click 'finish'. Then, they are automatically sent a new job.
"Techs no longer have to page in to say they arrived on site, or call in to ask about where their next job will be," Kelly says. "This just makes things so much easier for the dispatchers and for the technicians. Techs really appreciate being on their own, without having to check in with someone every two minutes."
Other benefits of the solution include step-by-step driving directions, in map form and spoken so techs no longer have to fumble through map books while on the road, which translates to improvements in driver safety and a reduction of the instances of drivers getting lost.
And, because dispatchers can see where techs are now, they can call customers ahead of time and let them know a tech is on his way. "Customers have been really grateful for this added function," says Kelly.
Kelly also values what the company is learning about its business from the applications reporting tool. "We can pull reports and make sure we're routing technicians properly and making efficient use of their time in field," she says. "Making sure the right technicians get to the right calls is really important. Sending the wrong technician with the wrong tools to a job, wastes our time and our customers."
With Direct Connect and TeleNav application, One Hour Air estimates that it's saving an average of more than 500 hours annually.
This brings us to the heart of the matter: time. With its on-time guarantee but no routing system in place, Kelly estimates that the company was previously absorbing between 15% - 20% of servicing costs. Now, techs are on time to more than 99.9% of appointments, allowing the business to grow while keeping its promise of being "always on time."