Optimizing Workforce Scheduling and Management

By  Kassandra Kania — January 12, 2011

While many businesses suffered the ill effects of the recession, APX Alarm experienced an unprecedented growth spurt. The residential security alarm company is currently the fifth largest in the industry and has grown from 20 service technicians to close to 300 over the past four years.

Despite the challenges of managing a ramped-up mobile workforce and scheduling hundreds of thousands of residential installation and repair appointments, APX Alarm never lost sight of the customer. In fact, the company was recognized two years running for call center operation customer excellence by J.D. Power and Associates.

“One thing we’ve always been good at is taking care of our customers,” says Josh Houser, VP,  service and inside sales. “When a customer called in, it took 11.1 hours on average from the time they called to the time of the first open appointment. And the time to complete service was an average of 3.1 days.”


Routing, Dispatching Derailed
Although APX Alarm excelled at scheduling service calls promptly, the company fell short when it came to efficiently routing its 300 field service engineers. “We built a legacy CRM system, and we were doing the best that we could do, but we realized we weren’t good at moving our techs around,” says Houser. “Techs constantly called us saying, ‘I’m driving across town, and I’m passing another tech going to a job right next door to the one I was doing,’” he says. “We realized we had a ton of inefficiencies.”

The company’s scheduling department required 82 full-time employees to schedule customer appointments and manually route service techs. Customers were often transferred two to three times before reaching the right department. According to Houser, working for the scheduling department was arguably one of the most difficult jobs at the company. “You had to be an engineer to work with our software and figure out where techs were going and how to get them there,” he says.

Dispatching technicians also proved cumbersome. Techs received subsidized Internet service in their homes to access static work schedules from their personal computers. “They were printing out those tickets manually and dispatching themselves throughout the day via a printed work order,” explains Houser. Furthermore, work orders had to be manually transferred to a three-part form for each customer. Should a tech have availability to accept same-day appointments, trying to work them into his schedule using the current CRM system was, as Houser puts it, “far-fetched at best.”


Back On Track
As APX Alarm’s customer base increased, so did field service inefficiencies, and executives realized that manual routing was to blame. Armed with this insight, the company began searching for a field service scheduling program to optimize routing and improve the customer experience. With the assistance of value-added reseller and systems integrator Diabsolut, the company chose ClickSoftware’s ClickIMRS (installation, maintenance, and repair services), running on Verizon BlackBerry Tour 9630 smartphones, for scheduling, managing, and routing field service technicians.

Techs now access work schedules in real time via their BlackBerry smartphones. Throughout the day, the software sends out work orders based on a tech’s schedule and location, thereby optimizing routing and improving productivity.  “We’re no longer sending people across town passing each other,” says Houser. “We’re saving a gallon of gas per service call, and our guys are happier because they’re driving less.”

Work orders per pay period have also increased from 22 to 32 on average. A tech might begin his day by logging into the application via his BlackBerry and viewing his work orders for the day. He can then access parts lists and notes for each ticket to ensure that his truck is well stocked. After clocking in via the BlackBerry device, he acknowledges and accepts the work order and drives to the site. Upon arrival, he changes his status to “on site” and performs his job. Techs also have the ability to reschedule customers on site if needed without assistance from the scheduling department.

According to Houser, real-time feedback from techs has been priceless. “We have a much better tool to see what’s going on throughout the day as the techs are making real-time logs,” he says. “In the past, techs would print tickets out and make a manual phone call to close that ticket, so we had to [have] staff for that phone call to come in.”

ClickIMRS has allowed APX Alarm to reduce its scheduling staff from 82 to 39 employees. Houser estimates that without the solution, the company would have to employ about 150 scheduling reps to handle the influx of new business. Additionally, the deployment has resulted in a 60% decrease in inbound call traffic to the scheduling department.


Satisfaction Guaranteed
Although ClickSoftware eased the process of scheduling appointments, customers were still frustrated with waiting at home for a technician to show up. To address this problem, APX implemented ClickSoftware’s ClickContact, integrated with BackFlip Software, to enable ongoing communication with customers via e-mail, text, or voice messaging.

“Prior to automating the system, your appointment setup with a scheduler was the only notification you received until the tech arrived,” says Houser, “so you weren’t able to plan your day around it.” Now, using ClickContact, customers receive automatic notifications and updates 24 hours in advance as well as when the technician is en route so they are no longer tied to the service location. “Customers love it,” notes Houser. “We survey every customer after the call, and they are overwhelmingly satisfied with the experience.”

Like its customers, APX Alarm is overwhelmingly satisfied with the ClickSoftware solution. “Our initial investment was about $750,000,” says Houser. “In less than two months we made that money back by reducing our staffing, taking care of more service calls, and providing our customers with quick contact and a better experience.”

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