Everything that goes right and goes wrong can be traced back to how we do this simple but vital first step with the customer.

Having returned home from working with a small company that is primarily one tech and the owner who works in the field part-time, I realized that mastering how to answer the phone and dispatching can be more challenging for them than a big shop who has to answer a lot more calls and dispatch a lot more people throughout the day.

The fact is if you don’t have a locked down repeatable way of doing it right it won’t matter what size company you are because customers will be unhappy and profits will be elusive. Everything that goes right and goes wrong can be traced back to how we do this simple but vital first steps with the customer.

The key thing when answering the phone is to do it in a way that the caller feels:
    1. They reached the right number.
    2. The person they’re talking to is friendly and cares.
    3. That they will be taken care of in a professional manner.
At really small shops, the owner may have to answer the phone himself, and that’s tricky while being out in the field working. So you need to be ready for the phone to ring.

The first step is to have a good hands-free headset or earpiece so you can leave your hands available. Available for what? Available to work when you’re undisturbed and free to write the message down from the caller.

But write on what? The answer is a simple one-page form attached to a clipboard you carry with you, and that form includes:
    1. Name
    2. Address
    3. Home phone (or office phone)
    4. Cell phone
    5. E-mail
    6. Nature of the call
    7. Day and time slot promised
    8. A note to put it on the scheduling calendar
What scheduling calendar? Well, it can be any one of the following:
  • A simple calendar you’ve bought or printed up if you’re out in the field.

  • A wall calendar if you’re in the office.

  • A desk calendar if you’re in the office.

  • A day planner, which works better because you can take it into the field or use when in the office.
Ultimately small shops are going to want to enter information in Outlook first because:
    1. You can capture the data base information and even build some service history.

    2. You will have captured all the contact information in one place.

    3. You will have a calendar and can setup recurring dates and reminders.

    4. And if you’re running three trucks or less this can work without spending too much money.
The next steps for CSR and dispatching as you grow are:

  • If you get busy enough and you have a CSR call taking script and are using Outlook you should be strongly considering hiring and training a part time CSR to answer the phone and free yourself up to do special project work.

  • When the company gets to be three techs or more, it’s time to look for a stand-alone dispatching program and either increasing the part-time CSR to full time or finding another part-time CSR to job share.

  • Typically at five trucks or more, you’re entering a time and place that consideration of an integrated software program with dispatching that will allow more of what I call single-data entry.

    One last thing to remember, no matter how big or small your company, you need to learn how to prioritize calls in dispatching because you have to know how to make the decision each day as to which customers will:
      1. Love you because they got served quickly.
      2. Like you because you eventually showed up the same day.
      3. Not like you so much because you had to reschedule.

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