How Far is too Far? Planning Your Service Area

Posted by Keith Doherty

Mon, Sep 10, 2012

enterprise mobilityCongratulations! You are in the field service industry! You have a few trucks equipped and ready to head out and make some sales. The phones start ringing and your dispatcher starts sending the trucks to their destinations.

But what if some of those calls are in remote areas? How far is too far when it comes to servicing your customers?

It is important to know your limitations and what your business would be willing to do when it comes to territories and assignments.

The following are some criteria to consider when planning your service areas:

  • How much fuel expense are you willing to absorb? Should you apply a surcharge if the distance exceeds a certain mileage?

  • Rural communities naturally have larger territories. But even with a large area, carefully consider the fuel expense as well as vehicle maintenance and repair costs. Also consider the salary of the technician in transit.

  • Are you losing jobs that are closer in order to serve remote customers? When you add up the “cost to serve” for remote customers, determine if they are still worth the expense. For example, a remote customer that pays an ongoing maintenance fee might be more profitable overall than a local customer that only occasionally uses your business.

  • How many jobs per day should each technician complete? Carefully consider travel time when determining jobs completed goals.

  • Do you have a service guaranteed arrival time? Do customers expect a technician on site within an hour? If so, consider assigning technicians that will remain within that time window.

  • Is traffic a consideration? For metropolitan areas, technicians may need to be assigned smaller territories in order to provide timely services when dealing with traffic issues.

  • Should you open a satellite office, or have mobile operations? In the past, satellite offices have often been a sound solution to expand territories. However there is substantial expense involved to run a satellite office. Consider the option of allowing technicians to become their own mobile office and utilize smart phones, tablets, or laptops to handle work order assignments and office communications.

  • Should the territories overlap? It is important that all of your technicians work as a team to help each other. There could be times when one tech is overwhelmed with work in a particular region, while another is idle. With the right communication tools in place and a spirit of teamwork, they can combine to help each other when needed.

  • When should you say "no"? When a customer calls, it is next to impossible to turn down the work. But if there is not sufficient profit to be made, nobody will win in the end. Instead, consider a partnership with other remote businesses and provide a referral incentive. That way you can benefit when you recommend another operation, and likewise they will benefit when they recommend your company.

When conducting your territory planning session, consider including your technician team as well as your management team on the discussions. Allow inputs so that you can make the most educated decision. Review your territory plan at least once a year, and look at the areas that have provided the most business along with areas that might be a growth opportunity. With the right planning tools in place, your business can make the most out of your territory assignments.

Tags: Enterprise Mobility, Workforce Management Tips, Mobile Workforce Management