With the right software, scheduling can be automated to improve workforce utilisation, increase first-time fix rate, maximise efficiency, and allow businesses to complete more jobs per day, but with much less aggro and stress.
Here, we’ve covered the 8 essential features of any dynamic scheduling software. They include:
But first, let’s define what dynamic scheduling is, exactly:
With a digital tool capable of analysing your job schedules and diaries, dynamic scheduling is all about using software to make time-consuming scheduling decisions a thing of the past.
Software brings together a clever blend of your manually organised schedules and optimises thanks to sophisticated automation.
It takes into account your workforce’s appointments and a variety of additional factors, such as staff availability, location, travel time, skill sets, and more.
Significantly, the software is able to assess all this information much faster than a human can do manually.
• Benefits of Dynamic Scheduling:
Instead of organising appointments themselves, admin staff can use a dynamic scheduling system to pick and choose convenient appointments from suggestions made by the software algorithm.
One particularly big benefit is that this frees them from the worries of making mistakes or crossing wires, which is more common amongst manual scheduling.
Through this process, businesses can improve their overall job management and schedule more jobs, more efficiently.
Importantly, you don’t hand over all responsibility to the software, but instead, staff can use this valuable tool to make scheduling appointments a far more productive and less time-consuming task.
To find the best dynamic scheduling software for your business, you need to consider these 8 features that are essential for any dynamic scheduling software system.
8 essential features for a dynamic scheduling software system:
Let’s dive in:
1. Schedule multiple appointments at once
Mass scheduling (also known as bulk scheduling) should be a core feature for any dynamic scheduling software. Booking multiple jobs in one action is not only the biggest time saver, but it offers the most efficient routing too. If your dynamic scheduling software cannot handle booking multiple appointments in one go, then look elsewhere.
By considering many appointments at once, an automated scheduling system is able to analyse far more possible routes and combinations and therefore find highly efficient schedules for your team.
A few other things to look for in a mass scheduling feature:
Schedule review: Before you commit to booking those 1,000 appointments that the system has just analysed, let a human review it first. Ideally, the dynamic scheduling system will offer a simple review screen with each engineer’s jobs by date and time as well as their driving route displayed on a map. This gives office staff an easy way to quickly verify the schedule before they approve it.
Customisation: Mass scheduling is only as great as the tools that come with it. For example, can you select which engineers or technicians you wish to be included? Or select a timeframe for appointments to be scheduled? If you can’t customise the process with some useful parameters, then it may be difficult to make it work for your business.
Background processing: Bulk scheduling shouldn’t take long for smaller numbers of appointments. However, it’s exponentially slower the more jobs you add, due to the increased number of possible routes. Don’t accept a system that makes you wait while it processes. Dynamic scheduling can (and should) occur as a background task, allowing staff to use the rest of the software whilst the system is at work.
2. Suggest single appointments
Whilst scheduling multiple jobs at once is definitely convenient, it’s not always necessary. After all, may be the most efficient course of action, it’s not required in every situation. Sometimes you simply need to book in just one appointment.
In those instances, you will want to rely on the same automated scheduling system and intelligent algorithms to find the perfect date, time slot, and engineer for the job.
For example, imagine a customer is on the phone trying to arrange an appointment for a service. With a dynamic scheduling system that features appointment suggestions, office staff can input job details and have the system spit out the most efficient options based on current availability.
The scheduler didn’t have to scour the calendar for an empty gap, work out who to send, or try to assess the driving distances from the engineer’s other jobs; dynamic scheduling did it all for them.
You’ll want to make sure your system also offers:
Multiple options: Make sure your dynamic scheduling system can offer multiple appointment options. If the most efficient time slot doesn’t work for your customer, then you can offer the next most efficient. That’s no good either. Offer them the third most efficient appointment.
Still no good? I think you can see where this is going…
Date flexibility: When booking a single appointment, you may already have a particular date in mind—perhaps requested by the customer. A good system should offer the ability to look for the most efficient appointment on that day. An even better system will also give you the flexibility to find an appointment over a time frame e.g. Wednesday 24th plus or minus 2 days.
3. Observe accurate map view and street-level routes
Whether your office team are dynamically scheduling multiple or single appointments, maps make everything better. Automated scheduling can be difficult to comprehend at times—and a list of addresses without visual cues is challenging for any scheduler to digest—that’s why maps are essential.
If you are reviewing a mass schedule of tens of appointments, you should expect to be able to see those on a map so you can visually process that information and the suggested route.
You will also want to consider the routing provided—does the system generate street-level routes or only “as the crow flies”? Street-level routing is vital to ensure that your dynamic scheduling engine offers accurate driving routes based on accurate map data.
Check out an interactive demo to see what street-level routing looks like in a dynamic scheduling system.
4. Shift management for dynamic scheduling
Now that we’ve covered three core features, let’s look at some smaller features that still have a significant impact on the effectiveness of a dynamic scheduling system.
If you’re considering a system that doesn’t offer the following features, you may think: “No big deal, I have the main components required!”
But, don’t be mistaken by just how important supporting features like shifts, skills, and service windows are. Without them you may find your automated scheduling system is almost useless.
First up is shift management.
With a dynamic scheduling system you can quickly schedule efficient appointments.
You may wonder, though, if they’re at suitable times for your engineers? Remember, not every engineer works the same hours, flexibility, or overtime. If the system does treat everyone the same, you’re going to run into problems. These could lead to frustrated engineers, customers, and appointments that keep getting moved.
With the right tool, though, your system will know that Mark doesn’t work Fridays or that Lisa can’t take jobs after 4pm. It will also see each engineer’s particular overtime periods and rates. By giving the automated scheduling system this information it’s able to schedule appointments that work for your team.
5. Skills management for dynamic scheduling
Just as not every engineer has the same shifts, not every engineer has the same skill sets either. Understanding skills is critical for a dynamic scheduling system to send the correct engineer for the task.
This is especially important if your business works across multiple fields or industries with employees specialising in different types of work.
Take for example the fire and security industry. If the business had technicians who specialise in fire safety (fire alarms, sprinklers, etc) and technicians who handle the security side of things (CCTV, alarm systems, etc) this would pose a challenge—they may even have techs who do both.
If a fire and security business wishes to embrace automation and use dynamic scheduling, the system needs to know the difference between fire safety work and security work. That means being able to tell which technicians are qualified for the right type of appointment.
By implementing skills management with an automated scheduling system, businesses can improve their first-time fix rate by always sending the right person for the job.
6. Retain control over appointments
A dynamic scheduling system also benefits from the ability to optimise or move existing appointments. This is great for efficiency, but can result in a negative customer experience if poorly set-up.
After all, no customer wants to be promised a slot, only to get an update telling them that their confirmation has been cancelled. That’s why the correct management tools are so necessary, and it’s important to be wary that the dynamic scheduling system you select is genuinely powerful.
This means keeping an eye out for additional features, such as:
Lockable appointments: The ability to lock a job and inform the system (and your colleagues!) not to move it. This may be required for a time-sensitive job or if you have guaranteed a customer an exact time.
Ideally, you would be able to lock an appointment in multiple ways, such as by date/time and engineer. This ensures the dynamic scheduling system can’t move appointments you don’t want to be moved and mess both your customers and team around.
Service windows: With service windows, businesses can offer their customers broader time frames for an appointment, whilst still setting specific appointment times for your engineers. For example, an engineer may be scheduled to install a fire alarm from 2-3pm, however, the customer was told “late afternoon between 2pm and 6pm”.
This gives your team greater flexibility with their schedule. It also gives you more control when using a dynamic scheduling system. For example, if the automated system recognises that the appointment would require less driving at 5-6pm, the appointment can safely be moved without any update to the customer required.
7. Instant updates and dispatch
If you’ve found a dynamic scheduling system with all of these features so far, you’re doing well! You’ll be able to quickly schedule large amounts of jobs, and find the most efficient route and suitable engineer.
However, do you have a good way of dispatching those jobs to to your engineers or technicians? Being able to schedule 1,000 appointments is no good if you can’t easily deploy the information to your team.
For an automated scheduling system to be worth your time it needs to be fully integrated with your job and workforce management software.
When you do mass schedule those jobs, your techs will receive notifications on their smartphone for them to accept or reject. Technicians and engineers can then access all the relevant job, property, and contact details straight from their job management app.
While we’re on the subject, make sure the engineer app can a variety of other features. These should include parts management, invoicing, on-site photos, customer communications, and more!
8. Automated customer notifications
Your engineers and technicians are not the only ones that need to be communicated with effectively.
Your customers do, too! This is especially important when dealing with multiple appointments being dynamically scheduled (and potentially rescheduled!).
Customers expect to be kept in the loop with their appointment booking—they’ll want to receive confirmation emails, SMS, or even a letter. (Yes, some people still want letters)!
Once you’ve used dynamic scheduling to book an appointment (or a couple hundred), a confirmation should be automatically sent to let the customer know the details.
When considering dynamic scheduling software, it’s worth your time to also review other complimentary tools.
For example, engineer tracking portals, communication templates, personalisation tags, feedback forms, or online booking forms give your customers a better experience and improve the automated scheduling system and experience for your staff, too.
A Dynamic Scheduling Solution, Powered by Commusoft
Commusoft’s dynamic scheduling (we prefer to call it Intelligent Scheduling) hosts all of these features and more. Together, it offers the best automated scheduling system for field service businesses.
Benefit from both suggested individual appointments and mass scheduling, all powered by our route optimisation algorithm and cluster-computing framework.
Commusoft’s dynamic scheduling can offer a level of job planning and routing efficiency that simply isn’t possible by a human. Using our software can help to reduce fuel costs, lower travel time, and improve engineer management.