Scheduling software can offer huge benefits for companies looking to streamline operations to save time and money. Automated processes that remove guesswork and tedium, more intelligent scheduling, and centralized data banks that ensure you’re not constantly gathering the same information are all available to you through intelligent scheduling software.
Discover more about the potential for efficiency as well as implementation strategies below.
What Is Streamlining?
Streamlining means that you’re aligning various work processes, flows and resources to reduce overwork and rework. Most of the time, streamlining simplifies a process, but the goal is to do so without impacting the quality of your service or product.
For example, an HVAC company might have the following process:
- A potential customer calls and asks about new HVAC installations. The customer service representative takes down all the information and says they’ll get back to the caller with answers.
- The CSR then consults with someone in charge of scheduling jobs. When is there an opening? What brands are available? Who can go out and quote the job?
- Customer service calls the potential client back to provide these answers. But this doesn’t take place in real time, so by the time the potential client agrees to an appointment time or service option, all resources might have been scheduled and it’s off the table.
- This process can result in a lot of back-and-forth, which wastes everyone’s time and can frustrate the client.
Now, imagine this process being handled by effective and efficient scheduling software. The potential client calls; whoever takes the call has access to information about available brands, schedules and when service or quotes might be possible; and the first appointment can be set immediately without any back-and-forth.
The Benefits of Streamlining Operations
- Time savings. Streamlined operations almost always take wasted time out of the workflow. That can reduce labor costs, free up staff to handle more customer-facing tasks and improve overall customer service and morale.
- Money savings. You can save on more than labor expenses with streamlined operations. Well-run processes that are supported by software scheduling automations let you engage in best practices such as Just-in-Time inventory — that means ordering fewer materials and less equipment en masse and instead procuring only those supplies that are a match for your ongoing needs.
- Increased revenue. When you correctly streamline processes, they’re typically better — easier for employees and customers alike. And that can lead to increased customer satisfaction, which in turn can drive up loyalty and sales numbers.
5 Tips for Streamlining Operations with Scheduling Software
So, how do you reap the many benefits of streamlining? One option is to implement intelligent scheduling software. Here are some tips for doing so:
1. Understand Your Current State
Begin by building a complete and thorough understanding of what you’re doing now. Don’t assume that anyone (including you) has the correct big picture. It’s common for organizations and businesses that start to define a current state for workflow and processes to find that people have created their own way of doing things as workarounds to solve inconveniences and problems.
Gather some subject matter experts — namely, the employees who are involved in these processes on a daily basis. Then, sketch out what the workflow currently looks like. You might do this to understand how employees are scheduled for jobs as well as how client jobs are scheduled.
During this first define stage, simply record the process as it exists. Don’t make value judgments about it or talk about what you want to happen. That comes in the next step.
Once you have a complete picture of the current state, double check it with a couple of other employees to ensure that it’s accurate.
2. Create a Desired Future State
Follow the steps below to create a desired future state.
- Start asking questions. What about the current state works? What doesn’t work? What problems come up on a regular basis that could be solved with a new scheduling process? Make notes about all of this, but don’t talk about solutions yet. In this step, you’re simply trying to uncover all the challenges. Pay special attention to challenges that cost time and money — by solving those, you begin to streamline processes.
- Prioritize the challenges. It would be ideal if you could solve every issue in one fell swoop, but that’s usually not practical. Instead, use the 80/20 rule to prioritize the challenges. This dictum states that 80% of the issues are caused by 20% of the root problems. In other words, there are likely a few obstacles causing most of the strife, and if you solve those, you get some big wins.
- Brainstorm solutions for the top problems. Consider how you can use scheduling software to solve some of these problems. During the brainstorm page, no idea is wrong or stupid. Gather them all for consideration.
- Evaluate the solutions. Put all the solutions for a given problem on the table. Rank the solutions from most helpful and realistic to least helpful and realistic. Choose one from the top of each list to implement.
Using all the solutions you chose, document what the desired state of the workflow and scheduling should look like. It should incorporate changes to support each of the solutions. Consider the new workflow and whether it streamlines things or makes them more difficult. If it turns out to be the latter, go back to step three and reconsider solutions and how to implement them.
3. Build Automations into the Process to Support the Desired State
Once you have a workflow concept that’s streamlined, use scheduling software to automate as much of it as you can.
Automation can be critical to streamlining. By automating tedious manual tasks, you reduce both the time your employees have to waste performing these tasks as well as the number of errors that invariably occur with manual entry. Automation also allows you to rely on data to make intelligent scheduling decisions that make the most of employee and material resources without overextending them.
You may not be able to automate every change, and that’s okay. Work on creating processes that flow well and complement each other, whether they’re automated or not.
4. Conduct a Test Run and Get Feedback from Stakeholders
Conduct a trial run of the new workflow. A limited test is best if it’s possible. For example, you might try out the new workflow with only a certain number of clients, only new clients or with a select team.
It’s not always possible to test like this. Whether you can or not, set a date for feedback. Have everyone who has used the new workflow (including employees and vendors) provide feedback so you know if things are working. You might even ask customers about their experiences to ensure the new workflow isn’t causing unplanned customer experience issues.
Make any tweaks necessary based on this feedback. Be sure to limit this to tweaks that seek to correct potential glitches in the automation or workflow — this is not the time to reinvent the wheel.
5. Implement the Scheduling Changes and Analyze Outcomes Periodically
Implement the changes fully if you haven’t already. Then, repeat the feedback step periodically to ensure things continue to work well. Remember that you may need to make changes as you grow or customer needs evolve. In fact, you might want to plan to go through this streamlining process every couple of years.
If you’re ready to streamline operations with help from scheduling software, contact Visual Planning to schedule a demo today.
Manale is a passionate about digital marketing. She joined STILOG I.S.T in 2018.
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