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Expanding Dispatcher Role Improves Service Quality and Communication

April 14, 2022
Service Unlimited., Inc. evaluated its dispatching methods and made valuable improvements.

The dispatcher role at a commercial mechanical service company is the cornerstone for successful communication, and ultimately, for successful project fulfillment and team efficiency. But don’t be shocked if you find you need to reevaluate the role from time to time.

The management team at Service Unlimited, Inc., New Castle, Del., -- Vice President/General Manager Brian Martinenza, Jr.; Director of Service Operations Rachel Sykes; and Service Coordinator Christine Rizzo -- made just such a reevaluation of SUI's dispatching methods and acted on improvements that helped to improve efficiency in field and office, and improve communication among all parties.

The team gave a presentation on the process they followed during the Unified Group’s 2022 Service Manager’s Forum.

Sykes said four issues needed to be addressed:
1. The role of parts purchaser had been vacant with no immediate sign of its being filled.

2. There were billing questions on job quotes that were not being answered in a timely manner, and overall billing was too far behind

3/4. Communication needed to be improved between dispatchers and technicians and dispatchers and customers. 

“We’re a small company, with 47 employees, 33 of whom are field technicians, so there’s many areas where we are doing cross training.
However, we were still having situations where office employees missed a day or more.  In the field, the biggest impact was more related to customer relationships, personalized attention, seeing things through from beginning to end, faster billing and technician/dispatcher communication,” Sykes explained.

“Our service department has always operated as a full-service group. We don’t have maintenance teams or project teams,” added Brian Martinenza, Jr., vice president and general manager. “Our service technicians are responsible for their customers and the jobs that come through in their geographic area related to their specific skill set. That remains unchanged.”

Service and replacement projects generate vast amounts of information, which Martinenza said required a greater focus on delivery.

“Some information went to a purchaser, some went to billing, and some went to a manager for review. It was easy for things to get lost in the shuffle,” Martinenza said. “We realigned and formed a more comprehensive relationship between field service teams and their specific coordinator. That way, the coordinator was the sole point of contact through all phases, and could manage those calls, from the first customer call to invoicing.”

Dispatchers as Team Leaders

Sykes said each dispatcher is now responsible for a technician “team,” and serves as a type of mini- Service Unlimited within the larger company. The dispatcher has taken on the role of purchaser, and now sources products, produces quotes, purchases parts, schedules the work and invoices quoted jobs.

During a typical day, Service Unlimited dispatchers will:
 - upload technician hours completed through the company’s Jonas software platform - run the schedule for quotes requested by technicians - call or email suppliers for pricing and availability - create quotes through the Jonas system and present quotes to customers - create purchase orders and purchase approved quotes - follow up on parts, receive parts and schedule the work - prepare completed jobs and invoice approvals from supervisor - put out “fires” that can happen at any time.

As a result of the changes:  - the parts purchasing role is now absorbed by dispatchers  - dispatchers know the details of technicians’ jobs  - there is a closer relationship between the customer and dispatcher  - billing is completed within 72 hours.

“The dispatcher is now taking their customer’s call, scheduling the service, scheduling maintenance and invoicing projects. Every question the customer has can be answered by that one person, and the customer knows their first name,” she said.

Engagement & Ownership

Martinenza added that a greater sense of engagement and ownership has helped to heighten people’s performance levels.

“When people feel connected to specific tasks, they feel better. I have found our team has really grasped that, and has been able to convey it to our customers. In our 60th year, we’re living out our core values, we’re providing quality and dependability, seeing things through to completion and limiting the number of things that slip through the cracks. We’ll be going through another cooling season soon and will do what we can to strengthen the process, and are heading in the right direction,” he said.

DISC personality assessments were employed to understand more clearly what motivates employees in certain roles, and to improve alignment of duties with personalities.

“We did some personality surveys in which we tried to identify people according to DISC behavior profile testing, to try to understand more about what gets people motivated, and to improve job alignment,” Martinenza said.

Sykes said tasks are now completed faster, with more people contributing to fulfilling billing tasks.

“Every customer is getting a more personal touch, which is important as we grow. We have been here 60 years and that’s one of our trademarks; we know your name and we’re your partner.”

Said Rizzo, “We’re still getting into the flow of it and getting better and seeing what we can add to improve it. Things are definitely running better, and customer relationships have been greatly improved. I feel more comfortable with the people I talk to every day, and our relationships with our technicians are much better.”

Service Unlimited Inc., was the Contracting Business 2021 Commercial HVAC Contractor of the Year.

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.