Owned and Operated #98 - Separating Dispatch and CSR Roles in Your Home Service Business

You Gotta Keep Em Separated.
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John and Jack talk about when and how to separate Dispatch and Call Center Representative roles for your home service business. It's a pretty pivotal moment for home service businesses that seems to happen around two and a half to three million of revenue, where these two fundamental positions become two different positions. They discuss what qualities to look for when hiring people for these roles. John also provides his perspective, describing CSRs as "bucket fillers" and dispatchers as the "organizers of the bucket."

Episode Hosts: 🎤
John Wilson: @WilsonCompanies on Twitter
Jack Carr: @TheHVACJack on Twitter

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John Wilson, CEO of Wilson Companies

Jack Carr, CEO of Rapid HVAC

Owned and Operated Episode #98 Transcript

John Wilson: I'm John Wilson. Welcome to Owned and Operated. Twice a week, we talk about home service businesses, and if you're a home service entrepreneur, then this is going to be the show for you. We talk about our own business in residential plumbing, HVAC, and electric, and we also talk about business models that we just find interesting.

Let's get into it.

Hey, this episode is sponsored by Service Scalers. So Service Scalers is actually a brand that I've used personally with our companies for a little bit over a year now. They've helped us manage our digital advertising. Frankly, they did a lot better than our last agency. Leads went through the roof and cost per click went way down.

Check out Service Scalers if you're a plumbing, HVAC, or electrical home service company. That's what they knock out of the park and they did a great job for me.

Today on Owned and Operated, Jack and I talk about separating the dispatch and CSR roles. It's a pretty pivotal moment for home service businesses that seems to happen around two and a half to three million of revenue, where these two fundamental positions become two different positions.

John Wilson: Welcome back to Owned and Operated. What's up Jack, how was your week?

Jack Carr: Hey, John. Honestly, some of the things that we've talked on the podcast about really diving into outbounding and focusing on filling the schedule and being active in controlling our own destiny and filling up our own board saved our ass this week.

John Wilson: Yeah.

Jack Carr: Like, going into the end of last week, we ran like one call each day, like Thursday, Friday, and then moving into this week, just, we packed the board.

We packed the board, made about 600 calls this week.

John Wilson: Yeah, that's awesome. We struggled this week a little bit more than usual. And it turns out that Google, like the map pack, had outages in different parts of the country. I think it was Tuesday and Wednesday. We're like, extra push for us, in order to get it. But, we were able to keep things moving.

We were able to be flexible. Did a lot of outbounds. We set a record for a number of outbounds in a week. And then we launched a few other things too. We actually talked about it in the newsletter. Like basically all the different things that we did last week. We dropped door hangers. We actually drove a few hot water tank installs from door hangers.

Which was awesome.

Jack Carr: Oh, I love that

John Wilson: It was good. Weird week last week, but yeah, we're solely responsible for keeping our guys busy. We take it seriously.

Jack Carr: Yeah. I mean, that's the only way to do it. It's the only path I see forward now. And once you realize that it's very hard to go back.

John Wilson: Yeah.

Jack Carr: I just feel like there's so much stress that sits on you with the whole passive way. So any who that's awesome. I'm glad it's working for both of us.

John Wilson: I can't believe that we used to do it any other way. Like, that's the craziest

Jack Carr: That's what I'm saying.

John Wilson: You know, last year, we were still being passive about the schedule. And it's like, holy smokes, like, we were too big to be passive. And like, a year ago, but we were still being passive.

We didn't, like, take control of it, but no, it's been good.

Jack Carr: Sweet, man. What do we have today for the viewers or listeners?

John Wilson: Listeners and viewers we were gonna talk about splitting CSR from Dispatch. Yeah, it's a big one

Jack Carr: That's exciting.

John Wilson: People ask about this one a lot.

Most businesses, like if I was gonna go buy a company, tomorrow, it was under 2 or 3 million dollars of revenue, what I would expect to see is a few people picking up the phone and scheduling live onto the board. And that gets you somewhere a lot of small businesses do that, but at a certain point, and I think it's around 3 million, if I'm remembering right.

Earlier, if you can, you split the CSR and dispatch role. And a lot of people, that confuses them, because when they're smaller, it's like, how is that two different jobs?

And it really is. So like, the way to think about this, is the CSR fills the bucket, and the dispatcher empties the bucket as profitably as possible. So those are two different jobs, right? The CSR's job is to fill the bucket, through inbound or outbound. The dispatcher's job is to basically put the right tech on the right job for whatever that opportunity is.

And those are two different skill sets. It took us a while when we originally transitioned to like get through what that meant. 'cause a lot of that you know, if the CSRs are used to live booking onto the schedule, it's a real adjustment because they're used to, okay, I'm just gonna open up the dispatch board.

Whatever, and okay, I've got tomorrow at 2 p. m. available for Jimmy, so Jimmy's gonna be the one that comes out. Well, You can't do that anymore if it's a dispatched system. So really, it's like, okay, yes, we can serve you on Thursday in this time window, or however it is that you book. And oh, who am I gonna get?

I don't know. Unless somebody specifically requests a tech. And then the dispatcher's job is to make sure that the right person goes on that job.

Jack Carr: And so walk us through what that work, like a workflow of that looks like, right? Because I think that's the hard thing to conceptualize is like, my mind is trying to figure out like on service titan, what does the CSR telling the person? Are they giving them the time slot? Are they just saying, hey, we'll get to you between like 12 and four or hey, we're going to actually ship you over to this other person that you're going to talk to.

And they are going to dispatch you. Like, what does that look like?

John Wilson: Yeah, sure. Okay so, there's an inbound request. That could be a phone call, a text message, an email, whatever, or it's an outbound. That lead gets handled by the CSR. So the CSR picks up the phone, and they say, Hey, thanks for calling Wilson, how can I make you smile? And then they start going through the process.

It's good. That's the real script. And frankly, I love it. So they pick it up and they get the details. They go through the questions and they use something. Now this is service Titan specific, but you don't need to do this. We use something called capacity planning, which is something inside service Titan.

But basically you look at the schedule or you look at capacity planning and say, okay, I have an opening on Thursday or I have a few openings on. Thursday. Whatever or today. And then you book it, you go through the payment terms, whatever, and then, that's it. So you're not really talking, the way we book, we don't give time slots anymore, it's just the day.

But if it was, you'd give them a time slot. And then, that's the end of the CSR's responsibility is like book the call. Don't promise times don't promise tech book the call so after the calls booked it goes to the dispatcher So every morning the dispatcher comes in and they basically organize the board. They can organize the board based on like route like what's the most efficient way to get someone from A to B?

They're home to the job or whatever that's going to look like. Or the technician's skills. Like, hey, this guy has to do the well pumps, and this guy has to do this boiler call, because he's the only one that has those skills. But that's the dispatcher's job to know the technicians, know their strengths and know their weaknesses.

They pick it up right after that call taker books it, and then they basically run it through the duration of the call. If the CSR is pre-booking, the dispatcher is during booking that's who they're going to be working with to say, Hey, I sold this job and I need to stay here for a little while longer, or it needs to go over to install or something like that.

The dispatcher helps through that process. So it's just which part of the call are they managing? Are they managing the booking or are they managing the call itself?

Jack Carr: And so I think that's a big step, in the change for that CSR dispatcher position, because it creates a secondary step that a lot of things can actually go wrong. And so you're saying that one of the big things you do is you actually don't give them a time slot. You just say, Hey, it's on Thursday.

And then Thursday rolls around and the dispatcher calls them in the morning and says, Hey, I have you on a four to 6 p. m. slot. Is that what that looks like?

Or they don't even give them a slot. They just say, Hey, we got you at the end of the day today

John Wilson: Yeah, we don't give slots anymore. Now that said, we used to give slots, and it was like 8 to 12, 12 to 4. So those were our slots. So it's the same thing. So somebody calls in, and, Hey, we're gonna book you, would you prefer morning or afternoon?

We'll call ahead when we're on our way. And then the dispatcher's actually the one that calls ahead.

Jack Carr: Do you find that people like that more did you run into some issues with long wait times? Cause I feel like when we give time slots, you know, inevitably if you give a 12 to two, when you're showing up at 1:15, 1:30, the people, when they heard 12 to two, think you're going to be there at 12.

Do you have that same kind of issue when you do a four hour window or

John Wilson: That's why we don't give slots anymore.

We're now never late. So it used to be like a frequent conversation about like, Hey, the, tech said 12 or 8 to 12 and it's like 1215 and they're up next or whatever. So now we're just never late. Hey, do you need a 30 minute or an hour phone call before we're on our way?

Great. Just go about your day as usual. We'll call you when we're an hour out.

Now we're never late. So that complaint has gone away.

Jack Carr: Yeah, right? That's an interesting big step. I know Rich Jordan does that too. He was talking about that last year and he said same thing worked really well for him. Interesting moving forward. I think that you need a full time dispatcher to really make that work but once you have that CSR dispatcher split, that's a really good followup. If they have what, six, eight texts, they can definitely handle that.

John Wilson: Yeah, and I think look, the dispatcher is the daily driver of revenue. It's a ridiculously important position. Like, they're the ones that control the routing and they control who goes to what call. So, Hey that no hot water came in. So, you know, we used to have dispatchers that we weren't as good at training, so a no hot water would come in and somebody would schedule it for tomorrow, or the next day, just like depending on, okay, well we have an opening.

Dispatchers, when you have a priority matrix of like, this call is more important than this call So, no hot water, no heat, no cooling, no power. That's gonna be a lot more important than a drippy faucet, no damage. So, you know, one's a P1, one's a P4. The dispatcher's the one that basically runs that process.

Hey, this is a higher priority call. The average ticket is likely higher, the opportunity's higher, or there's property damage and we need to get out there as fast as possible. So I'm going to rearrange the schedule live. They're just sort of like these puzzle masters every day trying to make sure the right guy is there that we pull up the most urgent or highest opportunity calls. You know they orchestrate your revenue for the day whereas call takers, you know, don't really do that.

Their job is just to fill the schedule and then let the dispatcher have something to work with. So they work together very closely because the dispatcher can't do their job effectively with an empty schedule. Just like the call taker, you know, the call taker's gotta fill that bucket in order for dispatch to empty it.

Jack Carr: Yeah, that's really interesting. And then with that dispatcher position, so you have now they're split, they're the puzzle master moving around everything so that you have the most opportunity, the most money potential everything's moving into place. When they set them they're on the job.

There's no follow up really like there's no continual work that needs to be done. Are they done there or are they actually going into the job the ticket and following up with the text on? Hey, I noticed you didn't do this or I noticed you did do this or is that a different position completely?

That's our service manager that does that. So the dispatcher is Routing, right tech, right job, but like opportunities and that type of thing, that's on the service manager to handle.

So if they're going through and they're missing a step like for pictures, they're not uploading pictures or taking pictures, then that's service manager. Perfect. And then with that If, when they flip leads or if there's continued works or they put things on hold, dispatcher's handling it, throwing it back in that bucket?

Jack Carr: Or are they rescheduling it out and then calling that customer or is now that back in the bucket and the CSR is calling that customer to reschedule?

John Wilson: That's gonna be dispatch. Call takers are basically just that initial point of contact, either the inbound or the, outbound. They're the, yeah, they're the bucket fillers. The moment that call is on the schedule, or in the bucket, Dispatch owns it, so it stays in there.

Jack Carr: Do your techs order their own parts or are they sending out the dispatch and dispatch will order parts for them?

John Wilson: They order through Dispatch

Jack Carr: Yeah, I mean if, this is kind of a hard question 'cause I know you have your own VMI, so it's a little different for a $4 million company and a 15

John Wilson: Yep. but

Jack Carr: When you have your own warehouse, with your own Ferguson sitting inside. Does it change everything? The answer is yes, it does

John Wilson: It changes a little bit. But yeah, like we have a purchasing workflow set up through Slack. So we have a ton of Slack automation.

So purchasing is one of them. Like, hey, I need parts. So either the tech will do it or dispatch will help facilitate that ordering to our purchasing department. But I know plenty of companies that are smaller that don't have a purchasing department. That their dispatch or install coordinator is the ones that that book that call.

Jack Carr: Yeah.

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John Wilson: I think the next one to talk about, I just brought it up, but it's like a piece of the puzzle, is the install coordinator and like how to think about that position. The install coordinator seems like happens around 5 to 6 million. And their job is what it sounds like. 80 percent of our revenue is installs.

So there's a lot going on there. Like the scheduling, the down payments, like the sales process.

Jack Carr: So when you say installs though let's pinpoint exactly what you mean. Are those big ticket items or are they like medium sized repairs? So is the install coordinator handling an evaporator coil swap or are they only controlling the full unit swap out?

John Wilson: Yeah probably depends on the business. Like if it's a service job that would usually fall inside the dispatcher so you'd have to decide if a coil swap is service or not. Basically what team is that going to fall in? Is that going to go to your install guys or your service guys? If it goes over to install, install coordinators are basically the dispatchers of install.

Instead of like more same day stuff, there's a lot of up front stuff. So like dispatchers are like, wrestling the day and trying to make sure we eek out every opportunity. Install coordinators are trying to set the job up for success. Did we order the stuff on time? Is it going to be here on time?

Did we pull our permits? Did we get our down payment? Did we communicate with the customer? Did we set good expectations? So they're the install dispatcher. And when the business gets larger you eventually need that. We pulled about 8, 500 permits last year. Like, that's a lot of freaking permits, right?

So someone has to manage, or multiple someone's, have to manage that process to make sure it all happens.

Jack Carr: Yeah. In addition, managing those installs. I think you realize well, anybody listening realizes that when season gets busy in the middle of summer, we all want one of those.

John Wilson: Yeah.

Jack Carr: It is such a nightmare to try and manage 10, 12, 15 jobs a week. And it's just a nightmare for dispatch to try to handle that and daily service.

So it ends up falling on your sales person, which is not ideal, right? Cause they're supposed to be selling, not worrying. about, Hey, we forgot a pan on this install, like such a low use of their function, right? If they could, instead of running around, go sell another unit or go make a call and follow up. That's much, much more valuable.

John Wilson: Yeah, 100%. Yeah, as the business gets larger, those are the sort of the three key roles inside, like, day to day schedule. Call takers fill the bucket, dispatchers organize the bucket, and when you create a sale, it flips over to install coordinator to manage that.

Jack Carr: In terms of digging in just a teeny bit more on dispatcher versus CSR. What are you looking for when you're hiring those two different positions? Cause like I said, in the beginning, you have Bertha who does it all. And then you split that apart. Ideally you want somebody who's an expert at one thing and an expert at the other thing.

What's the CSR and what's the dispatcher.

John Wilson: So, CSRs, with every position, we're looking for some mental horsepower, right? Like, you've gotta be able to ask questions, you have to be able to think critically move on your feet. It's a little bit more needed inside dispatch. Like, you have a lot going on. At any given time one of our dispatchers might be managing, 35 to 40 jobs that day.

Cause that's just the service team, right? So all their service calls that they're running. That's a lot to manage.

Jack Carr: So that's about five people. They're managing five people, full capacity.

John Wilson: So our techs run 4 calls a day, so that's 10 people.

Jack Carr: Okay. 10 people, full capacity per dispatcher. And what kind of personality traits are you looking for? I would assume I guess I was leading the question for is like, CSR is going to be very friendly. It's going to be good on the phone is really personal, right? They're not a salesperson, but somewhat, they have a lot of the same qualities and then a dispatcher is more operationally minded, right?

That's what the framework you want them to follow is, Hey, I'm moving puzzle pieces around

John Wilson: Yeah. I think the best way to think about a dispatcher is like, are they like a data analyst? Cause that's basically what it is. You need to know, like, hey, what's this guy's closing rate on this job type? Because this job type just came in and I need to make sure I set the best guy up for success here.

And hey, this guy, on one out of ten times, he successfully performs this job. Or he has a high callback percentage on this job. Like, they have to know that, they have to be ready to go and juggle the schedule accordingly. So there's a lot of moving parts on that dispatch role. So a data analyst really is like the best way to think about that position. What we get a lot of, and we have a few of them now, and they do a great job. But what you have to be careful of is somebody that's very route based. That's what we find folks really struggle with when they make the transition. So like, hey, I came from a trucking company. We actually have one now who came from a trucking company, but she's doing a great job.

But if you're too, like, route based, like FedEx or something like that, you're maximizing number of stops, which isn't our business, like our business isn't maximized number of stops, we're gonna run four stops. It's maximizing the opportunity per stop. And that seems to be a different person that gets that. And then, yeah, call taker are we nice,

Jack Carr: mean, It's important. Are you nice and can you talk people off a ledge?

John Wilson: Yeah, and can you just book the call? You'd be surprised how complicated that gets. Just like, just book the call. I think they made me valentines and that was one of them. It's me just like going like this. And it's just like book the call,

Jack Carr: Book the call.

John Wilson: Book the call.

Jack Carr: I love it.

John Wilson: But yeah, those are the three big positions inside call center. Obviously there's a lot more going on as you add an outbounding team or inside sales team or whatever, but those are the three fundamental ones. Under, five, six million.

Jack Carr: Great, man. That answers a lot of questions for me. We're going through this right now, so I'm real excited. I'm happy to report on what happens after we split it. I'm interested myself. I hope we don't drop the ball here, but we're trying to get it implemented before summer. So that's our big goal.

John Wilson: Yeah, dude. You got it.

All right. Thanks for tuning in to owned and operated. Make sure you leave us a five star review. Leave us a great comment about how much you love us and we look forward to having you back.

Thanks for tuning in to Owned and Operated, the podcast for home service entrepreneurs. If you enjoyed today's episode, please hit the like button and subscribe to the podcast. If you have any questions or topics you'd like us to cover, feel free to reach out. You can find me on Twitter at at Wilson companies.

I'll see you next time.

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