Sitting in a bar many years ago with Frank Blau at a convention (trust me, it was all about the education!), we got to talking about extended-hour service.



Sitting in a bar many years ago with Frank Blau at a convention (trust me, it was all about the education!), we got to talking about extended-hour service.

Frank was sharing with me that 40% of his profitability came from his company’s ability to better handle the after-hour calls than his competition. That was an eye-opener. But it was nothing new to me.

I was born into a family business that actively practiced the 24/7/365 philosophy by manning our own phones and having staff in the field to do just that. That said….Frank is king when it comes to numbers and I never sat back to realize just how right he was…until then.

I teach my clients how to extend their hours of service so that they better serve their customers on their schedule, not at the convenience of the company. It’s the right thing to do. But, it’s also the only smart way to squeeze all the profit you can out of your business. That’s true in any economy but now it’s non-negotiable.

So, if you’re going to get smart and put an Extended Hours Service program into place here’s how I teach my clients to kick in the extended hours’ program the right way: Q: How do you keep track of who’s on and who’s off for a rotating shift layout?

A: Set up an Excel Spreadsheet that has all the Techs we have and then what specific services they can do. Then, plot it out on a monthly calendar just so you get a feel for it.

Q: How many techs do I need on these shifts?

A: The number of techs depends on the following: How much measured call volume you have and when the calls are coming in. Typically, one tech is scheduled and working and there is one on-call tech available. If the demand requires we call them in….then we adjust as these extended hours become known by our existing customers and hopefully new customers. Get good at handling these calls! Then, advertise the heck out of it and make the phone ring off the hook.

The more specialized services you offer, the more on-call techs you will need This is another essential reason for cross-training, which is something you must commit to. It becomes a great WIIFM [what’s in it for me] reason to Techs since you can then stress it as the way to have less on-call, reach a higher salary level, and attain more of a bonus.

The 10 to 7 PM and the Saturday shifts are “Gravy Shifts”. You have no competition because most everyone shuts down at 4 PM or doesn’t work. Plus, most charge extra for Saturday. Frankly, the techs just need to be good and your CSRs and DSRs need to be good at booking these slots and the money will flow for all

Q: Do I schedule calls for Saturday and any call that comes in that day is on-call?

A: The best companies call it 7 AM to 7 PM Saturday “Same as Normal Service” and staff it with rotating shifts or overtime in the most dramatic weather if staffing rotation isn’t possible. You’ll get higher sales with someone who works this shift instead of just being on-call. It also takes a dedicated CSR who fields the call in the office with the intention of booking the call. This applies to Saturday as it applies to having this position in the shop working from 10 AM to 7 PM.

Many of the best shops insist that their managers rotate handling the after-hours calls because they screen the callers and get a credit card over the phone. Plus, they have computer access remotely to make sure they book the call live. They also have FAR more ability to get a Tech out of bed or off the couch and into their truck than an answering service does or even a CSR.

It’s all about the intention to book the call, make the sale and everyone being held accountable to that end.

Q: Where is the cutoff on taking extended hour calls, if any?

A: The techs are scheduled for 10 to 7 PM or Saturday from 7 AM to 7 PM and we don’t stop taking more calls! We book them for their shift and when they tell us they’re winding down the On-Call Tech takes over. If the 10 to 7 PM Tech (which is a rotating shift through the company) and that Tech decides on a 5 degree night to say, “Screw it! I’m going home at 7 PM” this will stick the On-Call Tech. Trust me…they will fix this behavior fast especially if you let them all know you’re aware of it.

Remember

To get the 10-7 PM and Saturday rotational shift up and running:
  1. Being new to this shift, there needs to be better management of the dispatching and call taking areas to ensure there are sufficient calls for the 10-7 Tech and the Saturday Tech.
  2. The Office Manager must make sure the office staff is trained at getting good at booking these calls and that there will be minimal complaints from them once the shift begins.
  3. The Service Manager needs to meet each day when the new shifts kick in with the new 10 to 7 PM Tech and the Saturday Tech to find out how it went the day before so adjustments that are truly needed to maximize this shift are being made
  4. If it is going well [that means these Techs are making good sales], talk to the 10 to 7 PM Tech and the Saturday Tech and get their feedback on how it went and then get them to stand up and “Testify” to the value of the extended hour shifts at the Weekly Tech Sales Meeting.
  5. Actively solicit customer feedback to the extended coverage and absolutely get as many good testimonials as you can. Photos are also a big bonus. This becomes marketing gold.
Get busy converting these calls and put a stop to the dollars you’ve been throwing away!