Dispatching service technicians to a jobsite to check on a system issue costs time and money. Oftentimes, these truck rolls aren’t even necessary because the technical issues they were dispatched to take care of can usually be resolved remotely. Diverting personnel from money-making jobs to roll trucks is becoming a serious pain point for many security integration companies, and one that’s taking a toll on their efficiencies and their bottom lines.
Operational excellence is vital to a thriving security systems integration company. Reducing truck rolls, managing costs, and improving customer retention with best practices maximizes efficiencies and profit margins. This topic was tackled at a well-attended ESX presentation entitled “Reducing Truck Rolls through Technology and Repeatable Best Practices.” The session was led by industry veterans Rich Campbell, Training and Development Specialist for California-based RFI, and Danny Tolleson, President of Tennessee-based Turner Security.
As the synopsis of their session indicated, “Every time you put a service vehicle on the road, your organization is burning more than just fuel. According to the Technology Service Industry Association, truck rolls cost between $150 – $500, and indirect costs potentially doubling those figures. There’s hourly wages, wear and tear on the vehicle, wrong equipment or tools, insurance and missed revenue opportunities elsewhere, including arriving late on customer sites. What if rolling a truck doesn’t solve the issue?”
These are all key concerns to integration companies, which is why this education session was designed with the following objectives in mind:
- How to improve your installation practices and processes to prevent repeated service calls
- Best practices for routing service calls
- Ways to use data, software, and remote service capabilities to avoid rolling a truck
Campbell and Tolleson know well of which they speak because they each have put new and innovative measures in place to reduce their companies’ truck rolls and, in turn, increased efficiencies. They put the “pedal to the metal” to mitigate the truck roll problem and shared their initiatives in this presentation.
Turner Security, for example, put their Remote Help Desk into operation in January, 2021, and as a result, has since reduced its truck rolls by 30%. The upfront costs of setting up the help desk have proven well worth the investment, given the long-term cost savings. Campbell reports that RFI, which operates in California, Washington and Nevada, also implemented a Customer Support Center which allowed them to bring customer support calls in centrally.
It averages roughly 150 tickets per month across its four branches in these three states. Service managers work in each of their branches to provide fast response, and there is one full time engineer on staff for issues requiring that expertise. Now one out of every three service calls is being addressed and remedied remotely, eliminating the need to send techs out into the field.
Campbell reports that the service managers have a script to follow with questions, akin to a triage intake, to decide if the issue can be fixed remotely or if someone has to go out. For added efficiency, their service application process is directly integrated with their payroll to ensure accurate accounting of employees’ time.
Tolleson points to the resetting of power as a common cause for service. “24% of our trucks were resetting power,” he says. His company has opted to install a NUC, which is a small computer, on all average or above average video and access control jobs. This gives quick and simple remote access. “I can do it with Z-Wave in my systems – I don’t even have to have internet to reset power remotely.” He adds that his company programs its video and access devices before they go out.
“We program ahead of time so the people I hire are only installing and hanging devices. I’m even doing my training remotely now because we need consistent training to stop the truck rolls. A training video goes to the customer when the system is sold. Then we do a webinar training when the tech is finishing the job – I want consistent training for my customers. When a service issue does arise, customers have to call our help tech desk first and rely on our knowledge base, not the manufacturer.”
There are times, Tolleson believes, when a manufacturer’s tech support for a specific product can actually damage the customer service experience. “Having training, documentation and a solid knowledge base inside our own companies enables us to handle issues without relying on the manufacturer,” he says. “Especially now with supply chain issues, the more we can do internally, the better.”
OPERATIONAL TOOLS TO ENHANCE EFFICIENCY
The ESX presentation highlighted several operational tools that help companies reduce truck rolls. A virtual system administrator (VSA) consists of tools that most remote managed services providers use to have remote access to the customer’s system. In the IT world, for example, it enables them to do things like patching and run scripts. Remote programming tools can be installed which allow service techs to access the customer’s system programming and fix an issue remotely. Monitoring center partners can also help customers diagnose what’s going on and diagnose issues via their phones. But don’t underestimate the importance of testing equipment in-house before the installation ever takes place, to ensure it is working correctly and optimally.
RFI has opted to have a front office team and a back office team. The back office job function is centered on account maintenance, adding accounts, and billing, while the front office team helps with service-related issues. As for paperwork, the service manager at each branch does quality control of each ticket before closing it and sending it to accounting for invoicing. The service managers also hold weekly meetings with their teams to see if there are any recurring trends or better ways to solve technical issues. RFI also provides customers with written playbooks on their security programs when they complete the install, so they can refer to that playbook for troubleshooting issues internally before they may need to call for tech support.
There are several other procedures that can be implemented to ease the burden of truck rolls. In the event that is a truck does have to go out for service, GPS can help monitor where techs are and how to best route them to keep fuel expenses to a minimum. In addition, inventory reports will show if the needed parts are actually available and on the truck, or if the customer has them on their premises, so truck dispatches don’t turn out to be a waste of time.
Building reports helps manage customer equipment. This industry tool is used for fire & life safety systems as well as fire inspections and allows customers to maintain their total cost of ownership (TCO). These reports indicate what the customer’s warranty dates are and when the equipment was installed, while also letting the integration company reference the details of each product and the type of service needed.
Password vaults and having an enterprise level password code are also crucial to a solid documentation program and helping customers quickly resolve password issues. Documenting site-specific procedures for each customer is another smart policy. For example, if you’re working with a Data Center customer, they likely need to provide a technician with a form ahead of time allowing them access with a data center escort. Or, in the case of a hospital, procedures granting access and outlining health and safety protocols that may be needed for a specific location, such as the wearing of PPE, should also be followed. Documenting site-specific procedures for each customer ensures that proper protocols are followed the first time so that a “do over” dispatch isn’t needed.
The need to reduce truck rolls and the associated loss of revenue and productivity is becoming acutely clear to security systems integration companies everywhere. The recommendations put forth in the “Reducing Truck Rolls through Technology and Repeatable Best Practices” ESX presentation provide a strong springboard for companies looking to put a working plan in place. There are various ways to set pricing for remote service, and vary by each company’s particular business model. Some opt to implement Service Maintenance Agreements that bake in a specific price each month for the service. Others charge based on times spent, in varying increments of, for instance, 15 minutes or hourly remote support rates. Still others find it most beneficial to outsource their service calls to a Managed Service Provider.
Finding effective ways to reduce truck rolls, as evidenced by RFI and Turner Security’s efforts, can help security integration companies better manage costs, improve customer retention, and maximize efficiencies and profit.