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Shawna MesherJun 12, 2024 12:06:17 PM26 min read

Maximize Efficiency During Peak Season

Maximize Efficiency During Peak Season

Conquer your peak season challenges with ease.
Learn from industry experts the key strategies to streamline:

  • Invoicing & payments
  • Service scheduling
  • Recurring orders
  • Customer communication

Learn how to equip your business with the tools to make this your best peak season yet.

Watch last months webinar to find out The #1 Best Way To Reduce Processing Fees!

Want more LOU? Join one of our upcoming webinars or request a demo.

Video Transcript

Shawna: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's webinar. We are talking about how to maximize efficiency during this peak season. My name is Shawna Mesher, and this is Steve Ruscigno. Thanks for joining us today.
We are going to be discussing the world of technicians and scheduling, and efficiencies overall throughout your business this peak season. Steve, you are now the Chief Revenue Officer at Evosus, but prior to this, you spent over 20 years in the pool and hot tub industry. I know you have a lot of opinions about this topic, so I'm excited to chat with you today.

Steve: Awesome.

Shawna: I have a question to start for you. In the pool and hot tub industry, if you were to pick three things that you really wanted to focus on minimizing or eliminating, what would those three things be during peak season?

Steve: Great question. Obviously, not just during peak season, but throughout the year, we always try to focus on these three things. They are the profit killers of any service department. These three things are shop time, drive time, and overtime.
In the peak season particularly, you have a lot of jobs and long working hours, and overtime can really creep up, especially if you don't have high-margin revenue tied to that overtime. So, we kept an eye on that. Shop time is a big one. We all know that technicians come in the morning, get their coffee, chat at the water cooler, talk with folks in the showroom or warehouse, and then leisurely gather their items and get in their van to take off for their first job.
One thing we did that really changed things was having them prep for the next day in the afternoon before. When they come back at the end of the day, they get their stuff ready for the next day. What we found is they don't linger around, they don't chitchat; they want to get their items in order for the next day and go home.

Shawna: Totally.

Steve: So, we found that really helped cut down our shop time in a big way. Certain tools we used in our software obviously helped with drive time, and then scheduling for overtime, which I think we'll get into a little bit later. Those were the three big things: shop time, drive time, and overtime. By focusing on those, we really won in a lot of ways. Additionally, completing jobs as much as we can the first time out was crucial, and I know we'll get into that more as well. Those were the big three, though.

Shawna: I think that's awesome. I think that’s such a small, simple shift. When we're talking about shop time in general, a lot of people are like, "I don't know how to streamline that," or "I don't know how to minimize shop time." They have to come in, they have to get their parts, there are things that they have to do in the office. But that small shift in just the behavior of your staff, and understanding what motivates them and what doesn’t, is key.

Steve: They want to go home.

Shawna: Heck yeah! They're like, "I'm late, I have to get dinner, I'm sweaty, it's hot, I'm done, and I want to get home." So, they're more motivated—any of us would be more motivated—to get things done quickly.

Steve: It's like they're not as motivated to get to that first job, right? So, it's just a simple change like you said.

Shawna: Yeah, and you don't realize in the morning how quickly time can get away from you. We've all been there where we linger a bit too long on something that maybe we should have finished faster, and then you realize at the end of the day, "Oh shoot, I could have gotten those tasks done way faster and I would have been out of here by now." So, it's really about protecting your technicians, the company, and the clients.

Steve: They don't want to be out there working long hours in the heat. So, it's absolutely for their benefit as well.

Shawna: Yeah, that's really smart. We will talk a lot about how everything we discuss today will filter into one of those three categories: minimizing shop time, minimizing drive time, and minimizing overtime. Those are the goals here. And like you said, making sure that when you get out to a job, you can finish the job. I don't know if you made it up, but you coined the term "one and done," right?

Steve: Yeah, I stole it, but...

Shawna: The best ideas are stolen ideas, let's just make that very clear. With "one and dones," can you walk us through how you motivated your team to communicate with each other? Because in my mind, "one and dones" are a product of everybody communicating, everybody being aligned, and everybody working together as a team. In your company, the technicians weren't the ones taking the phone calls and scheduling themselves, as I'm sure is the case for most of the audience's businesses. So, can you walk us through how you motivated people to communicate with one another and get those technicians out "one and done"?

Steve: Yeah, it's a great question. Just putting out a plan and expecting folks to execute it at a high level doesn't work. So, we really incentivized them. We had a program for our entire service department that was incentivized on non-warranty revenue. They got a small piece of that, which encouraged them to suggest things when a customer called in. For example, asking about their chemicals or filters—relevant items across the industries we serve, whether it's the hearth industry, the pool industry, or the hot tub industry. We made sure that was relevant.
The other thing was ensuring we had all the necessary parts on the vehicle when they went out to do the job. So, to your point, when the customer calls in, the person answering the phone has to be incentivized to ask the right questions to set the technician up for success. We had a bonus pool for the non-warranty revenue part of it, and we also put a spiff on the "one and done" concept. Both parties were incentivized. The more "one and done" jobs we achieved, we would spiff the people involved in that call. It really motivated them, kept it top of mind, and significantly improved our performance.
We emphasized taking a few extra minutes before leaving the warehouse to ensure we had all the products. If you forget one item and have to go back, you're dealing with shop time, drive time, and overtime—all of which negatively impact the bottom line. So, focusing on "one and done" was crucial for us.

Shawna: Yeah, and that's such a simple thing, right? Just making sure you have the right products on your vehicle—parts, supplies, everything you need to get the job done. It sounds like a simple concept, and it is, but it takes a few steps to ensure you have the right things. That's what we're going to walk through today: how software can help you make sure you have all the right items on your vehicle.
So, I'd love to walk through how LOU has a lot of these capabilities. First, we'll walk through something called a pick list. Essentially, it's just a list of items you need to complete the job. We're going to walk through that in LOU now and talk quickly about pick lists.
This is what an order looks like. We have a makeshift order here, and we're going to scroll down to the bottom where we've got some SKUs. Let's pretend this is a hot tub company, and we're pulling SKUs for an Aria Spa that needs to go out. We're going to create a pick list off of this.
Perfect, we go to pick list, and it says we need 11 SKUs to pull out of our Beaverton showroom. We'll say yes, we want to start. The pick list takes a minute to load. Perfect, that’s how you create the pick list.
Now, we need to go to the warehouse tile. The pick list has been created, so the person pulling the parts—typically someone in the warehouse—will go in there and look at pick lists.
Perfect. We're going to look at this first pick list here. This is just an example. In a normal world, you would probably print this. If you're fully digital, you could do it digitally if you wanted to. We're going to click print today. This is an example where you see on the right-hand side it says "filled." Now, Steve, I know you have a strong opinion about how people should check parts out and take them out of the warehouse. What is your tangible tip for that?

Steve: Well, we were big on this. It’s a manual process that then transcribed into the software, but it was a double-check system. It was as simple as taking that box on the right side, and the person pulling the items off the shelf would simply put a hash mark through that box. At the bottom of the sheet, they would put their initials. Then someone would double-check that part—a different person would then make that an X, meaning that it's been fully filled, and put their initials. You end up with an X and two sets of initials. It’s really more about the psychology of doing that step, and having the discipline to make sure it's happening. Taking that extra few minutes saves you hours if you’ve got the wrong part. I have nightmare stories of taking the wrong color hot tub 45 miles away from the warehouse, getting out there, unwrapping it, and realizing it's the wrong color. Talk about money and time wasted.

Shawna: Imagine driving from the valley to the coast—a two-and-a-half-hour drive—and you only go out there once every two weeks, and you got the wrong cover. Something so simple that just derails the whole job.

Steve: Yeah, exactly. It just makes a bad customer experience.

Shawna: Yeah, talk about being super inefficient. This is a great way to ensure you avoid those errors. You created the double-check system because of many errors along the way.

Steve: Everything we did, we learned the wrong way first.

Shawna: Yeah, so really simple on this. You just print it out—you can physically print it or do it virtually. Physically printing is ideal for this double-check system. There’s something good about having a tangible piece of paper, doing that one hash mark through each item, and then having a second person, a warehouse manager or service manager, come behind and double-check. They turn that hash into an X, and then the technician is good to go. So now we know that the technician has what they need on their van, but how do we know that we have what we need in the warehouse? That’s often a big problem.

Steve: Great question.

Shawna: In LOU, there's something called reorder alerts. Reorder alerts are fantastic for setting yourself up for success in the long run. A lot of the things we're talking about today, Steve, require a bit more time on the front end but save you time on the back end.

Steve: Absolutely.

Shawna: I know that's sometimes hard, especially during peak season when you're busy, but you have to start with the end in mind. Know that doing a little bit more work on the front end will make the process smoother, improve customer experience, and be better overall. Reorder alerts are really helpful. We'll show you a chlorine SKU, for instance, and what reorder alerts look like. You just go into the SKU profile, scroll down, and go to reorder alerts—a little green bell tile. This is an example of a reorder alert.
Reorder alerts are by SKU. As a company, you know when and how much of a product you need. If you don't, you can always pull reporting out of LOU to tell you what you're selling, how often you're selling it, and how much you're selling, then create reorder alerts from that. My hot tip for reorder alerts is to revisit them at least every year, but ideally every six months. Check if the product you’ve been selling a lot of is still popular. Did people switch from buying the two-pound to the five-pound? Did our sales approach shift? Do people want different things?

Steve: With all these different systems coming out as technology improves in these industries, water care can change. You don't want to end up with a bunch of stuff that's becoming outdated, so reorder alerts help you keep an eye on that.

Shawna: Totally. As a company, we shifted at one point. We thought, why don't we push the five-pound instead of the two-pound? We put the five-pound on the shelf and made the two-pound optional, requiring customers to ask for it. We didn't sell as much of it, so we had to shift. Reorder alerts are basically a min-max system—a minimum quantity and a maximum quantity. When you reach the minimum quantity, it sends an alert that tells you to order up to the maximum quantity. It’s really cool and can be set by month. If you have a seasonal product, you can ensure you only have it during the selling season and uncheck the box for the months you don't need it.
Reorder alerts are helpful. If you have your vehicle set up as stock sites, you can have reorder alerts for your vehicles. My suggestion, and I think you would agree, is to keep case quantities on your vehicles.

Steve: Oh for sure.

Shawna: No onesie twosies, right?

Steve: Yeah, we didn't. Our technicians rolled with only the big sizes. If they wanted a smaller portion, they could drive into the showroom or get it on our e-store. But yeah, we wanted case quantities in the vans and then created reorder alerts for the van to your point so they always made sure they had it on there.

Shawna: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you have just a couple bottles of chlorine or a couple bottles of shock, it's not conducive, and then those techs are refilling their vans often. So case quantities are best practice, just making sure you have the bulk of the items that you sell a lot of. That's awesome. So now we know for efficiency's sake that we have reorder alerts, and we know that we have what we need in the warehouse and in the vans. It's all kind of automated in that way.
My next question is how do we streamline communication from the call staff or the people answering the phone to the technician? There's got to be a tool for that. There has to be a series of questions. I know you can do this either on paper or more efficiently within LOU within the software, but this was a non-negotiable for you. Can you walk us through the questions and your theory behind questions that somebody answering the phone should ask and maybe shouldn't ask and what your thought process is on that?

Steve: Yeah, for sure. This kind of came about because we were running into challenges when people would call in. Sometimes we'd over-troubleshoot things. Even someone answering the phone would grab a technician walking by, and it became this telephone game. The technician was giving troubleshooting advice to the person on the phone, who was then translating it to the customer. It just became a mess. So we started what we call interview questions. When they call in, there are certain questions we want to ask the customer to know whether or not we want to dispatch a technician. We've gone out there for a hot tub, for example, and flipped on a breaker. They don't want to pay the call-out charge for just coming out to flip a breaker, rinse a filter, or turn on a pump or a filter in a pool. So we'd ask these questions on the phone, and the nice thing about the software is when you ask the questions and put in the answers, the technician now has access to that in the field. So he or she is already walking in with more information. It just makes that communication smoother, makes us look more professional, and shows the customer that we're all on the same page. It's really great, especially when you hire new people for service calls. It's a great guide for them to ensure they ask these questions every time someone calls.

Shawna: Yeah, what I love about interview questions is that people need to follow the script. You can't have people going rogue. It really forces people to stick within the parameters because, in my experience, sometimes we think we are more technical than we are. We've all made that mistake a time or two. Then the customer on the phone starts pushing you and asking questions that are outside of your wheelhouse. But because you put on a face and went off script, they think you should know more than you do because they are misrepresenting who you are for the company. You aren't the technician; your skill set is different. The interview questions help people stay within the means of their job. It helps them be more efficient and get on to the next customer and answer that next phone call. Just answer those questions.
In LOU, we'll show you an example: a customer calls in and says, "My hot tub's not heating." Let's look at what that interview question looks like. This is an interview we've created in a test database. They can be whatever you want them to be. You have some options here, which I find really awesome. The first question is, "What's the make and model of your hot tub?" You can free type in the answer. Maybe it's an Aria. From there, you have yes or no or don't know. You can check boxes if you prefer that method. There are even ways where you can just have a yes or no checkbox. You have options on how you want to display the interview, whether you want buttons to force them to select certain answers or if you want to free type in answers. It's really customizable, which I think is awesome because no two businesses are the same, and no two series of interviews are going to be the exact same.
Once you save that, it will populate onto our service companion app and our schedule app. The technician in the field can see exactly what was asked on the phone, and that communication is really streamlined. We look like the pros that we are. That's an interview, and that's how we know that communication is flowing back and forth seamlessly.
You mentioned new people maybe answering the phone, not knowing what to ask, and interviews being helpful. But what about new technicians out in the field? I know that is huge. It is hard to hire people right now, always has been, but it's especially hard right now. For some reason, a lot of people don't want to do labor. So I know you guys are having a hard time hiring people and retaining people. You spend a lot of time training these folks. Is there a tool within LOU or just in general that would help you sort of like an interview for techs out in the field, like a checklist of sorts?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, we started this years ago with paper, right? It was just kind of this, you know, when we go out and do a service call on a hot tub or pool, we'd leave behind kind of a 21-point inspection, if you will.Then that kind of morphed into a checklist. As we hired new folks and tried to get them trained up for the season, we started using actual checklists. For example, with a pool opening, there's a lot of steps to a pool opening or a pool closing. Your veterans out there can do it in their sleep with one hand tied behind their back, but these newer folks really benefit from this checklist. The nice thing is with the software, with this checklist incorporated, you can actually send it to your customer, and it shows them all the steps that your technician did while they were on-site. It's a great tool. We used it a lot because, unfortunately, in today's age with all these ring cameras and stuff, you get a phone call saying, "Hey, your technician was out here for 10 minutes, and the only thing I saw was him smoking a cigarette on my camera."

Shawna: They were just sitting in their van in the driveway for 20 minutes.

Steve: Not that we want to get into an argument with the customer, of course, but at least we know that we did these steps.

Shawna: And it gives you a leg to stand on. Especially with pools that are open, it's like, you guys were out there, you spent all this time making the pool immaculate and beautiful, and then the wind blows and you've got all these leaves in the pool right after you've left. How frustrating is that? So these checklists...

Steve: Checklists and pictures are key for those types of situations.

Shawna: Absolutely. So if you wanted to do a checklist on an order, we'll just kind of show you what that looks like for a pool opening. This is a checklist that's been done on the app, and this is what it will look like when it's finished. It can be as many or as few questions as you want, and it can be literally like, "Did you drain the water and remove the debris from the winter cover?" You can be as detailed as you want to be, or as lackadaisical. It's pretty customizable, so those checklists are awesome for efficiencies. The less time your techs need to spend out there thinking and wondering and phoning a friend, right? Because, just like you said, veterans are out there, they can do it with their hands tied behind their back. How many times do you have a junior technician calling those senior techs, saying, "I talked to Jimmy 12 times today."

Steve: Someone needs to train him.

Shawna: Yeah, and it's like, well, you're the guy that's going to train him. But no, it's like, this software really can be a training tool, which is so awesome. Checklists can be plentiful. You can create a lot or a few of them. Again, customizable is the word I want you all to remember when it comes to checklists.
The last thing I want to talk to you about today is drive time. Drive time is a big deal. I don't know of a state left that doesn't have traffic, and doesn't have traffic all day. There is no rush hour anymore; it's just all-day traffic. Fuel is expensive, so minimizing drive time is now more important than ever. It's always been important, but now, oh my gosh, you can't buy vehicles, gas is expensive, all of it. So how do we minimize drive time? How have you seen it be successful in the past, and what are some of the pitfalls we can run into when dealing with that?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, that's always been a challenge. Obviously, everyone knows their market and the traffic patterns. With technology the way it is today, there are a lot of great tools out in the world that help with that. Obviously, the mapping software, Google, all that stuff. Really, it's about making your route as efficient as possible or optimizing your route. Back in the day, the guys and gals would come in, see all their jobs, and route themselves on our whiteboard, if you will.

Shawna: Yeah.

Steve: They were using the Rand McNally flip map thing back in the day before it was maps.

Shawna: And then it was MapQuest.

Steve: So it kind of evolved into what it is today. What it is today is really cool because it actually is built-in software, right? Built in LOU, it integrates with Google, so there's actually a feature to help you with this and optimize your route so that you are cutting down on your drive time. And that's key; you want to do the most efficient route you can.

Shawna: Totally. It's super simple. In LOU, there are a lot of ways you can navigate to it, but today we'll just click on "My Day." All the jobs will pretend that this is a technician or somebody, you know, a service manager maybe, who's going to look at every technician's jobs for the day. Here are all of them listed out. We're going to just click on "Map My Day," and this gives you all of your jobs on a map. Like Steve said, it's all integrated with Google, so it's accurate. You can drill down, you can even drill down on the satellite view and look at homes if you wanted to. But you can see there that the driving distance, the way that the jobs are spelled out on the schedule, is going to take you about 97 miles. If you click on "Optimize Route," that took us down to 76 miles and it put our route in the most optimal driving pattern and moved those jobs around. This is exactly what most technicians are trying to do on paper or manually, and that literally took us what, two, three seconds to optimize?

Steve: Exactly.

Shawna: I mean, your service manager just goes in every morning, boom, boom, boom, optimizes their five techs for the day, and out they go. And once your tech syncs the app, all those jobs are going to be in the right order and they can go; they're off for the day.

Steve: And then on their map, they can actually click the thing and it routes them right to the job, so it's all there. Hands-free.

Shawna: I love it. So, I think that's it. Gosh, did I miss anything? That's a lot—five ways to gain efficiencies, plus all of the knowledge you dropped today. Thank you for that. I'm going to open it up to our panelist. Shannon, do we have any questions out there from the audience?

Shannon: Uh, reorder alerts—can we change them for seasonality?

Shawna: Oh yeah, that's a great question. Steve, do you want to answer that?

Steve: Yeah, so, you know, say there's a certain item that you sell at a certain time of year and you don't sell as much at a different time of year. You can actually take that one item and set up two reorder alerts. You could have reorder alerts for your season where you want to bring in a lot and carry a lot, and then in the offseason, you could have another reorder alert that really ratchets those amounts down so that you're more lean during those times and then ramp up when you need it. It's pretty cool. Once you take that time to set it up on the front end, it's just going to save you a ton of time on the back end.

Shawna: Yeah, so there's a couple of ways to do that, right? Like you said, you can either have more in your busy season and less in your offseason, or you can have the one reorder alert that's just on in your busy season and you completely discontinue, if you will, that product in your offseason. So again, however your business runs, reorder alerts will pretty much work for that. Great question. Shannon, anything else out there?

Shannon: Awesome, yeah. We do have a question, just asking if there is any information on making recurring orders efficient not only for the field techs but for the office staff.

Shawna: It's a good question.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, there are some things built in for sure. The scheduling, the way that they're scheduled in LOU, is really an efficient way. Again, you set it up on the front end the way you want it, and it flows through seamlessly. And then also on the back end, when the job's complete, there are some mass invoicing features and some mass payment features in there. So all the route-type things you have on recurring orders can actually be processed in bulk, if you will.

Shawna: Yeah, awesome. Good question. Anything else?

Shannon: I don't have anything else right now.

Shawna: Awesome, that's great. Well, I want to say thank you to everybody joining us today. If you enjoy these webinars, we would love to hear about it. We'd love to hear your thoughts. If you have any requests for upcoming webinars, we'd also love to hear that as well. So let us know your feedback. Next month, we are talking all about mastering your sales on the go. We know that you guys are in, oh gosh, it's fair season, it's tent sale season, it's all of the off-site sale season, so we're really going to be talking all about how you can take your sales process anywhere with you. So that's going to be a super exciting webinar. Today was a lot about technicians and service, and next month is going to be all about sales, frontend, retail. So join us for that. It is on July 17th, 10 a.m. Pacific Time, 1 p.m. Eastern Time, same time, same place, and we will see you then. Thanks so much, have a good one.