Managing Your Installation Department for Success
A successful installation begins long before the technician arrives on the job site and ends only when Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have been tracked and evaluated in alignment with company goals. Cindy Ponder, Vice President of Operations at Bates Security, speaks to the factors that influence installation success and how a company can better manage employees and processes to make success a shared initiative.
Best Practices for Scheduling
Success starts with scheduling. The sales consultant must set expectations by communicating clearly with the customer, as well as relaying accurate and detailed information to the installation team, so they are well-prepared for the job.
Once the job is booked, it should be reviewed by the operations team. From confirming labor and drive time, to checking inventory, to making sure that the technician’s skill matches the job, this step plays a crucial role in troubleshooting any potential interference or delays before they occur.
On the customer side, a site conditions checklist can make sure everyone is on the same page, especially since the customer representative who booked the job may not be the same as the on-site contact. This step confirms job site information such as the types of cabling, walls, door frames, and the network present. It also uncovers risk factors such as whether the site is under construction, has hazards, doesn’t have power available, or needs permits. This reveals obstacles beforehand rather than wasting valuable time once the tech is on site. The tech should make a pre-visit call or send a text to the customer for every job, potentially saving a truck roll if the customer needs to cancel. Sharing information further sets up the team for success.
“Every morning our techs have a call to look at their day,” says Ponder. “Do they have any questions about their day? Did something happen yesterday that they want to share that may help another technician with an install they’re doing?” They also have a 30–45-minute weekly huddle that helps them learn from successes and discuss missed opportunities, she says.
Skills Employees Need
The best employees possess a mix of soft skills and hard skills. Good soft skills for techs include customer service and communication skills, common sense, proactive thinking, and sense of urgency. Working well with others is another asset.
“Not only will they be working with another technician, they also have to be able to work well with a customer’s office staff,” Ponder explains.
Support staff need hard and soft skills as well. Schedulers should be proficient in organizing and managing schedules and choosing the right tech for the job. Inventory controllers not only need to run a tight ship to ensure proper inventory, but they must also hold techs accountable and have good relationships with suppliers.
Companies should regularly evaluate employees’ skill level and consider linking compensation to specific skills, since compensation as well as honest conversations between supervisors and their team can motivate employees toward self-improvement. Managers can use personality assessments or aptitude tests in the hiring process or when considering promotions to proactively evaluate their employees’ soft skills.
To improve hard skills, companies can implement streamlined training programs that include cross training. “Having a specific technician who’s really, really good at installing a particular system and not having anybody else to do that, as we all know, that’s a very dangerous place to be,” Ponder says.
Bates Security has begun cross training their commercial and residential techs for more flexibility.
Key Performance Indicators
Success metrics should be well defined and measured constantly. One metric to consider is tech utilization: time on site versus non-billable time. Techs’ highest percentage of hours should be logged as on site. Setting baselines and tracking the aggregate of all tech hours monthly or quarterly will give you a snapshot of where the time is being spent and modify operational procedures as needed.
Another KPI to examine is whether a job is delivered within scope or over or under cost. To evaluate the actual cost jobs versus estimated cost, tally the total cost of closed jobs and total estimated costs. Then divide the former by the latter to gain insight on how accurate estimates are. You can also track the percentage of jobs that met the scope or came in under scope. Both these metrics let you further improve estimates, understand any bottlenecks that are causing longer job times, and see which techs are consistently performing under scope. Meet with those techs to learn how they’ve modified their workflow to be more efficient and share that information across the team.
With KPIs in hand, you can then drill down further into the data to understand trends that are affecting performance. For a job that exceeded scope: was the tech in training? Was it a new system that the tech hadn’t installed before? This type of information lets you pinpoint whether parts, labor, or operational inefficiencies are impacting a job.
Feedback with sales is another crucial step. “The Sales/Ops meeting is the most important meeting we have,” Ponder notes. “Having good conversation between sales and install teams lets both sides understand the components of successful and troublesome jobs and opens a dialogue to discuss how to handle similar situations going forward.”
Gearing up for success from the very first moment of contact with the customer, then carrying that spirit through the job and all the way though the post-mortem, will give you the advantages of stopping issues before they start, building a culture where all employees are invested in the success of the company, and making customers happier.
Defining and tracking KPIs that are meaningful to your company and keeping an open line of communication across departments are practices that will additionally strengthen your operations and prepare you for future success.