By Lucas McAlpin, Nexstar Network Customer Experience & Inside Sales Coach

At the company where I used to work, there was an expectation that a dispatcher would make a quick call to the customer when a technician was on the way to the customer’s home. This call was usually placed between five and 45 minutes before the technician’s arrival time, depending on how close the tech was to hitting the time window we had promised the customer.

Our dispatcher would do a little dance, hoping that the technician would end at least two minutes before the window for the next customer had expired, so we could at least give them their “heads-up call” within the time window we had quoted them, as if this was some sort of saving grace for the dispatcher. As if this would appease the frustration that the customer was feeling while they were sitting on their couch, second cup of coffee in hand, getting more and more upset as each minute passed.

“You said you’d be here at 10:00!”

Does that sound familiar? As dispatchers, technicians, service managers, general managers, or owners, we’ve all heard this complaint. Heck, we’ve probably all made that phone call to a service provider ourselves at some point in time.

This is where a change in thinking needs to occur. There needs to be a shift in how your dispatcher communicates with customers.

Now, maybe you think your dispatcher is too busy already. Maybe you’re thinking, “How could we possibly do anything different when we’re struggling to get by right now as it is?”

I want to challenge this line of thinking. You are not too busy; your dispatcher is not too busy. And your alternative to making a change is to keep getting upset customers; keep getting two or three-star reviews; keep getting angry voicemails. That’s a path you can’t afford to go down.

What if you asked your dispatcher to make update calls two or three times each day, to every customer?

That’s a big change; I know. But there’s a reason I’m suggesting it, and the reason is this: it will make a huge difference to your customers.

It starts with your outlook

When you make a change to any employee’s work schedule or routine, employees usually respond with disdain, frustration, or discomfort. This change I’m suggesting – asking your dispatcher to make 2-3 update calls per customer – will most likely cause all three of these emotions… if your outlook stays the same.

But your outlook on this “extra” work may change if you and your dispatcher begin focusing on the customer and working toward providing the customer with the kind of exceptional experiences that you’ve talked about providing since you opened your company’s doors.

Over-communication matters

Think about what it would mean to your customers if you were to give them a simple update in the early morning, at noon, and on the afternoon of the day they’re expecting service. What would change in their demeanor if you were to let them know they’re still on your schedule? What dynamic shift would take place if you were honest with them about running a little late, “because our technicians will spend as much time as needed to solve our customers’ concerns”?

Think about this as if you were the customer of a large internet provider.

  • Do you like getting a time window from them?
  • Do you like that their technicians just show up, or show up with a two-minute warning call, when you’ve been waiting all day?
  • Do you like that if you aren’t at home when they get there, they will just leave and head to the next customer? What if one thing changed about the internet company’s approach?

What if they updated you throughout the day to tell you that:

  1. They hadn’t forgotten about you;
  2. You are OK to go to that 3:00 p.m. meeting; and
  3. They respect your time.

Wouldn’t that change everything for you?

Once you look at the idea of several update calls per customer per day in this way, the discussion around your dispatcher’s time may come a little easier. It certainly will come from a different perspective (your customer’s)!

I would encourage you and your leadership team to talk more about the consequences of making these update calls. Then ask yourself, “Is our interest in doing/not doing this focused around us, or around our customers?”

Good luck with the change!