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One of the questions I get asked all the time by clients and customers is, “Why can’t my customer service rep also be my dispatcher?” My answer is CSRs can and often do take on that role, especially if it’s a small company. But if I ask more questions, usually I discover they’re struggling to be good with one or the other, maybe even struggling to be only OK.
The reason? CSRs and dispatchers have very different skills sets, and the best people to fill each of those roles have different personalities. In fact, every time I’ve separated the CSR and dispatcher roles, clients always report there is more money and more profit coming in.
Here’s why: CSRs need to be like the happy hostess in a restaurant. Their job is to make customers feel good that they called, not as if they interrupted the CSR’s day.
CSRs need to be good listeners who prove that they’re listening so the customer feels he’s being heard. They need to proactively help with the customer’s expectations by doing things such as telling them that when Al, the great tech, shows up, life is going to be good again.
They need to explain how the process is going to work from the beginning to make customers comfortable with it. For example, CSRs must explain what forms of payment the company accepts and find out what type of payment the customer wishes to use at the time of service.
CSRs are not to get baited into quoting prices over the phone or diagnosing the job. That paints the technician into a corner; when he arrives and it’s anything different, there’s a problem to overcome.
All this takes knowing the CSR manual and the scripts in it by heart so they can be authentic and empathetic. The CSR gets the customer’s job on the schedule and explains that if something changes, the dispatch team will be in touch and keep them in the loop. The job is to set the tone and book the call.
Maximizing billable hours
The dispatcher’s job is to work closely with the service manager so they can maximize billable hours and handle the workload in the best way possible. Based on my box organizational chart and how I help my clients either redesign their office or build their new office, the dispatcher and service manager sit in close proximity.
This is always important, but especially important when the Truth Comes Home Hour, normally at 2 p.m. They need to know objectively how to handle these three things:
1. Who has to love you?
2. Who has to like you?
3. And who not so much, and what are you going to do about it?
A dispatcher needs to be free to proactively schedule work with techs. One big problem that occurs is that the dispatcher thinks he’s the boss of the techs, and the techs think they can boss around the dispatcher. They are both wrong; both roles report to the service manager.
The dispatcher’s job is to report any issues he’s having with the techs to the service manager and techs should report any issues they’re having with the dispatcher.
• Example 1. Every day at 3 p.m., technician Al complains he wants to go home and never stays on to help out.
• Example 2. The dispatcher is being rude, not attending to workflow or not proactively getting all the information desired and required about the call to the techs.
The service manager will get the people in a room and get it fixed.
Another question I get is, “Does a dispatcher ever answer calls?” The answer is yes.
The CSR primarily follows the CSR manual and focuses on taking calls — until the service manager tells him they’re overloaded and to shift to the manual’s better screening section so they can be sure to triage and run the right calls.
CSRs also are cross-trained to the dispatcher manual so they can do a good job when the dispatcher goes to lunch, is out sick, etc. You also can (and should) cross-train the dispatcher on the CSR manual, so if the phones are overloaded, the dispatcher can stop and flip into the CSR role and be good at it.
Triangle of Communication
Another objection I hear is, “What if my company is too small to have a separate CSR and dispatcher?”
Again, the quicker you can get to the point where there is a separate person in that role, the more money you will make. But if you only have one person, here’s what to do.
That person needs to be trained so when he answers a call, the CSR role is the only role he’s filling. And when he’s acting as a CSR, he follows the CSR manual and scripts until the customer hangs up.
Once the call is booked, that is the time he switches to the dispatcher role and follows all the steps laid out in the dispatcher manual. Both manuals are (or should be) integrated with the technician manual so everyone is already on the same page, which today is digital.
It’s important to include a priority section that is the same for all three roles (CSR/dispatcher/technician) so that what to do is no longer someone’s opinion — it’s all objective.
When it’s all clicking, here’s how it should work:
The CSR starts the relay race by gathering the right information, managing expectations and booking the call. The dispatcher then takes the baton and gets all the info out to the techs per the manuals. They know what they need to give the tech to run the call, keep tabs on what the tech is up to, and what information they need back from them so the baton does not get dropped.
It’s why I call these three roles the Triangle of Communication. Having these three roles communicating back and forth seamlessly is the key to happy customers, more referrals and more profit. Ensuring that customers feel seen and taken care of from the time they pick up the phone to the time the tech leaves is essential. The coordination of these roles is how you achieve customer satisfaction.
Remember that customers will forgive a high price, but they won’t forgive being forgotten.