The concept of time windows is a slippery slope for most home service companies. Other industries have figured out how to fit their work into nice, neat little boxes of time, so why can’t we? The problem stems from the number of variables we deal with on our individual calls.

First up is the equipment itself: There is more than one manufacturer out there, which means every appointment we go on could be just a little different. Even if you only run calls for the one or two brands you are familiar with, each one of these has more than one model that could be installed in the customer’s home. The configurations and technology change over the years, creating an incredible number of possibilities before we have even looked for a problem.

Next are the working conditions: Home owners and architects don’t always consider ease of access when it comes to the equipment we need to touch, especially if space is at a premium. This can be units crammed into closets that were built after they were installed or “things” stored in front of, around, and sometimes on the very unit we were called to repair. Even when we get the rare perfect access to the equipment, other factors could make the work hard to do, such as noise restrictions or limited time availability.

The homeowners themselves have a lot to do with our total time on the job. Some of them want to stay with us and talk about everything but the work we are at their home to perform. Others will want us to look at a bunch of other things while we are there. Neither of those are necessarily bad, but they do make hitting two-hour time windows consistently throughout the day challenging.

Finally, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to making strict time frames. If our technicians do the thorough jobs we want them to do and form relationships with customers, then they will naturally sell more work, thus taking more time on every call. This is great news for the company, but terrible news for the time table we planned out for the day. All of these factors and more make our work extremely difficult to fit into neat little two-hour blocks throughout the day.

Dispatchers, since the position was invented, have wanted the calls laid out into a perfect picture, where each technician runs the exact same amount of calls in a predictable period of time. That is not our reality. The sooner our industry understands that fact, the better we will be at doing our jobs.

I hate to point out a problem without giving a solution. At Nexstar, we have a number of ways to move you away from time windows, but if you aren’t ready to take a big step like that, then I might suggest getting smarter with the windows you do schedule. Try to be more intelligent about the number of calls you book in each window block. If you find yourself rescheduling two or three afternoon calls each day, then try and book a few more in the middle of the day and take those away from the last time slot.

If you do nothing else with the information in this article, start tracking what happens to your afternoon calls every day. Once you have the results, you can try to improve.

Publication date: 8/9/2017