Truck rolls are a big part of overhead costs for home service providers. But are they necessary?
This article looks at truck rolls and why you should reduce them with remote alternatives. It will help you make more money and have happier customers.
What Is a Truck Roll?
A truck roll is any time you send a truck to a customer’s location. Before the internet and invention of other technology, these truck rolls were normal.
Unfortunately, they’re still commonplace today, even though truck rolls are undesirable. This is because they cost you money and have other negative consequences.
Many industries use truck rolls to repair equipment, including:
- Appliance service
- Information technology
- Home entertainment
- Plumbing and electrical contracting
- Personal fitness equipment
Why Home Services Providers Should Reduce Truck Rolls
Here are some reasons to reduce truck rolls.
Costs of vehicle use
First, there’s the basic cost of a truck roll. Every time one of your providers has to hit the road, you’re paying for gas, which is costly these days.
Each service call puts wear and tear on your fleet vehicles. This hastens the need for oil changes, fluid replenishment, and tire replacement. The value of your trucks depreciates too, thereby reducing your business assets.
For example, AAA estimated in 2020 that operating a half-ton four-wheel-drive pickup truck for 15,000 miles per year costs over $11,000. You can shave a few thousand dollars off that amount just by reducing the mileage to 10,000 miles per year.
If your techs put in a lot of pavement time, your insurance rates may rise. Accidents can increase rates even more, plus cost you a deductible. They can put vehicles out of commission for urgent scenarios when they really are needed. When that happens, customers might move on to a competitor for service.
Reduced billing capacity
Of course, truck roll time is a factor too. Say you charge $175 for a service call. If you can only make 10 service calls in a day, your maximum gross profit is $1,750.
Now, if you can provide primarily virtual service instead of those 10 truck rolls, you might be able to squeeze in 30 calls per day. That lets you triple your revenue. Instead of $1,750 per day, you’d make $5,250.
But wait, you think, you can’t charge $175 for a remote service call. That’s okay. Even if you put remote calls on a lower pricing tier, your increased volume will make up for the difference.
Increased carbon emissions
Is your business concerned about its carbon footprint and sustainability? If so, that’s another reason to minimize truck rolls.
Reducing carbon emissions by providing remote or virtual service is better for the planet. It’s also better for the local air quality where you work and live.
Lowered customer satisfaction
Finally, there are the truck roll costs that are more difficult to quantify. Customers are more likely to be satisfied when they receive a remote solution to a problem. And they expect more when a field service rep comes to the home.
Additionally, customers are used to getting remote service these days. They demand quick fixes on their timetable, in their pajamas if possible. They don’t want to worry about appointment times or what to do with the kids during a service call.
An even worse problem with on-site calls is the dreaded “appointment window.” This is when a customer has to stay home for a half day or full day because the provider cannot give them a specific appointment time. It happens more with truck rolls because technicians run late, such as when they hit traffic.
What happens when an on-site service provider can’t fix a problem on the first try? Customers get frustrated. Now they have to rearrange their schedule and stay home again for a second service call. But if there is no truck roll involved and the call is remote, it’s less of a big deal.
You don’t want your customers to be angry or dissatisfied, even if you fix the problem in the end. Before a resolution is found, they might leave a bad review online or badmouth your business to friends and family. It’s hard to quantify negative reviews and customer churn, but they do eventually eat into your total revenue.
The Factors That Contribute to Truck Rolls: Are They Avoidable?
Every home service provider is unique when it comes to business operations. But you can bet that at least a percentage of your truck rolls could be avoided.
Before we get into best practices to reduce truck rolls, let’s look at some common factors that contribute to truck rolls. You might be surprised at how many are unnecessary.
Poor office organization
If your office isn’t set up properly, it can produce a knee-jerk reaction to dispatch a truck every time a customer phones. Reducing truck rolls starts with getting ultra-organized from the top down.
For instance, you want to be able to sort out emergency calls from those that could be done remotely.
Not having the right office tech in place
Related to office organization is office technology. Technology is first needed to get a handle on your truck roll numbers. You need statistics and profit figures to determine where you want to make cuts.
You can’t perform remote or virtual support for clients if you don’t have the correct gear. Ideally, you want to be able to see the problems customers are having from afar, whether you’re fixing a furnace or a security alarm.
Resistance to change
Do you have someone in your business that frequently says, “But that’s how we’ve always done it”? This is very common in multigenerational small companies.
That person might be against change because they’re uncomfortable with it. They refuse to authorize expenses that you need to upgrade your technology or revise your business model.
It’s hard to find skilled employees today. If you’re seeing a lot of repeat on-site calls, it could be due to lack of worker education. This is costing you money, and it’s hard for customers to endure.
Lack of understanding about products serviced
No matter how well educated your staff is, they need to be familiar with the equipment they work on.
As new products enter the market, technicians need to learn about them and anticipate troubleshooting scenarios. Any labor costs involved in employee education are worth it in the long run.
Inadequate customer education
Customers often need more than just owners’ manuals to use their equipment. And even if an issue is covered in the manual, the customer might need it explained more clearly. When you leave an installation, it’s worth it to explain how to program a thermostat or connect a television to Wi-Fi.
If you’re worried that avoiding service calls will cost your business money, don’t be. You’ll get better word-of-mouth advertising and have a customer for life when you go the extra mile for consumers.
So, how many of the causes of truck rolls listed above were avoidable? Probably all of them. Of course, there are times when dispatching a technician to a customer’s home is necessary. But many truck rolls could be replaced with more cost-effective methods of providing service.
Should Your Business Track Truck Rolls? Yes, and Here’s How
If your goal is to reduce truck roll costs to your business, you first need to quantify them. You can’t implement a truck roll reduction program or many of the best practices listed below without knowing your hard numbers.
It would be like trying to cut your home budget without understanding how much you’re spending.
No matter what type of home services you provide, you should be tracking your truck rolls. Some categories to consider monitoring include:
- Total number of truck rolls as a percentage of service calls
- Number of truck rolls that are repeat calls for the same problem
- Number of truck rolls that were unnecessary for NFF (no fault found) or NVA (no value added), which is 25% of truck rolls for digital service providers, for instance
- Total cost of truck rolls (there is software to help with things like depreciation)
- Total amount of time taken for each truck roll
- Drive time (non-billable hours) lost per day, week, month, etc. (may vary by season if you’re in an extreme weather region)
- Average cost of every truck roll
- Cost of truck rolls per set period of time (e.g., what you spent in a month)
- Geographic areas covered by truck rolls by date
- Miscellaneous negative consequences of truck rolls (accidents, late delivery on other projects, etc.)
There are multiple ways to break out the data for truck rolls. Most companies look at numbers by day, week, and month. You may also want to look at larger patterns over the year or during certain seasons. For instance, if you work on furnaces, you’ll see more truck rolls during fall and winter.
Expert Tips for Reducing Truck Rolls
Now that you have a handle on the numbers to reduce truck rolls, here are some strategies you can start using today.
- Improve general office organization, the first step in being able to perform ongoing data analysis. If your business is run out of your home, consider giving it its own office. Hire office help to handle phone calls, scheduling, and billing. A phone answering service can assist with after-hours emergencies and dispatching.
- Develop a service triage algorithm. What is an emergency that needs attention on-site, and what can be done remotely? This should be communicated to all staff and to any outside call centers.
- Invest in the technology you need to provide remote support, such as remote access software to view customers’ cell phone images and videos. Get everyone invested in and trained on the new tech. They’ll get on board when they see how much money it saves your business.
- Document first-time service calls meticulously, using photos or video if possible. That way, if a problem comes up later, it can potentially be handled remotely.
- Educate employees to get them up to date on the latest models and repair techniques for equipment you install and service. Often manufacturers are happy to assist with this because they want buyers and service providers to keep using their products. Consider having a library or resource center at the office for staff to consult when they need information.
- Try to pair new employees with veterans to reduce errors and leverage experience. You can usually reduce truck rolls by minimizing the number of second visits due to newbie mistakes.
- Give customers the information they need, which might mean going beyond handing them an owner’s manual. A quick demo after an installation is one example of this. Resources on your website, like blog posts, can also provide education. You can decrease truck rolls and improve customer satisfaction at the same time.
- Batch on-site calls by geography to optimize truck rolls. Even with improved remote service, some truck rolls will still be necessary. Rather than having techs return to HQ after a call, use scheduling and dispatching to send them to the next home. Try to avoid as much non-billable drive time as possible in your truck roll optimization plan.
- Offer remote visual support at a separate price tier. This makes it financially conducive to customers. By not utilizing a truck roll, you can afford to shave money off the price of a service call and still make a profit. It’s a win-win because the customer still receives quality service.
Truck rolls don’t have to be eating into your business’s profits when there are high-tech alternatives. Track your dispatches and create a plan for reducing truck rolls using the tips above. You’ll soon be on your way to both increased revenue and happier customers.