One of the hardest things for people to do is to keep good track of their time. However, this is one of the key elements of success, both in terms of tech support delivery and business generally.
Time tracking is absolutely critical to profitability. Unfortunately, it's one of those things that everyone knows they should do, but don't always get around to.
There are several pieces to working in real time.
First, the definition: Working in real time means that you enter your labor into your ticketing system as soon as you complete a job. In fact, it is preferred that you log on and enter time as the last step in each job. That way, even if it only takes a few minutes, the time to enter time is part of the job!
This is completely legitimate. If the job is billable, then the time to enter time is billable. If the job is covered under managed service, then the time appears in the system for that specific client/ticket. In either case, it is critical that the time is properly associated with the ticket so that you can run reports and determine the profitability of each job and client.
We use a hosted ticketing system so we can log on from any computer at any client's office and enter time. Before we had a ticketing system, I used a simple web-based form that emailed job notes to me. This included start/stop times, a description of the work accomplished and notes about any hardware or software that were delivered.
I made a habit of filling out this simple form after each job, and required my techs to do the same thing. Before that, I required that they sit down and fill out a printed form before leaving the client – same information, just a different delivery method.
The alternative to working in real time is that you have to have perfect recall or perfect notes. Perfect recall is perfectly impossible. Whether it's you or your employees, mistakes will be made. Recall will be wrong. Whole hours will disappear. Job notes will be lost.
Perfect notes are much better. BUT if you take perfect notes, why not take an extra five minutes and enter them into the system? The alternative is to wait until after work and then sit down and enter all your time at once. This will then take an hour that can't be billed or properly allocated to jobs!
The easiest way to implement the policy of working in real time is to base employee pay on the reports you get from your ticketing system. This means you need a ticket for "admin" time so that you can track employee time between 8AM and 5PM with no gaps or overlaps.
This is also a GREAT way to find out if you have techs putting in 4-6 hours a day on internal admin tasks versus client-facing tickets.
As with everything else, you'll need to make the decision, announce it, implement it and then build an atmosphere in which everyone supports everyone else to be successful.
Here are the key benefits of working in real time:
If you are using a manual process, you need a simple form. In the modern world, this really should be a mobile app or a web page. In either case, the form elements are:
Of course a ticketing system will automate all of this. Most have some mobile app or mobile interface.
One of the coolest things about working in real time is that you get a steady stream of emails all day showing how your business is progressing and your people are taking care of your clients.
Three take-aways from this blog:
(Used with permission of Karl W. Palachuk, SmallBizThoughts.com)
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