By: Savannah McDermott
When it comes to home services demand, you know the drill: you're busier when the weather acts up. In an industry reliant on weather patterns and seasonal changes, it's natural for demand to fluctuate throughout the year. Knowing how and when to adjust customer service staff sizes can be challenging and frustrating for home service companies like yours.
As the Head of Customer Success at Schedule Engine, I've noticed a thing or two about how companies handle customer service team staffing throughout the year. I've learned a lot in my role working with home service companies of all sizes across different trades. I'm here to share some of my experiences and knowledge to help you build a strategy for your staffing efforts during peak and shoulder seasons.
What Happens During Shoulder Season?
When shoulder season rolls around, you probably face significantly lower call volume than during the remainder of the year. I'd estimate that demand can fluctuate anywhere up to 50%. From a business staffing perspective, shoulder season demand dips present a critical problem. During peak season, you need a robust staff of customer service representatives to manage the high volume of incoming calls and chats. But your customer service representatives (CSRs) have fewer calls and chats to answer when demand dips off.
Common Staffing Strategies
This fluctuation often leads companies to follow one of two staffing strategies, each with its own difficulties.
1. Staffing for Peak Season
Staffing for peak season is when a company hires a high number of customer service representatives to manage demand at its peak level. As a result, when shoulder season comes and demand curves off, most of the team sits idle.
The problem: You're covered during peak season, but you have too many employees and not enough work during shoulder season (and therefore, you're sacrificing profits with higher, unnecessary labor costs).
2. Staffing for Shoulder Season Season
Other companies choose to staff for shoulder season and make up for the smaller team during peak season by hiring temporary CSRs. As a result, your team size fluctuates with demand.
The problem: You're not wasting on costs during shoulder season, but you're hiring temporary staff that isn't committed or dedicated to your brand during peak season (and therefore, you're sacrificing customer service quality).
As you may be able to see, neither of these strategies is particularly effective. These strategies present an even bigger problem when extreme weather events occur. For example, what happens with an unexpected hurricane if you shrink your CSR team for shoulder season? Or a heatwave? Well, you might panic. (Or, you can follow our game-plan for extreme weather event planning and execution).
How To Best Manage Your CSR Team Throughout The Seasons
Unrelated to extreme weather events, there are a few ways that you can manage your team regularly to make up for the issues presented by common staffing strategies:
Staffing for year-round rather than shoulder seasons is a much better approach to staffing for your business. This strategy can mean:
By stabilizing your year-round CSR staff, you'll have better employees with better retention, leading to better performance overall—which is much more important than skimping on labor costs here and there.
Suppose you choose to go the "staffing for peak season" route. In that case, you can leverage the extra staff you have during shoulder season to focus on other tasks such as scheduling maintenance appointments and building long-term customer relationships. You have more time and energy to nurture returning customers and improve customer retention, with limited issues answering one-off emergency calls during peak season.
How Schedule Engine Can Help
If you choose to go the "staffing for shoulder season" route, Schedule Engine is the perfect tool to support you through the peak season. Then, you can reimagine CSRs' roles to drive new business and use Schedule Engine to support it.
How? Read the full article to find out: https://www.scheduleengine.com/blog/strategic-staffing-101.
About the Author
Head of Customer Success
As the first Customer Success team member, Savannah has helped optimize the customer service journey at Schedule Engine to what it is today. As Head of Customer Success, Savannah has led and inspired a team of hardworking people to create a uniquely efficient and personable customer experience. With over ten years of program management and delivering value to drive customer retention, Savannah is passionate about helping our customers in the home service industry, so they can better serve their customers with the help of Schedule Engine.
About the Author
Today’s reciprocating air conditioning compressors often sustain damage to valves, pistons, rods, and even crankshafts as the result of oil slugging. This occurs when oil returning with refrigerant from the system returns in too much quantity to be dropped out of suspension in the motor barrel and/or suction cavities and return to the crankcase according to compressor design. Oil is a liquid and therefore non-compressible, so if it gets into the cylinders, something will break.
Oil and refrigerant do not have an affinity for each other. However, oil is miscible in refrigerant under certain conditions. It moves through the system suspended due to velocity of the refrigerant. So, if velocity is decreased, oil can fall out of suspension, and often does, in traps and evaporators. The most prevalent cause for this occurrence is the resultant drop in velocity caused by capacity control (or unloading). Many air conditioning systems are equipped with capacity control mechanisms that allow the refrigerant mass flow being pumped to vary from 100 % to as low as 25 %. This is done to provide for varying changes in load conditions. The problem comes about when the reduced capacity operation occurs for extended periods, followed by a sudden change in load and velocity which can drive oil that fell out of suspension back to the compressor faster than compressor can separate it and return it to crankcase. The designs allow oil to drop out of suspension upon entering the suction of the compressor but if the quantity is too much there can be oil forced into cylinders.
The same problem occurs with a failing compressor losing velocity.
How Much Oil Travels
Copeland has indicated more than 2% of mass flow is oil. A 40 ton Copeland air conditioning compressor has a mass flow of 6500 pounds per hour. 2 % of that is 130 pounds per hour. That means 130 pounds of oil (or 18-19 gallons) is moving through the piping and coils during normal operation every hour. This model holds 1 gallon and 3 quarts, so it is mind boggling to realize how much moves during operation. There is more than ten times the oil sump capacity moving through the system.
Therefore, if excess oil is left in the system and a new compressor is installed with its own oil charge, we must exercise extreme caution bringing the excess back removing it from the system before it can damage the new replacement.
How to Prevent Damage At Startup
When starting up a replacement, do so with low pressure control temporarily jumped out, and suction service valve almost completely closed (front seated). Ensure you will know what your operating pressures are by having service manifold gauges connected to discharge and suction of compressor and a hose on oil pressure port with tee to gauge and drain hose to a ball valve. Check oil level in replacement compressor prior to start (mark it if you feel it necessary). When compressor starts make note of pressures and calculate net oil pressure. If oil level in sight glass begins to rise, begin opening ball valve to drain oil into a container, ensuring that net oil pressure never falls below 10-15 PSI net. If level remains steady, slowly open suction valve watching for increase. This is best done during full load operation. If, after running for a while and opening the suction service valve ½ turns every 2-3 minutes, the oil level has not come up, there may not be excess oil in the system.
To verify, throttle suction valve down to point at which low pressure control normally cycles the compressor (if a pump down circuit) and let it go off on low pressure, noting pressure where it cuts off. Then open valve, allowing compressor to restart, and, after it reaches full load pressures, throttle down again to just above cutoff point (i.e. if cutout at 25 PSI, throttle to 30 PSI) and count to 10. Reopen valve allowing pressure to come up to normal and again count to ten, all while watching the oil level to determine if more needs to be drained. Perform this exercise 4-5 times. If excess oil is trapped in the system, this process should dislodge it and cause it to flow back to compressor.
How To Prevent Oil Logged Systems
The best way to ensure that you will not have these problems of oil out in the system is by utilizing oil management systems. These will be discussed in a future article.
By: Federated Insurance
We are trying to determine whether our organization falls under the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard. I know it applies to companies with 100 or more employees, and if it applies, we must have employees either vaccinate for COVID-19 or require weekly COVID-19 testing. How does OSHA define having 100 employees? How does it apply if you have multiple locations? Additionally, we have a number of part-time and seasonal employees. How does the employee calculation impact these types of employees?
Many employers are trying to quickly determine if they are subject to the recent COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The rules for calculating the 100 employee threshold are rather broad and inclusive, and generally include all employees employed by a single entity, even if some employees work in other, multiple, or off-site locations. Remote employees are included in the headcount for ETS purposes (though employees who exclusively work from home are not subject to the ETS's requirements). Additionally, part-time, seasonal, temporary, and minor employees are also included in the employee calculation.
For reference, OSHA has issued FAQ guidance on the ETS which includes the following information as pertinent to your inquiry:
"2.A.2. Is the count based on 100 employees for the entire business or 100 employees per individual location?
The count should be done at the employer level (firm- or corporate-wide), not the individual location level. Therefore, for a single corporate entity with multiple locations, all employees at all locations are counted. For example, if a single corporation has 50 small locations (e.g., kiosks, concession stands) with at least 100 total employees in its combined locations, that employer would be covered even if some of the locations have no more than one or two employees assigned to work there.
2.A.4. Are part-time employees included in the 100-employee threshold?
Yes. Part-time employees do count towards the total number of employees. For example, a company with 75 part-time employees and 25 full-time employees would be considered to have 100 employees and would be within the scope of this standard. Independent contractors do not count towards the total number of employees.
2.A.8. How will temporary and seasonal workers be addressed in the employee count?
Temporary and seasonal workers employed directly by the employer (i.e., not obtained from a temporary staffing agency) are counted in determining if the employer meets the 100-employee threshold, provided they are employed at any point while the ETS is in effect. For more information, see FAQ 2.A.7. “How are employees from staffing agencies counted?” and FAQ 2.C. “How do employers determine if they meet the 100-employee threshold for coverage under the standard if they have fluctuating employee numbers?”"
For related entities and whether such entities need to combine its employees for ETS applicability purposes, the ETS under section VI., B., II. states that "two or more related entities may be regarded as a single employer for OSH Act purposes if they handle safety matters as one company, in which case the employees of all entities making up the integrated single employer must be counted."
Note that even if an employer may not have 100 employees as of the effective date of the ETS (November 5, 2021), if and when an employer hits the 100 employee threshold, the ETS would apply from there on out throughout the effective duration of the standard. This is true even if the employer subsequently falls below 100 employees. Indeed, question 2.C. of the FAQ guidance provides the following as reference:
"2.C. How do employers determine if they meet the 100-employee threshold for coverage under the standard if they have fluctuating employee numbers?
The determination of whether an employer falls within the scope of this ETS based on number of employees should initially be made as of the effective date of the standard (November 5, 2021). If the employer has 100 or more employees on the effective date, this ETS applies for the duration of the standard. If the employer has fewer than 100 employees on the effective date of the standard, the standard would not apply to that employer as of the effective date. However, if that same employer subsequently hires more workers and hits the 100-employee threshold for coverage, the employer would then be expected to come into compliance with the standard’s requirements. Once an employer has come within the scope of the ETS, the standard continues to apply for the remainder of the time the standard is in effect, regardless of fluctuations in the size of the employer’s workforce. For example, if an employer has 103 employees on the effective date of the standard, but then loses four within the next month, that employer would continue to be covered by the ETS."
For additional information, please visit OSHA’s website on the ETS which includes links to a webinar, additional fact sheets, and policy templates and other information. Employers are encouraged to consult with legal counsel for specific legal advice on whether they may be subject to the ETS.
The past few months were very busy, politically speaking. In Maryland, the General Assembly worked throughout the session to pass major climate legislation targeting greenhouse gas emissions and particularly addressing building decarbonization.
On Saturday, April 9, the Governor faced a deadline to veto the legislature’s approved climate package - the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 (SB 528) - before it officially became Maryland law. Governor Hogan ultimately did not take action on the bill, allowing it to pass without his signature. The enactment of SB 528 codifies significant goals for energy efficiency. This Act will take effect on June 1, 2022.
With the legislature’s major climate bills finalized for the year, the General Assembly left some key proposals pertaining to energy efficiency and building decarbonization on the table in the 2022 session. Of note, the Climate Solutions Now Act initially proposed requirements for all new buildings to meet water and space heating demands without the use of fossil fuels and for all large buildings to meet net zero emissions by 2040. However, the House and Senate negotiated amendments to remove both these provisions, resulting in eased requirements for building decarbonization. The final bill calls for the Maryland Public Service Commission to conduct a study on the potential for Maryland’s adoption of an all-electric building code.
The General Assembly also left tax credit proposals in Committee which would incentivize HVACR and other energy efficiency upgrades. Neither the House nor Senate voted on a bill to provide a tax credit for energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation and duct sealing in homes (SB 45 / HB 58), in addition to our bill, the Healthy Indoor Air Quality Tax Credit which would provide a tax credit for the costs to upgrade indoor air quality equipment. These proposals and any others to support climate, energy efficiency, and HVACR industries will need to be reintroduced for consideration in the 2023 legislative session.
Governor Hogan has until May 30 to sign or veto all remaining bills passed during the session, before they automatically become law. While the governor faces a term limit which ends this year, the entire General Assembly is up for election, this fall, and 10% have indicated they will not run.
There's a lot more legislative information in the Members Section of our website. Please take some time to review the updates and analysis provided by The AnnDyl Group.
Not to be out done, the Virginia General Assembly convened for a Special Session in April to finalize a budget as both chambers remained in disagreement. Additionally, Governor Youngkin took action on 841 of the 900 bills passed by the General Assembly. He signed 700, amended 100, and vetoed 26. The balance became law. The governor vetoed bills which would have required Dominion Energy to establish energy efficiency programs to meet specific targets. We continue to watch the events unfold and will provide updates in the next couple of weeks.
It's best you access the online updates and analysis!