The DispatchMap

ServiceDesk provides two different means for viewing and manipulating your ScheduleList.  The first (to be discussed in this section) is intensely graphic, showing each item from the schedule in its precise relationship of time and geography, and allowing manipulation of each item as needed from such a standpoint.  The second (to be discussed in the following section) is textual instead, and allows the manipulation, obviously, of textual details.  These will now be discussed, in such order.

General elements and considerations in map design

You may note, as you briefly examine your DispatchMap, it’s is customized to show the boundaries or your own unique service area.  Yet it does not include a lot of geographic detail.  Depending on what seemed suitable to the designer in your case, it may consist of nothing more than red lines representing the major highways, or black lines showing border areas, blue lines showing coastlines and major lakes, textual notations for the larger cities, and a simple red dot for your service location.  There is a reason for this economy.  A dispatcher needs an instant and broad overview of the entire service area, showing in one glance the relative location and times of all jobs scheduled for a given day.  He or she does not, on the other hand, need a detailed display of city streets.  Nor could such a detailed display be shown (with today's technology, at least) while also providing that all-important, broad overview.  Naturally, ServiceDesk provides the former.

One detail you may notice (depending on your own map) are lines defining odd-shaped cutouts or divisions between otherwise open areas within your map.  In those service territories that encompass mountains, rivers, or other large zones with no roadways across, it will sometimes happen that housing developments lie geographically close along either side of such obstructions (i.e., a very short distance apart as the crow flies), but that driving between such locations involves much distance because of the need to go around the intervening obstruction.  By representing these non-traversable areas on your map, ServiceDesk allows you to see in an instant that two otherwise close locations may not, in terms of driving, be close at all.  More specifically, you can see that your technician must drive around the indicated obstruction to get from one location to the other.

Where possible, your entire map will be included on a single screen position, or at least on as few screen positions as feasible.  Where there are multiple screen positions, you may move between them (this is called "panning") using your cursor keys. If your service area is comparatively tall as compared to wide, you may have two or three successive screen positions arranged along a vertical axis.  If your territory is rather more wide than tall, it may be split into multiple screen positions arranged along a horizontal axis (or perhaps both).  In either case, the successive positions will be arranged with substantial overlap, so you should never have a location that cannot be viewed without substantial territory all around.  Plus, you can use the map's 'Overview' mode (press and hold the spacebar) to view the entire map, reduced as necessary to fit into one screen.  This mode is particularly helpful for getting an instant look at how all your jobs layout for a day, though there is less detail in the information provided (versus full-scale mode), and you cannot edit in this mode.

In some cases we've encountered service territories that are so large as to make it possibly less than obvious (while panning in full-scale mode) which portion you are viewing at a given moment.  Thus, we've added a feature that allows you to see a miniaturized inset of your map, which internally indicates the portion that's shown on your main display.  This can help improve orientation.  To use the feature, you must turn it on from within the Settings form (accessed from the main menu or by pressing Ctrl-F1).  If you find its presence annoying, turn it back off.  Another selectable feature provides range lines, showing distances from your office in (typically) five mile increments.  This makes it easy for you to determine, in a glance, how distant any particular job is from your headquarters (at least as the crow flies).  A final  selectable feature (again, turn it on or off from the Settings form) causes ServiceDesk to display mileage estimates for each tech’s route and for your fleet as a whole, for any given day’s schedule as currently setup.  We added this in the hope of helping our own secretaries pay more attention to how efficiently they setup the technicians’ routes.  It provides them with a score, you might say, with which to judge their success or not.

You may be interested to know that, in sizing your on-screen map, we've struggled between the competing objectives of: (1) providing as much detail and resolution in terms of job location as possible; and (2) fitting enough of the relevant territory into a single screen so as to allow effective overview without excessive panning.  To a very great extent, balancing these objectives is a matter of judgment. In this regard, you should know our design decisions (the product of which you now possess) are not set in stone.  If you'd like your on-screen map more condensed (so you can view more of it within a single screen), or enlarged (for better, more close-up resolution), it takes only about an hour of work for us to make the conversion.  We'll be happy to do it for you free of charge, so long as you make the request within a reasonable time after your purchase date.  Other small changes may be made as well.  Just ask.

How your map displays Schedule and Related Information In terms of displaying information from your schedule, you'll find your map shows each of your scheduled appointments in two context: first, as a graphically correct representation within the geographic boundaries of the map (each within a tiny rectangle, and with connecting “route-lines” drawn between any of multiples for an assigned tech), and second, as an item (typically within the screen’s peripheral area) within a set of segmented quadrants, one for each tech, showing in list format the jobs that are assigned to each.  Obviously, these two representations are rendered differently.  The graphic representation, because it must serve a purpose similar to that small flagged pin on a wall map, cannot take up much space.  For this reason it is printed in the smallest feasible type, and includes only the scheduled customer's name (or snippet thereof) and time scheduled.  In the list section, where there's more available space, the type is larger, the customer's name is rendered more fully, and the telephone number and city are also displayed.  In either case, where it's a job with separate billing and service locations, a snippet of both names will be displayed, separated by a slash, and in the case of a ‘HighVolume’-designated client (see page 60), ServiceDesk will use the abbreviation (thus, an American Home Shield repair at the "Jones" residence would be rendered as "AHS/Jones").  

Actually (and at the risk of boring those for whom this is not applicable), we should mention that in some cases (depending simply on what we thought would be most advantageous as we engaged in the design process) we’ve elected to put all the techs job listings in a section together (rather than tucked into available spaces here and there around the map).  Where this is the case, we’ve likewise made it possible to move to and from this list area with the press of a single key: it’s the ‘End’ key (no, there’s no relation between the key’s label and this particular use; it was just a handy, available key for the purpose).  Press it once to move into the tech’s list area (where so setup), and again to move back to whatever space you were previously viewing within the map.

Somewhat similarly (but available as a feature on every setup), we’ve made it possible for you to move instantly from anywhere on the map back to the home location, with the press of a single key, and in this case the name of the key is rather more fitting: logically, it’s the ‘Home’ key.  Press it once to move instantly to the “home” position, and again to move back into whatever viewing space you were viewing previously (this is most useful, obviously, if you have a large dispatch map with many different pan positions).

There are several ways to view your Map.  The most simple is to press F5.  This produces a direct, unadorned display of your map.  Alternatives are to use the ItemLocate feature from either a Callsheet or JobsCurrent form, where you right-click on any address within its appropriate text box.  In this case your map will display with the selected location flagged in red.  The purpose is to show you the relative location of a job you are attempting to schedule.

When first displayed, your map will always show the present day's schedule.  It's obvious, however, that you might want to see how a job you're considering fits in with jobs scheduled for tomorrow, or perhaps the day after.  To view those subsequent days, press PgDn.  To return back to earlier days, press PgUp.  You can also use the FirstPage/LastPage QuickKeys here.  Thus, if you have a date several days hence displayed, and wish to return instantly to the present, press Ctrl-PgUp.  Or, if you're looking at some date in the past and wish to return instantly to the present, press Ctrl-PgDn. As still another method of selecting the day displayed, you may simply press ‘C’ on your keyboard (for ‘C’alendar) and the system will show a small calendar on which you may rapidly select any date wanted.

If you have several technicians, each with full routes simultaneously displayed on your DispatchMap, you may sometimes find that multiple routes end up criss-crossing repeatedly over the same area (depending, of course, on how you’ve set the routes up).  When this is the case, you may find it’s difficult (in spite of the distinguishing route-colors) to visually discern one technician’s route from another.  If this happens, we have an easy solution: we call it the ShowOneTechsRouteOnly mode.  To invoke this mode of display, simply right-click on the technician’s name (in the list section, above his list of jobs) whose route you wish to exclusively see.  Route lines for the other tech’s will then disappear, making the route for this particular one perfectly clear.  Hit Esc to go back to normal display.  (As another visual aid, remember you can press and hold the spacebar, on your keyboard, to shrink the entire display into one screen, for a broad overview of the whole setup in one easy glance.)

It often happens, when you’re looking at a particular job’s appointment within the DispatchMap, that you want to know more about the job itself.  Perhaps you’re considering changing the appointment’s assignment to a different technician, for example, and are wondering whether the nature of the job is such as to make this practical.  Or, maybe you want to look at a  description of what needs done in order to estimate how much time will likely be needed.  Whatever the impetus, we’ve provided a very handy means for you to instantly view the JobRecord of any job whose appointment is shown in the DispatchMap.  Simply do a Ctrl/Right-Click, on either its graphic or list representation.  In response, ServiceDesk will immediately display the item’s JobRecord, allowing you instant grasp of every detail concerning it (we call this the ‘ShowJob’ method).  Please do not forget this feature. It’s very, very handy.

A similar feature allows you to instantly view (and/or edit, if wanted) any appointment’s reference in full-text format from the ScheduleList form (remember, both of these forms display and manipulate the same, identical list of appointments, it’s just that one does it more graphically and the other in a purely textual format).  Simply do a Shift/Right-Click, from the DispatchMap, on either the appointment’s graphic or list representation.  This will take you immediately to the item’s reference in the ScheduleList form, saving you from having to separately hit F6 to bring up the form, then having to locate the item, there, that you’re interested in (we call this the ‘ShowText’ method).  This is much easier when, from the DispatchMap, you’ve decided that you want to do some kind of editing, to an appointment reference, that’s not available from directly within the DispatchMap.  Of course, many kinds of such manipulation regarding appointments are available from directly within the DispatchMap itself, and that’s the subject to which we now turn.

A final information-conveying element within the map is a feature we call the Appointment Density Graph.  Stated simply, the purpose of this tool is to visually convey an instant conceptual grasp of how heavily loaded you are, appointment-wise, throughout each hour of the day.  Thus, for example, if a quick view of the graph shows you’re already heavily loaded for the morning hours, but that you’re light in the afternoon, you’ll know without further analysis that it may be wise to urge a caller toward scheduling for the afternoon.

To view the Appointment Density Graph, simply press ‘D’ on your keyboard while the DispatchMap is displayed.  You’ll see this tool appear in the screen’s lower right-hand corner.  Press ‘D’ again (or hit Esc) to hide the display.  As you’ll see, it’s a fairly typical graph, but configured to show the overall appointment load for each hour of the day, with the vertical axis indicating number of appointments involved during each hour.

In this regard, the system understands that if you have an appointment scheduled for, say, between 9 and 12, and if your average job takes, say, one hour, that appointment is not likely to consume all of each of the three hours involved in the time frame.  In fact, it’s likely to take only about one of the three hours, but across some (presently) indeterminate span within the range.  On the other hand, if you have three 9 to 12 appointments, each expected to consume about one hour, you can figure that, between the three, they’re likely to jointly consume all of the three hours, for one man, within that time range.

Anyway, it’s with this dynamic in mind that the system is configured to spread out the time-value for any appointment (at present, it assumes one hour; though we may make this subject to user specification at a later date) across the time-range involved – so that it reflects a realistic load-indication on the graph.  The result is that if you’ve got four technicians, say, you’ll want to shoot for a corresponding appointment-load (of “4” on the vertical axis) across the hours of the day.  If you look at the graph and see areas that are significantly above such a level, you’ll know you’re already extra-tight for those hours.  If you see areas that are significantly below, you’ll know there’s room during such hours for more jobs.

While those are the basic information-conveying utilities within the DispatchMap, there’s another, separate utility that some firms will want to use for the purpose of facilitating their scheduling activity.  We call it the ZoneScheduler system.  It’s especially suited to companies that are having jobs dispatched to them through ServiceBench (a web-based, third-party firm that provides information-link services between manufacturers and servicers), or for any other operation that is of such a large size (typically twelve trucks or more) that the standard DispatchMap methods of assessing availability are less than convenient.

Because the ZoneScheduler system is one that we believe only a small minority of our clients will be using, we’ve placed the full description, and instructions concerning its usage, in a separate document.  You’ll find it on your installation CD or in your c:\sd folder under file name “ZoneSchedulerInstructions.PDF.”

Working in your DispatchMap to make operational changes to your schedule

It's obviously necessary, as you view your map and see how a day's jobs are geographically distributed, to decide which jobs will be dispatched to which technicians.  Obviously, your decision on each needs to be communicated in some manner to ServiceDesk —so it can register the assignment.  This is accomplished by left-clicking on the job's graphic representation.  In response ServiceDesk will display a little box that shows each tech in your roster.  If you've held down the mouse button after clicking it on the job in question, you can simply drag the pointer until the wanted tech is highlighted, then release the button; instantly, that tech is selected.  If you did a full click on the job (i.e., pressed the button then released it), you can simply click again on the wanted tech.

That's it, for assigning any job to any given tech within ServiceDesk.  It's just that simple.  And, naturally, you can re-assign (using identical means) whenever wanted.

Of course, outside circumstance may slightly complicate this picture.  As mentioned in another context, for example (see page 72), there are jobs that definitely must, for one reason or another, be done by a particular technician, while others may be done by whichever technician is most convenient for scheduling.  You obviously need some manner as you're considering assign­ments within the map to distinguish between these two situations.  ServiceDesk signifies the distinction as follows.  'Definite' assignments are displayed entirely in the color-code for the assigned technician, in both graphic and list representations; for 'tentative' assignments, the second line of the graphic representation remains red, as does the city abbreviation within its list representation.  Based on this obvious signification, you can see in an instant, as you're juggling various assignment possibilities in your list of jobs, which ones can properly be switched between various techs, and which cannot.

Of course, it sometimes happens that it's only upon viewing the map that you learn (or realize) that a job should have been designated 'Definite,' but was not (or vice versa).  Sometimes, indeed, you may have a job that is properly labeled 'Definite,' but you may be forced by circums­tances (e.g., the assigned technician called in sick) to change its assignment regardless.  In either case, there is the obvious need to change its assignment status from within the map.  To do so, do a Ctrl-click on the job's graphic representation.  In this case, multiple such clicks will rotate you back and forth between the ‘Definite’ and ‘Tentative’ assignment status.

Besides re-assigning, it often happens that you’ll want to re-sequence jobs.  As you’ll soon learn, there’s a simple drag-and-drop method for doing this from the list section of the DispatchMap, but it can also be done (if somewhat less intuitively) from any job’s graphic reference.  Just right-click on the reference and you’ll see a little mini-list showing each of the assigned tech’s assigned jobs for that day.  Simply click again within that list at the new position where you want the job moved to, in terms of sequence.

You may notice there are functions for both right and left mouse buttons when clicked on a job's graphic represen­tation.  Similarly, there are also functions taking advantage of each button when used to click on its list representation.

Suppose, for example, you've just talked to a tech at the job and want to call him right back, or you're calling his jobs in the effort to locate him, or you're arranging jobs and want to call a particular customer to see if they don't mind you shifting their time a bit.  In any such case, right-click on the job's list representation, and  ServiceDesk will instantly dial the number for you.  It may seem like a small thing, but such convenience feels substantial when the need arises.  As a manager, you'll never again have to ask your secretary for such numbers.  As a secretary, you can impress your boss by having a relevant customer on the phone almost instantly.

Still another function in the list sections of the map concerns an alternative method for either job re-sequencing or re-assigning (note we’ve already discussed methods for doing this from a job’s graphic representation).  If you’re working in the list section, this is actually much more simple.  Basically, you can use your mouse (left button please) to simply drag an appointment reference, either into a different sequential position under the same tech’s list or into another tech’s list altogether.

Besides these various methods for managing appointments once made, remember that the DispatchMap also serves as a facilitator for getting appointments into your ScheduleList, in the first place.   This is via On-Map scheduling, as initiatedthrough use of the ItemLocate feature from either a CallSheet or JobRecord (see pages 71 and page 108).  As you’ll notice, in each case the appointment is still added to the ScheduleList, ultimately, from a context other than the DispatchMap (when later creating a job from the CallSheet to which the DispatchMap’s ItemLocate feature has inserted the appointment, in one case, or taking you directly to the ScheduleList, with most of the entry’s text already filled-in, in the other).

As a matter of incidental interest, you should know that any time an appointment is added to the ScheduleList (or even a modification saved), the entire list is automatically sorted into a logical sequence based on dates and times.  If from the DispatchMap you want ever to manually invoke this process (suppose you’ve place a number of jobs out of proper sequence and want in one simple operation to get them back, for example), simply press Alt-S.

The check-off / status system

To be maximally useful, your DispatchMap must visually convey not only each of your appointments, their times, locations and the techs to whom they are assigned; it must also be willing to indicate the status of each such job.  In other words, it should be able to show whether a job has actually been dispatched to the tech, whether the tech has arrived at the job and whether he’s finished there, etc.  It should even indicate whether the expected PostVisitReport (see page 110) has yet been filed.  All these needs are handily met via visual indicators on the DispatchMap itself.

The most critical such need is for you to keep track of which jobs you’ve actually dispatched to the assigned tech (i.e., you’ve conveyed the information to him in some manner, so he’s knows it’s a job he’s supposed to do), and which you have not.  To understand how this works, suppose yours is an office where the technicians come into the office each morning, and each receives a stack of tickets (or invoices), which constitutes his then pending set of assignments.  As you give any particular technician his stack, hit F5 to bring up the ServiceDesk DispatchMap.  Go to the TechList area, and look at the list of jobs for the technician involved.  Confirm that the first item in the list is the same as the first invoice in the stack you’re about to hand him.  Now, using your mouse, do a Shift/Left-Click on that listing.  This will cause a check mark to appear just to the left of the listing, which is the visual confirmation that item has actually been given to the tech.  Proceed to the next invoice and do the same.

When you’re done, you will have handed the technician a stack of invoices that conforms perfectly with the list under his name in the DispatchMap, and all items in that particular list will have a check mark next to them—the visual, at-a-glance confirmation (for anyone in your office who happens to check) that these particular jobs have indeed been given to the technician.

If you use any of the automated methods for dispatching instead, by the way (see section following), the system will automatically volunteer to do this checking off for you as part of the automated sequence.  If you add one or two jobs to a technician’s schedule during the day, the absence of a check mark next to that appointment’s reference (until you’ve actually conveyed the information to him and checked it off) will serve as a visual reminder that the task still needs to be done.

All in all, this checking off of the fact that a job has actually been given to the involved technician is very important (unless, of course, yours is a one-man shop).  We highly encourage you to use it.

And then there’s more—that you may  optionally want to use.

If, in addition to keeping track of whether each of a day’s jobs have actually been dispatched to their assigned techs, you also want to keep track, throughout the day, of where each tech is in his assigned route, we also have facility for that.

Specifically, if you’re having your technicians call-in as they arrive and/or depart from each job, you can do specific check-offs in the DispatchMap to indicate each such event.  When a technician calls in his arrival at a job, just locate its reference under his name in the DispatchMap, and do a mouse Ctrl/Left-Click on it.  This will cause a double-right arrow to appear, in place of the check mark that had formerly been there to indicate the job was dispatched.  Based on this symbol, anyone in your office can glance within the DispatchMap and instantly determine where that technician is at the moment.  When he calls in later to indicate he’s done and leaving, do an Alt/Left-Click on the same reference.  This will change the check-off symbol to a double-down arrow, signifying his completion there.  And so on.

Status of Check Off

Required Keyboard/Mouse  Action

Symbol That’s Displayed

Item has been dispatched



Tech has   arrived



Tech has finished



When changing these statuses in a technician’s List area, incidentally, you’ll likely notice that an appointment’s graphic representation also changes—as a means of providing further, at-a-glance indication of where the tech is in his set of jobs.  Specifically, when he’s arrived at a job and hasn’t yet departed (or rather, when you’ve so checked it), that job’s graphic representation will have a bright yellow background (signifying that’s where he is).  After you’ve checked off his completion, it simply has a large ‘X’ across to signify that fact.

There is another pair of status indications that are not typically done manually, though provision is provided should the odd need arise.

Status of Check Off

Required Keyboard/Mouse  Action

Symbol That’s Displayed

PostVisitReport has been  completed, JobNotFinished



PostVisitReport has been  completed, JobFinished

Ctrl-Alt/Left-Click, again


Normally, your appointments will be placed into PostVisitReportCompleted status (Job Finished or not) as an automatic consequence of doing the report (see page 110)—and not from any separate effort you’d make independently in the DispatchMap.  We mention it here solely to give you a full understanding of these different statuses (in a job’s graphic representation, incidentally, this status is indicated with grayed-out background, darker gray if the job is finished).

There is another benefit, incidentally, in logging your technicians’ arrivals and/or departures (note that you could elect to do only of the two, or none at all)—besides providing at-a-glance indication from the DispatchMap of where they are in their day’s work.  ServiceDesk logs the times of each such event for you (based simply on the computer’s internal clock), which means when you’re later doing PostVisitReports, each job’s start and/or end times are already there, and so don’t need to be manually entered.  It’s a nice convenience, and provides a little added benefit if you’re going to the work of having your technicians regularly call in.

In the best possible world (if you’ve got the office personnel to accommodate it), you’ll be using the immediate call-in method (see page 112) not only to document your technician’s arrivals, but also to take their PostVisitReports.  In this case there’s still another benefit, stemming from another feature: ServiceDesk’s Arrival-On-Time Sentry.  This feature continually monitors each technician’s roster of jobs, comparing the times scheduled to where he is in his route.  If and when it appears he’s threatening to be late on any job, that job’s reference will start flashing.  The purpose, obviously, is to attract the attention of an office person, who can then take remedial steps (calling the tech to see when he expects to arrive, calling the customer to bring them up to date, possibly reassigning the job to another tech, etc.).  The whole idea is to bring the matter to your attention before your customer is upset or disappointed.  To make this element work, you do need to have the Immediate Call-In option turned on.

Automated dispatching: a cornucopia of methods

Aside from tasks such as assigning or reassigning a job, changing status or sequence, scheduling, keeping track of where the tech is, and similar hands-on functions within the DispatchMap, there’s another set of features that are concerned, primarily, with communicating dispatched job information to your technicians.  As mentioned elsewhere, we know it’s the habit of most servicers to give each of their technicians a stack of assigned work-order/invoices each morning.  This stack essentially constitutes the technician’s job list.  If any additions or other changes occur during the day, most servicers will simply call the technician (via telephone or two-way radio), and communicate such matters orally.  But, while this may describe the more common situation, we know that many other servicers work differently.  With ServiceDesk, we handily accommodate a plethora of other methodologies.

In general, these methods are all designed to address the situation where you want to dispatch jobs to technicians who are not physically in the office.  Hence, the category of functionality is sometimes referred to as “remote dispatch.”  

Some Distinctions

To begin this discussion, we want you to notice a few distinctions.  First, please note the difference between “batch-dispatching” a whole-day’s roster of jobs to a technician, versus dispatching jobs “individually.”  Second, please notice that, regardless of which such method you use, the process will be initiated from the technician’s list area in the DispatchMap (as distinguished from any job’s locational reference there).  Third, please notice you can transmit dispatch information via your computer’s internal fax, via printing first to hard copy (which, presumably, may then be faxed to the technician using an external fax), via direct link to separate alpha-numeric paging software, or via email.

Regardless, it you’re wanting to batch dispatch (defined as sending information regarding all of a technician’s appointments, for a given day, that are not already checked off as having been dispatched), to initiate the process you need simply click on the technician’s name within the DispatchMap.  At this point you’ll be presented with a selection of options regarding the method of transmission you want to use.  Simply choose the method and proceed.

If wanting to dispatch individual jobs, by contrast (which might arise, for example, if you added-on a job later in the day, after having already batch-dispatched the majority of a tech’s work), the process is initiated by doing a Ctrl-Alt/Rt-Click on the job’s list representation (as found under the tech’s name, in other words).  Again, the system will present you with a list options, asking you to choose the method of transmission you prefer.  Simply make your selection and proceed.

Various Methods

In regard to the various methods, most are self-explanatory.  You can try each and review the result, to decide which will work best for any of your particular situations.  In regard to any printed output, please note that you can either print locally and then put the paper in your fax machine as a method of transmitting to the technician, or, when presented with the printer-selection box, you can select your machine’s internal fax, and fax directly—and thus avoid getting involved with paper at all.

In specific regard to the option for AlphaNumeric, we should explain a few details regarding the underlying mechanics.  If you’re doing alpha-numeric paging, presumably you must have some kind of software package via which the process is managed.  Most of these have a method of interfacing with other programs (such as ServiceDesk , for example) via which the other program can request that a particular page (having particular text contents, etc.) be sent out.  The typical method is that the paging program looks periodically (such as once every minute, for example) within a particular folder, on the hard drive, to see if any files, properly formatted for paging instructions, are there.  For each such file that it finds, it creates and sends a page accordingly, then deletes the file.  Thus, the task for any other program (again, such as ServiceDesk) is simply to create the particular kind of file, and in the particular place, that the paging software will look for.  That’s what ServiceDesk will do for you when you select the option under consideration here—so that within a minute or so of having done so, your paging software should take over and duly transmit the relevant job information to the assigned technician’s pager.

If you you’re not using paging software that has this capability, it’s likely that at least it provides you with a context where you can type a message that you want to have sent to your technician.  ServiceDesk helps you here as well, with an option to copy dispatch information into the Windows Clipboard (if you’ll recall, the Clipboard is simply an invisible place that can temporarily hold any text that’s placed into it).  Thus, if you want to dispatch via a paging system where you’re required to type in text, all you need to do is select the “Copy into Clipboard” option in regard to the job you’re wanting to dispatch.  At such point ServiceDesk will invisibly place the dispatch information into your Windows Clipboard.  Now all you have to do is go to the place in your paging system where normally you’d type a message.  Now just press Ctrl-V on your keyboard (the universal Windows command for Insert).  Wala!  The information should appear and you can send your fax.

Another option is to send the dispatch information directly via email.  For this capability to work, your computer must be equipped with an internally-installed email client that is MAPI-compliant (such as Outlook, Outlook Express or Eudora).  It won’t work with a web-based account such as Hotmail.  At any rate, when you select the email option ServiceDesk will immediately locate any properly installed MAPI-compliant email account as is defaulted on the local machine from which it’s running, and use it to email the dispatch information to your tech.  It’s virtually a one-click deal, and very convenient.

As a final matter directly concerning remote dispatch, we want to mention that some companies have wanted to advance their operations toward a system that we’ll here call “On-Demand Dispatch.”  What this refers to, basically, is a system where only one job is dispatched to each technician at a time.  When any technician finishes a job, he informs the office, which in turn determines which job would next suit the overall needs situation best, and dispatches that one to him.  Thus, the office remains in much more active management of the overall schedule situation, and is probably much more able to offer near immediate response to customers calling in for service.  We mention the concept here, in particular, because you can see that if this is the kind of thing you wanted to do, ServiceDesk would be very ideally suited for it.

On-Demand Invoice-Printing

Having just introduced the term/concept of “on-demand dispatch,” we’re going to do our best to confuse by discussing a different on-demandconcept.  This one stems from the fact that we’ve had a number of clients that did not want to print invoices for each job as each job is created (which, you’ve probably gathered by now, is the typical ServiceDesk-related method).  Instead, they’ve wanted to schedule the jobs, create the JobRecords, and so on, but leave it with no actual ticket printed until immediately before giving the technician his set of jobs (at which time, they finally print the tickets (aka invoices), so they can give the tech the stack that’s involved in his assignments for the day.

If you think about it, it’s obvious this is not properly a subject of “remote dispatch,” but we’re nevertheless discussing it at conclusion of this section because the method for batch-printing a stack of invoices as applicable to a tech’s route, in such circumstances, is accessed from precisely the same context as the various methods for remote dispatch (we say it’s not “remote,” because if you’re giving the tech a stack of invoices, he must be physically present in your office).  In fact, it’s just another item in the list of options.

A few notes about using this method:

  1. You’ll want to change the default in the Create Job/Sale form to the second option, rather than the first (i.e., so the automatically offered default from that context will be to create the job but not print the invoice, instead of doing both). Bear in mind that all these kinds of commands are available in convenient reminder format from within the DispatchMap itself.  Just right-click in any empty space there and you’ll instantly see the applicable ContextualCommandSummary.  It’s nicely categorized, to help you easily find the command/action you’re looking for.        
  2. You may be like one of our clients and take the on-demand invoice-printing concept to its logical conclusion—not only are you not keeping printed tickets on-hand in connection with new jobs pending their hand-off to a technician; in addition, you further refrain from hanging onto tickets he’s returned with for the sake of giving it back to him when he returns to a job for second or third visits.  Instead, you’ll also print fresh tickets on such pre-existing jobs when they’re part of your tech’s roster (thus he has a fresh ticket each time).
  3. If you’ve taken step 2, you should additionally invoke the solution we’ve created to deal with the fact that, when it’s not the first visit you’re sending the tech out on, the fresh invoice that you’re giving him should not look like an up-front, no-work-has-yet-been-done kind of ticket.  Instead, it should show the work that’s already been done, parts ordered and used, etc. (please contrast this less common scenario with what’s more typical, where managers send technicians back with the same up-front-printed invoice that he originally used, and on which he’s hand-written this kind of work-done info).  We’ve accommodated this need by creating an option which makes it so, when you specify printing of a tech’s invoices from the DispatchMap, the system checks to see, on each involved job, if there’s been earlier visits.  If so, it will use a FinishedForm for any such particular invoice (in this context you might think of it as an “interim” form), rather than the standard, up-front variety.  

If you don’t want to hang onto and manage invoices prior to immediately before handing them to your techs as they head out on their work, this system can work very well.  Really, it’s a matter of preference whether you want to do it this way or use more traditional methods.   As with anything else, there are pros and cons both ways.

Other within-map utilities

Some of our clients have wanted to charge variable service call rates, with the actual amount varying as a function of the customer’s distance from headquarters.  One of the difficulties in making such a system work, obviously, is in predicting the distance of a caller quickly, while they are on the telephone, and also quickly calculating what the service call amount should then be, based on whatever formula you’ve setup for the purpose.  We’ve added a feature that makes this very easy.  For future reference, we refer to this as the system for Miles-Determined S.Call Rates.

As the first element in this system, you may notice that whenever you do an Item-Locate operation to the DispatchMap (i.e., by right-clicking on a customer’s address line from either a Callsheet or JobRecord), the system will indicate estimated road mileage to the location in the title bar at the top of your DispatchMap.  This will always occur, regardless of whether you want to use Miles-Determined S.Call Rates or not.  

As the second element, if you want to have the system calculate an actual service call amount for you, based on some formula and the estimated distance, you must provide the formula.  To do this, you simply need to create a file/document that contains three numbers: the maximum number of miles that you wish to have included in the base service call amount, the actual dollar amount for that base, and the incremental amount that you want to charge for each additional mile beyond the base allowance.  These three numbers, essentially, should be created as the text within a simple document (using WordPad or similar program), each on its own line, and the result saved (in ‘Text Only’ format) to a file called ‘MileageRates’, to be located within the \sd\netdata folder on whichever drive is being used as your FileServer.

In other words, if you were wanting to include a distance of 5 miles in a basic service call rate of $95, plus charge an additional $0.95 for each mile beyond that distance, you’d want to create a document with this text:

Then be sure to save under the expected file name, expected location, and in ‘Text Only’ format.  When ServiceDesk starts up, it looks for this file.  Upon finding it, it reads the data, and whenever you do an ItemLocate to the DispatchMap, besides showing you the estimated distance from headquarters in the title bar at top, it will also show you the Miles-Determined S.Call Rate that results from applying your provided formula values.

That’s one miscellaneous utility.  Another involves the fact that, at the end of each day, you'll probably want to print a hard-copy list of all the day's jobs.  It's particularly useful, indeed, to take this list home so you can, if needed, locate a tech working on late jobs (or confirm that someone who calls in on an apparently missed appointment was indeed on the list).  To print such a list, press Alt-P from within the map.  This will print a list for the day presently displayed.  

In conjunction with this entire-schedule printing feature, there is still another option that a very few people might want to use (it was requested by one of our clients, so we added it).  Instead of printing the schedule onto paper, you can instead print it to a file.  From there you can import the data into a spreadsheet program (or merge it into a form-letter type setup within an word processing program) to make whatever separate use of the information that you may want (the particular client for whom we made the feature likes to print a daily route sheet, for his techs, onto which they are required to account for mileage to and from every job, time in transit, and similar details).  If you have use for the feature, you’ll notice this ‘Print to File’ option is offered on the SelectPrinter form when in the context of printing a whole-day schedule.  

In regard to the particular keyboard commands or mouse-sequences that are required for all of these functions, please remember that there is a very nice command summary that’s part of the MainMenu, designed as a resource via which you can easily remind yourself of the particular method that’s needed to access any feature.  It can be accessed directly from within the MainMenu (naturally, under ‘Command Summary’) or, if you’re already in the DispatchMap, just do a right-click in any empty space on the map.  The appropriate section of the MainMenu’s Command Summary will pop into view for you, thus providing instant reminders of whatever particular action you were attempting to remember.  This is another “Cheat-Sheet.”

Bear in mind there are many scheduling tricks that cannot be done from directly within the DispatchMap because they require direct textual editing, as available only from within the ScheduleList form itself.  These tricks (among other items) are discussed in the next section.