Every year I go outside and stare at my gutters. As a person with an exceptional fear of heights, the thought of maneuvering on my ladder to remove the accumulated gunk and misery deposited there by the two gigantic oak trees in my yard drive me to near heart attack. So I call my gutter guy and ask him to come out. My gutter guy then puts my name on a massive list and shows up somewhere in the ballpark of three to six weeks later.

I like my gutter guy because he’s the guy who installed my gutters, but I don’t like my gutter guy because the gutter guy knows that peak gutter cleaning season starts in mid-October and runs through late December, but he can’t seem to bring on additional gutter guys and gals to help manage the process.

Perhaps it’s because my gutter guy understands that a set of new gutters costs a full one hundred times what he charges for a gutter cleaning. My gutter guy looks at that, and asserts that his time is better spent installing gutters than cleaning them. Yet the cleaning service is not some sort of mandatory component of gutter service.

The leaves falling and embedding themselves like concrete in my gutters are not a yearly surprise, though, and I understand that for mom and pop shops, scaling up and down at any time of the year will be an unreasonable ask, but even if seasonality is not a consideration for the average gutter guy, there are some lessons on understanding the ebb and flow of service surge times that are worth discussion.

The most obvious, alluded to earlier in this piece, is the headcount challenges this presents. And again—I’ll couch this by saying this is not a tool of a small, local business—but smart optimization systems are specifically designed to allow organizations to plan for this. Demand is at X, headcount should be at Y, expected demand with ramp up by Z on a specific date, so we need to start brining in temps or contingents here.

Best-in-class optimization systems take it a step further. With multi-time horizon planning, businesses are able to automate surges well beyond a single day, week, or moth period. If you know that business tends to drop off around a certain date, you can automate the approval of more vacation time around that date, for instance. And you’ll know to allocate more payroll when business gets busier. The best of the best among these systems can take historical data and automate the output of these triggers through AI.

Though the seasons tend to be fairly predictable, we now know the volatility and unpredictability of external factors on our business, and the truth is that the best optimization systems not only can pivot in real-time, but offer the ability to simulate “what if?” scenarios in order to plan out the resource impacts and needs on particular hypotheticals. These are all initial planning steps that businesses can make, and they each offer the ability to more smartly serve customers. This saves firms money and time, and hey, if you can deliver faster gutter cleaning, I can tell you from experience that it improves customer happiness.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service