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Art of Dispatching - Advisor Article - Part 4 of 4

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Topic recreated from an Article Discussion on Tow411, August 2006:


This is the last installment of this series as recently published in the towPartners Advisor…

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more critical to the success of a dispatcher than communication. It is essential within the dispatch room, between dispatch and customer service, between dispatch and the driver staff, between dispatch and other departments, and mostly, between dispatch and the customers. If there is one recurring complaint common to any service business, and especially the towing business, it is that of the customer saying, “If you had only told me…..”
•        “If you had only told me that the driver would be here in 10 minutes, I would not have been angry.”
•        “If you had only told me that my expectations were unreasonable, we could have worked something out.”
•        “If you had only told me that the driver was in an accident, I would have called my customer and told them you were running behind. Now my customer is mad at me too.”
•        “If you had only told me that you could not do it, I would have used someone else.”
•        “If you had only told me that you could not guarantee making the ETA, I would have called my friend for a ride and left the car for you.”

All of these examples have actually happened, but the list of “If you’s…” regularly receives new additions.

The need for communication is amplified when one realizes that any time you are near someone, talking with someone, or listening to someone, you are communicating. As you walk down the hallway, you communicate a great deal through the pace of your step, your posture, and the items that you carry. As you speak on the phone, the tone of your voice, the expression with which you speak, your clarity and volume all communicate something to the listening party. It is this something that breeds confidence, instills trust, and confirms aptitude. There’s an old adage that “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters”. That does not apply exactly to a dispatcher, because he must know about that which he speaks, or he will not be successful. But the point is well made. A dispatcher can tell a customer that you are unable to meet their needs in a matter that will not close the door for negotiation.

For example, if a customer calls with a request to have a truck on-site within 15 minutes, a dispatcher can respond that the correct truck may take as long as 25 minutes, but he will do his best to get it done quickly. It will take no more than 30 minutes for sure. Realize for a moment that the dispatcher has doubled the time to get to the customer. But he has stated it in such a manner that the customer is presented with an option of calling another service, or going with a definite 30 minute arrival time. Most times, they will opt for the sure thing because all they wanted in the first place was to have the truck on-site as quickly as humanly possible.

Let’s consider what happens if the dispatcher communicates differently. For instance, in the case above, if the dispatcher flatly tells the customer that their wish is not humanly possible. Or tells the customer that too many drivers called in sick today. Or tells them that it is too busy to accommodate the request. Or tells the customer that if they wants it done quickly, then maybe they should buy a tow truck! (Don’t laugh as it has happened!)

Please understand that the emphasis in communication is on presentation. If no driver is available to run a call, the dispatcher needs to know. But the dispatcher does not need to tell the customer. Rather, tell the customer, "The soonest I can get a driver to your location will be _____ minutes. Is that soon enough?” Too many times, a customer is made to feel like an inconvenience. If a customer is made to feel this way, they will not be a customer for long. Would you?

Be honest with the customer. Tell them whether or not you can meet their needs. But tell them in a way that they are not exposed to all of the shortcomings of the company. Interacting directly with the customer over the phone is the nearest a dispatcher will get to shaking the customer’s hand. After the next call from a customer, ask yourself, “Did I communicate to that customer that I appreciate their business and I will do everything I can to meet their needs?” If you can answer “yes” to that question, then you are effectively communicating with the customer.

You are always communicating. What’s your message?

Where is the key to the filing cabinet?
What time is Bob coming in today?
Where is that pen I loaned you last week?
Do you know where Charlotte is?
Do you have change for a dollar?
Have you seen Joe’s new tattoo?
Did you hear who won the football game last night?
Are we busy today?
Who is in truck 24?

Do these questions sound familiar? Anyone who has worked in an office for more than 10 minutes can testify that they are part of the everyday routine. For a dispatcher, they are more than an interruption. They are disastrous. They are landmines in a dispatcher’s mental map. One question can cause a catastrophic derailment in a dispatcher’s train of thought.

Webster’s defines concentration as the act of coming to or drawing toward a common center; focusing. A dispatcher who is distracted is like a person with the wrong pair of eyeglasses. No matter how they struggle, they are prohibited from clear vision because of what they are looking through.


A successful dispatcher crafts his work as he goes through the day. He assigns a call to one driver, and removes a call from another. He sends a message to a driver about his status, while listening on the radio to a traffic report about an accident on a major freeway, all the time planning for his next dispatch. A customer calls for an ETA, while another driver calls for help on the radio. Meanwhile, two lines are ringing on the dispatch phone, while another customer calls wondering what happened to their car from yesterday because the service advisor can’t find it. All of these encounters are not interruptions. They demand resolution. All of these encounters are part of the job of a dispatcher. Any peripheral question, comment, dilemma, or situation is a distraction from the task of dispatching. And any interruption in a dispatchers thought process could result in an error in his dispatch process.

To say it briefly….distractions are death to a dispatcher.

If you go into an arcade at a mall, you expect to be bombarded with visual and audio stimuli. The same is true in the dispatch room. The key to a dispatcher’s success lies in his ability to distinguish between those things that are necessary for the performance of his job, and those things that only act to distract him. This can be accomplished by focusing on several topics previously discussed. Control those distractions which you are able, and eliminate them if possible. Keep everyone out of dispatch except dispatchers. When possible, direct phone calls to those people who are not responsible for the assignment of calls. Come up with creative ideas about ways of eliminating distractions. Communicate through e-mail or other means to your supervisor that you are too distracted. Communicate to the driver staff what you consider to be interruptions and what you consider to be helpful inquires and calls. Confront others who inhibit your ability to concentrate.

A dispatcher must see with clarity, think with quickness, and concentrate with completeness.

If you think that the perfect dispatcher is a combination of Mozart, Roger Staubach, Bobby Fisher, Monet, Ross Perot, Will Rogers, Ghandi and Zig Ziglar, I commend you. You understand what has been written. You recognize the challenge of your task. Now…enjoy the Art of Dispatching.

Dispatch is not a color. It is a painting.
Dispatch is not a sentence. It is a story.
Dispatch is not an idea. It is a philosophy.
Dispatch is not a procedure. It is a process.

To see all of the Art of Dispatch articles, visit the towPartners Document Library.

Hope you enjoy these articles... More to come.

-Jeffrey Godwin

Dispatcher35 said:
Having worked as a Dispatcher for the last 5+ years I can’t agree more with Jeff’s statements about concentration. At my last job, I can’t count on both hands and feet the number of times in a day I was interrupted to deal with things that had nothing to do with dispatching:

The Audi dealer is out front with parts and needs to be paid. Could you stop what you’re doing and write him a check because the bookkeeper is out today because it’s that time of the month again. (Gee, I don’t remember getting a day off because it was “that time of the month”.)

Why did Mr. Jones drop off his Chevy this morning?

What is that VW parked in the space out front?

Gee the Service Manager is busy, could you call the dealer and order a belt for Mrs. Johnson's car?

Could you please call Mr. Smith and tell him he can pick up his car?

Ok, you as the boss might walk in and see the Dispatcher on the ‘net but I know that 99% of the time I was on the net I was:

&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Looking up directions on Mapquest

&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Checking towspecs.com for a driver

Reading the previous day’s police log for details on cars towed in the previous night.

Now that I dispatch strictly from my house and don’t have to deal with all the useless interruptions things go a lot better. The Dispatcher is there to dispatcher. He / She is not the lot person, the bookkeeper, the parts person or any other job in your company


Jeffrey Godwin

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  • 10 months later...

In reality, the dispatcher is the operator of the company flow chart.  Receiving and relaying info to the proper person/department.  Also must decide in a heartbeat who, what, when, where and how to complete is and others jobs.  If you don't "know" towing you will surely loose until you master all situations.

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