With 2020 on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to think about new ways to improve your field service business. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about new trends and visions for the future, and it’s probably a little overwhelming. An easy way to get started is by throwing away some of the outdated practices you’ve been following. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of field service practices you might want to leave behind in 2019.
1. Manual scheduling
Field service scheduling requires making several quick and calculated decisions. You need to consider everything from travel time and routing, technicians’ schedules and skill sets, equipment tracking, and SLA compliance. It’s much easier to rely on an automated scheduling solution to make optimized decisions for you, so you can focus on the bigger stuff—like your customers’ satisfaction.
2. Paper-based forms
46% of field technicians reported paperwork and administrative tasks as the worst part of the day, according to Service Council. That’s because they would much rather be doing their jobs and solving customer problems. Electronic and mobile forms can make this process much less painful and a lot quicker. Go even further to simplify the process by allowing fields to be automatically populated with known information from the host system.
3. Not relying on a mobile field solution
In an industry driven by a mobile workforce it’s key you have a mobile field service solution to ensure productivity and efficiency. Your field resources should have access to real-time updates and information about their assigned work at all times—especially when their workload could change at any moment with cancellations or emergency work. Not to mention, a mobile solution ensures your field resources and the back office are constantly connected.
4. Using separate solutions
The only way to gain true visibility into field service schedules is to manage everything in a single solution. This includes schedules, capacity planning, long- and short-cycle work, crew allocations, and more. Limiting field service management to a single solution also gives you the flexibility to manage your workforce more efficiently and ensure that you’re equipped to handle urgent work.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to FSM solutions
Your business is field service. Invest revenue in your business, not in software creation or building home-grown solutions. Let a leading field service management (FSM) solution provider invest their revenue in improving software and rely on them for industry best practices, processes, and requirements. Better yet, consider a cloud solution to add additional flexibility, reduce pressure on IT, avoid additional hardware investments, and ensure seamless updates.
Keep in mind that even the cheapest of these solutions can be expensive if they aren’t helping you achieve cost reductions or revenue increases. Use suitable ROI tools to ensure you’re getting the most value out of the solution you choose.
6. Automating everything
Automation is great when it comes to scheduling and dispatching your field technicians. But some things are better left manual—such as receiving customer calls. Though many might prefer self-service and self-booking, when there’s an emergency sometimes it’s just easier to pick up the phone. In situations that require a quick response, your customers would be much happier to talk to a person instead of an automated message.
7. Letting technicians choose their task order
Though your field resources know their workload and have a good idea of what they can handle, there’s a lot to consider when scheduling the order of jobs. For instance, you have to consider travel time and the optimized route to the site. You also have to consider business priorities, as there may be tasks at risk of missing an SLA. With so much to keep in mind, it’s better to let your field service management solution make the optimal decisions for you.
8. Delaying service updates
It’s crucial that dispatchers and management have the most accurate picture of the status of work being performed. That way, better scheduling and routing decisions can be made. Encourage technicians to update their status service orders in a timely manner so you have more visibility into day-to-day execution.
9. Locking or “Pinning” tasks
Before the days of automated FSM solutions, many organizations would manually schedule and reshuffle tasks with sticky notes. Tasks that absolutely could not be reshuffled would be pinned down. Some organizations with FSM solutions still lock down tasks for various reasons—the customer requested a specific resource or the appointment was already rescheduled multiple times. But locking down tasks makes it difficult to truly optimize the schedule because you lose the ability to add new in-day jobs or emergency work. A better practice is to look at the business case and find a solution that doesn’t require locking. For instance, if a customer requests a specific resource, flag that as a requirement but still allow the solution to find the optimal appointment slot.
10. Not prepping technicians for customer service
Your field resources are often the only face-to-face contact your customers have with your company. This means it’s crucial they are equipped to give the best customer service possible. Start thinking of your technicians as your brand ambassadors, and ensure they have the soft skills to make a great impression on your customers.
11. Not recognizing the dispatcher’s new role
Even with automated FSM solutions, many organizations still heavily rely on tribal knowledge from the dispatcher or scheduler. While they may know the schedule inside and out, it’s better to let the solution handle most of the scheduling and leave dispatchers to strategically manage exceptions on the day of service.
12. Not focusing on employee engagement or recruiting millennials
Today’s workforce is fast retiring. According to Service Council, over 70% of service organizations reporting they will face a talent shortage in the next five to ten years. The aging population is hitting the utilities and healthcare industries especially hard, with organizations struggling to fill positions. To retain employees and avoid turnover, organizations must prioritize employee engagement.
Likewise, with an aging population, it’s becoming more important for organizations to focus on recruiting the next generation of the workforce: millennials. Some might call millennials lazy or entitled, but they actually have a lot to offer organizations, such as technological skills and customer-centricity. This generation is not the easiest to engage or retain, but understanding generational differences and focusing on things millennials care about can make a huge difference.
13. Lack of visibility into technician location
Companies like Uber and Amazon setting the bar high for service. With Uber you can hail a ride and know exactly where your driver is and when they will arrive. And Amazon provides updates when your package is shipped and as soon as it’s delivered. Your customers know this level of visibility is possible, and they expect it in their service too. Allow customers to track their technician’s location and send them reminders and updates about the status of their service. On top of giving your customers’ peace of mind, this also helps you avoid no shows and last minute cancellations.
14. Difficult appointment booking
According to our Field Service Report, almost all respondents cited “ease of booking” as a top priority. If service organizations wish to keep up with customers, they must make the booking process simpler, and available across a variety of channels. Everyone has a preference when it comes to communication, so mobile, web, and phone-based booking must be available. Customers should also have the choice of a preferred time slot and plenty of communication about the status of their appointment.
15. Long Appointment Windows and Exact Time Slots
In the same report cited above, more than 60% of consumers across all countries said a long wait time between their service appointment being booked and carried out led to a bad customer service experience. It’s no surprise because today’s customers expect service fast, and definitely don’t want to be waiting around all day to get it. Use optimized scheduling and appointment booking to ensure shorter, two hour service windows for your customers.
At the same time, don’t book an appointment for an exact time. It might seem like an easy way to avoid long windows, but it limits schedule optimization and sets the wrong expectation if a technician shows up late.
16. Leaving the customer site before booking a follow up appointment
Sometimes a repair is more complex than originally thought or a technician doesn’t have the right part to complete a job. When a follow up appointment is needed, don’t leave the customer site until it is booked. Instead of simply ordering a part and asking the customer to call and schedule when they receive it, do it for them. The customer will feel more at ease knowing that even though the problem wasn’t fixed today, it will be fixed as soon as possible.
17. Not measuring customer effort score
When it comes to measuring customer experience, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores are usually the go to. But in today’s on demand world, convenience and ease are becoming more and more important to customers. Many organizations have started measuring customer experience by the amount of effort customers are putting into getting an issue resolved. Add this to your list of KPIs so you can ensure future customer engagements are simple and seamless.
18. Shying away from new technology
Leading field service organizations are taking advantage of technology like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) to improve efficiency, cut costs, and boost customer loyalty. AI and machine learning allow for automatic and optimized scheduling, routing, and predictive field service. IoT sensors and connected devices are making remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance possible. And AR and VR are used for remote repairs and training for technicians. The possibilities are endless.
19. Not using live traffic updates
As customer expectations continue to rise, the importance of route optimization and getting resources from place to place is ever increasing. Routing and travel strategies vary from company to company, with some using point-to-point calculations or street level routing. Many organizations are taking advantage of predictive travel and applications like Google Maps to accurately estimate travel times and plan routes ahead of the service day. However, it’s also important to consider real-time, live traffic updates on the day of service to account for unforeseen traffic and roadblocks.
20. Not factoring in change management
When your field service team has been doing things a certain way for several years, bringing in a new solution can be overwhelming. Even if the previous solution was inefficient or completely manual and paper based, change can be scary. When implementing a new field service management solution, it’s important to get everyone on board and comfortable with the new solution—so don’t skip out on change management. Emphasize the benefits of FSM—such as efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction—and make sure everyone is properly trained on using the solution.