The everyday scenarios in a typical field service organizations can get complex very quickly. No matter how much you plan for the day of service, unexpected challenges and emergencies are bound to pop up and disrupt the entire schedule. The problem only intensifies when deploying hundreds or thousands of service technicians in multiple locations.
To increase business efficiency and improve service levels under these conditions, field service organizations must have a high level of business agility. In other words, field service teams should be able to quickly respond to changing environments and satisfy customers with continuous service delivery. And from a management perspective, the decisions made should be strategic to optimize business requirements like service expenses and SLA compliance.
In this post, we explain how organizations can increase agility and improve decision-making with the right field service management (FSM) solution. Below we offer four essential capabilities you’ll want to arm your organization with.
Typically when a customer calls for their service provider, they’re already in a state of distress. Something broke down that they need fixed immediately. And they’re likely feeling a loss of control over the situation. It’s important that field service engineers are well prepared to resolve the issue on the first visit. Customers should also have the peace of mind that their technician is on the way to help them.
The right solution will arm field resources with the customer’s information beforehand, as well as any details about the job. They should be able to access this info straight from their mobile device so they can provide more accurate and personalized service.
Customers should have multiple, bi-directional communication channels to contact their technician directly, based on their personal preferences. The right FSM solution will take a page from Uber and Amazon’s books and send appointment reminders and real-time status updates about the technician’s location and ETA. This not only eliminates the need for customers to contact the service provider repeatedly, but also reduces the chances of missed appointments or cancellations.
Although things don’t always go to plan on the day of service, it’s important to prepare what you can ahead of time. For instance, demand fluctuates in field service for various reasons. It could be a marketing campaign, storm recovery, or just seasonal variability. If you can forecast the anticipated work in advance, you can ensure you have the right amount of resources to cover it and any unexpected work.
Capacity planning is the process of determining the number of field resources (and skills) required to meet anticipated demands. This is crucial to consider before it’s too late and you miss an SLA, or an emergency job pops up and there’s no one to cover it.
Planning for capacity also allows you to make more informed decisions on how to plan and schedule your workforce days, weeks, or months in advance. For instance, if there’s an immediate need for capacity you can relocate resources from a nearby district. If you notice a gap in capacity weeks out, you can plan to train employees or hire contractors.
It’s best to incorporate planning, forecasting, and scheduling into a single field service management solution. This way you have total control and real-time visibility to identify any gaps and take the action. The right solution will ensure you have the exact amount of resources needed, so you aren’t overstaffing (and overspending) or understaffing (and missing appointments). It will also consider service goals to make sure the decisions managers and supervisors make align with the business.
A way to manually add flexibility into the workforce is by tapping into the gig-economy and hiring contractors. According to Service Council, 76% of field service organizations already have work done by third parties—whether it’s to manage fluctuating demand, widen service area coverage, reduce labor costs, or increase availability.
While hiring contractors certainly increases agility, it can also make things difficult to manage. Service providers often have limited visibility into contractor capacity, real-time availability, and work progress. Not to mention, outsourcing sometimes causes service inconsistencies, which can diminish brand reputation.
If you plan to outsource your workforce, you need an FSM solution with contractor management that allows you to efficiently keep track of contractors. This includes giving schedulers and planners a simplified view of contractor capacity (to make better decisions on the fly), enabling real-time communication between the service provider and contractors, and allowing service providers control over the tasks assigned to contractors. More importantly, both employees and third-party workforces should be managed in a single solution. This adds more visibility into operations and more control over the service the end customer receives.
With a remote workforce, it’s crucial to have a robust mobility solution to ensure easy access to information and real-time communication between the field, back office, and customers. The beauty of mobility is it’s accessibility anywhere and anytime. Meaning, field resources always have the information they need at the right time and in the right context. Straight from their mobile device, engineers can look up customer or job information, contact another resource for assistance, and get notified about new job assignments as they come.
With easy access to crucial information, both the field and back office have all they need to make the right decisions at any moment. And even though they’re miles apart, they’re constantly connected. Technicians can update the back office in real-time about their location and job progress. If the resource needs assistance, their managers are just a call or text away. And if an emergency job pops up, dispatchers can assign a nearby tech in seconds.
Mobile solutions also speed up administrative work like filling out forms, paperwork, and time sheets. The job completion process, which is usually a pain to do later, can even be while still on-site with the customer. Likewise, with automation, collecting data and tracking information is easier and more accurate.
In the complex world of field service, businesses with the agility to handle anything thrown their way will be the most successful. Ensure your service organization is ready for anything by investing in an optimized field service management solution.
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