Successful service delivery is a delicate balancing act. It means ensuring your workforce is at the right place at the right time, while increasing productivity, satisfying customers, growing revenue, and minimizing costs.
Though service organizations are ultimately measured by their performance on the day of service, the execution is only the last link in a chain of decisions made days, weeks, or months in advance. To be truly successful, organizations must carefully consider everything that happens before, during, and after the day of service.
In 1996, ClickSoftware coined the term service chain optimization to define the decision-making process for ensuring an efficient day of service. By continuously following each step, service organizations can find the optimal balance between business goals and customer expectations. Service chain optimization considers the full life-cycle of service delivery—planning, execution, and analysis. This includes:
- Forecasting and Planning
- Shift Management
- Scheduling and Dispatch
- Mobile Field Execution
- Performance Measurement
In this series, we will cover each of these five stages in more depth. You’ll see that each link in the service chain is interrelated and interdependent on one another to ensure success and continuous improvement.
In this first post, we’ll discuss forecasting and planning – the crucial first step to ensuring optimized service delivery.
Why are Forecasting and Planning Important?
Any complex task starts with a plan—and field service delivery is no exception. Not to mention, disruptions, delays, and emergency jobs are bound to pop up on the day of service. Most of the damage control experienced on the day of is the result of decisions made days, weeks, or even months in advance.
With careful and accurate forecasting and planning, it’s possible to manage the unexpected and be well-prepared to adjust around in-day disruptions. This will help you ensure consistent service delivery to your customers.
What is Demand Forecasting?
Demand forecasting is the process of predicting the number of tasks that will arise during a particular time period. It essentially sets the stage for planners to create an accurate resource plan by taking the guesswork out of predicting unplanned service requirements.
With an accurate view of the anticipated work, planners have a better grasp on the number of resources and time needed to complete it all. This allows them to feel more confident as they move onto capacity planning.
How Does Demand Forecasting Work?
Demand forecasting merges historical volume and performance data with assumptions about the future. By applying predictive algorithms to historical data you can produce a highly accurate workload forecast.
Though forecasting is a common practice across service organizations, many times it’s carried out in silos, with little consideration for what’s happening in the business. However, service demand is often driven by various factors within the organization, and it’s crucial that resources and budget align with overall corporate goals. For instance, there might be an upcoming marketing or sales campaign likely to drive more business. When forecasting demand, it’s key to apply information from across the organization, including sales and marketing plans, organizational decisions, and anticipated outcomes of planned business events.
Demand can also be driven by external factors such as extreme weather (i.e. storm recovery) or severe traffic conditions. Many service organizations, such as utilities, have fluctuating seasonal demands throughout the year. Keeping track of this data will all be useful for producing an accurate forecast.
Demand Forecasting with ClickSoftware
ClickSoftware uses intelligent machine-learning-based technology to ensure accurate demand predictions. The solution allows organizations to experiment with anticipated events and multiple forecast scenarios to ensure:
- Cost control
- Improved resource utilization
- Greater schedule accuracy
- High customer and employee satisfaction
What is Capacity Planning?
Capacity planning is the art and science of ensuring you have enough field resources to complete the planned and unplanned work on any given day. Essentially it’s ensuring there’s enough personnel to meet demand, the workforce has the right skills, and that they’re located in the right areas. It’s only when the right people, skills, parts, and equipment are in the right place at the right time that service performance can be predictable and customer experience consistent.
It’s key for planners to allocate just enough resources (no more, no less) to control costs while still meeting customer expectations and SLAs. With too much capacity reserved, you’re wasting money on unused resources. With too few, and you face revenue implications because you won’t have the bandwidth to meet the expected work or the emergency jobs that are bound to pop up.
How Does Capacity Planning Work?
During capacity planning, the planner assesses all available resources against the forecasted work, identifies any gaps, and makes decisions on how best to adjust the workforce. Depending on the business priorities, this might mean relocating resources, hiring new employees or contractors, relaxing overtime, or providing additional training.
Visibility is key when it comes to capacity planning. To make the best decisions, planners need insight into the forecast and schedule. At all times they should know when technicians are working, where they’re located, and which skills are at use.
Capacity Planning with ClickSoftware
ClickSoftware’s solution integrates capacity planning, forecasting, and scheduling all in a single platform, giving organizations a holistic view of operations. All changes made to the forecast and schedule are immediately reflected in the planning tool. With this information delivered in real-time, planners can flag any gaps in coverage and take action before the problem arises. This results in:
- Earlier and more accurate predictions of the impact of service
- The right level of hiring with sufficient time to train and knowing which areas of the business can be addressed by a service partner or contractor
- Increased value of schedule optimization with a workforce that matches the demand
- Reduced number of incidents, and reduced impact of those incidents in the field
Field Service Delivery Starts With a Plan
When all the action happens on the day of, it’s easy to forget that days, weeks, or months of planning are involved in making service delivery successful. This first link in the service chain is key for ensuring that service execution goes as seamlessly as possible.
Follow our blog series on service chain optimization to learn about the steps to achieve service excellence.