This is part four of a five-part series on service chain optimization. For more context, you can read the previous posts by visiting the links below:
- Part 1: Forecasting and Planning
- Part 2: Shift Planning and Management
- Part 3: Scheduling and Dispatching
If you’ve been following our Dissecting the Service Chain series, you know that service chain optimization is the term ClickSoftware coined to define the decision-making process for ensuring service excellence. The service chain encompasses everything that happens before, during, and after the day of service—or planning, execution, and analysis.
So far in this series we’ve discussed:
- The importance of predicting the amount of work that will need to be done during a particular time period (demand forecasting)
- The art and science of ensuring there are enough people, parts, skills, and tools to meet anticipated and unplanned work (capacity planning)
- The need to ensure the right personnel are in right shifts and doing the right things in those shifts (shift planning & management)
- The criticality of optimizing and automating scheduling and dispatch through truth based-appointment booking and efficient routing
In this post we dive into another key component of the execution phase of the service chain: mobile field execution. We’ll also cover the importance of customer engagement, which binds the links of the service chain together.
Why is Workforce Mobility Important in Field Service?
With field service professionals, managers, supervisors, dispatchers, schedulers all in different places at once, managing and keeping track of the workforce is challenging.
Managers need to know the status and location of the mobile workforce at all times in case any issues arise. Schedulers and dispatchers also need total visibility into operations so they can make informed, real-time decisions, such as reallocating a resource. Field service technicians should be able to communicate easily with the back office and have the information they need to meet customer needs. And customers want to know when their technician will arrive and have an easy way to get in touch with them.
To ensure seamless operations, a connection between the field and back office is essential, and mobility is key. The entire organization should have access to the same information, no matter where they are, and maintain a degree of real-time communication to ensure decisions can be made at any given moment. Below we discuss how mobility empowers each group in the field service organization:
1. Field Service Professionals: Efficiency & Preparedness
Mobility is the channel by which field service professionals can get the right information, in the right context, at the right time. This might be information about the job, customer, asset, parts availability, or others in the workforce who can assist when needed. No matter what they need or where they are, field workers should be able to access the information they need to get the job done and meet the needs of customers at their fingertips.
Standing in front of a customer without complete information on the assignment isn’t helpful, and will leave the customer frustrated when you can’t resolve their issue. With a mobile device in the hands of the professional, they can access this information right at the moment it’s needed, increasing efficiency, speeding resolution, and satisfying the customer. Armed with the right information about the job and customer history, they can ensure a personalized experience for customers and act as brand ambassadors for your organization. Augmented reality and wearables take things a step further, by enabling field workers to get help from an expert in real time, without having to stop the work to make a phone call.
Mobility also eliminates reliance on paperwork, which benefits all parties in the organization. For field service professionals, this makes the administrative and job completion process a lot easier and faster. Instead of filling out annoying and time-consuming paperwork, technicians can do everything electronically, with customer information pre-filled. This also increases reporting accuracy while reducing the potential for human error, lost information, and the need for re-entry. More importantly, it frees up time for workers to be more productive and get to the next job quicker.
2. Managers, Dispatchers, and the Back-Office: Visibility & Reduced Costs
Without back-office visibility into the field, things can start to unravel quickly. Managers, supervisors, schedulers, and dispatchers need to know what’s happening in the business, and where resources are at any given time. As soon as information is captured in the field, the office should be updated instantly so they can make informed decisions.
With workforce mobility, the distinction between the field and back office disappears, and organizations are no longer restricted by location. Here are just a few examples of how mobility improves efficiency and connects the workforce:
Managers and supervisors can:
- See where improvements need to take place and quickly make informed decisions, without physically being in the field
- Keep in touch with technicians and track their location to ensure they’re safe and on schedule
- Train and mentor technicians remotely by answering quick questions via text, and even see what they’re seeing via a camera or video chat on a mobile device
- Approve vacation requests from their mobile device and update the system in real-time so schedulers are aware
Schedulers and dispatchers can:
- Easily make changes to the schedule based on real-time updates from the field
- Quickly find another nearby technician to handle an appointment that’s delayed
- Seamlessly handle emergency requests and give customers same day service
- Have a true sense of the schedule as it’s updated in real time
In addition to connectivity and visibility, mobility offers an efficient and cost effective way to manage the workforce and the organization. Here are just a few examples:
- Reduces overhead and administration costs of paper-based field service management and data entry
- Eliminates “where’s my technician?” calls, thus reducing telephony costs
- Shortens billing cycles by creating invoices in the field and instantly adding them in the accounting system
- Preserves audit trail for full regulatory compliance
3. Customers: Transparency & Seamless Service Experiences
With consumer expectations higher than ever, there’s an increasing pressure for service organizations to provide reliable, flexible, and almost faultless service to customers—putting customer engagement at the heart of service chain optimization. Ensuring the right people, skills, and parts, are available in the right places at the right time while providing real-time updates is how service businesses maximize customer satisfaction.
The modern consumer expects and demands transparency, speed, convenience, and constant communication, all of which mobility enables. And they certainly won’t tolerate multiple visits, so ensuring their technician is equipped with the information to fix their problem the first time is essential.
Thanks to the likes of Uber and Amazon, customers also expect real-time status updates of their technician’s locations. They want to know when their on their way and when they can expect them, as well as the ability to communicate with them easily through their preferred channel.
To avoid last minute cancellations and no shows, service providers can also send customers reminder messages or notifications—and the option to reschedule straight from their phone—the night before and the morning of service.
To sum up, mobility solutions solve the visibility problem of workforce management. ClickSoftware’s mobile workforce management software and customer engagement solution connect the field, back office, and customers, increasing efficiency and improving service experiences.
Keep an eye out for the final post in our Dissecting the Service Chain series on the ClickSoftware blog.