Businesses are always looking for ways to grow revenue while shrinking costs. An increasing number of field service organizations are turning to an external workforce of contractors because it makes expanding to new locations or services more scalable. A ready to go workforce is much easier to deal with—and much less expensive—than onboarding new employees on a short timeline. While the benefits are tempting, outsourcing workers also creates challenges for the company that owns the customer relationship. Without clear visibility into contractor service delivery, customer service, SLA compliance, and the brand could suffer.
Fortunately, technology exists to eliminate gaps in visibility and make the third-party workforce nearly indistinguishable from the service organization’s internal workforce. The right mobile workforce management solution will allow companies to oversee contractor operations and make them easier to manage.
The Challenges of a Third-Party Workforce
The appeal of outsourcing is clear: you can save on labor costs, broaden skill sets, and it'll be easier to expand geographically. If you’re looking to enter new markets or expand to new locations, it’s simpler to turn to local contractors instead of onboarding a whole new team in that location or area of expertise. And for businesses with seasonal demand fluctuations, it’s easier and a whole lot cheaper to outsource than hire a full-time team that you won’t need year-round.
But the potential risk to the company that owns the customer relationship often goes unrecognized. These companies put their brand reputation on the line when they allow external employees to interact with customers.
The management problem stems from a lack of visibility and control over the contractors. It's a lot easier to manage internal employees because with your mobile workforce management system, you can see what they’re doing, and communicate with them directly. But tracking down contractors usually requires a chain of calls, and slows the service process. And they may not have a mobile workforce management solution of their own, which slows down the process even more. Because of this disconnect in communication, it’s a long, inefficient process just to track down a contracted tech. If there’s a problem with the service, you likely won’t hear about it until the customer complains. By then you might have already damaged the customer relationship—even if it wasn't one of your employees causing the problem.
The service organization that owns the customer relationship must ensure that the third-party contractors, in addition to internal employees, are providing optimal customer experiences. It’s a lot more difficult to manage a workforce that isn’t yours, but effective contractor management is possible.
Benefits of a Mobile Workforce Management Solution
With a flexible mobile workforce management system, both internal and external employees can be managed on one application. This adds a layer of control and communication, and improves visibility over contractors.
The right workforce management system will allow you to manage performance and capacity of internal and outsourced employees on the same platform. Both parties’ schedules can sync to allow last minute scheduling changes and improve capacity planning. Likewise, you can give contractors access to real-time scheduling, work orders, and customer information on the go, so they have everything they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
This streamlined solution creates a more consistent process when it comes to communication. It eliminates the need for a chain of calls to get to the root of the problem because contracted techs can communicate directly with the service organization. For example, contractors can check in and out of a job site and notify the rest of the team. And if there’s a problem during the service call, contractors can send a picture back to the service company for more support.
Being able to locate a tech is crucial, especially if a problem occurs or an emergency job comes up. Whether it's assigned to an employee or contractor, you can track the number of work orders completed, and know which are at risk. You'll also know where your contractors are, which makes it easier to answer "where's my tech?" calls, which as research gathered from our customers shows, amounts to almost a quarter of calls to a call center.
By providing customers with automated notifications via the channel of their choice, you can inform them of the contractor's location and estimated arrival time so they can go about their day. And you can gain operational efficiency with fewer “where’s my technician?” calls coming into the call center. You could even provide the tech's name and picture so customers know who exactly to expect.
Tracking contractor data will also help you continually improve the management process. You can track contractor adherence to SLA compliance to make decisions regarding continued partnership. Or you can leverage weekly work order performance data to uncover potential problems before they have a lasting effect on customers.
No solution is foolproof. There are some factors you’ll need to consider before implementation. Keep in mind that you’ll be working with a company that uses different technology and has a varying culture and processes. Not everyone will be quick to jump on board to install a whole new system with a partner they aren’t working with exclusively. Here’s what you should consider:
There’s no guarantee your contractors are using the same technology you are. While you’re using smart phones and an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, the contracted company might be using flip phones and an Excel spreadsheet for business operations. To use your solution, the contractors will need smart mobile devices.
This isn’t necessarily a monetary investment for the contractors. Most people these days have smart phones, so workers could use their own devices. But it might take some adjustment from a change management perspective. If the contractors are used to using older flip phones, where they don’t have to remember to check in or out of a job site, it will probably take time to adjust to a new process.
Just as companies use different technology, they also have differing internal practices. It’s important that when it comes to using this technology, and working together, everyone is speaking a common language.
It’s also important to ensure everyone’s schedules are synced up. Each party is running a different business, so it’s important that when you do work together, you’re on the same page. This means monitoring everything in real-time to get the most accurate and up to date schedules and job status information.
Resistance from Contractors
The contractors you work with might not be on board with you setting a technology requirement for them. They might see it as something they’ll have to invest time in just to work with your team. They’ll have to learn how to use the product, and adapt to a new service process.
However, this solution offers benefits to both parties. It allows for more consistent scheduling, cost savings, and better resource utilization. It also speeds up the payment process for contractors by making the job completion and customer signature process digital and real time. If they’re fully aware of the benefits, they might be more willing to adapt how they work.
Outsourcing work doesn’t mean you have to lose visibility of work orders. The right mobile workforce management solution can seamlessly manage both parties on one solution, with real-time visibility. More consistent service delivery will improve customer service, no matter who is delivering it.
For more field service news, trends, and advice, please subscribe to the Field Service Matters blog.