Up until earlier this year, I was totally ignorant of the usefulness of mobile technology in the workplace. My first clue regarding its usefulness was about five months ago when I was having problems with my oven. I called the call center and sat on hold for 20 minutes. However, once I finally got through to an agent, the experience was totally different. The service call information was sent to me via a text message, as was a reminder the day of the actual call. The technician showed up on time (a miracle) and within a half hour had fixed the oven and put it back together. When it was time to pay the guy, I expected him to pull out a huge pad of paper like what happened when my kitchen faucet broke the previous month. Instead, he opened up some kind of app on his phone and entered all of the information. You could say I was very impressed, and better yet, my oven works perfectly.
Since then I’ve had a few more experiences that have pretty much made it obvious to me that mobile technology has its place in the workplace and that those who don’t embrace it and other types of technology (ahem, folks who think that a fax machine is still relevant in the email era) are simply going to lose business. Yes, mobile technology can be a distraction, but the horse is out of the stable and it’s a better idea to embrace and adapt the technology rather than reject it.
My experience with that company’s oven repair is only one event in the growing trend of incorporating mobile devices into the workplace – whether it’s a phone, tablet or even a smartwatch. Along with this, there is also an incredible amount of data being gathered, to the point that it might even be considered a bit intrusive. Because of mobility, it’s now possible to see where employees are and what they are doing at all times of the day.
Gathering Data Equals Accountability and Smarter Managerial Decisions
Having all of that information – even if it’s a bit intrusive (okay, maybe a lot intrusive) - can help make smarter business decisions, such as which employee goes where. With mobile technology, you can adjust schedules. And, you can catch the guys who are less productive and reduce expenses. It increases everyone’s visibility. But it isn’t all bad.
Increased visibility means that if the customer needed to relay some preliminary information to the technician, he or she could contact the technician directly instead of wasting time and resources going through the call center, who would contact the technician and then relay the confirmation back to the customer.
This old way of going through the call center wastes money on phone calls and usually results in poor customer service via poor communication, which causes reduced employee satisfaction.
Another way this can work would be as follows: Say you’re a veterinarian with a clinic that vans to deal with different types of animals. Let’s also say that a customer calls in from their phone or even uses their watch to contact you that his dog ate something it shouldn’t have. After a quick diagnosis, if you decided that it’s best to not move the animal, and that you’ll send one of your vans to the customer’s home. If you know where the nearest van is, you can send it to treat the poor animal rather than going through a call center, scheduling an appointment, et cetera, which can waste time. This makes use of the GPS in the employee’s phone, smartwatch or a simple tracking app.
Data Uses Beyond Simple Schedule Management
The information gathered in the database could also prove useful in other ways. If you know your employees habits, you can manage employees’ sick, vacation and paid time-off (PTO) days. If an employee has a certain number of paid days off days per month or year, direct access to this kind of information can be beneficial in planning vacation time accordingly. This also assures that employees are not asking for paid time off that they do not have. If you’re mobile, you could even give employee the freedom to submit sick day and vacation requests via their smartphone, and s/he can request those days as early as possible - whether at work, at home or out somewhere else. A mobile platform where all employees could log on and look at one master schedule, akin to Google Docs or Dropbox, could potentially allow employees to voice preferences for pickup or overtime shifts, as well.
Mobile technology and particularly smartphones aren’t going away, especially in the field services sector. According to a survey by Field Technologies Magazine, 49% of companies say their primary form of communication in the field is smartphones, and 75% of that demographic say they would consider sticking with smartphones. Mobile workforce scheduling software contains features that are designed to increase efficiency, customer satisfaction and transparency in the field. Planned duration scheduling features allow technicians to update their schedules as circumstances come up that increase or decrease the duration of each job. Time and context-based notifications nudge the technician to allow the program to take action in regards to updating the schedule. Customers benefit from being able to contact the technicians directly and see their schedule updates in real-time. Employers benefit from cutting wasteful costs and increasing customer satisfaction, which often results in good word-of-mouth. There are several ways that this mobile system can be improved, such as including further scheduling capabilities for employees, including access to information regarding vacation days, paid time off and overtime shift availability. With 38% of employees claiming that the use of mobile devices at work has contributed to their increased work efficiency, and that percentage is expected to rise each coming year, it is no wonder that this is becoming the future of workplace management.