Steve Smith | 02.21.18
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When a “bomb cyclone” unleashed ice and fury on residents along the East Coast at the start of 2018, Boston alone reported 14 inches of snow, ice, and record-level flooding. The “bomb cyclone” left 65,000 residents without power, grounded more than 5,000 flights, and damaged innumerable vehicles, buildings, and roads.

While the rest of the population avoided travel — many stranded indoors — a few men and women geared up and braved the elements to clear snow from roads and rooftops in addition to restoring power. These unsung heroes exposed themselves to potential traffic accidents and collisions, trips and falls, fire, and electrocution in the name of public safety.

Your job as a field service manager in the utilities industry is to ensure the personal safety of these courageous workers by equipping them with the tools and knowledge they need to complete jobs in even the harshest winter weather conditions.

Here are five things you can do to prepare your service teams for winter weather no matter how bad the next storm.

1. Train Your Team

When seasons change, do your business priorities shift? Will your technicians need to bring a different set of tools or replacement parts when they go on service calls? What can they do to reduce the risk of weather-related injury?

Most likely you have a set of policies in place to account for winter storms, poor travel conditions, and temperature drops. Adequate training will help minimize safety risks. Moreover, it can also boost your sales. Whether your business slows down for the season and you prioritize customer retention or you upsell certain cold-weather services, ensure your remote workforce knows how to help you reach your objectives.

2. Staff Up

In the wake of a winter storm, utilities service workers face increased pressure to respond to damage in a timely manner. Your mobile workers get dispatched as soon as weather permits to deal with fallen lines and damaged cables. The easiest way to address the surge in emergency jobs that need to be addressed is through predictive field service technology. With machine learning to process historical weather data, you can make sure you’ve got the right number of technicians on staff and ready to go.

3. Travel Safely

Travel delays are unavoidable in the face of snow and icy driving conditions. Your priority is getting your remote workers to and from the site of their next job safely, and when possible, without upsetting customers. Predictive travel technology curbs weather-related accidents by analyzing historical data and monitoring current conditions to determine the safest route and predict travel times. Paired with real-time notifications to your customers, you can manage expectations and increase customer retention.

4. Stay Flexible

When you’re presented with treacherous travel conditions, delays are an inevitable part of the business. With the right system in place you — and your customers — can monitor progress in real time. Thanks to intelligent scheduling, which automatically updates throughout the day, field technicians can concentrate on the task at hand without disruption. Predictive technology can even calculate average the average job duration in similar conditions to prevent scheduling snafus in the first place.

5. Invest in Wearables

Hands-free calling. Head-mounted displays. AR-enabled resolution.

Even in normal conditions, wearables promise increased productivity from your remote workforce. But when weather worsens and temperatures drop, wearables provide the added benefit of helping you ensure your workers’ safety. Solutions fitted with sensors reduce accidents involving collisions during periods of reduced visibility, track and monitor heart rate to determine stress levels, and even gauge movement as a predictor of potential danger.

Emergency Field Service

A streak of mild winters came to a startling halt as the start of 2018 brought with it an onslaught of extreme weather that many businesses were ill-equipped to handle. If anything, it was a reminder that automation and clearly defined emergency field service processes are crucial for utility workers when disaster strikes.

Predictive field service solutions use AI to analyze hundreds — even thousands — of scenarios to provide you with the best course of action faster than any human could. That means you can prioritize rapid-response times without jeopardizing the safety of your technicians. On top of field service solutions for utilities, take time to talk through worst-case scenarios with your team so you can adopt guidelines and protocols that keep your technicians safe in every situation.

For more on utilities and field service management, check out the ClickSoftware blog.