5 Ways Automated Field Service Solutions are Changing the Game for Technicians
In today’s fast-paced field service industry, all the things move around how quickly technicians, dispatchers, fieldworkers, and other team members can get the job done, and get it done right. Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, field service teams also are expected to seek out innovative ways to safeguard both customers’ and technicians’ health and wellbeing, as well.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the main technologies currently reshaping the sector service landscape are designed specifically to realize those goals, with the added benefits of improving performance, reducing costs, personalizing service, and promoting safety. Field service automation is one such technology that is proving to be of support all this while.
Field service automation — more commonly mentioned as field service management — refers to the collective processes, policies, and procedures that field service organizations use to manage resources. The “automation” part of field service automation includes using technology to streamline various processes, policies, and procedures.
For example, a company might use field service automation software to automatically pair the right fieldworker to a job based on the work order’s requirements and the fieldworker’s skill set. Or, an organization might use their field service automation software’s warranty management module to automatically capture and manage warranty activities, also on automatically submit, track, and validate all open claims. Did you know 52% of field service companies still do the work and perform functions manually? That’s a scary number estimating 76% of field service providers are struggling to realize revenue growth. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry — estimated to be worth $4.45 billion by 2022 — and therefore the struggle is fierce. Field service workers are a crucial lifeline to revenue growth, and their access to information is directly associated with the productivity and customer satisfaction that boost that growth. So, how can these talented technicians do more, roll in the hay faster, and roll in the hay better? Automated field service solutions are a great start.
#1 Tapping into Predictive Maintenance
Mostly everyone has heard of the web of Things (IoT), but something much bigger and more powerful has been fermenting within the background. Industrial IoT, also known as IIoT, has the potential to unlock $14.2 trillion in potential economic impact by 2030.
Why does that matter?
To get a slice of that $14.2 trillion, field service companies got to plan — literally. Field mobility and therefore the IioT help organizations offer predictive maintenance at a time when the norm is shifting faraway from reactive servicing. The ability to ensure uptime is often a strong differentiator for organizations with field equipment and industrial infrastructure.
Predictive maintenance will direct the field service solutions to follow a new path where technicians can anticipate a customer’s needs before an issue unfolds in the first place. Automated field service means fieldworkers can increase asset life and reduce unnecessary and emergency field visits. Plus, all information about job history and associated tasks are often logged to form the method even faster subsequent time around.
The most progressive field service solutions providers are designing their products with mobility at the forefront, which may be a game-changer for technicians looking to tap into predictive maintenance. We’ll dive deeper into mobility next once we re-evaluate what mobile accessibility will mean for field technicians on a grander scale.
#2 Harnessing the Power of Mobility
A recent Fieldpoint survey found that 80% of field service management companies think mobile field service applications are necessary to extend personnel efficiency and 44% say these apps are required to trump industry pressures. Moreover, 41% think mobile field service apps are needed to handle the increasing number of service requests. Smaller service companies, especially, will notice the correlation between the utilization of field service management software and growth. With better access to critical information and up-to-the-minute insights on inventory and jobs, technicians can accomplish more within the field than ever before. Among other benefits, mobile access within the field means technicians can:
- Schedule appointments faster
- See real-time alerts when a replacement job is scheduled
- Centralize critical documentation
- View a customer’s licensing agreement and history on-the-go
- Access real-time parts inventory
- Keep more precise timesheets
- Eliminate the necessity for a written record of job receipts
- Communicate with other nearby technicians
- Create new work orders and activities from anywhere
- Access custom inspection forms remotely
Field workers who are provided with mobile tools can spend their time more wisely — and with less frustration. A recent study asked field technicians about the simplest and worst parts of their day. The two biggest complaints were “paperwork and administrative tasks” (44%) and “time spent looking for information” (23%). Technicians using automated field service solutions spend less time doing mundane tasks and more time solving problems within the field.
#3 Boosting Customer Satisfaction & Retention
Late arrivals, incomplete repairs, late responses to emergency calls — are just a few of the issues that arise from poor scheduling and lack of field management. Automated field service solutions help technicians avoid these complications with automatic customer notifications and work order confirmations; electronic scheduling and GPS tracking; and portals where customers can request the services they need. Couple that with the mobile insights on customer history and licensing agreements and you’ve got a recipe for solid customer retention.
Customer alerts are an interesting feature of automated field service solutions. More than 51% of companies cite this functionality as their favourite most used feature. Technicians can notify customers of changes to employment or delays to the service to stay everyone conscious of what’s happening. Meanwhile, a customer Web portal makes the work easy for the fieldworkers and dispatchers. The customer can log their issue directly then track its progress within the system. Technicians within the field can pull up their requests employing a mobile app and see the status of any related inventory. This allows the technician to answer customer inquiries and provides them the foremost accurate timeline for project completion.
#4 Transferring Legacy Knowledge
When a company loses a skilled fieldworker, they are losing more than talent — they’re also losing legacy experience. Less experienced fieldworkers often turn to skilled co-workers for insights on complex projects. If you remove that knowledge from the equation and you invite higher levels of customer dissatisfaction and longer service time for jobs. Automated field service solutions help technicians hold onto and increase that legacy knowledge through a shared network. The increased knowledge of all fieldworkers is funnelled into the system to help recruit, train, and educate field workers.
Another way to ensure the transfer of knowledge is through integration. Integrating your front office (automated field service solution) with your back office (ERP or accounting systems) by creating a single source of revelation through combined data. Technicians, dispatchers, and management can all see the complete perspective of customer information and history supported by buying patterns, payments, interactions, and other relevant data. Maximization of data visibility to maximize the uses of that data throughout facets of the company.
#5 Overcoming Process Management Challenges
The advantage of automated field service solutions is that the commitment to process management challenges. If technicians and dispatchers can use the capabilities of those solutions correctly, they will sidestep slowdowns from manual scheduling of service calls, work order management, customer relationship management, operational gaps, asset management, and much more. The mobility of an automatic field service solution must be dependable for this to figure, but on a deeper level, the sector service solution must also do the following:
- Be fully functional offline for when fieldworkers are out of range
- Coincide with the fieldworker’s workflow and show information in the context of where each job fits within that workflow
- Instantly sync new schedules and jobs for the most reliable tailed data across departments
- Offer quick access to reference documents to guide field technicians
- Capture signatures of technicians and customers
- Monitor and receive alerts about inventory
- Enable communication between customers and technicians
- Be OS agnostic to figure on BYOD devices (BYOD explained below)
Many companies would love nothing more than to begin automation for better process management, but they simply don’t have the resources to fund the mobile devices. That is why many of these mid-market businesses execute a BYOD or “bring your own device” strategy. Technicians supply their phones or tablets and are reimbursed for the phone charges. It reduces the financial strain on the business while giving field service technicians access to the tools they need.
As the field industry adopts technology, the competitive landscape evolves. Companies that embrace automated solutions run before the pack in terms of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and process optimization. Long gone are the times of paper trials and reactive service calls as technicians witness an innovative model supported by proactive, data-driven strategies. The game-changer for these fieldworkers will happen when their organizations decide to get ahead of the shift in field service by automating to their advantage and start using FieldWeb.
Field Service Solution Evaluation Checklist
There won’t be One Solution to Rule all of them, but field service organizations can seek out an answer that permits them to optimize their existing business methods, increase customer engagement, keep a check on key performance metrics, and increase revenue — they just need to know what to look for, first.
Organizations within the marketplace for field service automation software should search for an answer with the subsequent features and capabilities:
- Mobile workforce enablement
- A user-friendly mobile application interface
- Simple communications tools (e.g., chat functionality)
- Cloud-based storage
- A consolidated data repository
- 360-degree view of the customer
- Dynamic, real-time, best-fit scheduling and dispatch
- On-site invoicing
- Connected equipment enablement
- Map integration and GPS tracking
- Contract and SLA management capabilities
- Asset and warranty management capabilities
- Inventory management capabilities
- Customer and subcontractor vendor portals
- Resource tracking and performance management capabilities
It’s a lengthy list of specifications, to be sure, but the right explication will provide all of that, and then some.