A field service technician is like a physician who makes house calls. The challenge, however, is that while physicians might speak with a patient to get an accurate diagnosis, field service “patients” can’t talk – at least, not in words. As a result, service engineers require all the help and support they can get from technology. Whether it’s the ability to find a service location quickly and get to work; or seamlessly consult with other off-site colleagues, equipping remote teams with the proper tools provides considerable real-world value. In this post, we’ll take a close look at several real-world situations that in-field service personnel face. We’ll also highlight the real-world consequences that flow from those scenarios and understand where the opportunities lie in bringing efficiency into those situations.
A craftsperson is only as good as their tools. It’s the same with field service staff – they’re only as good as the tools, technology, and training they receive to support them. One can only consider some practical use cases from actual field service delivery workflow to appreciate the significance of service delivery in the real world. It is only then that business leaders and managers working in service delivery organizations grasp the importance of building better field service management solutions.
A system where everyone communicates everything via voice calls, faxed documentation, or emails is inefficient at best and misleading at worst. Such communications typically depend on field service management staff manually updating relevant digital records, spreadsheets, and databases. And there lies the challenge:
A field service technician out in the field places a call for a set of spare parts, which the onsite service team requires urgently. Head office service management staff update their records and schedule the shipment of those parts for later that same day. However, a few hours later, the in-field technician called to cancel the order – but that message went to voice mail.
Because communication between service teams and service managers is disjoint, and not integrated into an online system, no cancellation order for the service parts request goes out. A set of unwanted spares, therefore, ship out with priority shipping. That adds to service management costs. However, there’s an element of risk associated with this scenario.
After their shipment, if those parts were in short supply, and some other field service client required them urgently, there’s a risk of non-compliance with service level agreements (SLAs). Communicating through integrated, intelligent field service management solutions is the perfect response to this situation. In-field teams can update their requests for support directly and cancel the parts request in real-time.
A well-staffed field service operation typically assigns the same set of field technicians to a single client or service location. Whether it’s supporting a health care organization with urgent service, or repairs to a plant at an off-site branch office, maintaining continuity of service through familiar field staff manes sense. But it’s not always practical to have the same engineers or technicians servicing the exact location. And there lies the challenge:
An unscheduled local virus variant case flareup prevents the usual team from departing their base of operations due to lockdown restrictions. Field service managers at head office scramble to deploy an alternative group to an urgent service location.
Unfortunately, while service managers could identify a team of service technicians, the service personnel weren’t familiar with the area.
In-progress road maintenance work further complicates plans to deploy the secondary team because travel directions provided in the work order were now out of sync with road conditions. The B-team finally did arrive at the service location, but by then, they were 3-hours overdue. Since the service provider has a 1-hour onsite SLA, they were in non-compliance. The service call had to be delivered FREE of cost – plus the company had to pay the client for production losses due to unscheduled downtime.
In today’s highly connected world, it’s hard to realize that many in-field service teams use software that does not support integrated mapping features. Full-featured field service management solutions, with integrated mapping tools, enable field service teams to get to any destination on time – every time! Punctuality doesn’t only impress clients desperate to receive critical field service; it also allows service managers to maintain service schedules without unforeseen interruptions.
A well-organized field service operator constantly invests time, money, and effort in training service technicians to deal with all aspects of a service call. Ideally, service managers pair mobile field service teams with technicians who have complementary and supplementary skills. And there lies the challenge:
It’s entirely conceivable that, during a tough field call, neither technician, in that two-person team sent to service the client, has what it takes to resolve a specific defect. It may transpire that the challenges of the call metastasized while the call was in progress, further complicating the situation.
In this situation, the in-field team may decide to call off the service and have their field service manager reschedule and re-assign the call to another team with more experience. Alternately, they may choose to pause the service task until more experienced service engineers arrive from head office (or another location) to supplement the team already on site. Either way, there will likely be SLA delays and additional cost overruns. Customer satisfaction is also a deep concern!
Using full-featured field service management solutions with Remote Assist capabilities can avoid the scenario highlighted above. In constant remote contact with service technicians onsite, field service managers assess the situation and determine the skills and experience required to support the field team. The software solution seamlessly links in-field service teams with more experienced off-site resources with the help of an integrated camera and voice features. The more shared off-site team/resource can review the situation and walk the less experienced in-field technicians on how to resolve the issue. This approach results in SLA compliance and negates the need to reschedule or re-deploy field service resources.
As most field teams continually travel from one service location to another, they typically don’t carry stacks of service manuals, equipment diagrams or policy, and procedure manuals. Whether it is about assisting a medical facility in delivering critical services or repairs to essential equipment at an oil field, access to documentation is always vital. And that’s where the challenge lies:
A service technician at a manufacturing plant needs to check some facts about servicing the equipment. She, however, does not have the field service guide with her – it is a 5-volume document of about 20,000 pages! The client site does not have copies either. She could proceed with the service call without that information, which may pose a slight risk, mainly because this is a relatively newer model.
The technician proceeds to download the bulky document from the manufacturer’s website – but it’s too voluminous and takes several attempts and a couple of hours to complete. This further delays the service call and causes unnecessary downtime at the client installation.
This is where field service management solutions can help! These applications typically access all manuals, documentation, schematics, and service guides hosted centrally on a cloud storage center. The system has the documents cataloged and indexed, so technicians won’t spend excessive time locating them. Additionally, they support advanced search features, so field service technicians quickly find the right page – from a collection of over 20,000 pages! – to begin their work .
The Use Cases illustrated above, along with real-world opportunities and benefits, should convince all service managers of the critical role of integrated service management software in today’s service environment. However, for those business leaders who aren’t convinced of the effectiveness of such support tools, here are additional benefits that come from implementing such systems:
There are no loose ends associated with your service operations. Run from a central database that is constantly updated; all stakeholders – technicians, call schedulers, supervisors, managers, clients – are on the same page.
The eternal “paper chase” is history! Service teams waste significant amounts of time searching for lost paperwork. It all happens digitally, whether a work order, service estimate, quotes, requisitions, or procurement orders. The database is searchable, and technicians view records on the fly and can update them quicker than paper documents.
Whether it’s an additional trip because someone gets lost in transit to a location, or because backup resources had to be sent in to assist an in-field team, or because a service call had to be rescheduled – it doesn’t matter. Each additional trip costs money – and service personnel time! – which disrupts ongoing operations. Instead of relying on manual field service processes or deploying feature-light apps or spreadsheets, the best way to bring efficiency and accuracy to field service is through robust, feature-rich field service management solutions.