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Field Service Scheduling Software – Adding Efficiency and Effectiveness to Service Teams

When your service technicians are on the field, you want to make the most productive use of their time. So, how would you do that if your service model is either paper-based, hinges on “smart” spreadsheets, or revolves around the first-call-first-served system of texts, emails, and phone calls? It just won’t happen. These types of service models breed inefficiency, sow confusion and prove to be highly ineffective. 

The only way to inject efficiency and effectiveness into service and maintenance operations is through feature-rich field service scheduling software tools. Not only do these solutions notch up field service team productivity, but they also enhance a company’s reputation and customer loyalty.

 

Delivering Service on Time, Every time

Delayed field service calls aren’t just irritants to clients or business units; they depend on those calls. Depending on their urgency and severity, they could potentially lead to production outages, supply chain disruptions, and erosion in profitability. In worst-case scenarios, not meeting service level agreements (SLAs) may have legal implications and cause severe customer dissatisfaction.   

There a several drag factors that cause untimely service calls. These include:

 

  • Scheduling challenges may result from service management ineptitude, sloppy scheduling practices, or overwhelmed and understaffed service call administration teams. Service operation planners, schedulers, and managers, who lack the proper tools of the trade, also contribute to scheduling challenges.
  • Planning challenges: Though your field service team may schedule a call for a specific date or time in line with committed SLAs, that does not necessarily mean the team completes the tasks on schedule. Other work order delays may derail those plans, or additional emergency work could scuttle the project. Lack of resources, unavailability of spares and parts, or over-booked technicians make planning service calls a nightmare.   
  • Routing challenges: A significant amount of time is spent, by field service teams, traveling and moving from one location to another. Inefficient route choices, unscheduled detours, road closures, or unfamiliarity with local roads lead to routing challenges.
  • Communication challenges: Field service teams may frequently remain isolated from their home base, mainly when servicing remote locations. The unavailability of mobile communication facilities that link in-field teams with their headquarters is a massive barrier to the on-time completion of designated field service work orders.   

Fortunately, mobile-enabled, remote field service scheduling software can address all these challenges and many more. The software empowers field service teams with better coordination and off-site scheduling teams at head office. Additionally, better visibility into the status of field service teams gives headquarter-based monitoring teams the ability to make planning and scheduling changes on the fly, ensuring on-time service delivery every time. 

 

Building Flexibility and Agility into Field Service

When it comes to thinking on their feet, field service teams are very resilient and adaptable. It is that flexibility that often leads to unusually innovative service solutions that keep clients satisfied. However, regardless of how resourceful the onsite team is, without equally flexible and agile planning and scheduling tools to support them, they’re (the field teams) likely to run into challenges that risk SLA breach.

Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Work order schedulers at head office dispatch a two-member team to address a service call. However, being new to the area, the group takes a longer route to their destination, which results in a 2-hour delay in arriving at the service scene. That’s 4-person-hours of unproductive time aided by efficient route scheduling software!   
  1. Once onsite, the team discovers they’ll need additional documentation, manuals, and schematics that they don’t typically carry with them. They hunt around for the documents, scrounge for online resources for hours. That’s valuable time wasted that could have been used more productively – if the documentation was just a click away, instantly accessible via field service scheduling software!
  2. As they work through the service engagement and notice something that they’re not particular about, they relay their findings to the central office, dispatching a specialist to sort the issue and assist the onsite team. That takes another hour or two out of a potentially productive schedule. 
  3. While the team is in the field, they receive countless phone calls, email messages, and text communications, asking for updates on their task. One team member pauses what they are doing, provides continuous updates on status and progress, and then assists the other member, only to interrupt their flow later to give the head office more updates.

While the above scenarios may appear hypothetical and exaggerated, the fact is that, in many field service organizations, these are commonplace occurrences. The challenge facing many in-field technicians, back-office field service managers, and administrative staff is: How do you overcome these issues to build flexibility and agility into the field service planning and scheduling process?

Fortunately for most field service organizations, there is a solution – one that thousands of maintenance and service-oriented organizations worldwide are using.  

Tools of the Trade

Manual field service planning and scheduling tools aren’t very effective in addressing all the challenges highlighted above. Some organizations build home-grown tools, such as spreadsheets and web forms, to help them better schedule their service resources. But in creating such ad-hoc solutions, they face yet another challenge:

They spend a lot of time and resources maintaining those in-house tools and managing the large development teams required to support those solutions!

As a field service organization, your primary concern must be customer-focused service delivery. And that means spending all your time and resources empowering your maintenance and service teams with easy-to-use, best of breed, proven, industry-standard tools and solutions, rather than building such solutions from scratch. Think of it this way:

Is it more effective for your company to spend time and resources – dollars and person-hours – building a new hammer, screwdriver, or wrench from scratch instead of using proven industry-accepted ones already out there?

Why spend excessive time and money creating your software solutions when an off-the-shelf, industry-leading field service scheduling software solution is available? Equipping your field service teams with robust mobile planning, scheduling, and in-field tracking and communication capabilities improves service outcomes. 

Let’s review those outcomes for each of our earlier scenarios:

Route Planning: The software tools can map the most efficient route to a field service location with powerful route planning capabilities. Integrated mapping software allows service technicians, who might be new to the area, know what roads to take and which turns to make. Even last-minute routing changes are communicated effortlessly, so en route crews can quickly respond and change course. 

The result: Your service teams will arrive at their destinations faster than ever, reducing unproductive travel time and increasing onsite productivity. 

Remote Documentation and Online Resource Support: 

When field service crews arrive at their destination and discover the need for additional specification sheets, maintenance and service manuals or schematics, and engineering diagrams, they launch their field service app and hop onto the cloud. There, millions of pages of supporting documentation await them, neatly classified and categorized.  

The result: Service teams save hundreds of hours of unproductive time doing the proverbial “paper chase” – looking for documentation and resources to help them in the field.

Remote Assist: Few field service technicians are ‘know it all’s!”. Field service and maintenance crews work as a team, leveraging collective skills and experiences. However, what do they do when a team arrives at a location and finds they need assistance from another resource, which may be at head office or another service location? The Remote Assist functionality of your field service scheduling software can seamlessly connect in-field teams, through their mobile devices, with other specialists on the team.

The result: Instead of having a specialist interrupt what they are doing to drive down to the maintenance site to assist the onsite team, they can remotely deliver assistance using mobile communication. The on-device camera acts as their eyes, and built-in microphones serve as ears and voice. Countless hours of travel time saved. Hundreds of dollars in specialist time and costs avoided!

Remote Communications: When field service teams engage in a priority task, it’s often challenging to constantly relay status updates to field staff administrators through emails and phone calls. Doing so distracts and delays ongoing field services and adds service time and cost to each work order. Using a mobile-enabled scheduling and tracking solution is one way to address that challenge.

The result: Seamless, integrated mobile communication occurs, between onsite and head office teams, enabling both groups to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional field service, and stay on top of field service planning, monitoring, and scheduling.

It’s these automated, mobile-enabled tools of the trade that add flexibility and efficiency across a field service team. Whether it’s planning service, scheduling work orders, supporting teams on route to a service call, or assisting in-field service personnel, field service scheduling software effectively every facet of your service operations. And with efficiency and effectiveness, other great things follow. It can foster greater compliance with Service Level Agreements (SLAs), improve customer satisfaction, and reinforce client loyalty.