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Understanding the power of field service management solutions: Performance & Productivity

Thanks to technology and innovation, the field service delivery business world is a more competitive place than it was a decade ago. Today, we have creative and innovative ways to deliver service – including full-featured field service management solutions – many of which were not available some time ago. Not only has this improved productivity among key players in the industry, but it has also spurred performance gains. 

Unfortunately, some businesses may still not believe that software solutions might provide a competitive advantage. In this post, we’ll highlight why that’s an invalid thought, and we’ll showcase various ways to leverage these solutions to drive performance and productivity in your field service business.

 

The Key – Understand What Field Service Management Is

The key to delivering high-quality field service is to understand what that entails. It doesn’t matter whether that service relates to service at a manufacturing facility or if it involves providing in-field support in a healthcare setting. Lack of understanding of the primary objective of service delivery often results in poor decision-making.

The decision to adopt enabling tools and technologies to support service delivery managers, supervisors and technicians, rests in a clear understanding of what those tools must deliver. For instance, you may not find the best field force management software unless you know what such devices must be capable of. 

 

At a very high level, field service management focuses on company resources used in delivering those services. More specifically:

  • It encompasses all resources, people, processes, policies, procedures, and plant and equipment
  • It includes coordinating the deployment and use of those resources
  • It concerns monitoring and tracking the availability of those resources
  • It focuses on the logistic of managing those resources – from procurement to deployment   

 

In other words, field service management is about optimizing all available company resources when delivering field services. And there, sometimes, lies the misconception that many service managers labor under. The objective is not to manage a set of tasks or “To Do” lists. Instead, it is about managing the service delivered; and making optimal use of available resources

Some of the best field force management software available today help deliver on those objectives. Unfortunately, because some field service organizations don’t clearly understand what “service management” is about, other tools seem to fit the profile – but are not up to the mark. For example, tools that fall in these “other” categories include:

 

  • Reminder apps
  • List capture systems
  • Calendar managers 

Email generating tools

Messaging software

While all the above elements comprise parts of robust, commercially-available field service management solutions, they don’t provide much, in terms of full-service management, as standalone tools. Many service delivery shops choose to develop in-house “solutions.” These typically revolve around spreadsheets and shared documents hosted across the corporate network. 

Over time, they continue to add functionality “on the go” – often resulting in systems that are repetitive and non-integrated.

That’s why, as a field service delivery manager, it’s vital that, before you choose your corporate service management solution, you must have a clear understanding of what field service management is about. Failing to do so might mean you choose a tool that doesn’t meet the objectives that such solutions must deliver.

 

 

Why Features and Components Matter 

Once you’ve established a clear idea of what managing field service operations entail, it is easier to look for specific features and components of a good service management tool. As discussed previously, this step is vital for service delivery organizations to make the right software procurement decision. 

As indicated earlier, a good service management tool is more than just a list aggregator or task management software. They call advance-featured software systems “solutions” because they deliver a means to solve a problem. A simple list organizer can’t do that! For instance, you may create an electronic list of five field service tasks assigned to your team. Your team may then access that list online, and complete each task and mark it complete.

However, using the most efficient route planner available, you may end up scheduling Task#3 first, followed by Task#5, #1, #2, and finally #4. Efficient route planning determines the most effective route for the team to follow, reducing the time traveling from and to service locations. And, in mapping the way to a destination, routing tools consider various planning variables, including travel time, alternate routes, and road closures.

While list management “solutions” promise everything a service manager needs to bring performance and productivity to the operation- they don’t work! That’s because they’re typically single-dimensional – focused on lists. Unlike advanced field service management solutions, they (list management apps) only deliver a restricted set of features and functionality. 

 

Critical to Success Functionality

So, we now know why restricted functionality won’t solve a field service managers’ operational challenge:

  • They are single-dimensional
  • They don’t integrate well with other tools
  • They’re ultra-simplistic in design
  • Typically, they work on a limited set of environments (devices, operating systems)

 

 

The major challenge that most service delivery managers face when choosing which solution to adopt is discerning critical to success functionality from the bells and whistles offered by some apps. The question therefore is, what are some key features to look for. Here’s a starting point:

  • Schedule Management: 

This is the ability to arrange service technician schedules and match them to work order demands. The idea is to schedule service to complete the work based on urgency and service needs and without stretching or overworking service teams.

 

  • Dispatch Management: 

This entails using an automatic schedule planner algorithm to dynamically coordinate the dispatch of field service teams to scheduled appointments. While Schedule management looks at a long-term view of field service operations, Dispatch Management is about short to intermediate service management challenges. 

 

  • Work Order Management: 

 

The industry mechanism by which service requests are monitored and tracked is a Service Work Order called a Field Service Requisition. Work order management acts as a queue manager, tracking, tracing, and closely supervising those requests throughout the service delivery process, from inception through completion.

  • Inventory Management:

 Full-featured field service management software contains modules – or features – that track service stores, spares, and supplies. This includes anticipating what spares and tools a work order might require and automate the components’ issuance and use. Good inventory management also consists of reordering parts and consumables if quantities deplete below a specific threshold.

 

  • Documentation Management:

 In-field teams must have remote access to critically needed documentation on the go. These include service manuals, technical specifications, plant blueprints, and service processes and procedures. Since most technicians likely don’t haul hard copies of such documentation, the field service software, you select must allow remote access to such information.

 

  • Remote Assistance:

 Not every technician dispatched to a service call may have the necessary skills to address a service request fully. In such instances, having a service management tool connect in-field teams with head office staff for assistance is a significant plus. 

Using cameras and microphones, off-site specialists can walk in-field teams through a quick resolution of an issue, potentially saving an additional trip, reducing cost, and drastically cutting issue resolution time. 

These functional requirements form the basis of all reliable, commercially effective field service management solutions. They underpin a service delivery organization’s ability to efficiently service clients – both internal and external and do so in ways that won’t compromise performance or productivity. 

 

Customer Focused Service Delivery

At the heart of any service, the delivery operation is the organization or entity receiving the service – the customer. If you asked any service delivery manager what their primary measure of success is, you’d likely hear “Customer satisfaction” as the metric they point to. 

So, what are significant impediments to delivering customer-satisfying service? Many contributing factors prevent a service call from accomplishing its goals. Some of these include:

 

  • Lost service-related paperwork, including requisitions, notes, and service history records
  • Poor execution of service trips, including arriving late, not being able to locate the right location, or arriving unprepared – e.g., with the wrong spares or components
  • Having to cancel or reschedule service calls due to lack of on-site service technician skills or expertise
  • Poor communication between various stakeholders – service coordinators, service technicians, and service recipients, including external clients or internal department staff

 

Suppose you are in the field service business, whether as a revenue generator or a service center. You owe it to yourself to equip your organization with the most efficient tools and technologies to deliver that service. The use of list organizers or appointment apps does not effectively address any of these issues. 

In some respects, reliance on non-integrated solutions – a To-Do app, a Calendar App, a Service Call spreadsheet – often add to customer dissatisfaction rather than improving client satisfaction. The only way to assure customer-focused service delivery is by using integrated, multi-platform, robust, full-featured field service management solutions