Did you know 52% of field service companies still coordinate work and perform functions manually? That’s a scary number considering 76% of field service providers are struggling to achieve revenue growth. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry – estimated to be worth $4.45 billion by 2022 – and the competition is fierce. Field service technicians are an important lifeline to revenue growth, and their access to information is directly related to the productivity and customer satisfaction that boost that growth. So, how can these talented technicians do more, do it faster, and do it better? Automated field service solutions are a great start.
#1 Tapping into Predictive Maintenance
Most everyone has heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), but something much bigger and more powerful has been brewing in the background. Industrial IoT, also known by the acronym IIoT, has the potential to unlock $6.2 trillion in potential economic impact by 2025
Why does that matter?
To get a slice of that $6.2 trillion, field service companies need to plan ahead – literally. Field mobility and the IIoT help organizations offer predictive maintenance at a time when the norm is shifting away from reactive servicing. The ability to guarantee uptime can be a powerful differentiator for organizations with field equipment and industrial infrastructure.
Predictive maintenance will steer the field service solutions model down a new path where technicians can anticipate a customer’s needs before an issue unfolds in the first place. Automated field service means technicians can increase asset life and eliminate unnecessary and emergency field visits. Plus, all information about job history and associated tasks can be logged to make the process even faster the next time around.
The most progressive field service solutions providers are designing their products with mobility at the forefront, which is a game changer for technicians looking to tap into predictive maintenance. We’ll dive deeper into mobility next when we go over what mobile accessibility will mean for field technicians on a grander scale.
#2 Harnessing the Power of Mobility
Gartner is predicting that by the year 2020, more than 75% of field service organizations with over 50 users will deploy mobile apps with capabilities to help technicians succeed. Smaller service companies in particular will notice the correlation between the use 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 in the field than ever before. Among other benefits, mobile access in the field means technicians can:
- Schedule appointments faster
- See real-time alerts when a new 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 need for a paper trail of job receipts
- Communicate with other nearby technicians
- Create new work orders and activities from anywhere
- Access custom inspection forms remotely
Field technicians armed with mobile tools can spend their time more wisely — and with less frustration. A recent study asked field technicians about the best and worst parts of their day. The two biggest complaints were “paperwork and administrative tasks” (46%) and “time spent looking for information” (29%). Technicians using automated field service solutions spend less time doing mundane tasks and more time solving problems in the field.
#3 Boosting Customer Satisfaction & Retention
Late arrivals, incomplete repairs, late responses to emergency calls – these 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 have a recipe for solid customer retention.
Customer alerts are an exciting feature of automated field service solutions. In fact, more than 51% of businesses cite this functionality as their number one most used feature. Technicians can notify customers of changes to a job or delays to the service to keep everyone aware of what’s going on. Meanwhile, a customer Web portal makes less work for technicians and dispatchers. The customer can log their issue directly and then track its progress in the system. Technicians in the field can pull up their request using a mobile app and see the status of any related inventory. This allows the technician to answer customer inquiries and give them the most accurate timeline for project completion.
#4 Transferring Legacy Knowledge
When a company loses an experienced technician, they are losing more than talent – they’re also losing legacy knowledge. Younger or less experienced technicians often turn to skilled coworkers for insights on complex projects. 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 add to that legacy knowledge through a shared network. The accrued knowledge of all technicians is funneled into the system to help recruit, train, and educate field workers.
Another way to ensure the transfer of that legacy knowledge is through integration. Integrating your front office (automated field service solution) with your back office (ERP or accounting systems) creates a single source of truth through combined data. Technicians, dispatchers, and management can all see the full perspective of customer information and history based on buying patterns, payments, interactions, and other relevant data. Maximize data visibility to maximize the uses of that data throughout all facets of the company.
#5 Overcoming Process Management Challenges
The overarching benefit of automated field service solutions is the resolution of process management challenges. If technicians and dispatchers can use the capabilities of these solutions correctly, they can 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 automated field service solution must be dependable for this to work, but on a deeper level, the field service solution must also do the following:
- Be fully functional offline for when technicians are out of range
- Coincide with the technician’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 accurate data across departments
- Offer easy 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 work on BYOD devices (BYOD explained below)
Many companies would love nothing more than to initiate 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 implement a BYOD or “bring your own device” strategy. Technicians supply their own phones or tablets and are reimbursed for the phone charges. It eliminates the financial strain on the business while giving field service technicians access to the tools they need.
As the field service industry adopts technology, the competitive landscape evolves. Companies that embrace automated solutions run ahead of the pack in terms of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and process optimization. Long gone are the days of paper trails and reactive service calls as technicians witness an innovative model based on proactive, data-driven strategies. The game changer for these technicians will happen when their organizations decide to get ahead of the shift in field service by automating to their advantage.