The goals are the same regardless of industry, and field service is no exception. Managers are tasked with squeezing the most possible revenue from the operations they oversee, and that’s done by driving new business and maximizing existing resources. While this idea smacks of common sense, the ways companies go about finding new customers and getting the most out of their employees, tools and current customers are where managers’ paths often diverge.
Aberdeen Group recently listed four reasons why firms should focus on field service management optimization, and their claims are hard to argue with. Management’s goals should be to make workers as productive as possible, improve customer satisfaction and locate new revenue sources, all while keeping an eye on the competition. But how do managers tackle these tasks? According to a post by SLM Hub contributing writer Joe Berti, those four goals can only be achieved with a field service management solution — namely, software. However, not just any software will do. Before choosing a software solution for your business, Berti advises managers to make sure “three key components” are considered before taking the plunge.
1. Minimization of Human Error
A field service solution requiring dispatchers to manually adjust or override routes not only wastes dispatchers’ time, it can also cause a host of unforeseen problems — including “less than optimal routes.” To streamline operations, automated procedures should be the norm, not the exception. If a supposed “solution” creates several new job duties for employees, it isn’t much of a solution at all.
2. All-Encompassing Product Suite
A field services software solution should have everything bundled together. Purchasing software that handles a specific task (like routing) but doesn’t handle related tasks (like GPS tracking) isn’t worth the money or time spent to install, because it forces firms to manually create software solutions themselves to make sure every part of the process is integrated. The right solution is one that handles every part of the process, including “break fix dispatch, event monitoring, parts planning and logistics, knowledge management, field optimization, and mobility.”
3. Ease of Navigating/Fixing Exceptions
While a world where everything is automated and runs perfectly is what field services operations and the software solutions companies catering to them strive for, that utopian landscape doesn’t exist and probably never will. Exceptions, such as events that fall through the cracks and aren’t scheduled automatically for whatever reason are inevitable. Make it faster and easier for dispatchers to manually reconcile those instances, and a firm’s technician-to-dispatcher ratio can be that much higher.
One point we’d like to add is that network and hardware capabilities must be considered before pooling any resources into a software solution or set of solutions. For example, while tablet computers were pretty much exclusively used by the field service set before 2002, the explosion of iPads and other tablet devices are changing not just the way field service technicians do business, but their organizations’ plans for the future as well. There’s no use spending thousands of dollars on software that only works with hardware a firm may want to transition away from within the next year or two. Software solutions that are cloud-based are also an intriguing option for field service managers, as they often require less in the way of resources to operate and maintain. Choosing the correct solution or solutions isn’t just an important way to optimize revenue and productivity, it’s also what will provide the biggest overall changes to the field service industry in the coming years.