In today’s client-centric field service industry, frontline managers are under tremendous pressure to manage a large workforce of remote (and, at times, widely dispersed) employees. Even though high turnover and frequent last-minute changes are the norm, field service managers must deliver consistent and high-quality customer service while meeting a host of other business goals.
In this high-pressure environment, it’s critical that managers have the right tools and technology to overcome these daily challenges and, just as importantly, to build an engaged workforce. Employee engagement is far from just a “nice-to-have” on HR’s wish list; it’s actually a significant competitive advantage. Research shows that organizations with highly engaged employees have 22 percent greater productivity than those that don’t.
But employee engagement can be a difficult goal to achieve. Many field service organizations struggle to identify and deploy the right tools to foster it. One solution is workforce management technology, especially powerful new technology to help manage workers and drive better business outcomes.
A Modern Workforce Management System
Today’s workforce management systems offer innovations that may surprise you — and which may have far-reaching business impact. This technology now includes cutting-edge functionality such as mobile apps, artificial intelligence-enabled tools for predictive analytics, and much more.
These new tools are fundamentally changing the way field service organizations can manage remote employees and their overall business, allowing them to “manage in the moment” and achieve results that were simply out of reach in the past. These innovations include:
- Collaborative self-scheduling to empower employees to express where, when and how much they want to work. Scheduling apps can then generate an ideal schedule based on fairness, work-life balance and employee preferences.
- Mobile apps that provide access to key HR functions such as timecards and benefits management. For example, if an employee has something unexpected come up — such as a child’s playoff game — they can quickly request (and confirm) time off using their mobile device. This promotes better work-life balance and can improve employee morale and engagement. Mobility also lets supervisors work anywhere, without being stuck behind a desk in their office.
- Artificial intelligence tools that give managers real-time analytic insights and proactive alerts to maximize employees’ productivity and their own effectiveness. For example, analytics can crunch historical data about weather patterns to forecast when repairs will spike, requiring extra staff or inventory. Route optimization software can help managers plot the most effective travel plan for their workers’ multiple-stop service calls and, if a client needs to cancel or reschedule, communicate changes directly to employees already in the field.
Case Study: Next-Gen Workforce Management in Action
Field service employees and companies strive to meet and exceed customer expectations. But in many cases, unexpected problems may disrupt their ability to deliver the best service. Without the right tools, managers can’t respond to these “wrinkles” in time to avoid a bad customer experience. Consider the following scenario:
A service technician for a regional auto glass company is on his way to an appointment to replace a customer’s windshield. He was ahead of schedule — until an unexpected traffic jam brings him to a screeching halt. Worse, he’s stuck in an area with no cell phone coverage, leaving him unable to notify the customer or the office. The technician arrives 20 minutes late, but the customer, assuming he was a no-show, has already left. When the technician tries to reschedule the appointment, the irate customer informs him that he already scheduled the service with another company.
Unfortunately, this negative experience, unfolding in mere minutes, is proof that all it takes is one bad incident to lose a customer. Worse, he may share details of his negative experience with friends and colleagues on social media, leading to a damaged reputation that may be hard to repair.
The good news is that companies can overcome these challenges and deliver a positive customer experience with the right technology at their disposal. Consider the same scenario, but this time the company is using next-generation workforce management tools.
Before the technician leaves for his morning service calls, his supervisor reviews a dashboard report on her mobile device. The report shows the day’s schedule, enhanced with AI-powered data predicting traffic patterns. It highlights the fact that the technician is heading to an area where traffic could be an issue at this time of day. Once the technician has left early to account for traffic delays, a new problem arises: A major traffic jam has doubled the driving time. The system sends an alert to the technician with a suggested alternate route. Even better, it automatically notifies the customer that the technician could be stuck in traffic and offers the option of waiting or rescheduling the appointment.
In this scenario, the customer is impressed and pleasantly surprised. What could have been bad experience, resulting in the loss of the customer’s business, actually created a more loyal customer, and one more likely to recommend the auto glass company. Crisis averted.
Turning Workforce Management into a Competitive Advantage
Every day field service companies face new and unexpected challenges; to overcome them, they need to do all they can to engage employees while also empowering managers to proactively provide the best customer service possible. Thankfully, new innovations in workforce management technology can make all the difference — and help give managers the right productivity tools and critical insights to stay one step ahead of their competitors.