Most of the time, 5 percent doesn’t sound like very much — it’s almost a rounding error. But for field service organizations, improving operations by even that modest number could be the difference between mediocrity and success.

John Ragsdale, the vice president of research for the Technology Services Industry Association, presented some of his survey findings during an hour-long webinar Thursday titled “Want to Delight Your Customers? There’s an App for That!” (which you can view on-demand from the TSIA website.)

And the take-away was that, quite simply, it’s really expensive to send a tech out into the field for a repair, so any small improvement that leads to fewer truck rolls, less time onsite, and more loyal customers is well worth fighting for.

Here’s a slide from the presentation:

A quick note: As Ragsdale mentioned, his survey of TSIA members tends to skew toward business-to-business clients, so some of these number look a little higher than a traditional business-to-consumer organization. But still, there’s a lot to digest there. The average truck roll is $1,011.17? That in of itself is pretty incredible. But think about what it costs to send a tech out to the same job twice — over $2,000!

Taking even a small bite out of that number will add up to big-time costs savings, quickly. And that can be the difference between a good organization and a great one.

Mobility Can Help

Organizations that haven’t yet adopted a field service mobile application are missing out on the fastest and easiest way to cut into these costs. Typically a service call includes five elements, all of which can be optimized and improved by embracing a smart mobile application:

Scheduling/Dispatching: Mobile devices and GPS enable organizations to utilize a “pull” strategy in dispatching, rather than the old “push” method, where techs came into the office, got a stack of assignments, and hit the road. With “pull” dispatching, one long job doesn’t affect every other appointment lined up after it; the closest, best available tech for the job is called and re-routed to the repair — improving on-time performance, your ability to get to the most possible jobs in a day, and technician utilization rates.

Repair: Techs facing a difficult repair in the field can hop on the iPad or their iPhone to call, chat, or even video conference with an expert, whether they’re in the field, at the office, or halfway across the country. The ability to connect with experts and training materials should improve first-time-fix rates, and severely cut into those dreaded extra truck rolls.

Log Work: Having an automatic repair log ensures you’re properly tracking parts used, time stamps, and accurately billing customers — and relieving a huge headache.

Upsell/Cross-Sell: Mobile signature capturing, receipt printing — even a text from the office reminding technicians to offer that service upgrade — can all help field service staff generate revenue when they’re out on a job.

Log Travel/Expenses: Again, automatic time stamps and the like take a big burden off having to do a bunch of paperwork to fill out time and expense reports, both for the tech and for H.R.

Organizations, Ragsdale says, are already increasing their mobile-device adoption rates and spending budgets this year, compared to last, so clearly it’s on the rise — and for good reason. The return on investment, he says, is there.

“Even eliminating 5 percent of revisits is going to add up so quickly,” he said, “it easily pays for deployment of mobile tools and software.”

Has your organization started using mobile software? Have you seen a positive ROI yet? Let us know.

Disclaimer: ServiceMax, which sponsors this blog, was a presenter during this webcast.

Click here to download a free whitepaper, “Five Steps to Make Field Service Profitable.”

ABOUT Ian Stewart

Ian is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.