The following post was previously published on John Ragsdale’s blog, Ragsdale’s Eye on Service, and is re-posted here with permission.

Last week I participated in a webcast with our partner Astea on field service automation for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), and in preparation for the webcast, I uncovered some data that really illustrates the need for automation. (Here’s the link to watch the OnDemand version of the webcast.) According to my annual member technology survey, only 60% of small firms (those under $100M in revenue) have any type of field service automation in place, compared to 88% of large enterprises (over $1B in revenue).

Field Service Metrics by Company Size

Automation impacts key operational metrics field service organizations use. With real-time scheduling, factoring in location, skills and parts availability, field techs can accomplish more appointments per shift, and reduce response time. With automated routing instructions, which includes real-time traffic conditions, drive time to appointments can be reduced. By providing mobile devices to streamline access to knowledge and enable team collaboration, techs can perform repairs faster and increase first time fix rates.

Out of curiosity, I sliced some of the field service metrics by company size, and the data shows that on average, smaller firms are falling behind the largest firms.

Now, obviously automation is not the only factor here. Smaller firms are challenged to service widespread customers with a smaller team of field techs. Larger firms can hire outsourced field workers close to customer clusters. Larger companies may offer more SLA options, including tighter response and resolution times. However, lack of automation certainly contributes.

Luckily, I think these numbers will start to change. Planned spending by under $100M firms on field service tools is rising, with 60% of small companies having budget for field service technology in 2012-2013. And, there are more options for SMBs, with emerging cloud solutions designed specifically for SMBs. Being an SMB doesn’t mean you will miss out on “cool” technology either–today’s SMB focused solutions offer mobile device support, collaboration, dashboards, etc.

I will be kicking off my 2013 Member Technology Survey on March 1st, and I will reveal the findings at our Spring Technology Services World Conference in May in Santa Clara. Let’s hope the planned spending has begun to materialize, and adoption levels for field service automation will be higher. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading!

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