“Of all the powerful forces reshaping the landscape of enterprise computing, the most significant for many companies will be an explosion in business visibility. And it will change everything.”
That’s a telling line SAP’s Bob Evans wrote in a 2011 article for Forbes. Today, he’s certainly right: New technology that provides real-time data, spurs internal collaboration, and opens lines of communication, is not only transforming the way we work, but also making business processes faster, cheaper and better. For field service organizations, where information used to be centralized and services siloed, a 360-degree view into who and what is where, what works best and what needs fixing has huge rewards.
Think of it this way: Up-to-the-minute data can tell managers not only if there’s an emergency repair that needs to be done, but also which technician is closest and best-equipped to be dispatched to fix it. Let’s say that a particular emergency repair starts happening on a repeated basis. The sales team then has the knowledge to sell products that would deter this repair, and technicians know what to look for in maintenance visits to prevent it. Overall, processes can be streamlined and the company can act as a cohesive unit to provide better solutions.
“The 360 degree view is all about collaboration,” said John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA).
Here are five ways visibility is transforming field service:
- More Efficient Routing and Utilization Rates: Having insight into dispatch and arrival times, along with onsite fix times, can help a manager understand who the most productive techs are, and those who may need some additional training or mentoring. Visibility into a tech’s whereabouts can also reduce on-the-job mismanagement. “One company started using GPS tracking to help route agents, and found out one tech was spending two hours at the golf course everyday while claiming to be at a customer site,” said Ragsdale.
- Better Parts Inventory Management: By automating inventory tracking, companies can begin to get a handle on parts consumption, as well as scheduling techs according to who has what part on their van. “We are seeing companies starting to make judgement calls on repair vs. replace, and change their parts inventory levels to cut costs,” Ragsdale said. “Without a clear understanding of parts consumption and inventory, this is not possible.”
- Faster Billing Processes: Thanks to mobile apps that track parts used, travel taken and expenses paid in real time, as well as integration to the back office to streamline billing, companies now can begin tracking DSO (days sales outstanding) for field service bills to customers, Ragsdale says. This makes sure all bills are paid in a timely manner and doesn’t allow any bills to “fall through the cracks,” impacting margins.
- More Integration With Sales and Marketing: Revenue generation is beginning to take hold in field service, with more companies training techs to identify selling opportunities.”With mobile tools, companies can now prompt techs on which offers to extend to customers based on the reason for the service call, and record if they extended and offer and if it was accepted,” Ragsdale said. “Armed with extend/accept rates, they can identify techs not following the new selling guidelines and target them with additional training.” Frontline employees can also provide valuable data back to the sales and marketing teams, helping identify which products sell and which customers are satisfied.
- Better Customer Service: At the end of the day, you want to serve the customer, and having a history of your customer and visibility into every interaction enables employees to serve better. “Capturing every touchpoint with the customer–every support incident, every white paper download, every community post, every Twitter mention–helps paint a more accurate picture of the customer,” Ragsdale says. “Armed with this information, marketing and sales can create more targeted and successful campaigns and offers, and support has more history to use in root cause analysis.”