The following article from Field Service News editor Kris Oldland originally appeared on Field Service News and is republished here with permission.

End-to-end field service management is a topic that we keep hearing about. Our recent podcast featuring Paul Sparkes, product director at Advanced Field Services, focussed on the big question: Just what is end-to-end field service management?

Paul gave both a detailed and candid response to this question, looking at the broader picture rather than from just his own organizations standpoint. If you haven’t yet listened to this podcast, you can find it on the link above.

While we talked in depth about the end-to-end concept from a software point of view, from field service-specific point of view as well as the wider viewpoint of having a number of systems (such as ERP and CRM) fully integrated, the conversation remained focussed on software and software alone.

All well and good, but if we are to explore a fully end-to-end field service solution then we must consider other elements as well.

What type of hardware do our field service engineers require? What about in-vehicle computing? Telematics? Will our field service engineers be creating orders in the field? If so, what about mobile payment options? What about printing options for providing invoices and receipts?

Understanding the needs of both your customers and your field service engineers is crucial to ensuring that you’re investing in the right technology.

Understanding Your Customers’ Lifecycle

The first place to focus, as with almost anything in business, is on your customers.

While the benefits of implementing the right technology will improve your field service operation, the underlying reason for investing in technology should be to answer the question, “How can my customers benefit from this?”

The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, if you bring anything into your business that benefits your customer then it will almost certainly bring benefits to your company as well.

For example, if your field engineers are given devices that are capable of video calls and 4G data transfer, the likelihood is that your field service engineers will be far more likely to improve first-time fix rates because they will be able to access a wider pool of engineer knowledge while on location.

Your customer is happy as the disruption to his business is minimal.

The benefits to your company are that your field service engineers are working more effectively, so they are achieving more with less, all while maintaining great service standards.

This example, while highlighting the point of working to a customer-centric model, is fairly obvious. However, if you keep your customers at the heart of your focus other less obvious — but equally important — points may arise.

Take mobile printers, for example. Do you know how your clients deal with receipts or invoices? Many companies try to minimise the use of hardcopies in an effort to be more environmentally focussed.

What a waste it would be to invest in a mobile printer for each van in your fleet only to find out that 90 percent of your customers throw the hardcopy away after they have scanned it and would have preferred email documents!

To read the full article, visit Field Service News. Be sure to hear Oldland discuss end-to-end field service technology management at Field Service Europe (October 20-22, 2014, in Amsterdam).

ABOUT Field Service News

Kris is the editor of Field Service News, a UK-based resource for the field service industry. He has been working in business-to-business publishing for nearly a decade. As a journalist, Kris has covered a diverse range of industries from fire juggling to terrorism insurance. An intimate understanding of what is important when it comes to service and a passion for emerging technology means that in field service he has found an industry that excites him every day.