When solving the challenges of field team communication, email is not the answer

Email goes back 40 years with the first commercial version from AOL dating back to the 90s. To this day, it is so ingrained into the DNA of most organizations that it’s unimaginable to think of business life without it. What’s more surprising is how social media has taken off and is now the place where most of us read the latest headlines. Newspaper readership has been declining for decades, in large part due to the fact that digital content is so readily available on all mobile devices.

How often have you heard work colleagues complain about the never-ending, dreaded emails waiting to be opened, sorted, forwarded or handled? This time suck endures even while on vacation — over 70 percent of us continue to check at some frequency. Now imagine if you spent your working day on the move, away from a desk, facing customers or handling an issue or installing equipment with pressure to complete it as fast as possible. Would email be a useful tool?

For field service teams, email is the very last thing on the list. In fact, email is largely ignored because by the time it’s opened, it’s probably ancient history. Instead, filed teams need real-time answers on the mobile devices they carry while on the job. The newspapers of old are akin to email as a default form of communication where Twitter and social media are akin to a mobile-first, messaging-based communication app.

So what’s more pressing than checking email for a field service technician?

Completing service calls

When a field service technician arrives at the customer site, they generally rely on a “run-the-business” app to check account details, specific product details, and other key information. Live troubleshooting takes place to determine the fastest path to a fix or an install on a new or unfamiliar product.

Getting in and out as quickly as possible not only helps the company’s costs but also directly impacts customer satisfaction. Updating an app like ServiceMax once the job completes is one of the final steps and then it’s on to the next work order. According to The Service Council, most field service teams are accountable for completing 3 to 4 service calls each day. The last thing they are doing while on-the-job is checking email.

Decreasing job duration

The length of time any service job takes is directly correlated to completion rates. Most service calls are straightforward but it is how technicians handle the anomalies that really makes a difference. One of the key areas that field teams can improve on is onboarding, training, and ongoing enablement. Continual training is never easy when teams need to be out on the road, so it’s often conducted virtually.

In most cases, training needs to be hands-on to be effective. Experienced “Jedis” are often the best teachers for field service teams. Email is simply not a good way for these experts to share their knowledge with teams spread across cities and states. Zinc video chat capabilities, on the other hand, enable inexperienced team members to receive live training when online courses aren’t enough.

Preventing overtime

Some jobs just take longer and it doesn’t have anything to do with the team. Even with your most experienced and engaged team members, a perfect storm of complications could cause a job to take longer than average, which leads to overtime. In order to complete each customer service install or fix and maintain satisfaction levels, you need to expend some overtime. But doing this on a consistent basis is not good for the business and negatively impacts the happiness of your most important asset—the employee.

There are many ways to curb overtime which runs the gamut from more streamlined processes and better training to increased tribal knowledge sharing and providing employees with a real-time field team communication app on their mobile device. Even rolling out dynamic routing to be prepared for schedule changes can impact overtime rates.

Some field services are more critical than others

After attending the Field Service Medical conference held in San Diego by WBR, I was impressed by the level of commitment and innovation coming from organizations who are set on achieving impressive customer satisfaction scores in addition to improving margins and finding new revenue channels.

Field service teams are under tremendous pressure to balance operational costs and at the same time exceed customer satisfaction. If a diagnostics machine is out of commission, it could translate to serious outcomes of life or death for a patient. This, of course, increases the level of pressure field teams are under each day as they work hard to extend the life of high-end, expensive equipment designed to save lives.

There is absolutely no way a technician can rely on slow email for field team communication while working on those critical jobs. A mobile-first communication platform is what’s needed.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.