There are few industries left where desk-tethered workers are the norm. In a recent study, Forrester Research characterized almost one-third of the global workforce as “anytime, anywhere information workers” based on their use of mobile devices and business apps.
The field service industry in particular accounts for a huge share of this rising mobile workforce. Mobile, after all, is part of field service’s DNA. The entire business model is predicated on a service call, whether it requires an onsite visit or remote support. It’s not surprising, then, that mobile workforce management (MWM) is one of the greatest priorities for modern service companies.
Most organizations already have a clear understanding of deliverables — probably something along these lines:
- Fewer repeat visits
- Optimized drive time
- More jobs completed per day
- Employee compliance and integrity
But knowing what you hope to achieve isn’t the same thing as knowing how to achieve it. Even if you’ve decided to focus on a specific aspect of MWM (such as visibility), you have to know where to channel your efforts. To get you started, here are four mobile workforce management strategies that will help you deliver better service and turn your team into a well-oiled machine.
1. Use a central management system
Field service management software connects mobile workers to the central office and provides knowledge management tools to help them perform well on the job. Even if you’re a smaller company with a limited budget, there are affordable, cloud-based options with basic features for work order scheduling and employee tracking.
2. Keep track of your workers
You should be able to see where your technicians are and their current job status at any given time. This builds accountability into field service operations and supports intelligent scheduling. A digital time-tracking tool (such as those found in mobile field service apps) provides an additional layer of verification for technician or contractor behavior during work hours. About 45 percent of service and manufacturing firms say that real-time visibility has helped them improve overall field service performance.
3. Evaluate and embrace new technology
An array of emerging tech trends are beginning to redefine field service. As a decision-maker, you must discern which developments can help your company streamline workflows and lead in innovation, and which would be wasted investments. On the docket:
- Mobile field service management apps (four out of five technicians will work from a tablet or smartphone by 2017, according to VDC Research)
- Wearable technology, such as smart glasses, smart watches and other hands-free devices
- Route optimization and GPS navigation tools
- M2M (machine to machine) technology, such as telematics sensors for fleet and asset management
4. Avoid micromanagement
If you decide to implement field service management software, you’ll gain powerful oversight, tracking and analytics abilities. But be careful how you use them. Whether you work with in-house technicians or third-party contractors, remember that people don’t respond well to micromanagement. Avoid doling out harsh criticism for a minor start/end time discrepancy or blaming a driver for a delay caused by road conditions, for example.
Instead, focus on equipping each worker with the resources they need and removing obstacles to success. Some of these obstacles could include parts discrepancies, logistical complications, communication errors, or even vehicle malfunctions.
Where other industries are only now experiencing the mobile shift, field service has relied on teams of traveling technicians since day one. But that doesn’t mean you should take success for granted. Mobile workforce management can be remarkably challenging because it requires proficiency across multiple disciplines — human resource management, dispatch and fleet management, and the nuances of a particular field service vertical. The best approach involves data-driven leadership and oversight, supported by right technology.