By Nasrin Azari, President, Mobile Reach
Successful mobile deployments begin and end with technicians.
You’ve done your homework, analyzed the numbers, reviewed your results. Even with very conservative assumptions, it is obvious that your field technicians can be 30+% more effective with a mobile solution. The decision is a no-brainer, yet you hesitate to pull the trigger. What’s holding you back?
While nobody argues that field technicians can benefit greatly from a mobile solution, the expected ROI doesn’t always happen. The most common reason a mobile solution implementation fails is lack of adoption by the field techs. Concern about adoption is, in fact, the biggest deterrent to investment in field mobility. The concern is valid, because building and deploying mobile apps for your field technicians can take significant investment of time, effort, and resources. If your field technicians do not use the resulting solution, you will not be able to recognize the gains that an effective mobile solution can bring to your field service organization.
How can you mitigate that risk and ensure that you get the ROI you’re looking for? With more than 10 years of experience assisting hundreds of customers with successful mobile roll-outs, Mobile Reach has pinpointed four critical best practices in mobile application implementation for field technicians.
Critical Step #1: Involve End Users in the Mobile App Design
This may seem like an obvious practice, but most organizations substitute a supervisor or lead for end-users during the design phase of a mobile project. That can work fine if the substitute knows the technicians’ jobs very well and understands the environment that the technicians work in. But getting actual end users to provide input in the design and UX provides, by far, the greatest likelihood of making sure that the apps meet their needs.
Critical Step #2: Create Task-specific Apps focused on the Field Tech’s Job
Field technicians are experts at what they do: delivering outcome-oriented service to your customers. But they may not be mobile device or service management application savvy. They are likely accustomed to completing surveys or reports using paper forms, or by scribbling notes in notebooks, and then later entering that information into a spreadsheet or enterprise application interface. Field techs care about finishing their work, doing it efficiently and correctly, and moving on to the next job. Task-specific mobile apps that focus only on what field techs need to accomplish and that mold to the work they actually do are a key ingredient for a successful deployment. Furthermore, the mobile user experience for field techs needs to be simple, consistent, and always available – even offline. Resist the urge to present a wide range of functionality, fancy features, or multiple ways of getting the job done, as those things tend to clutter the user interface and distract the technician from solving the task at hand.
Critical Step #3: Build Apps that Support your Existing Processes
Field technicians are used to performing their tasks in a particular way, in a particular order, in a particular environment. The process that has evolved and been refined over the years is presumably what works the best for your organization today, given the tools and resources that you have available. It is important to retain all the components of that process that make it work extraordinarily well, and focus on making that process better with your mobile solution, as opposed to creating a completely new way of doing things that will be overly disruptive and take years to optimize. You want to create mobile apps that enhance a proven process and even remove some of the challenges that field techs currently face, such as requiring them to enter their hand-written notes into your service management application when they return from a job. The mobile apps that you provide need to make your techs’ jobs easier while capitalizing on the process that they have become proficient with.
Critical Step #4: Do not make usage optional
You will not get everything perfect the first time around. The user interface may not meet every one of your requirements; certain workflows that looked good on paper will not work quite like you’d hoped in the field; some technicians will struggle with the new app no matter how streamlined it is. However, do not let this deter you from requiring every single tech to use the apps that have been created for them. If you allow your technicians to do things the old way while you perfect your new mobile app, you will not get the critical feedback that you need to iterate and improve quickly. You will not be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the app to ensure that it is meeting your ROI expectations. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the speedbumps inherent in any initial rollout pay off over the long run with higher technician productivity, increased service profitability and improved customer satisfaction.