Magazine Article | August 24, 2006

No More Waiting, Please

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Wireless technology, field service scheduling applications, and LBS (location-based services) combine to eliminate those 8-hour windows your field techs are used to — and your customers despise.

Integrated Solutions, Annual Resource Guide To Wireless & Mobility Solutions

A friend of mine purchased a house a few weeks ago, and after she’d convinced all her friends to help, she faced the most unenviable task of moving: waiting for service techs.I was talking to her after she’d spent an entire day waiting for techs from several HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) companies to come to give her quotes on installing central air. Around 2 p.m., the guy who was supposed to show up at 11 a.m. arrived. At 5 p.m., the 3 p.m. guy called to say he couldn’t make it and asked if he could reschedule for a later date. Then, she spent the next day waiting for the cable technician to arrive some time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. She ended up wasting two days away from work and getting very frustrated.

I leapt up on my soapbox: “That’s ridiculous! I know there are technologies to prevent these situations from happening!” I write about these technologies every day, and case study upon case study appears in Integrated Solutions detailing the mobile computing and field service scheduling solutions that companies use to improve worker productivity and efficiency — and therefore improve customer service.

There really is no longer an excuse for field service companies not to have scheduling and optimization technology. First of all, the benefits are clearly proven. A quick review of recent case studies shows this. In one story, a company saved $600,000 in data entry labor costs; in another, the company saved 32 man-hours per day; and in another, the company was able to respond to 15% more calls per day without additional hiring. A recent report from analyst firm AberdeenGroup, Best Practices In Mobile Field Service, shows that the average improvement in the key performance categories of worker productivity and overall profitability are 27% and 17%, respectively, when a field service automation solution is implemented.

Second, wireless data networks are faster and have more bandwidth. The 3G GPRS (general packet radio service)- and CDMA (code division multiple access)-based networks can transmit data at speeds in excess of 130 Kbps (kilobits per second). These networks, supported by wireless carriers such as Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon Wireless, are being upgraded to 3.5G networks that will boast speeds of anywhere from 400 Kbps to several Mbps (megabits per second).

Third, there are more options for field service optimization software. This is an application that can extend back end customer data to your field techs and schedule the techs for jobs while taking tech availability, skill sets, and even inventory into account. Vendors are offering customized field service solutions for all types of companies. The varied software options also mean prices are lower for smaller companies. A field service solution is no longer a $100,000-plus investment, or even $50,000. If your company has 20 technicians, you could get a hosted solution running on smartphone devices for approximately $10,000.

Finally, LBS can increase the efficacy of field service optimization. By installing GPS (global positioning system) or other location-finding devices in trucks or mobile computers, you can know the exact location of technicians in the field. You can provide customer service center reps with that knowledge so they can more effectively answer customer calls inquiring as to the locations and estimated arrival times of the technicians. More importantly, you can even avoid having customers call because your field service application can route the techs based on the techs’ locations.

Remember the Seinfeld episode when Kramer made the cable guy wait for him? That animosity from customers is not what you want — nor do you want to waste your techs’ time waiting for a customer rather than working. And you don’t have to, with the technology that is currently available. So, what are you waiting for?