Magazine Article | November 20, 2013

The 3 Phases Of Mobile In Field Service

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Sumair Dutta, chief customer officer, The Service Council,,

The idea of mobile technologies in field service isn’t new — the innovation comes into play in how they’re being used.

Mobile isn’t a new phenomenon or technology in field service. However, quite often the focus surrounding mobile is on the devices and operating systems as opposed to the real value delivered by mobile via mobile applications. While more than 80 percent of field workers hold a mobile device of sorts, the adoption of field service applications is lower, in the 50 to 60 percent range. Within the application realm, it is the depth of functionality or the type of information provided to field agents that differs significantly among organizations. The type of information delivered or prioritized on mobile applications tends to follow a road map or maturity path across three primary phases.

Stage 1 – This is where mobile applications are brought in primarily to reduce the reliance on paperwork with the objective being the elimination of waste, reduction of errors, and improved time to cash. Returns at this stage can be quite enormous in terms of productivity and billing times, but really, this is just is the automation of manualand paper-based processes.

Stage 2 – Building on Stage 1 gains, Stage 2 reflects the “Get work done faster” phase, with the goal being increased productivity as measured via tasks attended or completed. As such, the focus falls on elements of navigation and work-order management. Here we see a little more empowerment at the point of service, but once again it’s much more tied to getting to job sites, closing tickets, and moving on.

Stage 3 – Stage 3 comes in two flavors, both tied to enabling field workers to work smarter, therefore relying on the activation and supply of information at the point of service that enables better resolution and revenue. At this stage, agents are provided with the tools not only to solve customer issues but also provide solutions to prevent future issues or to improve overall performance. At this stage the field agent becomes more of a partner as opposed to a transaction closer.

The two flavors of Stage 3 vary in the manner that field agents access information. Currently, most organizations are working with the first flavor of Stage 3, wherein most of the information is available in the application, but it has to be sought by the field technician. The alternative is the automated delivery of contextual information to field agents pre-visit and on-site based on the customer, location, type of task, and more. For instance, if the field agent is dispatched for a certain repair, the application automatically provides them with part, resolution, and other information that can be reviewed prior to the service visit. If parts aren’t available, accessible parts are identified in transit whether at stocking locations or with other agents. Similarly, at the point of service, field agents can be made aware of an upcoming renewal or potential upsell situation that can have revenue implications. They could also be made aware of other preventive maintenance work that can be done on-site, thereby saving a future trip and enhancing customer satisfaction.

The Correlation Of Mobility And Customer Satisfaction
Since field service goals are now tied to customer satisfaction and revenue, the evolution of mobile and field service applications has to occur to provide access to customer management and issue-resolution information, hopefully in a more contextual format in order to aid service excellence. The success of these applications should really be tied to the value they provide field agents in solving problems and offering solutions to customers as opposed to the ability of the application to replace one form of inefficiency with another. It’s not about making field agents more reliant on their mobile devices for information or asking them to spend more time filling forms on their mobile devices, but much more about giving them the right information when they do have to rely on their mobile devices. Beyond that, automation can kick in to eliminate the work needed or steps necessary to record mundane schedule and work management tasks such as check-ins, accounting for breaks, time and expense management, and more.

Field service agents want to get their work done and deliver value to their customers. They’re not necessarily excited about the prospect of becoming slaves to their new devices, even if these devices are cool and shiny. Mobile applications must be developed to offer the agents the freedom to work on their service tasks and offer assistance when it is sought. This is the true value of mobility in field service.