By Craig Greenhalgh, Research Analyst at Comparesoft
Field service management has been an intrinsic pillar of the service industry since the beginning of time. In its most basic form, field service refers to any task that is carried out “in the field”, or outside of company property.
Before the advent of the digital age, field service management could be something as simple as tracking your sales team via a spreadsheet or dispatching a technician to set up a power line using a calendar invite.
However, as businesses have evolved in complexity, so has there been a corresponding need to update the systems that track field service workers. Now, the term “field service management” conjures up images of vast fleets of Uber taxis being managed via a single sleek dashboard, or a dynamic tracking system for Deliveroo drivers on the go.
Indeed, field service management has moved well beyond its analogue days and has transformed from a mere system of organisation to a source of key competitive advantage that companies can use to improve customer experience.
This article discusses the increasing importance of effective field service management as well as some best practices for implementation.
What are the key drivers behind field service management software?
In 2020, a year that has seen an unprecedented boom in digital adoption, the role of field service management software is more important than ever.
With the rise of cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business models, plus additional pressure to control and reduce service costs, effective field service management is no longer optional, but a necessity, if your business is to remain competitive.
An industry report predicts that the global market for field service management software will develop at a compounded annual growth rate of 14% from 2018-2023. Some of the key drivers behind this growth are:
The SaaS revolution
An increasing number of field service management services have adopted SaaS pricing models over the past few years. This has made them more accessible to smaller businesses looking to compete in various industries, given that the heavy upfront cost of investing in IT infrastructure has been replaced by a more affordable monthly subscription fee.
Downward pressure on costs
In every industry, businesses are under tremendous pressure to decrease prices given the increasing amount of competition. What’s more, the economic turmoil as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further catalysed companies to reduce costs. Field service management can help your business to streamline both, processes and resources, leading to increased efficiency in the long run.
An increasing need for workforce productivity
As a business owner, you need to maintain your profit margins by ensuring that your workforce is as productive as possible. Decreased on-the-job productivity can not only cost employers a significant amount but also lead to reduced staff morale. This is where field service management plays a role in efficiently allocating resources and improving overall productivity.
What features does field service management software provide?
Different platforms offer a wide variety of features and tools to help you manage your field resources from a centralised interface. Some of the most common features include:
- Work order management
- Resource scheduling and dispatching
- Internal communication tools
- Mobile app interface
- End-to-end project management
- Automated appointment reminders
- Order management
- Customer invoicing
- Route planning
- Delay forecasting and reporting
- Contract management
- Real-time inventory management
- Field data collection
What are the benefits of field service management software?
Field service management solutions can offer companies several immediate and longer-term benefits, ranging from more effective resource management to improved customer experience, to time-saving, and much more. Some of these include:
1.Access to information in real-time
Undoubtedly the biggest advantage that field service management software offer is access to a steady stream of real-time information. This can range from the location of your workers to inventory levels, to billing information, customer history and much more. These data enable informed, faster, and proactive decision making for your business.
2.Improved workforce management
Field service management software gives you the ability to track, monitor and assign resources effectively. What’s more, it does this faster and more accurately than manual alternatives, so it helps you to dispatch the right service representatives sooner to your customers, thereby improving overall customer experience.
3.Enables process automation
Manually administering field service workers can be extremely time-consuming. Field service management software allows you to automate a wide variety of repetitive tasks, including scheduling, sending out reminders, issuing work orders, and much more. It also reduces the risk of human error, eliminating mistakes that could prove costly for your business.
4.Allows for effective inter-departmental coordination
Field service management solutions typically connect field workers with other departments, enabling seamless coordination between them. For example, in case a field worker requires the assistance of an on-site technician for complex installation, a software-based solution can help them coordinate faster and more smoothly, leading to a better-connected organisation.
5.Better customer service
By allowing quicker and more accurate responses to customer issues, field service management solutions lead to an overall reduction in the number of complaints. What’s more, by giving customers the ability to track your employees in real-time, they also alleviate the need to make repeated, time-consuming, and annoying follow-up calls, freeing up your customer service team in the bargain.
Investing in a SaaS-based solution can not only reduce the upfront costs of workforce management for your business but also lead to incremental improvements in cost efficiency, as you harness its benefits to make more informed and accurate decisions as to the allocation of your resources. This helps you maintain a steady profit margin and save on unnecessary expenditure in the long-term.
How can field service management solutions be effectively implemented?
Field service management has reached the turning point where it needs to catch up to the demands of the digital consumer. Just as customers expect a business to let them order products online, or provide personalised recommendations, they now also expect businesses to improve their overall customer experience.
A major part of this depends on a business' ability to improve the speed and quality of service that it provides its customers, for which effective field service management is a key enabler.
There are some key considerations to ensure the successful implementation of such a solution:
1.Evaluate your objectives
Goal setting and benchmarking is essential to know whether the software you have chosen is achieving its objectives. Field service management solutions offer a variety of features, but it is important to select the ones that will be most beneficial for your business. For this, you must conduct a critical evaluation of your current processes and identify potential risk areas before committing to a software.
For example – is your business prone to delays in dispatching technicians? Or are you unable to fulfil orders due to mismanaged inventory? Depending on your answer, you may choose a different solution to help serve your purpose.
2.Educating and empowering your staff
Ultimately, field service management solutions aim to benefit your staff, so they should be equally involved in the decision-making process. Getting a wide variety of opinions will help you develop a more well-rounded understanding of the implications of adopting a particular technology, which can help you prepare for unforeseen risks.
What’s more, before carrying out any changes to existing processes, you should ensure that every team is informed and has the necessary training and skills to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.
3.Aim for incremental improvements, rather than a total overhaul
Instead of completely replacing old systems, aim for micro-changes. Not only is this faster and easier to implement, but it also gives workers the ability to familiarise themselves with smaller changes, rather than getting lost in a completely new web of processes. A phased implementation will also help you to optimise and evaluate at every stage whether the new system is meeting its key objectives.
4.Invest in technological capabilities
While you may be gung-ho about adopting a new software tool, you need to ensure that your business has the underlying technological infrastructure capable of supporting it. This can mean anything from investing in a mobile application to determining how the software will integrate with existing systems, to enabling the centralised collection of multiple sources of data. Doing the groundwork beforehand ensures that your business truly captures the promised benefits of the field service management solution you choose.
5.Defer to the experts where needed
As with any complex project, don’t shy away from getting expert help. Project managers and experienced field service professionals can be hired to ensure a smooth transition. You can also consider assigning specific roles and responsibilities to various team leaders to help educate and train staff. However, it is equally important that you keep all these stakeholders in the loop regarding your goals and objectives, and to give them access to the data that will inform their decision making.
Ultimately, the benefits of field service management software can be distilled to an overall improvement in customer experience and greater resource efficiency for your business. However, for all these benefits to materialise, it is essential to have an effective strategy for the adoption and implementation of a field service management software.
By Craig Greenhalgh, Research Analyst at Comparesoft