Magazine Article | July 25, 2006

Workforce Management Increases Orders Per Day 63%

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, August 2006

American Water is the largest water resources company in North America, generating revenues in excess of $2 billion. The company’s field service representatives (FSRs) are responsible for field customer service work such as water connection and disconnection, meter replacement or repair, leak inspections, line locating, meter reading, and pressure checks for approximately 18 million people. American Water’s paper-based service order distribution system seriously hindered the timeliness and efficiency of this field work. The company hand-sorted service orders into categories such as afternoon, morning, sewer, and water, which wasted hours of valuable time.

The FSRs picked up paper orders each morning and mailed completed orders back to the office where they were manually closed. The opportunity for error and loss of orders was high, and FSRs and Field Resource Coordination Centers (FRCC) had no information to respond to order status inquiries from customers. The company could only offer all-day appointment windows to customers and had no way to track the location of FSRs, time management, or work order status.

To remedy this, American Water started the Service First project, part of its STEP (standardized technology enabled processes) program to improve customer service and change the way the company works with technology. The Service First project is composed of Advantex r7.5, a workforce optimization application from MDSI; Panasonic Toughbooks; and Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and Wireless Matrix (satellite) wireless networks. The Advantex system automates the work order cycle, scheduling, dispatching, and managing an average of 155,000 field service orders per month. The appointment booking component enables field service coordinators to schedule 3-hour appointment windows for FSRs based on skills, locations, and ability.

With the Service First solution, FSRs receive service orders remotely. As the FSRs do their work, they send order completion information wirelessly back to the enterprise, instantly updating the customer’s record. Customer service representatives at call centers can now have access to up-to-date information on service order status and can quickly respond to customer inquiries. The Service First solution has enabled American Water to improve its response to emergency orders: the average minutes from dispatched to completed decreased from 398 minutes to 147. Also, the orders per day per FSR increased from 16 to 26, and idle time was reduced from 35% to 7%.