6 Field Service Management Best Practices 

Author- Bartek Woroniecki – January 2023

 

While the complex, nuanced factors contributing to success in the field service industry continue to change, there are some key best practices that businesses can implement to stay ahead of the curve. 

1. Become Mobile-first 

Remote work is now at the forefront of nearly every industry, and field service is no exception. Field workers have always worked outside of the office or traditional work settings, but modern field service has expanded to include a variety of roles, including independent contractors, frontline workers, home healthcare providers, salespeople, nonprofit volunteers, and more. With so many differing roles, responsibilities, schedules, skill sets, and locations, it can be incredibly challenging for any type of field service organization to keep tabs on how their workforce operates. 

This is particularly difficult if your field workers don’t have access to the right tools throughout the day. For example, if field workers must toggle between disparate communication tools (e.g. Slack, text messages, email, phone calls, etc.), they waste precious time that could otherwise be spent on higher-value tasks. They struggle to remain productive if they don’t have instant, seamless access to customer information, helpful resources, up-to-date schedules, optimized routing, or back-office support. 

It’s no wonder, then, that the field service management market size is expected to grow from $3.2 billion in 2021 to $5.7 billion by 2026. That projected boom is undoubtedly due to COVID-19’s impact on the industry, such as stricter safety compliance standards, increasingly popular bring your own device (BYOD) policies, and the need for real-time communication in the field. A mobile-first approach will likely become a distinct, competitive advantage for those who choose to implement more sophisticated processes and technologies.

Modern field service businesses understand the importance of putting the power of communication, information, and even self-scheduling in the hands of their field workers. By equipping them with mobile-first FSM solutions, businesses help to increase worker preparedness, productivity, safety, and efficiency. Deskless workers have everything they need in one centralized, secure app, so they always know what to expect when they arrive at a customer site. And when something out of the ordinary occurs—like a complicated customer request or an unforeseen service challenge—mobile workers can instantly find relevant information or reach out to a colleague for assistance. 

This also helps to streamline overall field service operations, as deskless workers can access and alter their own schedules, update customers with accurate arrival times, and even collect and sync field data back to their central system; all without spending extra time on administrative tasks or needing help from back-office teams. When day-to-day processes run smoothly, the frustrations typically associated with field service work decrease, and thus employee satisfaction increases. Deskless workers are empowered to do their best work and focus on delighting customers at every interaction. 

As you look for an FSM tool to support your mobile workforce, make sure you choose one that is built upon a mobile-first approach. It should be user-friendly, work securely on employee’s personal devices, act as a single source of truth, and easily integrate with other key apps (e.g. communication tools, navigation apps, etc.). Bonus points if it also enables field workers to collect both field data and contactless customer signatures offline!

2. Integrate FSM Software with Existing Systems

Your existing tools (e.g. payroll, ERP, HR system, CRM, etc.) each play an important role in the broader operational success of your company. But if they’re disjointed from one another, they can hinder your organization’s ability to make informed, intelligent business decisions. Remember: Field service delivery doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It’s tied closely together with all of the other functions of your business, so failing to connect key data from each department can lead to missed opportunities, workflow inefficiencies, or larger operational issues down the line. 

For example, let’s say your organization receives a work order request for a field service technician. Without an integrated, single system of record, the process might include:

1.  Searching your customer database for account details, customer preferences, previous history, location, etc. 

2.  Reviewing the schedule, which might not even have the most up-to-date appointment information, to identify an available technician.

3.  Narrowing down the list of available technicians to those who are the best fit for the job (based on skill set, experience, previous history with the customer, location, etc.). This might require a traditional spreadsheet, multiple email threads, or various calendars. 

4.  Dispatching and navigating the technician to the job site.

5.  Collecting field data and customer signatures, then bringing them back to the office.

6.  Entering this data (plus the technician’s timesheet) into relevant systems for processing.

7.  Sharing this information with the appropriate internal teams to invoice the customer.

Not only is this a time-consuming, tedious process for already-busy field workers, staff schedulers, and other back-office employees, it’s also incredibly inefficient. It slows down operations and takes valuable time away from more innovative, important tasks. What’s more, it can lead to employee dissatisfaction, premature burnout, and decreased engagement. On the customer side, it’s important to note that multiple, disconnected systems breed errors (in scheduling, invoicing, communication, and more), which can result in negative experiences that impact your brand. 

Forward-thinking field service management companies have eliminated these headaches by implementing an FSM tool that integrates with their existing systems. Instead of shuffling between systems, they carry out the process through a centralized solution that connects information from each. Staff schedulers can easily identify who’s available, where they are, and whether or not they have the right qualifications to complete the job. With the push of a button, the appropriate field worker is sent to the job site with all the necessary details to get the work done right the first time. Back-office workers can receive real-time job status updates and notify the customer on arrival times or delays. Deskless workers can easily collect field data and customer signatures in their mobile app and automatically sync that information back to their central operating system—enabling them to save time, avoid potential errors, and provide an excellent customer experience.

3. Capture real-time data 

Collecting accurate, up-to-date data is a crucial part of any field service organization. But traditional, manual methods (like paper forms) require a great deal of time, are error-prone, and don’t enable social distancing—which is particularly troublesome in industries like home healthcare. Operational effectiveness is difficult to attain if your field workers are not only spending time capturing customer and job details, but also transporting them back to HQ and entering them into a separate system for processing and storage. Key details are often lost or, equally as troubling, change in the time it takes your field workers and back-office workers to collect and record them. If you’re still relying on manual data collection methods, chances are you’re taking time away from deskless workers that could be better spent serving customers.

To reduce paper waste and errors, increase safety and security, and improve employee and customer satisfaction, consider leveraging an FSM tool that offers mobile data collection. With these technologies, deskless workers can quickly capture every necessary detail with their mobile devices (even offline) and automatically sync that information back to the main system. Nothing falls through the cracks, and workers maintain their productivity without sacrificing the data that’s so valuable to your operation. 

When all that data is stored in a cloud-based platform, it’s a breeze to make updates or informed, on-the-fly decisions in the field. Mobile workers always have access to real-time customer and job information (regardless of where they are), and your operations teams have full visibility into your workforce. 

4. Optimize Scheduling and Dispatching 

Without a strong scheduling and dispatching process, customer experience, employee satisfaction, operations, and profitability all suffer. Although scheduling and dispatching are incredibly critical parts of any field service organization, many businesses struggle to get it right. They still rely on manual methods that lead to higher administrative costs, miscommunications, and worker under- or over-utilization. 

Spreadsheets, emails, and calendar apps don’t offer the visibility needed for businesses to understand worker availability vs. demand, where they’re employees currently are, or how best to get deskless workers to the next site on time. Staff schedulers spend copious amounts of time tracking down the right worker for the job, and mobile employees face unstable, inflexible schedules that don’t take into account real-life exceptions.

The truth is, organizations looking to boost operational efficiency, employee and customer experience, and revenue need powerful tools that make creating effective schedules a quick and efficient task. The scheduling technology you choose should go far beyond identifying worker availability: It should offer the flexibility, visibility, and communication your team needs to thrive. Some tools even automate the scheduling and dispatching process, with powerful job matching and exception planning. Make sure to implement a solution that provides convenient access to alerts, schedule updates, messages, and customer information, so your scheduling process becomes an asset to your business rather than a hindrance to your operational workflows.

5. Enable Streamlined Communication 

Proper communication is essential in any business, but this is particularly true for companies with a mobile or blended workforce. When employees are spread across multiple locations (and, sometimes, multiple time zones), the ability to communicate clearly and effectively can make or break your operation. Without the proper communication tools at their disposal, employees become frustrated, key details get lost in translation, and customer experience deteriorates. This problem is often exacerbated when well-meaning employers invest in too many disparate communication tools, which just muddy the waters and make it more challenging for mobile employees to remain in the loop.

Instead, look for a field service management tool with built-in, streamlined communication capabilities. These solutions provide a real-time hub for back-office employees, deskless workers, and even customers, so everyone is always on the same page. While issues in the field are bound to pop up from time-to-time, streamlined communication tools ensure that deskless workers can quickly get what they need to alleviate problems as they occur. This makes your workforce operations more efficient, and establishes your team as a trustworthy, reliable partner in the customers’ eyes.

6. Prioritize Customer Service 

“The customer is always right” is an age-old adage, and one that emphasizes an unchanging fact: Customers expect exceptional service that prioritizes their needs. Since 47% of customers say they’ll stop buying from a company if they have a less-than-ideal experience, it’s no wonder why 72% of field service organizations are now focused on improving their approach to customer satisfaction. 

But this proves to be a tricky feat in light of the pandemic, as 75% of consumers say they don’t like the idea of having a field service technician in their home. So how can your deskless workers deliver outstanding customer service without relying on the more traditional, intimate relationship-building methods of the past? Field service organizations should build their processes and adopt their tools with this question in mind. 

To continuously meet—or exceed—customer expectations, consider how a more streamlined operation would impact both your deskless workers and the clients they serve. Optimizing workflows and eliminating the barriers that hinder productivity, cause frustrations, and eat up time can lead to satisfied employees who are happy to represent your brand in a positive way. The biggest driving force in customer satisfaction is effective field service management, which requires robust tools for support. 

The right FSM tool uses real-time data to help you speed up response time by identifying patterns of delay, negative trends in travel time, or other operational issues. It also offers field workers instant access to key resources (e.g. customer information), so they’re always prepared to complete the job. 

Some modern technologies optimize the scheduling and dispatching process, with automated tools that match the right worker to the right job, identify the fastest routes to get there, and ensure customers can self-schedule for appointment slots that are actually available. And if the mobile worker’s previous job is running a little long or they encounter unexpected traffic, they can easily send up-to-date arrival times to the customer. Workforce operations run more smoothly, and customers are met with proactive, informed field workers who deliver quality service. 

Modern field service businesses understand the importance of putting the power of communication, information, and even self-scheduling in the hands of their field workers. By equipping them with mobile-first FSM solutions, businesses help to increase worker preparedness, productivity, safety, and efficiency. Deskless workers have everything they need in one centralized, secure app, so they always know what to expect when they arrive at a customer site. And when something out of the ordinary occurs—like a complicated customer request or an unforeseen service challenge—mobile workers can instantly find relevant information or reach out to a colleague for assistance. 

This also helps to streamline overall field service operations, as deskless workers can access and alter their own schedules, update customers with accurate arrival times, and even collect and sync field data back to their central system; all without spending extra time on administrative tasks or needing help from back-office teams. When day-to-day processes run smoothly, the frustrations typically associated with field service work decrease, and thus employee satisfaction increases. Deskless workers are empowered to do their best work and focus on delighting customers at every interaction. 

As you look for an FSM tool to support your mobile workforce, make sure you choose one that is built upon a mobile-first approach. It should be user-friendly, work securely on employee’s personal devices, act as a single source of truth, and easily integrate with other key apps (e.g. communication tools, navigation apps, etc.). Bonus points if it also enables field workers to collect both field data and contactless customer signatures offline!

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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