8 Field Service Best Practices To Improve Field Operations

By Stanley Tollett

The rise of AI-assisted tools, customer self-service options, and other field service trends are driving new changes in field service. Maintaining profitability, satisfying customers, and retaining skilled workers are top priorities—but they are not easy.

These developments bring new challenges. Nearly 50% of field service fleet managers see increasing costs as their top challenge in a time of economic and regulatory changes. In addition to maintaining profitability, field service leaders must be able to satisfy customers and attract and retain skilled field workers.

Here are 8 best practices to help improve field service operations:

  1. Empower technicians with mobile tools

Field service technicians with excellent tools are better-equipped to deliver the best possible service. Workers are more confident and more productive when they have easy access to their schedules, customer information, job histories, safety procedures, and the best route between jobs.

On the contrary, without a unified system to find and update key information, workers will fall behind. Important details can slip through the cracks when workers have to juggle multiple communication methods, like Slack, email, text messages, and phone calls. Without access to an up-to-date schedule at all times, workers will need to check in before each appointment, or they risk traveling to canceled or rescheduled jobs.

The right platform should be a centralized, real-time hub that helps the field service tech prepare for upcoming jobs and share updates with colleagues and customers. It should be the default place to access key data, record job progress, and initiate communication from the field. When unexpected issues arise, it should be a resource for next steps: following safety procedures, alerting the manager and dispatcher, troubleshooting equipment issues, and adjusting the schedule of upcoming jobs.

When all of these features are present in one place, with a mobile-first interface, operations are more efficient—and field service technicians are more satisfied in their work.

When you evaluate mobile workforce management software, look out for the following features:

  • Communication – communicate in real-time among a distributed workforce of full-time, part-time, and contract workers
  • Worker safety – access safety checklists, share GPS location data, and check in and out of jobs
  • Data controls – grant secure, role-based access to customer data, appointment history, and upcoming job details to authorized workers so they can arrive prepared

The adoption of cutting-edge technology has been slower in some field service industries than others. For example, more than 60% of utility workers report their workplace technology needs to be updated. The introduction of a mobile app built for field service, like  makes a huge difference for field service technicians, managers, schedulers, and the company overall.

  1. Capture and use real-time data

Collecting accurate, up-to-date data is a crucial part of any field service operation—whether it’s healthcare, oil and gas, or field sales. But manual methods of data collection, like paper forms, are too time-consuming and error-prone to keep up with the pace of work today. Time spent filling out, transporting, and transcribing physical notes to a digital system takes away from time spent with customers or on more complex tasks.

Instead, use intuitive mobile apps and field service workflows to capture data from the field. Field service technicians should be able to record job updates and key details on their mobile devices—even when offline. Key data points, like appointment duration and job resolution, should be synced to a centralized system that managers and dispatchers can access anytime.

To improve field service operations, look for a platform that benefits everyone: minimize manual data entry by field workers, simplify scheduling and customer communication by office staff, and improve data quality and workforce visibility for field service leaders.

  1. Track the right KPIs

To improve operations, field service companies have to identify, track, and use the right key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics help organizations track workforce productivity, customer satisfaction, cost, and other markers of service quality.

Here are a few KPIs commonly used in field service:

  • Job completion KPIs – job completion rate, rework percentage, average resolution time, jobs completed per day/week/month
  • Scheduling KPIs – travel time, time to schedule, time to first contact, average response time, schedule adherence
  • Productivity KPIs – utilization rate (e.g. rate of billable work), wrench time, variance from standard job duration
  • Cost KPIs – average fuel costs, average cost per service delivered

Each field service organization will prioritize KPIs differently based on the company’s goals, the industry, and the specific field service role in question. Whichever KPIs the company uses to measure its service delivery, the field service workflow should be designed and optimized with those metrics in mind.

  1. Use smart scheduling and dispatching

Although scheduling and dispatching are critical to field service operations, many businesses struggle to get it right. Manual scheduling methods—like spreadsheets, emails, and calendar apps—don’t offer the visibility needed for businesses to understand real-time worker availability and customer demands. Schedulers and dispatchers spend too much time tracking down the right worker for a job, and workers’ schedules change often without the awareness of real-world issues in the field.

The most effective field service organizations use smart scheduling software to improve the scheduling process. The right scheduling technology goes far beyond identifying worker availability: it offers the flexibility, visibility, and communication your team needs to thrive. Smart scheduling helps automate the process, match workers to jobs based on specific qualifications, build schedules according to company KPIs, and ensure skilled workers are utilized appropriately.

With the right tool, scheduling can help solve operational challenges and even create a competitive advantage. Consider the following benefits of effective scheduling:

  • Field service technicians are matched to jobs that suit their skills and location, spend less time on the road, and receive real-time schedule updates when things change.
  • Customers receive reliable arrival times based on real-world appointment data and travel times, so they know what to expect and when.
  • Schedulers can improve workforce utilization, reduce unnecessary travel time, and create complex schedules more quickly with the help of AI
  • Field service companies can complete more appointments per day, improve customer satisfaction, and increase worker retention.
  1. Automate workflows and recurring tasks

Every field service workflow includes some straightforward, recurring tasks that can be automated. Thoughtful field service automation improves efficiency and reduces errors, while giving staff more time to focus on other, more complex tasks.

Review the field service workflow to find tasks that are well=suited for automation, such as:

  • Creating a first draft of the work schedule
  • Matching workers to jobs based on company priorities
  • Notifying workers of newly added jobs
  • Invoicing customers after job completion
  • Capturing photos and updates with AI-assisted prompts
  • Prompting customers to schedule routine service or follow-ups
  • Sending reminders to customers about upcoming appointments

With capable field service software, organizations can use automation rules to handle recurring tasks more easily. Based on the results, field service companies can tweak and fine-tune the automation rules over time.

  1. Integrate field service software with other systems

The other tools in the field service tech stack all play an important role in field service operations. Payroll, enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources (HR), customer relationship management (CRM), and field service management (FSM) tools all contribute to the field service environment for employees and customers.

But if these tools are disconnected from one another, they affect the organization’s ability to make informed business decisions. Failing to connect data from each part of the business leads to missed opportunities, inefficiencies, and sometimes larger operational issues.

For example, a field service organization receives a new work order request. What happens next depends on the systems and integrations in place.

Without integrated systems: The scheduler manually reviews the schedule and people working that day. The scheduler accesses the CRM to get basic info about the customer and previous appointments. The scheduler makes a final decision—pulling together schedules, qualifications, preferences, and job locations, trying not to miss any factors—and calls the worker to inform them of the new job. The worker must record the address and job details manually. The worker finds their way to the job site and completes the job, stopping to log in to the equipment manual and troubleshooting guide along the way. They write down job updates, collect the customer’s signature in the field, and deliver paperwork to the main office so it can be transcribed into the CRM and invoicing systems. The worker uploads their timesheet to the payroll system to account for the services performed.

With integrated systems: The scheduler automatically calls up the available technicians who best match the job requirements and location. The scheduler chooses from the recommended option (or selects their own choice). The selected worker is automatically notified about the new job on their mobile device, where they receive an updated schedule for the day and the best route to the new job. At the job site, they record job data and customer signatures in the app, which are synced to the CRM and FSM database in real-time. Once the service is complete, an invoice is automatically sent to the customer based on services performed, and job check-in and check-out times are recorded for time tracking purposes—no paperwork required.

Integrated systems provide a centralized place to share and receive information. These integrations save time, reduce potential errors, and contribute to an excellent customer experience.

  1. Give customers real-time info and self-service features

Customer expectations are changing, and self-service options are growing in popularity. More than two-thirds of customers prefer self-service options over speaking to a representative, and three-quarters consider self-service to be convenient.

Field service technology can help organizations deliver what customers want:

  • Self-scheduling – Customers want to be able to request and book appointments themselves, ideally through an online portal that shows upcoming appointments and outstanding balances.
  • Precise appointment times – Customers want precise arrival times, not “estimated windows” that last several hours.
  • Notifications about delays or changes – If an appointment is delayed, canceled, or otherwise changed, customers should be notified (without requiring a phone call each time).
  • Resolve issues affecting customers – Address operational issues, like poor schedule adherence or high rework percentage, that cause frustration for customers.
  • Informed technicians – Ensure workers are prepared to deliver great service on the first try with access to job details and appointment histories.

Investing in the customer experience helps a field service organization achieve and maintain profitability. More than 85% of buyers will pay more for a great customer experience, and these satisfied customers will spread the word to other prospective buyers.

  1. Collect feedback from technicians and customers

Feedback is essential for improving company operations—especially in field service, where work happens in many different locations. Feedback from workers and customers is often the best window into day-to-day operations and how they could be improved.

Collect feedback from field workers, schedulers, managers, and support staff on a regular basis to better understand internal operations. This feedback helps identify bottlenecks, confusion, and areas of improvement that could grow into large-scale problems with employee retention and engagement if left unaddressed.

Staff feedback may be collected in one-on-one meetings with managers, brief employee pulse surveys, or other feedback mechanisms. Collecting this feedback can help reveal trends that affect the employee experience, e.g. a long travel time between appointments, a lack of information to arrive prepared, or the use of unreliable or unhelpful mobile apps. Understanding these issues—and making positive changes to the field service workflow—will help improve internal operations.

Customer feedback will also reveal important insights about the field service workflow. This feedback may be collected in post-visit questionnaires, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, or individual conversations with large accounts. This feedback can help uncover areas for improvement, like unreliable arrival times, workers who are unprepared for appointments, or follow-up needs that are not acted upon. This feedback can be used to review and improve internal processes and better-equip technicians to deliver excellent service.

Whether it is internal or external feedback, seek to offer multiple feedback collection methods that can accommodate different preferences: written vs. verbal feedback, feedback shared immediately vs. later on, and feedback shared during or outside of business hours. This will encourage more consistent feedback from more customers and staff members.

To learn more about how TimeLinx can help your business, contact us today. 

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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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