9 Field Service Operations Management Challenges (And How To Solve Them)
Field service operations management refers to the processes and tools that an organization leverages to make continuous improvements and provide value, both to stakeholders (e.g. employees, customers, contractors) and the overall business. It’s essential for boosting efficiency, eliminating workflow bottlenecks, and reducing operating costs.
For field service organizations, prioritizing operations management means streamlining workflows for consistent, high-quality service delivery. Achieving operational excellence is often a challenging feat for companies who use disjointed tools or processes, fail to engage their employees, or take a reactive approach to field service management.
Stakeholders need to meet and exceed constantly increasing customer expectations while also balancing costs and driving profitability. To do so, they must make strategic, data-backed decisions, but they often lack the workforce visibility needed to gain those meaningful insights.
Field Service Operations Challenges
Successful operations management in field service requires complete workforce visibility. But the complexities of a deskless workforce threaten an organization’s ability to understand daily functions and how they impact broader business outcomes. This is largely due to some common challenges that field service organizations often face, including:
- Information silos – Many field service companies invest in multiple, disparate tools in an effort to support the needs of their deskless workers. What they fail to realize is that this approach can lead to a fragmented ecosystem of tools, where each app is used for a specific function. When field workers need 5-10 tools (e.g. a scheduling system, time log, communication platform, routing app, etc.) to monitor and complete their jobs, frustration and workflow inefficiencies flourish.
If these tools are not integrated, they can create different sources of truth that cause conflicting or confusing information. It’s an error-prone method, too, since failure of any one tool can cause issues in both customer service and employee satisfaction. What’s more, disconnected systems don’t offer the unification required for deep, accurate insights into workforce operations.
- Inefficient Scheduling – Properly scheduling and dispatching field workers—who each have different roles, skill sets, certifications, and responsibilities—is difficult and time-consuming if you still rely on traditional, manual tools and spreadsheets. Keeping track of ever-changing appointments and matching the right deskless worker to the right job is often burdensome for already-busy staff schedulers. This process is even more cumbersome if schedulers don’t know the real-time locations of field workers or the progress of their work.
Without an effective scheduling process and the right tool for support, it’s impossible to understand your field service productivity and how well your workers are meeting customer demands. Job requirements, travel times, and other key scheduling considerations fall by the wayside if you can’t instantly track and manage them. And if your field workers don’t have seamless, real-time access to up-to-date scheduling details or the ability to modify appointments when necessary, they risk falling short of customer expectations. Plus, inefficient scheduling causes issues in productivity, which negatively impacts your bottom line.
- Communication – If your deskless workers have to toggle between email, text messages, phone calls, and messaging apps to send and receive updates in the field, they’re likely wasting precious time that could be spent on higher-value tasks—like serving customers. They also risk missing crucial information in regards to scheduling changes, key job or customer details, and broader company news. If they don’t have real-time, centralized communication, they may not be able to reach someone in the field for assistance or get vital information that’s needed to properly complete a job. These inefficiencies in communication can lead to a higher rework percentage or number of repeat visits, which affect customer satisfaction and brand perception.
- Poor cross-team collaboration – Your mobile employees are the face of your company, and they can’t operate at their maximum potential without the support of your back-office workers. Collaboration is difficult to maintain, though, with a blended workforce—especially if each team or department uses different tools that don’t connect with one another. It’s crucial to create a culture of connectedness, as teams with higher levels of engagement show 21% greater profitability. But traditional collaboration platforms don’t offer the cross-team connectivity required for an efficient, empowered deskless workforce.
Complex work often decentralizes teams, especially those who lack access to unified applications. A truly collaborative experience isn’t possible if everyone involved can’t relate to or support one another through their devices, content, data, locations, goals, and interactions. Without a collective and connected workflow, the many moving pieces of a field organization become inefficient obstacles rather than valuable assets.
- Lack of data analysis – In today’s competitive field service landscape, data is everything. But collecting, updating, and analyzing that data is sometimes a complex—albeit crucial—part of field service operations management. Collecting signatures, approvals, surveys, customer feedback, and other information from the field and consolidating that data for meaningful reporting and insights is a time-consuming, tedious task when you don’t have the right tools. Many deskless workers have to collect these details via paper forms and then manually enter them into their systems when they return to the office. If something is missed, they have to make an additional trip to the customer’s location to fix the issue or collect more information. This causes frustration, delays, and inefficiencies, and, worst of all, increases the risk of data loss and human error.
If your mobile workers don’t have a tool that makes it easy to instantly capture data (regardless of where they are) and automatically syncs that data to a centralized system, you’re likely missing out on key insights that could otherwise drive operational efficiency. A process that lacks the support of data analytics prevents businesses from gaining actionable insights that can uncover workflow issues, problems in customer service, and opportunities for growth.
- Reactive vs predictive maintenance – A reactive approach to maintenance is no longer sufficient for maintaining a competitive edge. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are staying at home and thus relying more heavily on their home appliances and devices. By 2025, there are expected to be 497.3 million active smart home households, which opens up a huge opportunity for field service organizations. Organizations that don’t adapt their maintenance approach to provide superior customer service will likely fall behind their more competitive counterparts.
Reactive maintenance doesn’t enable field service teams to anticipate customer needs, personalize client interactions, or reduce maintenance downtime. Without advanced AI and machine learning technologies, field service companies can’t monitor their assets to predict faults, proactively address maintenance or upgrade issues, or alert customers when an appliance has a possible problem. This leads to a clear missed opportunity, both in terms of customer service and operational efficiency.
- Changing workforce – 80% of the global workforce is now deskless, and the ever-evolving factors within that category of workers (like flexible work schedules, the rise of millennials in the workplace, and increasing labor costs) can make managing operations more complicated. While organizations with only full-time, salaried employees have relatively steady costs, those with a blended workforce—including full-time, part-time, contractor, desk-based, and deskless workers—face direct labor costs that are often volatile.
Many field service organizations must schedule and manage technicians and third-party employees (e.g. specialized installers) while meeting customer needs and prioritizing worker preferences. Without modern software that optimizes scheduling to reduce overtime, automates repetitive tasks, and streamlines processes, businesses can’t make the necessary operational improvements to ensure productivity and decrease costs.
- Sustainability – Global business initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable future environment extend to the field service industry, too. Field service delivery relies on deskless workers traveling from one location to the next throughout the day and collecting key field data, which makes it challenging to reduce fuel usage, wasteful practices, and paper consumption. Transportation is responsible for 29% of the U.S.’s emissions, and traditional, on-prem servers aren’t efficient at using space and energy; so if you don’t have an effective scheduling and dispatching process or cloud-based, environmentally-friendly tools for support, your company is likely contributing to the problem.
A sustainable operation requires strong data, total workforce visibility, and efficient workflows. If digital transformation isn’t a priority for your organization, you’ll likely struggle to eliminate paper waste, reduce driving time, maximize office space, or decrease excess bloat in your operations and processes.
- Compliance – Complying with worker safety standards should be a strategic priority for field service organizations, as proper risk management protects individuals, customers, and the business as a whole. But many companies struggle to ensure compliance, since field workers complete their jobs in mobile, third-party, and remote environments, which are impossible to control. Deskless workers face unique health and safety challenges that can threaten productivity and efficiency if handled incorrectly.
Inadequate safety policies and procedures are often a result of insufficient tools. For example, some technologies don’t offer location services to pinpoint a worker’s location in case of an emergency, which is dangerous and risky. Others don’t provide instant, secure access to customer details to equip mobile workers with the information they need to maintain predictability and safety. Furthermore, deskless workers who don’t have reliable routing assistance often feel pressured while on the road to cut corners to arrive on time to their next appointment, which puts them and other drivers in danger. By failing to invest in technologies that boost both efficiency and safety, your overall compliance and operational abilities suffer.
How Skedulo Software Enables Efficient Field Service Operations Management
Leveraging the right software can help your field service organization overcome challenges in visibility and efficiency for a more streamlined operation. Skedulo’s field service management software is built to increase productivity, satisfy more customers, cut costs, and simplify workflows. Our robust capabilities offer myriad benefits for companies looking to achieve operational excellence and improve business outcomes.
- Integration of existing systems – Deskless workers need a single, centralized tool for managing their work and remaining as productive as possible. Skedulo’s platform helps them leverage one system for scheduling, resource travel, time management, and reporting. Field employees no longer have to spend time shuffling between tools to complete their tasks or manually entering field data once they return to the office. They have everything they need to succeed in one, user-friendly app that seamlessly integrates and syncs with all of their company’s key existing systems (e.g. HR, payroll, EHR, etc.).
- Improved visibility into the workforce – Skedulo’s robust field service management software makes it easy to visualize jobs in real-time across all stages, uncover specific job details, and match the right team member to the right job. This makes identifying workflow issues and efficiency challenges a breeze, enabling your team to make meaningful improvements backed by valuable insights. When managers understand everything that’s going on—both in the field and in the office—they can make better decisions that boost operations and support better outcomes.
- Increased work capacity & utilization with AI-powered scheduling – Efficient utilization and maximized work capacity start with intelligent scheduling that gets the right worker to the right job every time. Skedulo’s automated, AI-powered scheduling and dispatching system enables you to easily assign jobs based on worker qualification, location, availability, preference, travel time, job history, and more. That means getting it right the first time and avoiding the manual, time-consuming processes that impact utilization.
- Reporting and data collection – When deskless workers can seamlessly capture data in the field with tools that sync that data back to a centralized system, operations leaders gain a complete view of activities and insights that drive strategic decisions. Skedulo’s field service management solutions connect disparate data to help teams monitor deskless work and create robust reports. Organizations that struggle to balance profitability and higher safety risks (like those in the utilities sector) can gain complete oversight of operations with detailed analytics on cost and compliance. Armed with that powerful data, leaders can uncover inefficiencies and reveal opportunities for improvement—which helps them to reduce overspend and increase compliance and profitability.
- Real-time communication – Tools that enable real-time, secure communication between field workers, back-office employees, and customers support a more efficient, proactive workflow. With Skedulo, deskless workers can eliminate time spent traveling to canceled, rescheduled, or already completed jobs and customers are always kept in the loop on arrival times or delays. This increases consistency and collaboration for better employee engagement and customer service. It also ensures operational efficiency for improved sustainability across the board.
Increase Workforce Efficiency and Cut Operating Costs
In order to streamline operations and avoid the unnecessary costs associated with managing a deskless workforce, organizations need efficient processes and centralized tools. Backed by technologies that enable real-time communication, offer workforce visibility, streamline data collection and analysis, and automate scheduling, your deskless workers can provide better service to more customers and—ultimately—boost your bottom line.
Skedulo’s field service management software offers tools that help organizations gain deep insights into existing inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. Our intelligent platform is designed to help operations teams schedule, dispatch, and track jobs in the field with real-time communication and visibility.