The field service industry is undergoing a structural overhaul. Old trends (like manual data entry and block scheduling) are no longer enough to keep up with customer demands and the news standard of efficiency in the industry. A failure to adapt may cause decline in customer relationships, employee satisfaction, and—ultimately—revenue.
Digital transformation is the driving factor in the development of businesses, particularly in field service management (FSM). New and emerging technologies are transforming the landscape as a whole, and it’s up to operations managers to stay informed, implement new business models, and stay ahead of the competition.
Here, we’ll bring you up to date on emerging FSM technologies, explain their advantages, and outline how best to implement these innovative tools.
Field Service Management Technologies
Field service management technologies will play a crucial role in the viability of businesses over the next few years, as sophisticated tools help deskless employees increase the efficiency and impact of their work. Organizations across every industry are adopting tools that help them boost their digital maturity, and those in the field service industry are no exception.
FSM technologies are tools that empower field workers to deliver consistent, high-quality products and services to their customers, often by automating otherwise manual tasks. The right FSM tools are purposefully built with the deskless workforce in mind, and solve the unique challenges that field workers face. They remove the operational barriers of conducting field work and enable more productive, effective field service delivery.
Today’s field service technology can be grouped together into several categories, based on the specific business challenges they aim to solve, their primary functions, and key benefits.
Digital work order management
Digital work order management tools provide the basic functionalities required for effective field service work. They help companies track, manage, and execute on all of their maintenance requests. They also enable them to simplify the work order and maintenance processes, especially those with a large field service workforce.
Digital work order tools provide real-time updates into the status of a business’s work orders to ensure everything gets done in a timely manner. Workers use them to check and update the progress of their work, evaluate their inventory, and review asset warranties, so they don’t waste precious time digging for relevant information.
Simple work order management software and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) both fall into this category.
Route optimization and management
Route planning and management tools help schedulers and dispatchers optimize field workers’ travel. They enable them to schedule the maximum amount of jobs throughout the day by getting technicians to each appointment as quickly and safely as possible.
These technologies also help teams deal with the external factors that plague field service delivery (like weather, traffic, construction, etc.). This saves them time and money by cutting down the time field workers spend on the road, as well as associated travel expenses. It also means they’re able to serve more customers at a faster pace, and are empowered to focus on their customers instead of getting to the next job on time.
Route optimization and management tools include navigation apps (like Waze and Google Maps), as well as more robust tools that map out the day’s travel routes and update them in real-time, and are centralized with other critical work information.
Automated scheduling software
Automated scheduling software takes all the time-consuming, error-prone guesswork out of manual scheduling practices. Instead of using a whiteboard, email, spreadsheets, and online calendars, automated tools take all your business constraints and priorities into account to instantly generate optimized schedules.
These technologies match the right worker to the right job (based on skill sets, certifications, location, availability, and more), and offer optimized route management. They also provide real-time schedule updates for staff schedulers, field workers, and even customers (in the form of accurate arrival time windows).
Plus, automated tools enable more effective maintenance scheduling programs, since they easily handle scheduling complexities and multi-layered workflows.Some tools even offer dynamic messaging for streamlined communication between the back office, deskless employees, and clients, so nothing falls through the cracks.
Digital and self-service tools
Customers expect service when and where they want it, and often prefer to schedule their own appointments. Digital and self-service tools allow them to do so through account portals or mobile- and web-based platforms. They can instantly see real-time availability and schedule appointments based on their own requirements and preferences, then modify or cancel them if needed.
Self-service also extends to FAQ pages and content (like a knowledge base, help center, on-site chatbots, etc.), which help customers quickly find answers to their most pressing questions.
Remote collaboration tools
Deskless workers don’t have the luxury of being able to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues throughout the day in-person at the office. This can lead to disengagement and issues in miscommunication; and since 80% of remote workers report feeling more excluded than their in-office counterparts, field service organizations should prioritize investing in tools that keep them engaged.
Mobile-first FSM collaboration tools help deskless workers better communicate with both their coworkers and their customers while in the field. They offer real-time updates and streamlined, centralized communication, so they don’t waste time and energy toggling between various apps (e.g. Slack, email, tech massages, phone calls, etc.) to find and share the information they need, ask for help, or get the job done right the first time.
Some collaboration tools can even enable field workers to help customers remotely troubleshoot to fix simpler issues, saving both time and the cost of traveling to a client site to remedy a problem.
5 Competitive Advantage of Implementing FSM Technologies
Successful field service organizations know that the right technologies are the backbone of their deskless workforce. By implementing strong tools, your business can reap these 5 key benefits:
1. Increased productivity
Automated scheduling, fully optimized routes, and quick and accurate data collection, storage, and access all increase your team’s productivity. The right FSM tools help you gain real-time insights into your deskless workforce, so you can make quick decisions that eliminate workflow bottlenecks and boost efficiency.
With these vital capabilities at their fingertips, staff schedulers and dispatchers can get the right person to the right job at the right time (and every time), so they can serve more customers throughout the day. They no longer rely on manual processes that hinder their ability to focus on higher-value initiatives, and can maximize operations for a more productive business.
2. Increased equipment lifetime
Powerful field service technologies enable better maintenance programs by removing the operational barriers that make regular, routine maintenance tricky to execute on a consistent basis. By helping your team track, manage, prioritize and act upon all maintenance activities, they allow you to increase the lifetime of your equipment.
Instead of facing constant break/fix scenarios, your team can easily schedule and conduct recurring maintenance on individual parts to avoid larger, more costly breakdowns; which diminish the lifetime of your assets. These tools enable you to see when every piece of equipment needs inspection or maintenance, so you can always ensure everything is in proper working order.
3. Increased customer satisfaction
Customer expectations are on the rise, and field service organizations need to prioritize personalization, speed, and responsiveness within their operations, or risk driving clients into their competitors’ arms. You can meet (or even exceed) these expectations by delivering consistently excellent customer experiences.
The right FSM technologies help you gain transparency into every part of your field service operation, making it easy to understand where you need to improve. They help you build a stronger, more effective scheduling and dispatching process, so customers always know your field workers will arrive on time, well-prepared, and ready to complete the job.
Sophisticated tools also help you improve maintenance practices to meet your service-level agreements (SLAs) every time, leading to happier, more confident customers. They even streamline billing cycles, as they enable faster, more efficient work and accurate customer and job information (thanks to mobile data collection capabilities).
4. Greater communication across departments
Cross-departmental communication can be difficult for field service organizations, wherein a large portion of their employees conduct their work outside of a traditional office setting. While arming your field workers with a whole slew of communication and collaboration apps will just muddy the waters and cause frustrating chaos—and prevent them from sending and receiving updates when they most need them—modern FSM tools centralize everything in one place. Data from every department is connected, too, so every team is always working from the same up-to-date, shared information for a truly cohesive operation.
5. Increased profits
More efficient scheduling, dispatching, routing, inventory management, and communication all mean reduced overhead costs. This translates into better employee benefits, lower service costs for customers (a competitive advantage on its own), and, in turn, a better profit margin.
The workforce visibility gained from these technologies helps operations teams understand what’s going on in the field at any given moment, so they can easily identify patterns of high and low customer demand to avoid costly overstaffing. Tools that empower field work also improve employee satisfaction, so the business can better retain their workforce and avoid the high costs of turnover.
How To Utilize Field Service Management Technologies
Any FSM technology a company chooses is only as good as its implementation, so be sure to follow these best practices for correctly utilizing new and existing tools:
Choose the right tools
Instead of investing in every shiny new tool that comes around, organizations should only use technologies that solve actual business problems. Not all field service management technology is built equally, and thus not every tool has the capabilities your business needs to gain a competitive edge. Instead of cobbling together single-point applications, look for a holistic FSM solution that helps you manage the complexities of your workforce in a single, centralized location.
Before you invest in a tool, take stock of what your team needs to be empowered to do their best work. They likely need tools that help them communicate with one another and their customers, technology that streamlines the scheduling process, an app for optimized routing, and a system for easy field data collection. As you evaluate your options, try to find a solution that offers all of these capabilities in one. It’ll help your team maintain their efficiency without sacrificing functionality. Plus, it’ll make adoption across the team a breeze, since they won’t be forced to learn how to use 20 different tools.
Integrate your systems
Your FSM solution isn’t the only thing your business needs to succeed. You also rely on your existing tools (like your HR platform, finance software, CRM, payroll system, and more), but if these systems aren’t connected, you’ll likely face mounting data silos and workflow bottlenecks.
Make sure your FSM tool(s) connects with your other critical systems so that everything runs like a well oiled machine. This will save time in data re-entry and will help you generate interoperable data to uncover key business insights. In turn, you can streamline your operations, reduce costs, and find otherwise unnoticed opportunities for improvement and growth.
Track your analytics
Tracking and measuring your KPIs is crucial for identifying inefficiencies and outperforming your competitors. It’s also difficult with manual processes and tools, so make sure you use FSM technology that bridges the gap.
The right tool can collect, collate, and communicate data in a way that’s easy to understand, so you can continuously improve your strategy. Modern FSM solutions can also generate actionable reports that tell you how your team is currently performing, how trends have changed over time, and how to course-correct the negative trends before they become larger problems.
Powerful FSM Software for a Competitive Operation
As you build and execute your digital transformation strategy, your field service organization needs tools that keep them ahead of the curve. The right FSM technologies can help your business ensure efficient scheduling, optimized routing, better collaboration and communication, and improved maintenance—all for increased customer satisfaction and a healthier bottom line.
Skedulo’s Field Service Management Solutions help businesses optimize their operations for scalable growth. With tools for automated scheduling and dispatching, intelligent job matching, route optimization, easy field data collection, and seamless communication, Skedulo can help your team thrive in today’s field service industry.