Field workers are an invaluable resource for organizations that deliver services to customers outside of the ‘traditional’ office environment. These employees—also referred to as deskless or mobile workers—are responsible for traveling to multiple locations, providing excellent customer service, capturing key information from the field, and more.
But businesses often struggle to understand and overcome the unique challenges that deskless workers face and how to resolve issues that hinder their productivity. This is especially difficult for organizations with a blended workforce, as mobile, fixed-location, and contracted workers typically use multiple, fragmented tools that create workflow bottlenecks and operational inefficiencies.
When they’re properly managed and empowered by the right tools for support, field workers can maintain productivity and better serve more customers. Leveraging powerful technology can help businesses overcome the obstacles that inhibit their workforce to enhance productivity, support growth, and boost their bottom line.
Benefits to Increasing Field Service Productivity
The risk of ignoring the productivity levels of your field workers (or failing to implement the right processes and tools) are likely already clear: fewer customers can be served, fewer services can be rendered, and, ultimately, less revenue can be generated.
But by balancing the needs of your dispersed workforces and providing them with everything they need to drive productivity, your business can benefit in a variety of key ways:
- Increased scalability – Your organization’s ability to scale hinges upon the consistency with which your teams are able to deliver a great customer experience. This boosts customer retention and ensures growth. Productive field workers rely on streamlined processes and unified tools, so they can ensure exceptional service for more customers at a faster pace. As operations expand and your customer base increases, those same strong processes and tools prevent productivity from screeching to a halt.
- Freed-up resources – Businesses are ever-changing, and thus so are their needs and priorities. When your field workers have everything they need to be as productive as possible, they’re not bogged down by the manual, administrative, or repetitive tasks that would otherwise take precious time from their day. They can instead focus on higher-value initiatives and ventures that drive real change for the organization.
- Improved adaptability – Flexibility is a necessity in today’s field service landscape, as changing market conditions threaten those who fail to keep up. The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the importance of an organization’s ability to change their strategy and processes at a moment’s notice. A productive deskless workforce that’s backed by powerful tools can easily shift in times of uncertainty and maintain a competitive edge. They already have the technologies and infrastructure in place to navigate the dynamic nature of field service.
- More predictable data – Increasing the productivity of your deskless workers requires a deep understanding of workforce operations—knowledge that can only be acquired through seamless data collection tools. Productive mobile workers capture field data in real-time, which saves the time it would otherwise take them to translate their notes from one system to another every day. This creates a cycle of improved productivity: field workers collect data that’s instantly synced to a centralized system, and that predictable, real-time data can be used to uncover even more opportunities for increased efficiency.
- Increase employee satisfaction – Deskless workers struggle to feel connected to and supported by their organization when they aren’t given the right tools and resources. This can end up costing your business—in fact, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year. But when you give mobile workers the means to work productively, it gives them a sense of autonomy and impact, which translates into motivation to help your company succeed. Powerful tools with easy-to-use functionalities (for collecting field data, communicating with colleagues and customers, accessing job and schedule details, and more) decrease disconnectedness and boost efficiency and satisfaction. And when the employee experience is positive, mobile workers are more fulfilled and likely to serve customers with enthusiasm.
Productive employees are satisfied, engaged employees who are equipped to exceed customer expectations. But how does leadership know that they’ve empowered their field service workers to become more productive beyond measurements of revenue?
It’s crucial to accurately measure just how productive your mobile workers are in the field, so make sure you track the key metrics that provide those deeper insights, like:
- Services delivered over a given period of time
- Number of repeat visits
- Amount of overtime logged
- Number of jobs assigned to and completed by each worker
- Significant deviations in utilization and rework percentages
- Time on the road and schedule adherence
- Customer satisfaction (through scheduling rate and time-to-first-contact)
Barriers to Productive Field Service Workers
Dispersed workforces, workflow bottlenecks, and disparate systems can all prevent companies from achieving the business outcomes they desire. These barriers are often the result of the weak processes and inadequate tools and can impede efficient and effective work.
They’re part of a broader set of productivity challenges faced by many mobile workers:
- Lack of real-time communication – It’s difficult—if not impossible—for workers to remain productive in the field if they don’t have access to real-time communication. In an effort to arm their deskless workers with technologies for support, many organizations have unwittingly placed further burden on their shoulders. They’ve implemented myriad, fragmented tools that require field workers to shuffle between multiple apps to receive information, communicate with the back office, and update customers. Deskless employees are forced to use email, text messages, phone calls, and other communication tools throughout the day, which is both frustrating and time-consuming.
This also presents a risk in terms of customer experience. If a mobile worker misses a text notifying them that a job was cancelled, for example, they might waste time traveling to an appointment that no longer exists. Miscommunications like this are quite common and can negatively affect both productivity and customer perception.
- Poor time management – Field workers have complex schedules that require them to travel to multiple job sites, track the time spent on a job, and gather field data. This is a lot to juggle, especially if they don’t have a single tool that optimizes the process. They might underestimate the time it takes to complete a job or to travel from one customer to the next, which impacts the number of customers they can serve (and how well they can serve them).
They must properly track all of their time, which is cumbersome if they need to travel back to the office at the end of the day to input their hours into a timesheet or time-tracking system. It’s also error-prone and inhibits productivity for both field workers and back-office employees, who then have to manually audit and correct those hours.
Repetitive and manual tasks – Traditional field service management is riddled with repetitive, manual tasks, like time tracking, scheduling, dispatching, and data collection. These outdated processes create functional delays and are susceptible to costly mistakes. Staff schedulers must spend valuable time matching the right employees to the right jobs (based on skill set, preference, location, and more), and field workers must duplicate data collection and entry efforts once they’ve returned to the office. The time spent on these burdensome tasks is the same time that could be spent serving more customers or focusing on higher-impact initiatives.
How Field Service Management Software Increases Productivity
A disjointed approach to technology solutions for your deskless workforce makes it complex to ensure and measure productivity. But by implementing the right technology, you can set your field workers up for success.
Field service management software and mobile apps are tools designed with the unique challenges of fixed-location, deskless, and blended workforce in mind. Modern field service solutions help increase efficiency and boost productivity with tools for centralized communication, intelligent job matching, data collection and analysis, and integration with existing systems (e.g. CRM, payroll, HR system, etc.).
It’s important to note that not all field service management software is equal: some offer basic functionalities while others feature more dynamic capabilities for support. When you leverage the right tool, you can reap some distinct advantages that drive productivity for your employees:
Gain Visibility With Time Tracking Tools
Workforce visibility is challenging when you have employees who complete their daily work outside of the office. Robust field service management tools track deskless workers’ current locations, travel, where they’re headed, potential delays, arrival time, and time spent on each job, so you’re never left in the dark.
With one centralized app, workers can avoid the painstaking (and error-prone) chore of manually tracking their time and entering it into a separate system at a later time. This information is instead tracked in real-time and paints a detailed picture of productivity highs and lows over an appropriate period of time. Things like gaps between time spent completing a job vs. arrival and departure time, travel time, response time, and more are automatically tracked. With that kind of visibility into workforce activities, you can tweak processes and address specific issues to boost overall productivity moving forward.
Make the Most of Employee Time with Scheduling Tools
Manual scheduling using inflexible tools (like spreadsheets) is an outdated, time-intensive process that can negatively impact workforce visibility and staff productivity. Intelligent field service management software includes tools that automate scheduling for complete transparency.
These types of solutions enable staff schedulers to build schedules based on employees’ certifications, locations, preferences, and more, and offer real-time updates and communications to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Field and back-office workers can access up-to-date schedules from both their desktop and mobile app, so they’re always in the know, regardless of where they are. Instead of being held up by the workflow bottlenecks caused by manual scheduling, they can instantly collect, update, and access key information while they’re on the job—allowing them to focus on remaining as productive as possible.
Make Changes on the Go with Streamlined Communication
Traditional methods of communication simply don’t work when you’re managing a blended workforce. Deskless workers need constant updating on customer details, new or cancelled appointments, company resources and news, and more. If they have to check several disjointed tools (like email, text messages, and phone calls) to access this information, they’re likely wasting time that should be spent serving customers.
The communication tools offered by modern field service management software centralizes all of these updates in a single place, so everyone in the office and the field has real-time access at all times. Some tools even enable that same real-time communication with customers, so field workers can update them on arrival times or notify them of any delays. This empowers your entire workforce to operate at maximum productivity without sacrificing the total preparedness required to deliver excellent customer service.
Optimize Routes for More Effective Days
Deskless workers face the unique challenge of having to travel to complete their work, which is sometimes a balancing act in terms of logistics and other influencing factors (e.g. traffic, weather, last-minute appointment changes, etc.). Even if they plan ahead to the best of their ability, their productivity is still limited by these ever-changing elements.
Finding the best route to any given job is a time-consuming feat if field workers have to toggle between their work and navigation apps. And if the two aren’t connected, they risk late arrivals or accidentally accepting a job they can’t realistically travel to on time. It’s an unnecessary headache (and a threat to productivity) for already-busy deskless workers.
But by leveraging a field service management tool that automatically identifies, shares, and updates the best route in real-time, mobile workers can take the guesswork out of the equation. They can confidently travel from one job to the next without spending time switching between apps, double-checking logistics, or—even worse—being distracted by these details while on the road. And if they’re using a tool that offers optimized routing as a built-in feature, they can rest assured that they’re not overbooking themselves or accepting jobs at a location they can’t actually reach on time.
Collect Data to Improve Reporting
Data collection is an absolutely essential part of a successful field service operation, but it can also be tricky without the right tools. If your deskless workers use paper forms or a disjointed app to capture field data, they’re likely wasting time and duplicating data entry efforts when they return to the office.
Proper data collection improves reporting, which helps to optimize workflows, uncover business insights, and identify areas for productivity improvement. A strong field service management solution is capable of capturing, syncing, and connecting data from multiple systems to build actionable reports. They put the power of easy data collection in the hands of deskless workers with a mobile app that enables real-time data entry and automatically syncs with systems of record. That way, you always have accurate, actionable data to inform decisions for streamlining operations and boosting productivity.
Free Up Time with Automation
50% of business leaders say they plan to accelerate the automation of repetitive tasks within their organization. It’s no wonder why, as automation technology eliminates the time-consuming, mundane tasks that prevent efficiency and growth. With so many businesses making the switch as part of their broader digital transformation initiatives, it’s likely that those who choose not to will struggle to remain competitive.
Automation is particularly useful for managing field service operations, which include getting the right worker to the right job, providing deskless workers with all the necessary information to complete that job, and transferring details from the field to the back office. In the past, this required multiple tools, spreadsheets, and even paper documents; all leading to operational inefficiencies, human error, poor time management, and superfluous costs.
Next-generation field service management solutions offer automation for work order management, dispatching, scheduling, and more. Back-office employees can immediately generate work orders and send them to deskless workers on their mobile device, with all the details they need to get the job done right the first time. Staff schedulers can ensure they’re always pairing the right mobile worker to the right job, based on certifications, skills, location, and preference. Schedulers can even see real-time locations and current job statuses to make informed scheduling decisions for incoming appointment requests.
Tasks that might have previously taken hours—like tracking down field workers, searching for information on their skill sets, and reassigning work, when needed—takes mere minutes or seconds with an automated solution. That frees up valuable time for both back-office employees and deskless workers to focus on more important tasks, like serving more customers.
Enhancing Efficiency with Deskless Productivity Software
In order to maintain, measure, and, ultimately, improve the productivity of your mobile workforce, you need the right tools to help overcome common challenges. As the field service industry evolves, powerful technology is a must-have in the fight against the inefficient processes, workflow bottlenecks, and fragmentation that threaten your competitive edge.
Skedulo’s deskless productivity software was built with a blended workforce in mind. It offers tools that eliminate the need for disparate apps and fully supports your deskless workers with a single, robust solution.