Most organizations with a field service component already understand the significance of leveraging data from the field. But they also know that capturing, storing, and analyzing that data is sometimes a huge hurdle, both for field workers and for the back-office employees who are tasked with syncing it back to a central system.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true practices for ensuring success. Improving your field data collection is an attainable goal once you understand what might be holding you back and how the right tools and processes can help you to course-correct.
What Is Field Data Collection?
Field data collection is the process of capturing key information while interacting with customers or conducting work in the field. It’s an essential part of understanding and improving field service operations, as field data provides transparency into customer experience, growth opportunities, employee performance, productivity, and more.
From customer preferences, feedback, and signatures to job details, site photos, and more, tracking and using the right data is essential for any organization that relies on employees in the field to carry out services. Healthcare providers, independent contractors, frontline workers (like protective service workers), sales employees, and nonprofit volunteers, can all greatly benefit from field data. Thus, it’s essential that the field data collection process—and the tools they use to support that process—are as seamless as possible.
Common Challenges in Field Data Collection
But field data collection is only useful if the data you capture and analyze is accurate and the means for collecting it are efficient.
Organizations in today’s field service industry still face some challenges that can hinder their data collection process:
- Manual data capture – If you’re still using tools (like an outdated field service management system) that require paperwork, cumbersome spreadsheets, or redundant administrative tasks, you’re likely piling on unnecessary work for employees and letting key data fall through the cracks. Manual tools and processes slow down data collection and increase the risk of losing key job details.
- Lost, damaged, incomplete, or incorrect forms – Let’s face it, field workers and back office employees already have their plates full. When you add on the expectation of filling out, tracking, and entering forms into a separate database, you open the door to possible mistakes. And it’s difficult—if not impossible—to garner value from your data if some of it has been lost or improperly captured.
- Inaccurate/lack of location data – Location data can be used for route optimization, job matching, scheduling, and ensuring worker safety. But some tools either don’t track location data or do so inaccurately, which can negatively impact operations that rely on knowing the current positions of field workers.
- Transcription errors – Not only is it time-consuming to require field or administrative workers to manually transcribe information into a separate database once they’re back in the office—it’s also risky. Adding an extra step between collecting data in the field and entering it into a system for storage and analysis means widening the gap for human error.
- Connectivity issues – When workers are in the field, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have access to the internet. Some FSM systems and data collection tools aren’t able to work offline, which means the data captured on a job site with limited or no connectivity is lost.
How to Improve Field Data Collection
Field data collection doesn’t have to be a headache for already overburdened teams. When done correctly, it can become an invaluable asset that makes managing a deskless workforce easier (instead of an extra step that hinders employee productivity and operational efficiency).
With the proper tools and processes, your organization can make field data collection more efficient, reliable, and consistent. In turn, the insights gleaned from that data lead to happier customers, a stronger competitive advantage, and operational excellence that improves your bottom line.
To improve your process and get the most out of your field data, look for a tool that offers:
- Mobile-first capabilities – Your field workers need a platform that’s built to work seamlessly and support their unique needs, regardless of where they are. And the easier it is for them to gather and access data in the field, the more likely it is that that data will be accurate and complete. Choose a tool that’s specifically designed to enable easy field data collection where it’s most important—in the field!
- Data collection regardless of wifi connectivity or cell service – Workers need the ability to collect data even when they’re offline or don’t have access to cell service. Modern solutions allow field workers to capture data offline, then automatically sync that data to the system once the app reconnects with wifi or service. Colleagues who work in the office (e.g. schedulers, dispatchers, and customer service reps) and even other mobile technicians should be able to access that information whenever they need it.
- Automatic syncing with other existing systems – Your existing systems need to be able to talk to each other if you want to avoid the duplication, siloing, and data loss often associated with disparate tools. Instead, find a solution that can seamlessly sync the information you collect with your CRM, centralized information storage, payroll, HR, and more. Your teams will save the time it would otherwise take to pull everything together, which will streamline processes and benefit both sales and invoicing.
- Secure capture of information – The ability to capture key information in the field is crucial, but only if you can guarantee that that data remains secure. This is particularly crucial for organizations in the healthcare industry, who must meet certain compliance requirements. Photos, field notes, surveys, signatures, customer details, and more should live in one centralized, secure location.
- The ability to take and store photographs – Your software should make it easy for field workers to capture, store, and forward photographs within the mobile app, alongside other pertinent job and customer information. This eliminates the struggle of shuffling through a digital camera or smartphone photo library, where things can easily get mixed up, deleted, or forgotten. And because it’s all in one app, this capability also greatly reduces the security risk of storing photos on individual devices.
- Custom forms – It’s also essential to enable the collection and storage of unique job details, as field workers often need to keep track of important information that might otherwise go undocumented. For example, modern apps include custom forms for healthcare workers, who need to capture health data, incident reporting, time and attendance, and payroll data.
Achieve Operational Excellence With Efficient Field Data Collection
Transparency is crucial for identifying operational challenges with field data collection. A robust deskless productivity software provides everything you need for seamless data collection, while offering you an accurate picture of your customer experience, employee performance, productivity, and more. This increased visibility drives operational effectiveness, illuminating opportunities to reduce costs, improve worker productivity, and optimize operational flows to provide more consistent service to customers.
Skedulo’s deskless productivity cloud is mobile-first, secure, user-friendly, and puts the power of your field data in your hands, helping you to drive efficiency by uncovering opportunities for growth.
Learn more about how the right software can easily capture and analyze data that your business needs to break down barriers for your deskless workforce.