Effective field service management is about empowering your employees to deliver excellent service in every customer interaction. Learn more about field service management and how the right tools can help you manage employees in the field and exceed customer expectations.
What Is Field Service?
“Field service” refers to any service performed out in the field, as opposed to on company property. Field service typically involves dispatching workers or contractors to specific locations (often to a customer location) to install, repair, or maintain equipment or systems.
Field service practitioners, or field workers, are often technicians who deliver skilled services to commercial or industrial clients. This may involve specialized or even proprietary.
When most people think of field service, they think of setting up cable TV or seeing an electrician work on a downed power line. However, field service goes far beyond telecom these days. In its 2017 Customer Service Trends Report, analyst firm Forrester indicated field service will become the “face of the company” for organizations in many different industries:
“These customer interactions are by far the most personal channel for customer engagement, and they can make or break a relationship. [Field service management] technologies will increasingly leverage analytics to manage scheduling and dispatching, taking into account skills, tasks, work orders, assets, timesheets, and service policies.”
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What Is Field Service Management (FSM)?
“Field service management” is the umbrella term for managing an organization’s field resources, including employees and equipment in the field.
Field service management (FSM) touches every part of the field operation, including:
- Assigning and scheduling work orders
- Dispatching employees to new work assignments
- Communicating with employees in the field
- Collecting field data (such as time of arrival, job completion, requests for information)
- Sharing job data or customer history with field employees
- Routing employees to different jobs
- Managing product inventory and availability
FSM software and mobile apps are designed to streamline communication, scheduling, dispatching, and general information-sharing between field workers and the back office.
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How Has FSM Changed Over Time?
Field service management, already a $1.78 billion industry, is projected to grow to more than $3.5 billion by 2021.
“The major growth drivers of the Field Service Management market include the strong need for a central system for the management of field services, real-time collaboration & communication among various stakeholders located at different locations, and increased operational efficiency, along with the widespread usage of mobile devices.”
The term “field service” traditionally referred to utilities, manufacturing, or telecom work, where machinery is used in the field for many days at a time. However, as field service continues to evolve, it encompasses more lines of work, making field service management increasingly challenging.
What’s more, the workday itself continues to change. Managing technicians in the field was a much simpler process when everyone was full-time, everyone worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and administrators could keep track of schedules on pen and paper, desktop calendars, or simple spreadsheets. These days, it’s common to use a mix of full-time employees, part-time employees, and contractors working independent schedules, which makes it that much harder to schedule work and manage everyone’s needs effectively.
According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, FSM continues to change in several meaningful ways:
- Using contractors in the workforce mix: By 2020, more than 40% of field service work will be performed by technicians who are not employed by the organization that has direct contact with the customer.
- Deploying FSM mobile apps: By 2020, more than three-quarters of field service organizations will use mobile apps to organize workflows, manage schedules, optimize travel, or perform other activities beyond data collection.
- Harnessing AI for customer satisfaction: By 2020, 10% of emergency field service work will be triaged and scheduled by intelligent scheduling tools. Non-emergency providers will continue to adopt intelligent tools and systems to improve efficiency and better manage employees’ schedules.
Modern FSM tools need dynamic functionality—like real-time communication with field employees plus seamless scheduling and dispatching for new assignments—to keep up with the shifting landscape of field service.
What Does a Successful Field Service Operation Look Like?
In today’s dynamic business environment, competition is stiffer and customer expectations are higher. Field service operations have to be nimble so your workers can provide outstanding service at a moment’s notice and your customers know exactly what to expect from employees in the field.
A successful field service operation should be:
- Mobile-first.Field employees should be able to accomplish their tasks without jumping through hoops. Make sure your FSM tools are accessible (and compatible) with the tools your employees use in the field, including their own mobile devices.
- Integrated with other systems. Whatever your FSM solution, it should work seamlessly with the other systems you use. Make sure your field service operation works in tandem with your CRM, HR system of record, IT system, payroll software, etc.
- Proactively capturing data. Back in the day, administrators were in the dark until field workers came back at the end of the day with a stack of signed paperwork. A modern FSM system should help you share data back and forth in real-time so your back office is always equipped with up-to-the-minute information.
Successful field service management looks different for different industries and business models. Some components of FSM, such as tracking the location of company equipment, are critical for certain organizations but are a lower priority for others. Meet with your stakeholders—both internal and external—to determine your company’s priorities and make sure your FSM solution has the tools you need most.
FSM vs. Mobile Workforce Management: What’s the Difference?
Field service management and mobile workforce management are closely related, but there are key differences to consider when choosing a solution for your business.
The difference between mobile workforce management (MWM) and field service management (FSM) systems is best summarized by this question:
Are you trying to optimize your business for human inputs or physical products?
If you want to optimize the customer journey, the scheduling process, or the execution of your workers in the field, you need a mobile workforce management solution. MWM systems put your customers and employees at the center of the process because they are the key variables in the equation that you are looking to solve. If your business is trying to solve a problem related to human inputs, MWM is for you.
If you want to optimize the installation, maintenance, repair, and deployment of physical products you own or have sold, you need a field service management solution. FSM systems are designed to prioritize physical assets, helping you coordinate the cadence and timing of your jobs to keep equipment in optimal shape.