We tend to juggle multiple activities during the day by placing high expectations on ourselves. To complete all daily tasks, we constantly focus on improving our productivity. The situation is similar with service organizations. Service organizations are constantly looking for ways to make their staff more efficient, provide better service to their customers and improve profitability.
More recently, service organizations have begun to recognize the importance of integrating mobility solutions into their corporate strategy. From the head of operations to sales personnel, mobility benefits everyone by extending productivity beyond the confinement of the office. According to Gartner1 , by 2018, 70% of mobile workers will use a tablet or a hybrid device with tablet-like characteristics. Aberdeen Group2 predicts that 63% of leading service organizations will invest in mobile tools as a key strategy to improve field service performance.
Mobility helps service organizations resolve issues faster, enabling them to attend to service requests immediately and fix faulty parts on time for their customers. This prompt response has a high impact across the ecosystem of the organization – from field service technicians to service managers, business managers, executives and customers. An effective mobility solution can improve overall productivity by 30-40%, and profitability by 20-25% for the service organization.
This paper addresses the significance of field service mobility, drawing upon RapidValue’s experience helping companies succeed in the rapidly evolving mobile landscape. It first examines the life of a service technician without mobility, including the challenges technicians face on-site and problems customers face due to delayed service. It then describes the critical features that should be part of your field service mobile application, and factors to consider when making a decision. The paper also examines a real-life scenario that puts the concepts described here into practice.
A typical service management company comprises various roles, including the service manager, dispatcher and technicians. For all these roles, responsiveness is the most critical KPI. Field service companies need to attend to customer calls and service schedules in the most optimized manner. The field service workforce is mostly in the field and travelling to customer calls for most of the day. Field service managers need to schedule and assign service task to various technicians, and ensure timely, efficient completion.
In order to optimize service scheduling and execution of field service jobs, as well as to improve responsiveness, service management organizations have to overcome a few major challenges:
Lack of Real-time Information: It is imperative for a field service technician to know in real-time the service jobs and tasks assigned to them. The technician needs to be updated on any change in tasks, inventory stock look-up and location details of customer. A technician carrying work orders on paper will need to make phone calls inquiring stock updates from the customer site or might have to work overtime to close a task reported late. Likewise, field service managers and dispatchers need to ensure that the right technician is at the right place at the right time. They need to know where the technician is and the status of his job for quick assignment and scheduling of customer calls.
Reduced Productivity: Reporting of work by field service technicians from the customer site is done manually using a paper-based approach. Any material, labor or expense reported on the customer service is scribbled onto the service sheet and sometimes takes days to get invoiced. When technicians receive a new task for a customer, they might not have the exact location or directions to the site, and may be unable to contact the customer by phone call or email. And executing the job at the customer site can become very difficult if the service history for the same or similar customer or problem is unknown.
Low Customer Satisfaction: Delayed response and multiple visits to resolve an issue have a negative effect on customer retention. Manual work reporting and invoicing can lead to delays and errors, and dissatisfied customers.
Reduced Profitability: Field service operations incur increased service cost due to repeated travel to the same customer, multiple visits to the same location and duplication of effort resulting in increased overtime. Manual work reporting results in delayed and erroneous invoices, resulting in losses.
Field service technicians are mostly in the field and travelling to customer service calls. As discussed earlier, this results in delayed information to technicians and also makes it difficult for service managers and dispatchers to know their work progress and current status. With the advent of mobile devices, field service technicians and the back office can now remain connected with real-time information exchange. Mobile applications for field service management have simplified field service operations through improved data collection and real-time reporting using devices with integrated GPS systems, cameras and barcode scanning. Some of the significant changes that field service mobility brings to a service organization are listed below:
Improved Productivity: With the advent of mobility, technicians and the back office are well- connected. There is no information leakage. Technicians can report work from the customer site, take sign-off and initiate invoicing, thus speeding up the process. Technicians get real-time updates of new service jobs, tasks and inventory. Using GPS functionality, they can locate the coordinates and driving direction to customer locations, improving responsiveness to the job assigned. When they need assistance, technicians can collaborate or find a solution quickly using a knowledge base of previously reported services or similar problems.
Increased Profitability: The organization can cut down on service costs by reducing unwanted travel to the same location and duplication of effort due to manual processes and lack of real-time information. Executing tasks using a mobile device improves the “first time fix” rate and avoids repeated travel and overtime. Since work gets reported on time using mobile devices, it results in timely and accurate invoicing, improving revenue for the company.
Enhanced Customer Experience: The ability to receive alerts for tasks created, respond to assigned tasks promptly and resolve issues from the customer site improves the customer experience. Instant invoicing and the ability to capture the customer’s digital signature increases their satisfaction.
Branding and Professionalism: Field service organizations that have equipped their technicians with a mobile phone or tablet to execute work are viewed as more professional by customers and provide better branding for the company
The following diagram illustrates a real scenario of a service technician visiting a customer site while equipped with the RapidValue field service tablet app.
According to Gartner (Report 2013), field service applications should be able to achieve five objectives. These objectives range from receiving requests for and scheduling field service technicians to a mobile interface complete with GPS, and the ability to support many different field service models, from reactive to preventive services.
Based on RapidValue’s experience, a mobile field service application should include:
Field technicians generally have to visit multiple places for service every day. A mobile field service solution should be able to:
Travel time and fuel costs are important parameters which impact the cost the service operations.
With maps integration:
An important aspect of field service operations is spare parts management. In most cases, the technician ends up replacing parts. A mobile field service solution should be able to:
Access to a parts list is critical for solving issues in the field. With parts management enabled,
It is unrealistic to expect each technician to know the solution to every problem which a customer encounters. Any unsolved problem generally leads to low customer satisfaction. A mobile field service solution should be able to:
A knowledgeable service technician makes all the difference when it comes to customer satisfaction. Mobile knowledge management helps:
|Invoicing & Customer Signature||
One of the most common issues in service management is customer invoicing. Inaccurate customer invoicing leads to customer dissatisfaction and delayed revenue for the organization. A mobile field service solution should:
Service operations are a major source of revenue for enterprises. The ability to ensure revenue is realized quickly and reduce customer complaints on invoices is critical for any enterprise. When a mobile service solution enables invoicing with the customer signature:
|Alerts & Notifications||
A major reason for customer dissatisfaction is when SLAs are not met. A mobile service solution can ensure that technicians have all the information they need, when they need it. At the same time a mobile solution should be able to:
Escalation management is key in service operations. A manager should be able to pre-empt escalation scenarios and prepared to handle such scenarios.
With alerts & notifications:
|Smart Task Assignment/ Scheduling||
The key to managing service operations is to assign the right technician to the right issue. Priorities are different for each customer and have to be handled on a case by case basis. A comprehensive mobile solution can help:
Assigning the task to the right person helps ensure high levels of service delivery. Using smart scheduling:
With alerts & notifications:
Mobility provides service organizations with faster issue resolution, allowing you to address service requests immediately and close service requests instantly while reducing time and cost for the organization. This high responsiveness has a positive impact for field service technicians, service managers, business managers, executive management and customers. Overall productivity for the service organization typically improves by 30-40%, and profitability by 20-25%.
Before adopting a field service mobility solution for your organization, consider four important factors: usability, security, integration and scalability
The solution should be scalable and able to support additional users as new technicians join the organization