Excellence is now an expected standard for many consumers and falling short can be the difference between growth and decline for organizations. For a field service organization that means, getting service right the first time. Time is vital in balancing service excellence with cost. The world of service has become more complex as each new technology advancement is identified and every opportunity is leveraged to speed issue resolution. But the end goal for most businesses remains the same in just about every industry and for every service organization – “keep customers happy”.
One of the toughest aspects of field service operation is to predict; when will a customer asset break, which technician has the right skills to fix that asset, how many technicians should be available to handle peaks in demand? These are just a few questions that arise for the service business on a daily basis. According to a recent Aberdeen research report on Field Service, the #1 reason why customers were unhappy with service was that the technician did not resolve the issue the first time.
Also, technicians are responsible for making detailed documentation based on the information gathered on the field. Traditionally, field workers rely on hand written notes which they jot down on the fly and later enter the details into the system from their office computers. This tedious and time consuming process can add hours to an already long work week, making it difficult to meet reporting deadlines and causing high rate of employee burnout. Modern day mobile systems that enable text notes, voice notes, image notes along with real-time collaboration and access to a knowledge repository could solve this problem with ease.
Voice notes function enables field professional to dictate notes on to their smartphones and record them for future reference. Being able to take images of the job and storing them along with a voice note increases credibility of the report and acts as a reference for other technicians who may be called upon to service that customer asset the next time or a similar job for another customer.
Collaboration through live chat and video calling makes it easier for your staff to “know all the answers” because they can quickly ask colleagues if they come across a difficult or unknown situation.
A well planned knowledge repository is then required to store all the knowledge that has been gathered by technicians at various service locations. This repository ensures technicians can have access to the vast knowledge base and are able to search and lookup the right reports quickly and in a secure manner.
This whitepaper by RapidValue Solutions addresses the demands and challenges for the service industry and how voice notes and image notes featured on a mobile application, real-time collaboration through live chat and video calling, and knowledge repository in mobile solutions can make it easier for technician to perform and overcome some of the challenges.
The top reason for customer complaints with regards to field service is that the issue was not resolved at all. Customers want their equipment fixed at the earliest. They are not too concerned about the service costs for the OEM or the service organization. The customer is paying for the service that keeps their equipment productive. So if this cannot be executed there is a major problem.
The other reason which effects field service is scheduling. Most assign technicians based on optimization matrix on shortest drive time, technicians with the right skills etc. But what happens if the customer isn’t available to receive the technician in the first place, can the technician get the asset up and running or will that result in a secondary truck run? That’s what we have been doing, but how close are we getting with the customer. All factors must be taken cognizance of before assigning a technician to go fix a customer’s asset. Best-in-class organizations focus to make scheduling more customer centric.
Even the best-in-class see themselves just above average when it comes to resolving issues the first time. You cannot fix it the first time if you do not have the right parts when the technician gets on site, if you do not know how many technicians you need to meet the demand, how you’ll have a technician available to service the customer and finally your forecasts will be off. These are all major problems for organizations which need to be addressed.
But these are challenges on the delivery side. Organizations also face internal pressures that makes them re-focus on field service. Simply the main causes of this pressure are the margin, the customer and competition. As the cost of doing business rises, organizations are finding that they must continue to unearth new revenue streams to maintain the margin that they expect. But where are these new revenues going to come from?
Furthermore, customers expect faster and more efficient service. One of the reasons customers expect more is because of the arrival of many more organizations that can now service the products and more is because of
the arrival of many more organizations that can now service the products and equipment that is in the field. No longer is the OEM the only one that can fix the machine.
Therefore, for these top three reasons, the field service organization must continue to get better at fixing assets the first time.
Cost and efficiency is most important for us on daily basis. These are the concerns field service managers are also all worried about. Any initiative that does not solve the problems of cost and efficiency, most likely will not be approved. But change in workforce and aging workforce is also a concern that most of us tend to overlook. Aging workforce is a concern that has not been going away for many. More importantly than resolving the debate of whether or not a large portion of the workforce will retire, is what can we do to retain the knowledge and best practices, if even one technician leaves the organization. The field service organization needs to have the tools and infrastructure to store insights and knowledge and make that intelligence available to current and future workers. The changing workforce demands that the organization finds ways to communicate, collaborate and use shared knowledge to mitigate the damage of lost knowledge and skills.
Data sharing in the field is one of the key advantages of mobile solutions. Customer relationship management, reporting and updating work status and inventory or fleet tracking all require mobile data capture. Mobility is opening enterprises to new ways of capturing data and processing of information from anywhere via mobile devices.
To capture data at the point where it originates and to deliver this information to enterprise applications for processing accelerates the processes, speeds up transactions, and reduces costs for processing those requests. Furthermore, any enterprise leveraging mobile capture provides better service and faster reaction times in case of customer payments or feedback.
Getting the right information into the hands of employees is critical to completing jobs well and on time. When an employee’s job takes them away from their office or desk, they must still have access to information. Field service personnel can use mobile technologies to report equipment maintenance. In addition, they can consult service manuals and work guides online from the field when repairs are beyond their experience.
Field notes refers to notes prepared by the technicians during fieldwork to remember and record activities performed, procedures, parts replaced, settings and any other events involved. The notes are taken through audio, photographs, video and written down on a device or the traditional style such as paper. The text notes feature in the application helps technicians to jot down notes on the mobile device. In-built customized forms can also be created to ease the process of taking text notes. The text notes feature is integrated with the backend system which automatically processes the notes within seconds, thereby reducing many hours of paperwork.
The advantage of voice notes is pretty obvious. It takes away the drudgery of writing or typing notes while fixing a customer’s asset. Audio notes lets technicians record there notes by just speaking while concentrating on the job at hand. There are sound recorders that will do this job as well. But with sound recorders you would still come back to office and document them. Audio notes feature that is integrated to your field service system will automatically process your recording and store them in the knowledge repository against the particular job type and number. So whenever there is a similar job to be processed, the technician can easily look up for notes for the particular job type and listen to the voice notes to understand what steps were taken the previous time to fix the problem quickly.
A picture is worth a thousand words. In field service, the value of an image is immense. Technician can capture images of parts to be replaced or repaired, images of damaged areas can be of a lot of value to the service company. There are a number of ways that image notes help in field service. Some of them are: It gives a clear understanding to the inventory team as to what part was replaced or what needs to be replaced.
Technicians will know exactly which part was replaced the last time and exactly what the damage was. It can also help in assessing what caused the damage and how it can be prevented in the future.
Technicians take pictures of the condition of any asset, write-up maintenance or repair report and transmit the photos and report back to the main office instantly.
Sometimes it so happens that technicians find assets that is not part of the service they were called for, which is on the verge of breaking down. On such occasions the technician can inform the customer about that particular asset and make an image note of it. If the customer does not agree to change or get asset repaired, then the service company would know exactly what to do and what inventory to carry when the customer calls them for service the next time. This will invariably help in a first time fix.
Images of damaged parts can also help in research and analysis. From the images of damaged parts it can be assessed, if a particular part in the machine is getting damaged repeatedly. This can help in analyzing the cause of the damage. There can be various causes; improper use of the machine or an error in design or the manufacturer of the part was using substandard material etc. Once the cause is known the service company can then go about fixing the problem and in turn reducing future breakdowns
Real-time collaboration feature provides the ability to connect employees across all levels of an organization. Field technicians could discuss problems with co-workers by sharing text messages, photos, links, and videos instantly. Collaborative tools, such as audio video notes, live chat, video calling will capture the collective knowledge of every single technician in your organization and make it available to all technicians, virtually anytime.
Imagine a field service technician confronted with a repair he is unfamiliar with! What does he do? Your technicians require critical service information and customer data on hand, no matter where or when, so they can solve customer issues quickly. This is one of the reasons, why the use of real-time video chat in the service industry is a trend that’s accelerating. The video chat feature helps field technicians diagnose and solve customer problems by communicating instantly with other technicians, manufacturers or even partners.
The knowledge repository provides ready access to crucial field service-related information including technical support documentation, maintenance history, repair notes (text, voice and image), product manuals etc. However, all these data has to be made searchable and available to a technician on their handheld device for reference anytime.
You have to ensure that the notes stored can be used and interpreted in the future, especially by other technicians. Enabling data to be accessed via a mobile or tablet with powerful search options makes it quicker and easier for technicians to access data they are looking for quickly and easily from anywhere and anytime.
A well-organized knowledge base can save an enterprise money by decreasing the amount of employee time spent trying to find information. Repositories can potentially reduce the cost of training technicians by making training materials easily accessible and reducing the time taken for training new technicians. The reuse of knowledge by technicians in a service organization is recognized as being an important means to enhance both efficiency and the quality of service and problem solving and improving field agent productivity
This should come as no surprise, but first-time fix, or worse yet second and third time fix continue to be major challenges for the field service organization. And the ability to resolve this issue has a direct impact on what differentiates an organization that will succeed and those organizations that ultimately fail. For any enterprise that needs to carry out asset tracking, field sales and services, fleet management or on-site inspections and audits, having a mobile capture capability is essential.