Field Service Arena at a Glance
By Vesa Tauriainen, President and CEO, NetDispatcher
I see growing number of customers choosing services that enable instant ROI based on ease of use, fast training and implementation process while enabling them to fully integrate with all aspects of the business from sales to accounting and all operations in between.
Industry specific software products attract customers more and enable deeper understanding of the customer’s core business process and therefore bring high level of automation to go fully paper free.
From the single user perspective, I see behaviors’ changing towards monitoring, more laid back approach, where the system is expected to do the hard work for me, instead of me being the active part. Workflows, alerts, automated next steps; even fully automated interaction with customers and our core process will start taking over. Managers will want to focus on exceptions and will want more automation to be able to focus on the people (my employees as well as customers) management side of the business rather than the trivial, machine enabled automation and data capture.
Existing Challenges in Field Service Space
Many field service companies have very less time to manage the daily routine activities and with a tighter competition, paper process or existing outdated systems no longer give businesses the luxury to keep their company effective and therefore profitable. The challenge is to choose the right FSM product that will help you get to the next level. People should buy SW that they truly understand and feels like they can start using quickly rather than commit to building something themselves with ROI somewhere years along the way. If you cant use it tomorrow, find something else.
My thoughts to selecting the right solution for you are to go through a guided pilot process. Don’t just ask for a free trial if you can’t see that the package is not exactly what you want based on the sales demos. Most likely, its not configured for your process. Provide the vendor with a change to give their best shot at building your process into a pilot and then give it a try with actually using it yourself. Try to filter out your employee comments that are in reality just resistance to change, and keep an open mind. A lot of times the vendor might be able to simplify and improve your process having implemented several companies like yours. See that as an advantage and use it to your advantage in the pilot phase. Usually going through a pilot and maybe even paying for a pilot makes your decision easier and lowers the risk of choosing the wrong solution.
Try to see past the initial process and set of tools; Can I grow with this company? Can they offer me more tools once I get past this phase 1?
Customer Requirement—A Necessity
Many times you need to look at your company and think where you want to take it. Things will change around you, and the change is only going to happen much faster. When you understand where your taking the company and you truly understand what your customers are asking from you, you can execute changes, technology, process, or workforce related, in a more concise roadmap. This will help you focus your efforts into a understandable and communicable direction and help you choose products that fulfill that roadmap and promise.
Customer requirements are the core topics when building your competitive edge, but your job is to make sure that your workforce, together with technology can fulfill that promise eventually making you win their business.
I see enormous potential utilizing automated, predictive statistical analysis to improve field service operations
You don’t have to be first at everything, which is usually very costly but you do need to jump in to the general trends. Exceeding in the implementation usually sets you apart. Remember that 80 percent of the results can usually be achieved with 20 percent of the changes needed to be made.
An Efficient FSM System
First and foremost, make it easy to your workforce. By defining the process and how things will produce the information, is the key requirement. Your FSM system should be geared towards automatically proving you with this information without any excessive steps when the process and your toolsets are working together.
To me, this means understanding the workflows and how each actor (people in the process) together builds the information that then becomes available for the field personnel. A lot of times, collecting crucial information missed for example as part of the sales process can help us service the customer with one visit instead of going out there twice. Explaining this to your sales guys is key.
With choosing the right system, providing the information should be very easy. Design your workflow so that you will have the information to show on the field.
Field Technicians Play an Important Role
Don’t be afraid to implement new technology. Most of the times your average field technician can learn new tools much faster than the rest of the organization. The delay mostly comes from the change itself, which needs to be managed rather than just learning new systems. After all, field technicians are most likely already using more complex consumer apps anyway.
Tapping into this trend can really improve your bottom line. Bringing in information faster, easier and closer to where its needed through mobile devices makes your technicians much more effective. What your should understand that the higher level of information at hand, can lower or eliminate duplicate visits on site, lower time spent on phone calls and rescheduling new visits. The systems can nowadays be set to automatically provide information through automated workflows, so that with proper use, you can provide the technicians with enough information to solve most service calls, without having to revisit the customer again. Historical knowledge, parts matching, automated communication with customers, can really help designing a profitable and effective service process in your company and to achieve that, you will need your technician to switch away from paper and give them the power of knowledge.
How would you like the fact that your sales guys can search real time, updated equipment and parts information with pricing onsite while talking to the customer? With pictures? What if the system knows exactly what parts are matching to the serviced/installed equipment?
Nook and Corner of Field Service
Fleet tracking and vehicle information has been around for few decades, but is rarely used in daily decision making. After the fact, reporting can help solve historical issues, but does not drive efficiency if not automatically connected to daily activities. Using real time fleet location is trivial and should be considered level 1, but using the historical statistical information as base for an automated scheduling and dispatching support can make a big difference to your costs and efficiency. Connect your fleet for real time information that automatically supports and drives the scheduling and service process.
The Unmeet Need
The good old easy of use is still big pain point for many organizations. Older, legacy systems are more difficult to manage and lack capabilities and user friendliness of newer systems. End user behavior is driver with the consumer experience and can delay adoption and create a lot of errors in the business process.
CIOs, when making system decisions should understand the technologies behind products and see how the system is going to evolve in time to better serve their needs.
Customers rarely work together with vendors to make products better for all the system users but try to custom create features slowing down the overall the development speed. Tomorrows CIOs will tap into fast developing FSM platforms that bring immediate ROI than can integrate well to their existing business process.
Stairs Ahead for Field Service Space
I see enormous potential utilizing automated, predictive statistical analysis to improve field service operations. In very near future, we can use sophisticated predictive algorithms to increase business performance measurement methods, that change the way field service companies design effective service processes. All this can be wrapped to a simple to understand information that supports the scheduling and dispatching decision making process that can be tuned to optimize margins, turnover, sales, customer growth or satisfaction.