How to Eliminate Field Service Paperwork

Making transitions in life or business can be challenging to envision. Yet, these transitions stand to offer access and resources that can dramatically enrich the way we operate.

Take, for example, how some of us hold onto a nostalgia for the days of gathering around a radio for our favorite sports events or entertainment broadcast. But few of us would give up the opportunity we now have to see our favorite players and actors in real life on the screen. We like our television in vibrant colors and high-definition detail.

Much of the same can be said for eliminating our dependence on paperwork when it comes to workflow and processes.

Reducing or eliminating paperwork from operations stands to save us precious time, money, and risk to growing our business, improving service and operations, and increasing the satisfaction of our employees and customers.

In this article, we examine some of the ways traditional paperwork presents challenges and setbacks to efficiency and profit, while also offering tips on modernizing efficiency, reducing risk, and increasing productivity.

Why eliminating paperwork is critical

In reality, the challenges listed below only begin to scratch the service. There are plenty of ways paperwork has historically rendered workflows less efficient and contributed to unnecessary difficulties and setbacks for field service businesses. But the below items help present a picture of why reducing or eliminating paperwork stands to dramatically improve the way our company operates and grows.

Lost Job Forms

More moving parts in a business workflow equates to more room for error and mistakes. Field technicians have a multitude of forms necessary to complete their job, but the field is not an ideal environment for organizations. Having an array of different paper forms and various other resources relying on paperwork, the chance of loss dramatically increases. By switching to a process that eliminates these moving parts, the field technician is less burdened with tasks unrelated to the service they provide, and the risk of losing essential information is reduced or eliminated.

Accessibility of service history

Our service history must always be readily accessible. Customers commonly request old service reports or work order history, along with a variety of other records. Organizing a large volume of paperwork can be a nightmare for any service organization. Stacks of work orders and service history and mandatory forms require a great deal of physical space and expert organizing that requires time and skill to manage.

Analysis of work trends

In addition to the need for expertise in organizing to ensure accessibility of service history and work orders, traditional paperwork is far more challenging to analyze than digital alternatives. Understanding how past work trends may impact efficiency standards is critical to improving on weaknesses and refining strengths. The historical use of paperwork is a hindrance to this process. It requires larger teams and a high volume of time and labor to sort through and assess paper-based data for analysis and research.

Back-office efficiency

A great deal of effort goes into the processing, inspecting, and filing of paperwork by any back-office staff in a field service organization. All information must be turned into useful data and organized promptly. Errors in filing, lost forms, and incorrectly interpreted information contribute to a multitude of challenges and setbacks for the organization.

Billing processes

Processing paper requires material resources, but it also involves more labor. This has a critical impact on the billing processes of any organization. By eliminating the need to print and process paper-related resources, the billing department can refine the way their labor is distributed and save the organization money.

Less travel for technicians

Paperwork requires a transfer from the technician to the necessary staff and management. This results in a technician using valuable time on transporting the paperwork after service has been rendered. If a technician could transmit the same information without travel from the field to the office, a great deal of time and money would be saved and spent in more viable ways.

How to reduce paperwork and increase efficiency

Reducing paperwork and transitioning to digital solutions can be made manageable and straightforward. And the benefits are well worth the effort and attention. Traditional paper resources can be replaced at so many levels when a company decides to seek strategies rooted in modern digital technology.

Below, we explore some of the critical ways digital solutions are replacing paperwork and refining the way we execute business.

Mobile Devices

At this point, we all have a digital device in our hands or pocket. And it is a requisite tool for many businesses to supply their field technicians with work phones, tablets, and/or computers. Using these devices is not only cutting down on the number of costs associated with purchasing paper, but also contributing to an increase in time, money, and labor spent on commodifiable tasks over administrative work.

Field service organizations inherently involve a mobile workforce, which means mobility of communication and transfer is essential to operations. Utilizing mobile applications on phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices cut down on time spent filling out paperwork and transporting paper to the office. It also reduces the amount of paper a technician must carry with them and organize out in the field. Since digital solutions can be immediately relayed to the office, the risk of improperly filling out forms can be monitored, and the potential for loss of a form is eliminated.

Digital Forms

Technological advancements are revolutionizing our dependence on the paperwork we have relied on to create, access, and tailor the many necessary forms in the field technician industry. As any field service organization knows, there are myriad types of forms required for completing various tasks. Numerous factors also influence form types. A field technician is likely to have multiple types of work order forms depending on the service provided. Even more, forms associated with safety, compliance, or inspection can vary based on the city, state, or country of the service.

Being able to customize forms and establish flexible templates is essential to any organization. Digital templates for a multitude of needs can be created or quickly customized depending on the variety of influences that impact the requisite nature of a form.

Possibly the most critical function of digitizing forms is their contribution to organizing and accessing archives. Paperwork has required significant amounts of physical space for filing and organizing, including cumbersome and labor-intensive efforts at retrieving archived information. Digital solutions dramatically reduce the amount of physical space needed for this large-scale organization. They also make retrieving stored information significantly more efficient and reliable.

Customer portal

A reduction in our reliance on paperwork is associated commonly with offering digital alternatives to our field technicians and office managers. But the resources we use for our customers have also depended a great deal on paperwork.

By digitizing invoices and work history, an organization can offer customers any-time access to the resources they require. They can easily pull up a full history of service or other informational resources relative to their service needs. This dramatically reduces the amount of paper technicians must provide the customer, and it has a considerable impact on the customer’s ease and efficiency of access to vital resources.

Management Software

A well-designed and robust field service management software is at the core of any effort we make to reduce paperwork and empower our digital solutions. And the ideal software will produce considerably more.

Proper field management software will assist in optimizing your dispatch efforts and maximizing your capacity for creating quick and informed quotes. It will also ensure that your project management is informed with real-time, accurate data on technicians, service calls, and customer needs.

Any valid field management software should be guided by a combination of advanced solutions and real experience in field service. FieldConnect combines these unique qualities, utilizing technology that is informed by years of expert training in the field.

With nearly two decades of expertise in the industry, FieldConnect has grown to be the leader in software solutions for Mobile Field Service providers. From family-owned and operates services businesses to multi-billion-dollar corporations, FieldConnect has the solutions that make your field technicians more efficient, reduce or eliminate paper from your workflows, and accelerate your invoicing cycles.

You can request a demo of their diverse suite of services today.

Best Practices for Creating Quotes in the Field

The field service industry faces unique and rare challenges when it comes to quotes. It is an extraordinarily dynamic challenge that relies on accurate and timely information, refined collaboration, and advanced tools.

All industries are posed with the complex task of determining quotes for their product or service. This is an equation that requires a great deal of research, information, and ingenuity. Quoting must remain competitive while generating a profit margin that can sustain a business and contribute to growth.

Many industries must put in an upfront effort to determine a viable value for services in their market, and they commonly continue efforts to ensure their value remains up to date. Even when upsells or add-ons are featured in these industries’ value structure, they are mainly determined in advance of individual sales and purchases. Retail providers and restaurants serve as examples of a fixed menu for value that covers all their products or services. This permits a relatively fixed value structure and reduces the associated complexities of ongoing sales opportunities.

The field service industry is presented with a far more vigorous quoting process—a process that occurs daily and requires high-powered resources to sustain a competitive edge while satisfying customer demand

Providers of field service work and mobile job quoting must remain adaptive, intuitive, and informed to execute useful quotes. This requires real-time access to customer history, service agreements, rate tables, and inventory. Field technicians, managers, and dispatchers must be able to communicate effectively and timely. Each player contributes to providing a client with clearly defined and precise quotes—often occurring on the fly while in the field. Executing on such collaborative and complex tasks requires powerful resources.

 

The importance of effective quoting in the field

There is a significant opportunity in the business of field service and mobile job quoting. But this fortune is reserved for organizations that can set the correct value for their service and maintain the flexibility to seize new opportunities. Setting a value too high places the business at risk of deterring the customer or minimizing their loyalty. A value set too low can have implications for service quality or fail to sustain the necessary revenue to remain profitable.

Effective quotes in field service work are full of nuances and potential profitability. Despite these challenges and opportunities, many of the resources available for field service providers fall short of offering the necessary tools to generate a competitive quote.

We examine a few best practices for generating quotes while also offering resources to optimize these critical methods for any field service provider and their mobile job quoting efforts.

Best practices for field quotes

Finalizing a quotation relies on precise clarity. The requirements and parameters for the proposed work must be clearly defined. This involves details on the time, labor, and materials associated with the service provided. It is essential to keep in mind that a final quote is commonly a legal commitment. These commitments can have expensive costs resulting from unclear definitions, avoidable mistakes, or poorly communicated guidelines. But they also secure ample opportunity. An effective quoting process can consistently and reliably increase to potential revenue generated by each user.

Producing a quote should answer the following questions. Is the correct business contact information provided? How long will the contract be valid? What are the details of the schedule for the project or service? How are the expenses listed and detailed? What are the specific terms for payment?

A digital or printed version of the quote must be provided to each customer. This documentation will be sufficient for protecting the client and the provider in legal proceedings. Obtaining a signature on-site for mobile job quoting is an ideal way to ensure a quote is confirmed and validated.

Further Resources

It is clear that providing quotes in the field service industry is a complicated and critical function. Installing the most innovative technology to assist in accurate, timely, and fluid quoting can significantly influence the competitive position of a field service provider. Being able to execute mobile job quoting will further advance the quality of your service and increase revenue per user.

Field service management software will assist in optimizing the processes and accuracy of your field quote efforts. This will ensure speed, efficiency, and the capacity to freeze out your competitors from making a competitive bid.

Embolden your field technicians with the specially designed and powerful FieldQuotes software solution from FieldConnect.

Quote add-on services and business while on the job site, face-to-face with your clients. You can ensure that all quotes comply with the pricing established in your ERP. And your organization will dramatically minimize the labor and time put in by the back office.

Any optimal field management software should be guided by a combination of advanced solutions and real experience in field service. FieldConnect combines these unique qualities, utilizing technology informed by years of expert training in the field.

With nearly two decades of expertise in the industry, FieldConnect has grown to be the leader in software solutions for Mobile Field Service providers.

Explore the FieldQuotes software and FieldConnect’s full suite of services while requesting a demo today.

As a field service business owner, manager, or foreman, there’s no shortage of people ready to dish out advice on how you could run your projects better.

You may hear advice from your peers like, “Always have the best price,” or “Give them more than what they’re expecting.”

Generally speaking, this is decent advice. Competition amongst businesses is always increasing and customers have more choices than ever when deciding who to give their business to. And while the advice we just mentioned is good, with a few tweaks, it can be even better.

 

Success in the field service industry is all about the “three exes”:

  • Expectation
  • Execution
  • Experience

 

By understanding what customers want as well as setting the proper expectations, we can execute on tailor-fit solutions to provide a better customer experience. These three factors will determine every interaction with customers regardless of business or industry sector.

 

 

How to Create Better Customer Experiences Through Expectations

When people think about getting the best price possible, they usually mean cheapest. After all, as customers ourselves, we like to feel we’ve gotten a great deal on a product or service; what feels better than saving money?

The second piece of advice is usually assumed to mean that, as a service-based business, you do more than the scope of the work provided without additional compensation. And while a customer should always expect that their service technician is competent, well-trained, and knowledgeable, there should never be a situation where they’re expected to do more than the scope of the work provided.

 

Here’s a quick example to help drive these points home further.

EXAMPLE: An HVAC business receives a residential service inquiry to service a malfunctioning thermostat.

A lead comes in, the customer describes the issue they’re having. Your call center acknowledges the issue, reassures them that help is on the way, and then informs the customer of the $50 service call fee. The customer agrees to the pricing and the company deploys a service technician to the job.

While on the job, the HVAC tech checks the thermostat but determines it to be functioning normally.

Moving on to the condenser, the technician notices that coils are pretty gunked up and proceeds to give them a very thorough cleaning. After the coil cleaning, the technician heads back inside and checks the filters — they’re very dusty and need replacing. They head out to the truck to grab a pack of replacement filters. The technician informs the customer that the thermostat seems fine but that they noticed a vent that wasn’t producing any airflow. The customer states that it hasn’t worked properly in months and they haven’t had the chance to get it looked at.

Being the nice guy that he is, the HVAC tech takes a look in the attic and notices that some of the ductwork is ripped and should also be replaced. He heads out to the truck, grabs about six feet of flex duct, and quickly replaces the deteriorated section.

After delivering the final invoice, he tells the customer that the ductwork repair and coil cleaning are ‘on the house’. “I even went ahead and replaced your filters for you at no charge. Just remember us for your future heating and cooling needs!”

 

The customer is ecstatic that the HVAC company’s technician did more than what was asked of them and at no additional charge. Win-win, right?

 

Well, let’s step back for a moment.

Did the HVAC company actually provide the customer with the best possible price? No.

It’s not the best possible price for the customer because the company didn’t seek out any customer pain points or perform any further qualifications. While we know that customers shop for the cheapest price in most cases, that cheap price coincides with a purchase solving their needs. And in order to truly solve their needs, we need to figure out what all of their needs are.

Did the technician give the customer more than they were expectingYes.

They absolutely exceeded the customer’s expectations — they worked for free! The customer reached out to the business with the expectation to pay some denomination of money for the service to be rendered.  In our example scenario, the technician certainly went above and beyond with the coil cleaning, duct replacement, and free filter replacement. However, by working for free, we run the risk of devaluing our services in the future.

 

Sometimes the customer knows exactly what they need — other times, there will be opportunities to discover more needs. When fielding an inbound lead – meaning a lead that reaches out to your business – it’s important to make a habit of fully qualifying that lead in order to provide the best possible solution.  One of the best ways to learn more about a customer’s needs is discovery questions.

What Are Discovery Questions?

Discovery questions are open-ended questions used to discover more information about a particular topic from your customer.

The reason why the HVAC company didn’t give the best possible price is that they never probed the customer for other needs. In the residential service sector, especially home improvement and maintenance, most homeowners have nine pending home improvement projects and are putting them off. In our example, the HVAC company was called out for the first problem only to discover several more while on-site. If they had asked some discovery questions at the first point of customer contact, the customer may have cited more issues. Additionally, this could increase our total service billables.

By gathering this discovery information, the technician would have also been better prepared to handle various situations on the job while adding incremental revenue for his company.

Asking discovery questions may seem daunting if you’re not used to asking them, but in reality, are incredibly simple. While there’s not necessarily one better way to ask discovery questions over another, a good formula for asking is: KAT

The KAT Method of Asking Discovery Questions

The KAT method is a simple, formulated method for discovering pain points that is both brief and repeatable.

Keep the questions open-ended – This simply means asking questions that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Ask for clarification – This is when you ask a closed-ended question, which means a question that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Thank them for their answer, then restart the process if necessary – Until the customer says there’s ‘nothing else’, restart the KAT formula.

An example of the KAT method in use is:

HVAC Call Center: What issues are you having with your thermostat? (K – open-ended question)

Customer: I’m not exactly sure but I don’t seem to be getting any cool air.

HVAC Call Center: Is there more than one room affected? (A – clarify with closed-ended questions)

Customer: No, it seems to only be in the living room.

HVAC Call Center: Ok, thanks for that. Are there any other issues you’ve noticed? (T – thank them and repeat the process if necessary)

By asking discovery questions, you’ll be better equipped with the information needed to provide effective solutions for your customers.

 

So now that we have a good idea about the ways we can better understand our customers’ expectations to deliver an incredible experience, let’s talk about how to execute these principles successfully.

How to Create Better Customer Experiences Through Execution

Improving Customer Response Time

If field service was a restaurant, discovery questions would help us build a perfect menu. Response time, then, would be how fast we’re able to feed the customer — from taking the order, cooking the food, and serving them at their table.

Having great field service software certainly helps with aspects of response time like technician deployment, location-based check-ins, and job priority. But if we’re not sticking to arrival schedules, we’re failing customer expectations, which — you guessed it — creates a bad customer experience.

It goes beyond just arriving on time, too. See, the first customer of the day’s response time directly affects other customers in your service queue. When we can achieve the fastest possible response time, we provide better customer experiences overall. It can also help as a time buffer should a job go on for longer than intended. And while we definitely don’t want to take more time than needed, having that flexibility can be game-changing. Jobs that go over their expected time can quickly lead to a disastrous day, both for you and for your customers. Most jobs, especially in an occupied dwelling, will require a customer representative to be there. In some cases, a job cannot be completed without final customer approval or without them being on-site. This leads to more delays, low first-time fix rates, and potentially a negative impact on customer retention.

When jobs start on time and are completed efficiently, customers can get back to their day. This allows your technicians to serve more customers, have a better work-life balance, and most importantly, maintain a happy clientele.

For more on this topic, check out our guide on the best ways to improve your customer response time.

Customer Self-service

One of the best things you can do as a field service business is to empower your customers with various self-service options along with the education to complete it effectively.

A good example of customer self-service would be instructing a customer on how to turn off their sink’s water valve in the event of a plumbing issue. This is doubly effective for two reasons; an empowered customer can save themselves money while also saving your technician’s time.

If the customer had the knowledge and ability to turn off the kitchen sink’s water valve, it could’ve helped eliminate water waste while preventing further potential damage to kitchen fixtures or flooring. For the technician, this can speed up their time on the job by eliminating the need for cleanup and giving them more time to address the main issue, such as a leaky sink or a pipe leak. Thinking back to response time, faster job completions mean more jobs can be completed per day.

A knowledge database on your company’s website is a great way to provide continuous value for customers by providing helpful tips for common maintenance issues. This can be in the form of an FAQ page, a blog post, or audio and video content. A quick video on how to properly reset a breaker is extremely beneficial to customers who may have otherwise called and scheduled an appointment.

Keep in mind, this shouldn’t be seen as a missed opportunity for additional work. In fact, content like this will help to further establish your company as an industry authority while helping customers through education.

Additionally, you can create an online self-service portal that gives your customers the ability to schedule their own service on their own terms. They’ll also be able to access billing information along with current work order status and maintenance history.

These and other self-help resources not only provide excellent value for new and existing customers alike but also serve to increase trust and authority for your business.

For more on this topic, check out our guide on empowering customers through self-service.

Technician Customer Service and Sales Training

When we think of the best advocates for handling customer service and sales, we usually think of dedicated customer service reps and sales reps. But it’s the field service technicians that have the biggest opportunity to capitalize on sales opportunities while providing stellar experiences.

In truth, your technicians are probably your best assets as they’re able to not only complete a job but also sell more jobs. It starts with training them on customer interactions which should be a part of your overall experience strategy. When they perform site inspections, they can spot incremental revenue opportunities firsthand. This allows them to make on-the-spot product or service recommendations.

For example, a garage door technician may be called to a job to fix a busted spring. When replacing the spring, they notice that the customer’s rollers are worn out and prone to failure. Since customers may not be able to easily identify roller issues, the technician can make the recommendation to go ahead and replace them while they’re on-site.

Now, the customer is happy to avoid having to pay for another potential service call in the future and you’ve increased the job’s value while delivering an excellent customer service experience.

For more on this topic, check out our guide on increasing technician productivity through sales and service training.

 

Maintaining Customer Records

Customer records are a pain point for lots of companies. A successful business may be adding hundreds or even thousands of new entries per month. This is great for business — it means you’re doing something right! But managing all of those records can be a daunting task, especially if you’re still on a paper-based system. Even a basic understanding of computers or smartphones can open up an entirely new world of potential productivity tweaks.

By maintaining accurate records, we can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to process invoices, handle scheduling issues, and complete other time-intensive tasks. Aside from the productivity benefits, poor customer records could lead to the biggest business killer of all — lost revenue.

If you’ve ever double booked a service appointment, the ramifications probably still hurt and at least one of your customers was left unhappy. Customers rely on your service to address their needs and they trust that you’ll be there on time to get the job done. The last thing you want to happen is for that expectation to properly execute a job to leave your customer with a bad experience.

For more on this topic, check out our guide on the powerful benefits of maintaining customer records.

 

Expectation, Execution, Experience

You’ve got a lot of moving pieces in your business. From accounting and scheduling to active service requests and increasing sales volume, the life of a field service business is constant and demanding. Despite the complexities that can come with the business, it’s one of the most rewarding and profitable businesses when done right. No matter where you’re at in your current business or which system you’re currently using, we offer powerful solutions that cater to many different industries. Your business — and your customers — will thank you for it.

If you’re ready to spend less time managing tasks and more time completing them, REACH OUT, AND FIND OUT how FieldConnect can revolutionize the way you do business.

Jobs, parts, change requests and work orders can quickly take their toll on the unprepared field service business. The sheer amount of data one business has to track, especially at scale, can quickly become a nightmare without a good management plan. And surprisingly, some companies might still be using a paper system! Yeah, those thin sheets that come from trees. Businesses that still rely on a paper record system are missing out on some serious productivity benefits with a computer-based record-keeping system.

Beyond that, there are also the benefits of SaaS, or software as a service, like FieldConnect. Paper records, especially when combined over many years, are a large and cumbersome pile of heavy material to manage. Physical space is also of concern since most people keep customer records for an average of 7 years. Besides from a matter of convenience, whichever form you choose, there needs to be an easy system of record collection and migration. You’ll need to collect those records and then migrate them to their eventual home.

The true importance of maintaining great customer records is often overlooked. The records we keep today will help us complete jobs, collect payments, and better serve our clients tomorrow.

 

How Better Records Makes Happier Customers

If it’s not already obvious, we love talking about data collection. It’s one of the few things that can truly cripple a business if left unchecked or unmanaged. For this guide, we ditched our hardhats for thinking caps to see if we can finally set the records straight.

Customer History

It’s been said that a great salesman knows their client, their kids, and the name of the family pet. In the days of door-to-door sales, keeping great customer records helped to know who was buying what and which houses physically allowed you to get a foot in the door. Having correct information like customer name and address is surely important, but it’s the historic value of good record-keeping that really shines. Some obvious benefits are knowing previous services performed, current jobs pending, and future service interval frequency. Important pieces of information such as preferred service hours, extra key locations, or whether the customer has a dog could surely be forgotten if not for prior record collecting efforts.

Additionally, it’s a lot easier to predict future service needs when you’ve got detailed location history.

“Doesn’t Mr. Fresno need to have a plumbing cleanup installed before it frosts this year?”

Record keeping is also extremely beneficial for field service technician transitions. The second tech on a job will have a much easier time if clear and concise notes were taken during the previous visit. This includes jotting down specific makes, models, or parts identifiers like serial numbers or SKUs.

Also, when hiring new employees, it’s easier to explain the ‘how and whys’ of service workflows when you’ve got viable data sets to train from.

Looking Forward

Marketing is another major reason to ensure customer records are kept fresh. Blanket marketing tactics like door hangers or EDDM benefit greatly by either retargeting existing or out-of-service customers while avoiding your saturated service areas to gain new clients.

Speaking of marketing, having up-to-date records can allow your sales team to quickly locate upcoming warranty or service contract expirations. For businesses that offer extended warranties or service contracts, knowing this small bit of information can help you increase renewals and continue to add incremental revenue while simultaneously boosting customer retention.

If making more money from marketing and sales calls wasn’t enough, don’t worry. As historical data is gathered, your field service technicians will be able to complete jobs faster with more efficiency. Having that vital customer information eliminates time-consuming inquiries and second-guessing.

 

Record Keeping For the Rest of Us

You’ve got a lot of things on your plate — we get it. That’s why FieldConnect makes field service software your employees actually want to use. When it comes to field service work, regardless of industry, having the right information at your fingertips when you need it most is paramount.

There are also safeguards in place for those businesses that work in more rural or secluded locations. As your technician is performing their usual duties, they can continue to use FieldConnect like they normally would even without a reliable data connection. Once they’re back within range of a stable connection, all of their collected data will automatically begin syncing to your centralized database.

Plus, our software is both easy to use and intuitive. You can get your whole team up and running faster than you might think.

If you’re ready to maintain better client relationships through better record-keeping, we’d love to show you why FieldConnect just might be the best business investment you’ve ever made.

Field service technicians — jack of all trades, master of…many? This is how we should start looking at our tech’s capabilities when thinking forward in our businesses. Their value isn’t just in their ability to install or repair — they’re in the perfect position to grow your sales.

After all, sales are the name of the game in any business. Without sales, your business will die. There is a cycle that indirectly affects all aspects of your sales and service process; when you provide a wonderful customer service experience, customers are more likely to buy from you. Specifically, Bain & Company states that companies who excel at the customer experience grow revenues at a rate of 4% to 8% above their market.

Part of creating that awesome experience for your clients is your back office customer service team. When they’re handling issues flawlessly, your customer experience will go up. But what if we could improve that at the time of service?  What if we could utilize our field service staff to not only handle customer service issues but increase revenue opportunities?

The list of reasons why you should be cross-training your technicians is plentiful, but in this guide, we’re going to concentrate on what we believe to be the four most important.

 

Teaching Technicians to Sell and Serve

Some people hate being ‘sold’ to. There’s something unsettling about pushy sales tactics that seemingly offer little value. And even if the proposition does offer value, when presented in the wrong way, it can be a huge turn-off for a lot of customers. This is where cross-training your technicians comes into play. As you’ll soon see, selling and customer service go hand in hand, and when properly utilized, are both huge aspects of creating memorable customer experiences.

 

Social Proof and Influencers

hvac inspection - job well doneSocial proof is the idea that people buy things from people they trust or want to imitate. In our case, we want to demonstrate social proof from the ‘expert’ aspect. Since your technician is already on-site fixing an issue or performing some sort of service for the customer, they’re in the perfect position to upsell additional products or services. Consider this the first step into real-life influencer marketing without the need for a selfie filter or ring light.

To be clear — you should never sell something that a customer doesn’t need.

This could come back to haunt you especially if they feel like there’s no visible or tangible benefit. But a value-based recommendation from a field expert has an immensely powerful effect on the purchasing decision.

For example, a semi-annual HVAC inspection could lead to an on-the-spot filter change, ductwork maintenance, or even a smaller installation like a duct booster fan.

Part of this comes from the knowledge we gain when asking discovery questions during the scheduling process. You should offer some sort of data-gathering process — while checking to make sure all of the customer’s needs are addressed, you can look for revenue-generating opportunities. Active listening is another useful skill that benefits both service and sales opportunities. In our HVAC example, let’s imagine the customer states that one room is stuffier than the others. A well-trained technician will seize this opportunity to solve that problem on the spot. Maybe there’s a leak in the ductwork or an opportunity to perform an airflow test.

Having a sales-conscious technician allows those opportunities to be handled on the spot, which both increases the value of that job while decreasing the total cost of that technician’s labor rate.

Speaking of sales-conscious, it’s important to remember that their role is and should always be technician first, salesperson second. This helps maintain focus on your company’s true purpose of field service. If performed with integrity, their product and service recommendations will ultimately be a boost to customer service efforts.

 

Customer Service

Customer service isn’t just about fixing problems — it’s about recommending preventative solutions, too. While we’ve gone into great detail about sales, remember that this won’t always be the case.

Thanks to your employees, your customer may already be in great shape! This further bolsters our stance as to why we recommend this form of cross-training for all of your field service reps. While not every customer encounter needs to be an attempt to upsell or increase revenue directly, each interaction should be an attempt at providing great customer service experiences.

If your field technicians aren’t yet trained in sales or customer service, you can start by including them in those particular staff meetings. This will give them first-hand knowledge of how to approach customer issues or how to spot those revenue-increasing opportunities.

While in the field, commonly handled tasks such as billing or scheduling can still be routed to your back office team if they prove too complex for an in-person resolution or would otherwise interfere with your service tech’s current schedule. However, giving your technicians the ability to deliver value-added upsells or schedule simple services will only further your company’s efforts to keep your customers happy.

Your customers rely on you for lots of things — building new homes, inspecting gas lines, or even installing that new outlet behind their wall-mounted TV. Some industries need their customers to be dependent on them in order to prosper while others empower them to handle certain tasks on their own. Amazon went as far as building a store that allows customers to shop and check themselves out sans any employee interaction at all. While not every business needs to let the reigns go completely, there are many advantages to empowering your customers with the ability to self-serve, from content consumption like how-tos and tips & tricks to job-specific tasks like online billing and scheduling.

Many of your customers will still want the full course experience of your services, and that’s great! It shows that they truly appreciate the expert-level service you provide them time after time, from your accounting team to schedule. For others, the satisfaction and convenience of self-service will give them one more reason to stick with you for as long as they’re able.

 

Empowering Customers the Easy Way

To start, we should probably define what it means to empower your customers. When we think of the term ’empowerment’, we probably think of strength, resilience, or perseverance. Those are all aspects of empowerment but in the wrong context.

Customer empowerment means giving the customer better options to handle quality-of-life tasks without company interaction.

For example, you can empower your customers by allowing them to schedule their own service needs on your website. Since no one knows their schedule better than they do, it’s a huge win for convenience. Having this option allows your customers to choose the best time and place for a service or job to be completed. This is, of course, only one example of customer empowerment.

There’s something you should think about before working towards customer solutions; what will make your customer’s life easier?

Does it simply mean to give them more options for the sake of having options? “If it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out.” Marie Kondo, famous for her Tidying Up With Marie Kondo series on Netflix, teaches us about the importance of selecting things with purpose and intent. This is especially important when providing customers with self-service options. Too few options and you’re behind competitors — too many options and may cause your site to become difficult to properly use. For field service businesses, the key takeaway is that sometimes less is more.

 

Educational Resources

Educational Resources for Field Service TechniciansIt’s the weekend before Christmas and one of your customers is getting an early start on cooking. In the kitchen, they’re running the stove, the oven, and one of those fancy new air fryers the in-laws mailed from out-of-state. Suddenly, the customer hears a ‘pop’ followed by complete darkness — they’ve tripped a breaker and aren’t sure what to do.

The savvy electrician business would’ve prepared them for this by creating some general knowledge videos or blog posts about common electrical issues and ways to remedy them. This could include guides on how to properly change and dispose of light bulbs, a blog post on using electric heaters in the winter, or how to navigate an electrical panel box.

This also helps your business — while we’d all love that service call due to the relatively easy fix, your customer would likely rather have the ability to fix it themselves to get back to cooking.

While photo and video resources are great, even a simple frequently asked questions section could help shed light on common issues that could be easily handled by the customer. This definitely empowers your customer, to be sure. But most importantly, it helps your company demonstrate the immense value you’ll provide to them, even when you’re not directly profiting from it.

Scheduling, Online Payments, and Billing History

This one is pretty simple — give your customers the ability to handle payments and scheduling at their leisure. This helps to free up your back office staff to help troubleshoot service calls or follow-up on sales leads while giving your customer the flexibility to choose their service date and make payments when it’s best for them. It may also be important for them to see past invoices for their own accounting purposes, so access to that information is extremely beneficial.

Additionally, having an autopay function can keep your receivables in the black while providing peace of mind to your customer.

Job Status

The ability to check a job’s current status on the customer’s end is another huge win for empowerment.  It eliminates the need for them to call in for a status update and potentially wait on hold for an answer. This is especially important if the customer won’t be on-site during the work or is awaiting parts fulfillment. Additionally, the increased productivity you’ll receive by not having to field those calls could be used to handle other pressing issues — or even better — land more new clients.

 

Customer-centric Solutions

FieldDirect, part of the FieldConnect software suite, allows field service businesses to offer massive quality-of-life improvements directly to their customers with a powerful customer portal. Companies can offer fantastic features like online bill pay and job status tracking while freeing up back-office staff to handle other functions. By empowering your customers today, they’ll remain your customers tomorrow.

No matter how good your business is or how much experience you bring to the table, one thing is certain — your business will live and die by the experiences of your customers. One of the most important aspects of maintaining excellent customer experiences is to have a tight handle on your scheduled appointments. We know that feeling of when a job starts to get away from you; suddenly, hours have passed on a job that was only supposed to take 45 minutes and your other customers who’ve been patiently waiting are starting to wonder where your team is at. While good team dynamics and excellent communication are vital when you or one of your technicians is tied up, you also need an easier way to handle your dispatching.

 

3 Ways to Improve Your Response Times

Completing jobs is obviously important, but we’d argue that actually getting to the job on time and prepared is even more important. Arriving on time isn’t just important for customer satisfaction and retention — it’s important for the productivity and happiness of your service team!

Your service technicians are the lifeblood of your company — without them, the jobs can’t be completed. Their expertise and dedication to your business are unrivaled — your ability to keep them happy and productive should be unrivaled, too. And with all assets, their ultimate value is in how they’re utilized. When you’re deciding on your appointment workflow, meaning the way your workers will interact with their assigned jobs, a great system of practical steps (plus awesome software) can make the difference between a breezy day and non-stop mishaps. This will keep them crushing their service goals while rewarding their efforts with a better work-life balance.

The Right Person for the Right Job

field service dispatching and schedulingIn the HVAC field, for example, it’s not uncommon to have technicians who only handle service while others handle installs. Without a good system in place, scheduling mistakes could happen, leading to both job and skill mismatching. Beyond the problems caused by sending the wrong person to the wrong job, technician trucks and vans are usually set up for their specific responsibilities. An installer who takes on a service call may have delays completing jobs due to not having all of the right components on hand.

Thus, the ability to dispatch the right technician to the right job seamlessly is incredibly valuable.

Schedule Jobs In Blocks

While you’re confident in your team’s ability to handle jobs with poise and precision, sometimes things just happen beyond your control. Your technician’s truck could get a flat tire, that quick 15-minute toilet unclogging could turn into a need for sewer maintenance, or your employee could get lost on the way to a job in a rural area. Whatever comes your way, it’s always best to schedule your jobs in blocks. Some companies utilize half-hour or hour-long arrival windows while others may block out larger amounts of time depending on industry and the average job completion time. This also helps to raise your percentage of first visit resolutions since it’ll allow your technician ample time to provide the customer with a sound solution.

However, there’s a balancing act here. You don’t want to allow so much time that your employees are stagnant during peak business hours. If your trucks aren’t moving, your money probably isn’t, either.

Job Preparation

A good, productive day can quickly turn sour if your workers aren’t properly prepared for a job. While scheduling an installer for an installation makes sense, you never want to have your team show up to a job without the tools, materials, or the previous site history. Keeping track of vehicle inventory and the replenishment status of materials and components can help prevent costly delays and unhappy customer experiences.

When handling new client onboarding, it’s doubly important to gather as much information about their service as possible prior to deployment since, as with all clients, we’re aiming for satisfactory job completion as well as future business.

In the case of a follow-up from a previous issue, like an inspection or warranty repair, you’ll also need a great set of records and notes in case a different technician needs to handle that follow-up.

 

The Best Dispatch Software for Field Service Workers

Meet FieldDispatch, a revolutionary member of the FieldConnect software suite that’s changing the way field service workers handle their scheduling. Beyond a normal calendar app or run-of-the-mill scheduling system, FieldDispatch was designed from the ground up to provide an unparalleled view into your business’s field deployment system.

Since it’s web-enabled, your field service team is able to be routed to new jobs from your back office no matter what kind of device you’re using. This is crucial for rapid deployment needs in the case of a maintenance emergency or natural disaster.  When your team is out in the world where data connections are spotty or completely unavailable, they can continue focusing on the task at hand and FieldDispatch will sync their data entries once they’re back in a better service area. And with advanced, real-time location features you’ll always have clear oversight of both technician and customer mapping.

Productivity Tips for Field Service Technicians

Analyzing and measuring productivity has been of interest to all types of operations for centuries. Scientists have formally studied the realm of productivity since the 17th century. But many things have changed in that time. The laws governing labor have progressed, and our tools for assessing productivity have become considerably more exhaustive and nuanced.

But one thing has not changed for the field service industry: Our work is unpredictable. Field service organizations are posed with a particularly unique challenge in this regard.

How do we reliably analyze, measure, and respond to productivity when the forces impacting it can be uncertain?

There are endless ways field service technicians cannot control the influences on their productivity. From customers canceling or rescheduling at the last minute to emergency calls or the failure of necessary equipment, field service technicians are faced with a constant barrage of random and fickle influences to their professional responsibilities.

But field service technicians and organizations are resilient and resourceful. We have found plenty of means for responding to the novel challenges of our field and their relationship to remain productive.

Tips for Field Service Technician Productivity

In this article, we examine some considerations and resources that will empower field service organizations to support their technicians in maintaining and growing productivity.

1. Identify goals for productivity

This may seem like an obvious first step, but it is a valuable tip for pursuing more refined productivity strategies. Every strategy must begin with a plan and specific goals in mind.

There are a few things to keep in mind when goal setting. Ensure that any goal strategy involves a formal system of feedback about the progress being made toward each goal. Assign a timeline for regular updates and parameters for information to be provided about the progress. Secondly, assure the goals being set stretch and test your current capacities. You want goals to offer an attainable challenge.

Goal defining and tracking will be dramatically improved with the proper resources. Managers should have access to detailed reports throughout a workday, and this can rarely be accomplished without the appropriate technology and software (which we will offer tips on in our closing section).

2. Technician tracking

Speaking of the proper technology and software, we cannot underestimate the emphasis on tracking technicians. This is not merely a managerial concern. Technicians are remarkably more informed and productive when they can be dispatched or scheduled most efficiently. Empowering the dispatch or back-office teams with on the technician’s location will substantially cut down on extra driving distance and time while increasing efficiency and elevating productivity.

3. Prioritize scheduling strategy

This is a close cousin to the above tip, but it is distinct.

These two tips share the common goal of reducing travel time to improve productivity, but it all begins with a robust strategy for scheduling. Creating the most precise schedules is the first step towards the productivity that results from less travel time. But all experienced field service organizations know that schedules are a beginning infrastructure. Flexibility must be planned into any scheduling strategy. And the easier modifications can be made, especially on the fly, the more productive a scheduling strategy will become.

Finally, consider offering incentives to customers to schedule appointments during hours that are most efficient for your organization. Perhaps there are trending low-volume times in the day that you would like to fill, or periods in the year that are better suited to specific tasks over others. Offering customers discounts or coupons or other advantages to scheduling in these specially designed windows can significantly impact overall productivity.

By far, adopting field scheduling software is the most efficient, reliable, and refined way to go about implementing and executing any solid strategy for scheduling.

4. Easily accessible inventory

We highly recommend effort be invested in the development and organization of inventory. The time technicians or administrators spend searching through the commonly extensive

inventories of parts, tools, and other resources are valuable labor and revenue exhausted on productivity.

If you do not currently have a formal system for your inventory, our tip is to invest the effort into developing one. In the meantime, ensure that you are tracking the usage of parts, equipment, and vehicles. As you grow more extensive reporting on inventory, consider reaching out to your suppliers for a purchase history to assist in establishing a robust history and infrastructure moving forward.

5. Equip dispatchers with information and training

Much energy goes into equipping our technicians in the field with the proper resources and information. But we also recommend utilizing your dispatchers in more dynamic ways.

Resourcing your team more diversely increases productivity from your technicians. Take, for example, that your dispatcher could be provided the information and training to direct customers through diagnosis, discovery, and resolutions to issues before dispatching a technician. This helps reduce No Fault Found Dispatches (NFFD). Reducing NFFD through trained and informed dispatchers stands to eliminate unnecessary and avoidable mistakes. It will increase the productivity of technicians applying their skills and expertise where they are most needed.

6. Understand and Implement Field Service Management Solutions

Executing each of the previously mentioned tips is critically expedited, polished, and more productive with our final tip: Identify field service management solutions that fit your organization.

Below are some directions and resources to inform your search.

Your management solution should provide a mobile field service application with comprehensive features. Assess these features for location and navigation, service notes and reference, checklists, expense tracking, and time in the field and appointments. Keep in mind that this is only a partial list of the extensive features available for field services applications.

Automation is key. A well-designed solution should permit the automating of recurring and basic tasks—such as resolution management, service task assignments, ticket routing, and other items specific to your organization.

Transparent and flexible scheduling features are also a high priority for your solution. Empower your administrators and dispatchers to better utilize and organize your field service workers. As schedules inevitably fluctuate and new tasks arise, your organization should be equipped to respond quickly and easily. Using drag and drop scheduling features will allow your administrative agents to override tasks and produce assignments for the ideal technicians.

These are just a few of the functions to regard as you search for your field service management solution. Critical functions of your solution also need to be concerned with the customer experience and the ability to collect and analyze data.

Allow the most experienced and dedicated professionals at FieldConnect to assist in starting you on your journey toward finding the solution best suited to provide you with the highest potential for productivity and generating profit.

You can request a demo of their diverse suite of services today.

 About FieldConnect

With nearly two decades of expertise in the industry, FieldConnect has grown to be the leader in software solutions for Mobile Field Service providers. From family-owned and operates services businesses to multi-billion-dollar corporations, FieldConnect has the solutions that make your field technicians more efficient, reduce or eliminate paper from your workflows, and accelerate your invoicing cycles.

How To Avoid The Most Common Mistakes Made By Field Service Operations

Field service organizations require clear, consistent, and cohesive coordination to function properly, especially since most jobs are time-sensitive. Unfortunately, manual management systems leave plenty of room for human error and delays – leading to unsatisfied customers and reduced client loyalty.

According to a report, 52% of field service respondents consider customer satisfaction as the most important area for improvement. Providing excellent customer service guarantees long-lasting business relationships built on trust and loyalty.

To help you conquer the daily struggles of on-demand field service, this brief guide will cover the most common mistakes field service companies make, how you can overcome them, and the role that field management software solutions play in satisfying your customers.

Mismanaged Dispatch And Assignment Schedules

Knowing your technicians’ availabilities is essential for efficient operations. Without proper tools and organization, you could accidentally double-book field service operatives, duplicate assignments, and make it difficult for your technicians to do their job satisfactorily. In turn, this affects the overall performance of your company and its reputation among customers.

A field service management software can help you organize timelines, set appointments, dispatch teams, and assign tasks to the right technicians. It also provides you with a complete overview of your daily jobs, so you can easily complete and monitor bookings.

Lapses In Real-Time Communication

Communication is the key to every field service organization’s success. When communication channels are reliable and easy to use, technicians can report on-site problems easily, get in touch with other agents, and contact customers directly.

Using mobile-driven solutions, workers can quickly update customers and Inform them of unexpected delays. This helps in building trust and improving customer relationships. Another great feature is device tracking, which provides management with the locations of each technician based on device usage – allowing your dispatches to be monitored from start to finish.

Manual Billing and Invoices

Manual accounting makes it difficult to keep track of billing statements, leading to accounting or bookkeeping discrepancies. With automated invoicing, you can offer your customers convenient options when it matters most. You’ll even have a daily report of your income to track growth and predict sales trends.

Since everything is online and automated, technicians no longer need to handle manual paperwork. This minimizes face-to-face interactions and reduces exposure to contaminants – which is essential in a post-pandemic world.

No Built-In Device Tracking for Dispatched Technicians

Technicians spend lots of valuable time on the road for on-site visits and inspections, so it’s important to find the most cost-efficient way of getting to a customer. Device Tracking integration and virtual mapping give technicians the best routes to cut down on travel time. This helps in reducing expenditure on gas and vehicle maintenance which, for a field service organization, can lead to major cost savings. By transitioning to a digital system with Device tracking capabilities, you can cut down on expenses without compromising on the quality and speed of your services.

Disconnected and Scattered Workflow

Gathering information from different sources can be tedious and time-consuming. A digital workflow can streamline your workflow, help your technicians process job orders, and allow you to monitor their status every step of the way.

Integrating field management software centralizes customer and company data to give you visual insights into your team’s efficiency. By measuring how productive your workers are, you can implement strategies to develop their skills and give them the support they need to do their job well.

Lack of Customer Data Analytics

Manual systems make it difficult to streamline information, which means that it’s easy to miss strategic opportunities for growth and profitability. With an integrated end-to-end system, you can measure customer satisfaction and company performance to make intelligent, data-driven decisions.

Security and Privacy Threats

Protecting your customers’ sensitive information is paramount, but traditional printed documents and paperwork may compromise your customer’s right to privacy. If you upgrade to a secure cloud-based system, you can prevent data theft and fraud with end-to-end encryption.

Risks of Face-To-Face Contact

Running a successful field service company in the time of COVID-19 involves taking steps towards touchless transactions. Paperless processes, digital communications, and remote support minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure or transmission. Using cloud-based services also helps you comply with local safety guidelines, keeping workers and customers protected.

FieldConnect: An All-In-One Solution for Your Field Service Needs

The pandemic continues to test each field service organization’s ability to adapt. But with modern cloud-based solutions, you can manage your company with minimal effort.

FieldConnect eliminates the common challenges faced by many field service companies in their daily operations. Our integrated, cloud-based software gives you the power to handle all aspects of the business from any device or computer. Request a demo today, and experience the difference yourself!

Improve Client Satisfaction In the Digital Age

Over the last two decades, the shift in technology has permeated every aspect of daily life, from running a business to getting immediate answers to any question via Google. With shopping, ordering food, booking service appointments, and even dating available at one touch of your finger, modern buyers have plenty of options – and when they can’t get immediate satisfaction, they move on to the next.

In this environment, it’s little wonder that client satisfaction rates depend on how fast their needs are met. With so many ways to get in touch with people, from social media to websites, chat programs, and texting, there’s no reason that a savvy business owner can’t be available when their customers need them. On the flip side, when customers have difficulty getting ahold of someone to solve a problem or answer a question, the frustration and dissatisfaction will lead them to seek other options.

 

Make It Easy To Give Clients What They Need

Your clients want fast, accurate quotes, updates on their services on-demand, and an easy way to pay. If something goes wrong, or if they have a question or concern, they want to get ahold of someone and immediately resolve the problem. Using the right technology, you can create individualized profiles and a client portal that your customers can access day or night. This allows them to see the status of their projects, orders, and payments in real-time.

 

Be Available

Even when you automate most of your routine client interactions, there are still times when someone has an unusual request, needs to make a change, or has an emergency. Being available through multiple platforms can quickly reduce the stress for your clients.

Giving your clients multiple ways to get ahold of a real person at your business can improve the speed at which you resolve client concerns. This demonstrates that you are serious about being accessible for their needs.

 

Automate Client Interactions

Much of your client contact can be automated and personalized through good customer management software. You can set email reminders for upcoming services, when an invoice is due, when it’s time to schedule a maintenance appointment, or when you have a promotion that fits their needs.

You can also set up chatbot services that allow clients to get fast answers to their questions without having to search through your entire website. Customized chatbots work like a cross between google queries and a conversation with a live person. For example, your clients can ask about certain services, ask how to submit a quote request, or even have minor issues resolved straight from their computer or smartphone simply by chatting with a custom bot on your website.

 

Personalize the User Experience

An important part of creating customer loyalty to your business and brand is to personalize the user experience. When you incorporate good customer management software into your business, you can gather important information about each client. Profiles include individual preferences, demographic information, and the size of their business. You can build company profiles, too, including the size, names, and contact information of purchasing agents, and each client’s type of industry.

Creating a robust customer profile gives you more insight into client purchasing behavior, including how often they contract service from your company, their satisfaction with each experience, and what services they book. Understanding your client history allows you to personalize offers for other services that you offer that they haven’t tried yet. When marketing initiatives are customized, clients are more likely to act on them.

Beyond being useful for you, having a customer profile and personalized experience is better for clients. They have ready access to their history with your company, making service bookings a breeze. Plus, many of these programs allow your sales team and customer service agents to make notes about past problems or ongoing concerns so that as you address these issues, you have access to previous conversations.

 

Adopt Self-Service Technology

Adopt Self Service TechnologyWith today’s current digital technology, it’s entirely possible for your customer to request a quote, book service, and pay their invoice without ever making contact with a member of your staff. Incorporating self-serve technology allows repeat clients to log into their client portal, book the services or order the supplies they need, and quickly pay.

Self-service technology can also include signing contracts online and amending or upgrading their service agreements. Many of your customers want to log in to their account, accomplish what they need to, and then be on about their business. Giving them flexible options to purchase from your business and making these self-service modules user-intuitive, secure, and with plenty of customization options increases their satisfaction with your business.

 

Takeaway

Putting all this together doesn’t have to be cumbersome. In fact, many business software platforms offer several modules that help you add chatbots or self-serve capabilities. These allow clients to book service, check their status, and receive a quote. Integrating automation of many routine tasks and having easy-to-find answers for common questions can improve customer service and client retention. At FieldConnect, we offer customized solutions for any sized business. Give us a call today or visit us online to see how we can help your business grow!