Preventing Data Loss in the Field Service Industry

The Internet of Things (IoT)—and the growth of digital solutions broadly—have had a significant impact on the creation, distribution, and security of data. Data is now far easier to generate, with a breadth of nuances beyond most of our imaginations.

From the raw data collected to the resulting data produced from analyzing this aggregate information, our reliance on sophisticated analysis—and the awareness it generates—has increased.

Each of these progressions in data generation and data transfer has had unparalleled benefits. But as with most innovations, new technology and opportunity often result in new challenges.

One of these challenges is security. There are manners in which protections against the loss of data have dramatically improved. And, of course, there are now unique issues we must recognize and offer a response.

IoT and the development of digital solutions have a distinctive influence on the relationship of data to field service work. IoT has influenced the equipment and the nature of tasks and training for technicians and management alike. Digital solutions have modified workflows and administrative resources.

Data stands at the center of this technological evolution. And field service management solutions are offering support against the risks of these essential resources

This article examines methods to avoid the devastating effects of data loss on a field service organization. Our approach involves the way innovating your procedures can protect data and key features to keep in mind with the adoption of advanced digital solutions.

Innovating to prevent data loss

Many traditional business operation methods have resulted in unnecessary loss of data and can be remedied with modern solutions. Field service management solutions offer innovative and broad resources for protecting against data loss—the types of losses that result in costly risks to customers and businesses.

Lost forms

The field service industry is heavily reliant on myriad forms—from invoices and billing to scheduling, dispatching, and service. Antiquated paper-based operations have been ineffective and costly. Recording and storing data on paper is vulnerable to even the smallest of errors in the daily process of operations.

By transitioning to a field service management solution, organizations can digitize their data in a way that protects against the losses that are common to paper-based operations. Some of the solutions include real-time data entry, allowing for errors to be remedied quickly, and cloud-based solutions offering reliable and efficient storage of this data.

Data transfer

Traveling to and from the office to transfer necessary data is an inefficiency in labor and time. It is also a common cause of data loss. By equipping technicians in the field with mobile devices, data can be transferred in real-time and securely. Moving in such an efficient way protects against the loss of raw data, but it also functions to protect against the loss of data produced from research.

Analyzing the raw data from operations permits the creation of new data on trends and processes. Ensuring the original information is safeguarded and inputted correctly results in further data loss protection, increasing efficiency, and revenue growth.

Using a viable field service management solution protects data associated with tracking work orders and tasks, customer calls and contracts, parts and inventory, technician capacity and specialization, and various other data points specific to an organization.

Protecting against the loss of digital data

The benefits of transitioning to digital data with field service management solutions, outlined above, are substantial, but they do present unique and critical challenges. Not all field service solutions are created equal. From mobile devices to cloud-based storage, it is essential to find solutions that take a thorough and detailed security approach and prevent data loss.

Cloud-based solutions

The advent of cloud-based solutions is an extraordinary resource for field service organizations, but the risks involved must be a priority. It is critical to recognize that not all mobile field service solutions perform at the same level. Too many underperforming field service solutions do not place enough emphasis on cloud-based security. Failure to encrypt and protect data storage and transfer leads to vulnerabilities and losses through theft, cyberattack, and leaks. These are losses that have been devastating to many field service organizations. A solution is to discover a mobile field service solution with a proven and verifiable data security commitment.

It’s also vital to find a solution that respects data backup. Backing up data should occur regularly to avoid even the smallest data losses. Find a solution that respects the opportunity and risks of cloud-based services through dynamic encryption, efficient patching, regular system updates, and other exhaustive security practices.

Mobile devices

Implementing mobile devices has a specialized relationship with the remote nature of work in the field service industry. There is little risk in saying such technology has revolutionized workflows and efficiency. But as we have mentioned, every innovation involves changes to risk factors. Data must be especially guarded when it comes to mobile devices, and not all field service solutions provide the necessary foundation for security.

Low-cost software options too often do not provide the solutions necessary to protect the applications that empower mobile devices. Using faulty or inferior applications on mobile devices can result in unintentional loss of private financial data or critical data about your customers and business.

The physical devices also need to be safeguarded. Your mobile field service solution should involve strong user authentication. Minimum password lengths and character requirements are basic security of applications using cloud-based software. More advanced security measures utilize multifactor authentication and single sign-on features—such as fingerprint scans or temporary text codes. Each of these steps will add extra layers of security and prevent the loss of data that is critical to avoiding the risks that impact revenue and efficiency.

Employee training

Employees that lack necessary technical training can also lead to data loss. Typical data loss trends involve employees inadvertently downloading malware or accidentally exposing critical business information. Other trends include leaking passwords or access codes and numerous different scenarios. A well-functioning mobile field service solution will provide safeguards to these data breaches and losses while offering accessible solutions for employee training.

Partnerships and integration

Protecting against security risks and data loss with your mobile field service solution also hinges on effective and experienced partnerships and integration with current systems. A quality solution seeks partnerships with proven experts that provide polished and skilled services that protect your data.

Partners such as Microsoft Dynamics and Sage Intacct can seamlessly interact and integrate with your mobile field service solution. Your mobile solution can also extend other services’ native functionality, like Vista Service Management and Spectrum Work Order modules. Creating partnerships with these skilled and renowned organizations is critical in responding to security risks and potential data loss.

Further Resources

A leader in the field service industry for nearly two decades, FieldConnect has been developed with data security as a central priority.

With a diverse suite of products, FieldConnet’s solutions offer the highest quality in innovation and protection. Secure and efficient cloud-based resources are coupled with the finest partnerships in the industry. This multifaceted approach ensures that their support will meet the ongoing and changing risks associated with protection against the loss of your essential data.

Schedule a demo with FieldConnect to begin learning how your mobile field service solutions can be identified and implemented. We will help your organization achieve its business goals, retain employees and customers—and grow your revenue.

Field Service Technician Scheduling Tips

Few industries rely on scheduling management in the same way as field service businesses. Being skilled and strategic at managing schedules is a necessary and critical function for any business that relies on field service technicians and other similar types of employees.

The typical office job may have a wave—or two to three—of employees scheduled to arrive in the morning and depart in the early evening. Perhaps scheduling is further complicated with an evening shift or an overnight shift. But even these scheduling scenarios are considerably less dynamic than the challenges and nuances facing field service businesses.

A mastery of scheduling distinguishes one field service company from the next.

Managing a field service business requires a capacity to anticipate issues, adjustment on the fly, and implement proactive planning. Scheduling customers and providing assignments to technicians is a complex challenge that can be unpredictable for numerous reasons. Equipment, machines, customers, and employees all play interconnected roles that can be difficult to foresee.

Scheduling management in the field service industry can be understood as a practice that incorporates both art and science. Management necessitates the capacity to remain nimble and improvise in the face of inevitable fluctuations, but it must be informed and structured within an architecture of best practices.

9 Tips for Field Service Technician Scheduling

In this article, we explore nine tips that inform your ability to develop a strategy for schedule management that can heighten your ability to anticipate issues, while remaining grounded in real data and strategy that enable you to adapt efficiently in real-time.

1. Prioritize Employees

Field service scheduling can include a diversity of employee types, including full-time, part-time, and freelance technicians, with varying skill or specialization levels. It is paramount to successful schedule management to centralize priority around the needs, abilities, and desires of employees. Communicating that an employee’s life and work is at the core of any business strategy will result in a sustained satisfaction that drives employee retention.

The key to prioritizing the needs and concerns of employees is maintaining access to management. When management is accessible for communication and feedback, healthy work culture can be sustained. Taking the employee into consideration with scheduling should balance with the demands of the business, and it can account for such things as a technician’s specialized knowledge of particular equipment or their strong rapport with a customer.

2. Assess overall labor force

Any attempt at schedule management should begin with an assessment of available resources. This process can be informed by focusing on two primary areas: historical trends and establishing a baseline.

The first of these is developed through reflection on previous trends in the business. Your company can execute a full audit of all the elements that contributed to the most efficient days on record. One such example would be assessing a day when the highest volume of calls was received and executed. Analyzing such sample days for efficiencies that can be mirrored is a best practice in developing future strategies for scheduling. Similar efforts can be made to reflect and analyze less efficient days as well.

Once an audit of best and worst performances is analyzed and mined for clarity, a company can establish a baseline. This can involve figuring out the minimum necessary labor for an average day and then affect further estimations on how many additional resources or hours are required for response to any additional calls.

3. Develop a system of prioritization

In an ideal world, every customer and every call would receive the same priority. Unfortunately, limited resources and shifting demands do not permit such a luxury. As a result, it is necessary to establish a hierarchy of precedence for types of customers. These priorities can be informed by such dynamics as a type of work, urgency, or any elements unique to your business. Establishing such priorities also provides the benefit of being able to decline work that would detract from defined priorities and potentially interfere with profitable decisions for scheduling.

Once the architecture for priority has been established, it is critical to communicate the system with everyone on the team, especially essential technicians and the dispatcher.

4. Emphasize the role of dispatcher

Too many field service companies attempt to cut costs by hiring inexperienced dispatchers or deemphasizing this function in general. The role of the dispatcher should be given high priority and sufficient resources. Cutting back on this critical role sets a shaky foundation for effective schedule management.

A capable dispatcher will excel in customer service and manage to multitask. They must also be supplied with the correct tools. Tools such as FieldDispatch software from FieldConnect are invaluable for creating a dispatch system that ensures fluid operations. This type of solution permits mobility and flexibility, allowing for quick troubleshooting and simplifying scheduling for preventative maintenance calls, emergency rescheduling, and accommodations for new business opportunities.

5. Balance Manual and Automated Scheduling

As with the resources applied to dispatch services, the best performing schedule management strategies take advantage of innovation in technology. Automating scheduling will save time, produce efficiencies, and redistribute necessary resources across a broader spectrum of operational needs. To maximize the technology available for automating scheduling, a manager should always be ready to improvise essential changes. The ideal solution builds a foundation on automation and blends it with the adaptability of manual scheduling.

6. Use reminders

Effective schedule management develops plans ahead of time. When appointments are scheduled in advance, sending out reminders for management, technicians, and customers is essential. This can assist in identifying scheduling issues early on and being able to pivot appropriately. Customers forgetting about appointments or running late consistently propose complications to established scheduling that can be mitigated or reduced by using technology to send reminders.

7. Empower analytics

We cannot emphasize the need for effective and exhaustive technological solutions for the management of scheduling. It is critical to track all data related to jobs, monitoring numbers such as first-time fixes, emergency or unscheduled calls, delays, and the myriad other challenges that arise specific to your operations. Work can be scheduled according to the days of the week, month, or seasons when call volume is highest.

To collect, analyze, and properly implement such data, key resources such as FieldGateway can be installed. Data can even be provided in real-time to create a seamless integration between your back office and the field.

8. Implement GPS tracking technology

Using GPS technology to track field technicians is illuminating for both management and the customer. Management can know which technician is closest to a job site or if they have arrived at the customer. This software can also inform the customer of a technician’s location, offering

them comfort and assurances that result in satisfaction. Tracking such information can also inform future audits of business operations and clarify where efficiencies can be amplified.

9. Technology that integrates with current solutions

Whether you are a new business or further expanding your horizons, it is vital to leverage modern scheduling tools for your company’s growth and success. As with most innovations, it is essential to find tools that integrate seamlessly with your current tools.

FieldConnect offers an array of resources that integrate with your current systems and go beyond even the best practices listed in this article. If your field service division still uses outdated systems and workflows, you are missing out on the measurable benefits that impact customer satisfaction, service capacity, and productivity, as well as field service staff retention.

FieldConnect offers a full suite of complete service solutions that will enable your scheduling management strategy to function at its peak performance.

You can easily request a demonstration of these many resources with FieldConnect today.

How to Improve Customer Communications

You call your bank to check on a charge to your account that you do not recognize. “Please say or type your 16-digit account number,” says the automated voice. You dutifully oblige and then push the “3” button to reach a human. After a couple of minutes, a live voice appears on the line. “This is Kim. How can I help you today?” You respond with your issue and the very next question is “I can help you with that. For security purposes, can I please have your 16-digit account number?” “What?” you think to yourself. “I already provided this information.”

The scenario above represents one of my biggest pet peeves when working with any financial organization. It suggests a number of issues – lack of integration between automated systems and the ones that representatives use, an assumption that I might not be very good at identifying and pushing buttons with numbers on them, or that scammers and thieves can be easily thwarted by having to say an account number, rather than just pushing the buttons on a phone. I believe that the first reason, lack of integration between systems, is primarily at fault, but the key point is that I no longer prefer the phone to deal with my financial institution.

This brings us to the systems that a field service company uses to manage its business. Many of these systems are inward-facing, dealing with payroll, accounting, inventory, and the like. But how well have the externally-facing systems been set up? These systems represent the ways that customers interact with the business and they are critical to acquiring and retaining customers, especially as the way they work, and that we work with them, has been forced to evolve. Whether by phone, website, email, or text message, the interactions need to be consistent, despite their unique qualities and need to be supported whether someone is in their office, in their home, or in some other location. Where consistency can be enforced across all these scenarios, the dividends will be substantial, supporting brand awareness and creating a positive customer experience across all communication channels.

First Touch

Perhaps one of the most critical touchpoints for any service organization is the first one. How easy is it to navigate the phone menu, or make a request on the website? Better yet, is there a dedicated line for service requests that bypasses the lengthy menus and recorded messages? After all, the potential client is dealing with an issue that needs fixing and time spent navigating through phone menus could feel like a lifetime. If you have a number of customers under maintenance contract, consider a dedicated number that gives these important customers more direct access and a VIP experience.

For non-emergency scheduling, consider a few different channels where the customer can identify the problem and provide preferences for scheduling the service call. These channels could include a web portal, a specific email address, or even text messaging capabilities. Again, for those customers with maintenance contracts, consider a proactive, outbound message to initiate the service visit, based on the maintenance interval time. When considering a web portal, make sure that there are no onerous software or browser dependencies. This capability should be easily supported on a standard configuration, especially as many people are now doing their jobs from home.

Once initial contact is made, are automated responses and confirmations sent quickly? Ideally, there’s a mechanism for responding quickly to voice mails, emails, web requests, or text messages. If there is no

automated way in place to accomplish this, does someone on the service team have the responsibility to connect with the customer? This key step lets the customer know that their request has been received and is being worked on. Bonus points for being able to personalize automated responses with company or contact name.

Scheduling the Service

Coordinating a technician to meet the customer’s timetable can be challenging, but customers should be insulated from those challenges as much as possible. From an internal perspective, leverage tools that help match the right technician to the job. Their suitability at the time could depend on several factors – location, areas of expertise, and equipment and parts on board their vehicle, for example.

Once the technician has been scheduled, let the customer know what the schedule looks like and when they can expect service. Windows of time are a necessary evil with a remote workforce due to unforeseen issues that might impact the arrival time. But being able to shrink the window, say from a 4-hour window to a 2-hour window will give customers a more positive perception of the service company and its ability to manage the remote workforce. If the time window can be shrunk to an hour or less, that represents best-in-class.

When the Technician Is On the Way

The service call has been scheduled and the technician is assigned. Keeping customers informed through a variety of communications keeps the lines of communication open to further reinforce a customer-centric approach. For example, a confirmation can be sent via the customer’s preferred channel. But rather than send a one-way communication, consider adding a feedback mechanism for the customer to confirm that the time still works, or to provide updates relative to their own availability.

Even more important is the ability to keep the customer informed as their service time approaches and should include a call from the technician when they are 15-20 minutes away. Leveraging technology even provides interactive mapping capabilities that will show where the service technician is on an interactive map, taking any guesswork out of the arrival time, as it approaches.

Completing the Service Call

Once the work is completed and it’s time to sign off, what does the customer review? Traditionally, the technician would walk through the work that was done and answer any questions. But with concerns about direct, person-to-person interaction, why not attach pictures to the job that was done? This approach reassures the customer and shows them exactly what work was performed, since the field tech may not be able to do a traditional review, and equipment placement often precludes customers from seeing the work for themselves.

Once the technician leaves the worksite, what kind of follow-up is conducted to provide the customer with a review of the problem, and the fix? Take advantage of the field service management technology and roll up the results of the repair. This can include an overview of the work done, as well as the pictures documenting the failed part(s) and showing the replacements. For certain types of equipment, it would be helpful to include any regulatory documents that need to be filed, or that were filed on their behalf.

The Billing Process

Now that the work is done, it is time to get paid for it. What does this process look like with technology applied? For one, it can be considerably quicker and can eliminate the physical transfer of paper documents from one person to another. Also, since the information from completed work orders can be sent immediately back to the office, invoices can be turned around in hours, or a couple of days. But, be aware of the agreed-upon billing terms for maintenance customers and make sure the due date doesn’t reflect anything other than those agreed-upon terms.

But think about the billing process as an opportunity to accomplish a few other objectives, including additional awareness about services you might offer, as well as a request for feedback. No need to do a hard sell, as the contact is already a customer, but certainly a chance to demonstrate the full range of service offerings. As far as customer feedback, it is essential to give customers the opportunity to share how their experience went, whether good or bad.

Follow-up

The service has been completed and the invoice has been processed and sent. Now is the perfect time to stay top-of-mind with a follow-up. The beauty of this communication is that there is no ulterior motive or sales angle, so the customer perceives this purely as goodwill. Yet, you can subtly support your objective of a quality customer experience.

This communication can take several forms, depending on how much work is performed for that customer on a regular basis. It might be appropriate to send a follow-up that summarizes the single visit, or perhaps roll up all visits for a certain period of time – monthly, quarterly, etc.

Synopsis

At the end of the day, it is about associating service with positive customer experience at every stage of the journey. From beginning to end, companies need to take advantage of every opportunity to smooth the path to completed service, whether planned and scheduled, or based on an emergency situation. Maintaining consistency in the look and feel of messages, regardless of the channel, will enhance the service company’s brand, keep the customer informed at all times, and provide a customer experience that differentiates the service offerings from competitors.

Field service management solutions can help open up additional communications channels, leverage the internet for self-service options and real-time technician tracking, and aggregate information for the customer that demonstrates exactly what was done, including pictures, to eliminate billing disputes and resolve any discrepancies that might arise. Additionally, the same solution can streamline internal processes, eliminate tedious, paper-based tasks, and drive efficiency for greater revenue. Sounds like a win-win!

How FieldProject Can Help Your Field Service Business

How can construction companies better manage their many projects, especially in today’s ever-changing work environment? While remote work is business-as-usual, given the nature of the construction industry, some of the changes that impact the way we work require new approaches to maintain efficiency and visibility to all aspects of construction project management.

Time Entry

At the most basic level, one of the challenges of project management is one of the most straightforward – tracking and accounting for workers’ time, whether individually, or as a crew.

Integration

For companies using Vista by Viewpoint, or Spectrum by Viewpoint, it is important to consider the value of direct integration into these platforms. FieldProject maximizes your investment in the Viewpoint platforms by leveraging existing data, reducing IT complexity, and maximizing project-based resources.

Integrating the Back Office

Your back office may no longer be in the office. With so many workers now working from home, how can you integrate them into your traditional workflows? By making all information available through a web browser, on any mobile device, the back office can now complete their tasks from wherever, whenever.

Equipment Usage

While the human aspect of projects is important, it is also beneficial to track equipment usage and to assign that usage to the appropriate part of the project.

Reporting and Visibility

Our solution offers project phase tracking, equipment management, as well as the previously-mentioned time tracking for individuals and crews.

  • Configurable, at-a-glance project status, and detailed service reporting.

Additional info

FieldProject from FieldConnect is the perfect field mobility tool to quickly collect the data you need to manage your projects. Speed up invoicing and improve accuracy with this easy to use tool for managers, supervisors, crew leaders, and individual team members in the field. With FieldProject, your office is anywhere and everywhere

FieldProject integrates with your ERP to capture project time for individuals & crews, and materials & equipment – from any web-enabled mobile device. Enter and access mobile project activity documentation including pictures, video, task notes, custom forms, and signatures all with a direct connection through your ERP project module. And, your field team can review and manage active jobs, project history, crew time tracking, mobile form entry, material costs, & equipment assignments.

  • Eliminate paper-based forms – capture all form data in a reportable SQL database.
  • Simplify your field team’s internal and external communications with online project details on any active project from any web-enabled device.
  • Eliminate duplicate data entry – enter project notes one time for everyone to see and review from anywhere.
  • Drive accountability for your team and your customer with digital signatures and on-the-spot reporting capabilities.
  • Improve billing accuracy by assigning the right inventory to the job and by tracking equipment usage, all at the job site.
  • Project Managers, Foremen, Crew Leaders and field engineers use any Internet browser capable device to access FieldProject. Use offline mode if no connection is available. FieldProject automatically scales to fit your device – whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, phablet, laptop or desktop computer.

How LEGO and FieldConnect Changed the World

In the days before electricity, Billund was an obscure Danish village, and Ole Kirk Christiansen was just a simple carpenter with ambition. As a young man, Christiansen turned his love of whittling and playing with wood into a business and, in 1916, he opened his own shop.

While initially producing furniture like ladders, stools, and ironing boards, Christiansen’s love of toys is what drove the company forward. As toys became a bigger part of his business, he even renamed the company to reflect its new direction: leg godt, or “play well,” became LEGO.

Ole Kirk died in 1952, just as his son was on the verge of transforming the simple Automatic Binding Bricks into a full-blown “System of Play.” Designed on the principle that all blocks should interlock and be interrelated, the system became the foundation of modern-day LEGO. That means that any LEGO block produced since 1955 can interlock with any other.

Software & Hardware Technology

LEGOsIf all of the software and hardware technology that businesses use today came from the same source, it would fit together as easily and seamlessly as LEGO bricks do. But they don’t. We’ve tried to overcome that challenge through the adoption of industry standards, but the failure of that effort for many applications is encapsulated in this quote from a technology analyst a number of years ago (wish I could provide proper attribution). He said, “The beauty of industry standards is that there are so many of them!”

Technology companies have introduced a flurry of integration “brokers” over the years, and they, too, have failed to provide the kind of straightforward integration that companies could really consider agnostic. The latest wave of integration strategies has revolved around integration platforms and integration as a service. While these approaches have simplified integration to a certain extent, it can often feel like you’re mixing your erector set with some Lincoln logs and things just don’t line up. And when things do break, it can be impossible to fully understand and manipulate what might be inside the black box of an integration platform.

FieldConnect’s Approach

At FieldConnect, our approach has been more aligned with Christiansen’s LEGO concept. If you imagine all the “components” of a typical LEGO set, you may recall the seemingly boring, flat, gray piece. While unassuming in a stand-alone scenario, this gray piece provides the foundation to build upon, assuming that the pieces are compatible. Soon, the gray piece has walls, towers, and defined spaces built upon it in yellow, blue, red and green. No matter the size, shape, and color of the blocks on top of the foundation, they all fit, because they were made that way. We like to think of ourselves as the flat, gray piece. Maybe a bit boring, at first, but as you combine the building blocks of our solution, and start integrating them with blocks from other solutions that your business uses, the real fun begins.

But how did we make the other pieces fit so well with our gray one? We simply figured out what the various pieces of a complete solution looked like, and made our foundation in a way that would make sure they all fit. We found that the best way to ensure this fit was to integrate the system at the data and process levels. So, we don’t integrate with the data, but rather just use the data that is available to us, because we have architected our field solution so that it can read and write directly to the database.

Let’s look at how we work in a Microsoft environment, as an example. Microsoft has many components that can be brought to bear in a field service management scenario. We have created the FieldConnect so integrate seamlessly into this environment. Essentially, we looked at how Microsoft has designed and built their yellow, blue, red, and green blocks and then designed our gray foundation to make sure their blocks will snap onto our base.

Increasing Collaboration & Improving Business Processes

LEGO BugattiSo, while we have the field service piece covered, how can we increase collaboration? Let’s snap the yellow brick from Microsoft Teams onto that gray, flat one. How about managing business processes? The red Flo brick will fit nicely. Our executives need dashboards to know how the business is doing relative to key performance indicators. The blue brick from Power BI has a spot on the base. You can even add the green brick from Microsoft Office to integrate the traditional productivity applications into the overall system.

While this may be a simplistic view of software integration, do not underestimate the power of a system that integrates in a manner similar to the LEGO example above. This approach can enable tight integration and the ability to grow while leveraging the power of interoperability to accomplish amazing things. Just to complete the analogy, we leave you with this:

Yes, that is a full-size Bugatti Chiron supercar made entirely from LEGO bricks. Proof that an integrated, modular approach can yield amazing results!

6 KPIs to Tell You If You’re On Track

Given the nature of our connected world and the impact of technological advances, it is little wonder that customer experience and satisfaction have risen to the top of the list of differentiators for so many companies. In many instances, customer satisfaction can be measured directly, via a survey to customers asking for their feedback. Unfortunately, with so many purchases and other transactions happening online, and the desire for customer feedback so intense, customers are starting to experience “survey fatigue.”

Don’t get me wrong, thoughtful customer response to a 6-7 question satisfaction survey is great feedback, but getting meaningful responses is becoming increasingly difficult. So, how can a field service-based business get a better sense of customer satisfaction without bothering your customers with a survey every time they use your services?

KPIs for Field Service

If you’re like many field service-based businesses, you have your eye on some key performance indicators that help determine how well certain aspects of the business are doing. These indicators tend to focus on how much work is being done, how much revenue is being generated per technician, and other indicators of business health. These also tend to be looked at through an inward-facing lens. That is, what do these metrics indicate inside my business? By adjusting that lens to look outward, some of these very same metrics can help gauge levels of customer satisfaction, with the right focus. Here are a few that we recommend as a great starting point.

#1 – Attach Rate

Attach Rate is the percentage of active customers that have a preventative maintenance contract. This metric has a lot of relevance in a commercial environment, as field service businesses in the commercial space seek longer-running relationships than on the household side of these businesses, which tend to be more transactional. Monitoring the percentage of customers with an active preventative maintenance contract is an indicator of customer satisfaction and provides some predictability in revenue projections. It also tells you which customers are willing to make a longer-term commitment to using your services. A steady or rising Attach Rate is a solid indicator that customers are satisfied and are willing to make long-term commitments to work with you.

#2 – First-Time Fix Rate

The First-Time Fix Rate determines how many repairs were resolved in a single visit. Ideally, this is most of the time and this metric can be a key indicator for several potential problem areas, or success, depending on the trend. Having to schedule a technician for a second, or even third visit to successfully effect a repair will definitely have an impact on customer satisfaction. A low, or decreasing First-Time Fix Rate may also indicate an issue with training, or pairing up technician skills with the job that needs to get done. But one thing is for sure, a repair, resolved on the first customer site visit, improves customer satisfaction, and reduces costs. Tracking this metric over time will give you a sense of the experience that your customers are having and the corresponding level of satisfaction should track with it. As a bonus, increasing the First-Time Fix Rate lowers costs by eliminating second and third trips for the same repair.

#3 – Repeat Visit

A Repeat Visit metric represents the number of times that an installed product had to be re-serviced by a technician within a certain time frame (e.g., 7 days, 30 days, etc.). Repeat Visit provides you with a different angle of looking at the cost to return and deliver service—this time tied to a specific installed product. If you look at this metric by product line or family, it can point to products that require a high number of repeat visits within a certain time window and provide great input for product development teams. Looking at this metric by the individual technician, it can point to insufficient testing on-site or lack of adequate training. It can also point out the technicians who have mastered service on a certain account or product and can be leveraged as an expert resource. From a customer satisfaction viewpoint, it can be eye-opening for the customer to see how often certain products require repeat service. Providing information that helps them limit downtime while providing warranty services and expert technician support is a value-add that differentiates your service levels from those of your competitors.

#4 – Average SLA Compliance Rate

SLAs or Service Level Agreements establish the parameters of service that should be achievable by the mobile workforce and acceptable to the business customer, based on potential disruptions to their business. Improve Service Level Agreement compliance rates by empowering your field technicians with field-based access to the customer’s current SLA, repair history, and maintenance information. Meeting your commitments to customers, and doing so with a mobile technician that has the confidence and expertise that having all pertinent information brings, changes the dynamic of the relationship to one of being a trusted advisor. Making the switch from simply delivering a service to one where you are a trusted resource will have a dramatic effect on how customers’ experiences are perceived and should drive a corresponding increase in customer satisfaction.

#5 – Mean Time to Service

This metric measures the average time from work order creation to arriving on site. Given that many customers in a commercial environment are on preventative maintenance contracts, this measurement may be skewed toward non-scheduled or emergency jobs. However, those situations are often the ones that distinguish your reliability and professionalism relative to other service providers. Also, keep in mind that customers will compare your service delivery to a range of other experiences, inside and outside the same realm. Making a customer wait, or being unable to provide timely updates as to the arrival time of the technician, will certainly impact the customer experience in a negative manner.

#6 – Mean Time to Repair

The Mean Time to Repair represents the average time from work order creation to work order completion – not assignment completion, but when the work order is completed. The time it takes to complete a repair can provide insights into training deficiencies and can reveal other inefficiencies in the process that are in need of attention. This metric, through the inward-facing lens, can point to inefficiencies in the broader billing cycle and challenges to getting proper paperwork to accurately close a work order and produce an invoice. For customers, they expect receipt of an invoice in a timely manner so they can properly account for the expense. Invoicing delays, inaccurate invoices, and big swings in billing cycle times create headaches for the accounting department and have a corresponding impact on customer experience and satisfaction.

A Great Place to Start

As mentioned initially, direct polling of customers can yield valuable information and insights, but efforts to collect this information can sometimes be perceived as intrusive and bothersome. In fact, one might argue that the ability to get statistically valid response rates to customer surveys might itself be an indicator of customer satisfaction – either that it is really good, or really bad.

The indicators listed above are a great place to start, and improvements can be introduced, monitored, and achieved by replacing manual, paper-based tasks with a mobile application for field service. The view into these metrics is pretty straightforward and the underlying data that is used to create visibility into these indicators generally comes from just a couple of business systems. Focus on the basics to keep everything moving forward.

Expanding the KPI Universe

And once there is a comfort level with interpreting information from a basic set of indicators through both the inward-facing and outward-facing lenses, consider the power of tying together a broader and deeper cross-section of enterprise information. The benefit of having access to more data means that, under the right guidance, you should be able to glean more insights, improve internal processes, empower your mobile workforce, and drive even more tangible improvements in customer experience and satisfaction.

In a field service context, with the right field service management solution, you are able to go beyond the six KPIs listed above and start managing your business from a perspective that was formerly unattainable. Optimally, your solution is sophisticated enough to integrate data sources from previously isolated systems giving you an understanding of both cause and effect that allows intentional and meaningful optimization of the field workforce. The integration of data across what used to be siloed repositories will reveal interdependencies that allow adjustments and course corrections based on insights and resulting conclusions that were not previously available.

In the final analysis, make sure that your field service solution can measure KPIs, allowing you to start simply, and expand as your familiarity with interpreting data increases. It is critical that your system can capture information within the context of its own designed metrics, but also can encompass data from other systems to provide a more holistic view across the range of processes that exist in your business. Be sure to look at these KPIs through an inward-facing lens and take action where the data indicates there is an issue. By driving continuous improvement through this ongoing process, a view through the outward-facing lenses should reveal a satisfied customer.

KPIs and the Autonomous Vehicle

So, you’re finally ready to purchase an autonomous vehicle! You go to the dealership and climb into the shiny, red car that you pre-ordered. The representative gets your signature (electronically, of course), shows you the owner’s manual, goes over a few of the main features and then sends you on your way. The dashboard has a dizzying array of gauges, dials, and numbers. You tell the navigation system where you would like to go and all of a sudden you’re on your way. How terrifying!

As much as the autonomous driving technology has been tested and refined, you keep a keen eye on that dashboard. You focus on the speed, you make sure the battery has a good charge (because gasoline is so 2018), and you spend a lot of time glancing from the dashboard to the road and back to make sure the car stays between the lines – the ones on the dashboard display, but especially the ones on the actual road!

What you are doing is maintaining a strong focus on the vehicle’s KPIs – key performance indicators. But since the vehicle is new to you, the focus needs to be on the indicators that matter, and the ones that you understand. You’re worried about speed, because you don’t want a ticket. You’re worried about battery life, because you don’t want to end up standing by the side of the road waiting for assistance. And you’re worried about staying between the lines, since you don’t want to get in an accident in your brand new car.

KPIs for Field Service

Your new autonomous vehicle is, in many ways, like your field service business. Your business does certain things without your involvement, but you need to focus on key metrics that let you know that you’re going the right speed, that you’ve got the resources (battery life) to get you to the next destination, and that you are staying between the lines to avoid business catastrophes. As you did in your new vehicle, make sure you’re focused on the right KPIs. Here are a few that we recommend as a great starting point.

  • FIELD TECHNICIAN UTILIZATION RATES – Make your field technicians more productive with the right tools and their increased efficiency will reduce costs and increase revenue.
  • ATTACH RATE – Monitoring the percentage of customers with an active preventative maintenance contract is an indicator for customer satisfaction and provides some predictability in revenue projections.
  • FIRST-TIME FIX RATE – A repair, resolved on the first customer site visit, improves customer satisfaction and reduces costs.
  • AVERAGE SLA COMPLIANCE RATE – Improve Service Level Agreement compliance rates by empowering your field technicians with field-based access to the customer’s current SLA, repair history, and maintenance information.
  • MEAN TIME TO REPAIR – The time it takes to complete a repair can provide insights into training deficiencies and can reveal other inefficiencies in the process that are in need of attention.

These indicators are a good place to start, and improvements can be introduced, monitored, and achieved by replacing manual, paper-based tasks with a mobile application for field service. The view into these metrics is pretty straightforward and the underlying data that is used to create visibility into these indicators generally comes from just a couple of business systems. It is very much akin to your first experience in your autonomous vehicle – focus on the basics to keep everything moving forward.

Expanding the KPI Universe

But, what happens if we are able to tie together a broader and deeper cross-section of enterprise information? The benefit of having access to more data means that, under the right guidance, you should be able to glean more insights, and also determine more dependencies within the business that may not have been discernible in the past.

To further our analogy with the autonomous vehicle, you’ve had some time to learn about the car’s systems and displays, so you now have access to a wider set of indicators and understand what they mean. No longer limited to the most basic information, you can now manage the vehicle’s performance by incorporating this new data. To maximize your travel range, you now know that the tire inflation sensors should show an optimal setting, that the “driving mode” should be set to “economy” instead of “sport”, and that other systems that use power can be disabled if they are not required.

In a field service context, with the right field service management solution, you are able to go beyond the five KPIs listed above and can start managing your business from a perspective that was formerly unattainable. Optimally, your solution is sophisticated enough to integrate data sources from previously isolated systems giving you an understanding of both cause and effect that allows intentional and meaningful optimization of the field workforce. The integration of data across what used to be siloed repositories will reveal interdependencies that allow adjustments and course corrections based on insights and resulting conclusions that were not previously available.

Integration and Metrics that Matter

Effective use of a broader set of KPIs opens the viewing aperture into business performance. This allows you to go beyond the basic set of KPIs – speed, fuel, direction – and provides important insight into what’s happening across the business. Like the autonomous vehicle, the more you understand the extent of the information available to you, and how to digest it, the greater control you have over the parameters that help drive efficiency, lower costs and utilize resources to the greatest extent possible.

So, be sure to consider the degree to which your field service solution can do more than just empower your workforce. Consider a solution that integrates into all of your relevant business systems and data repositories. Make sure it has a dashboard that can be configured to show you the information you need to effectively navigate the business landscape. Remember that more information makes for better decisions. Better decisions accelerate business growth. Vrooom!

What does the Digital Workplace mean for Field Service? – Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog post, we discussed some of the benefits of adopting the digital workplace. We also identified one of the key issues – what this transformational journey looks like in the context of your business. So, what does it mean in the context of field service management? The good news is that field service is very well positioned to benefit from the transition to the digital workplace. The even better news is that once some of the initial benefits, the proverbial “low-hanging fruit,” are realized, there are many more rewards to be had down the road.

Why is field service such an abundant beneficiary of a digital transformation? Keep in mind that a major obstacle that is overcome by going digital is mitigating or even eliminating geographic constraints. Field service-based businesses are required to be geographically dispersed, as the mobile workforce performs services on equipment at various locations within their service area. In many ways, field service is all about geography – Where is the technician? Where is the next service call? Which technician is closest to that location? Furthermore, many companies collect information from the field via the Goodyear network – technicians drive into the office to drop off completed work orders, time cards, and other forms.

A digital transformation through better field service management immediately negates issues related to a widely distributed workforce. Eliminating trips back and forth to the office is an obvious one, but there is much more to be had from the digital improvements. For example, how valuable is making sure that field techs have the ability to quote additional work in the field? And not only providing that field quoting capability, but enforcing pricing by populating data from the ERP to enforce accuracy and consistency, or even kicking off an approval workflow.

Finding the Right Field Service Management Solution

But as important as accuracy for field quoting might be, it, too, is only the tip of the iceberg. The right field service management solution supports the ideal scenario whereby someone in the field gets a holistic view of the customer. This holistic view would include site history, including past quotes or estimates for work and equipment, as well as other relevant information, all aggregated from office systems. The digital transformation is not enabling a one-way communication, either. Using a mobile solution also allows the workforce in the field to transmit data and information back to the office, allowing customer service reps and operational managers the ability to see updates about work completed.

An additional geographic divide exists between the technicians that are out in the field. A good mobile solution should give a mobile workforce all the tools they need to interact with each other. Whether the communication occurs via text, voice, or video, the ability to exchange information between technicians can add significant value. Imagine a technician being able to video chat with the person that worked on the site previously, sharing images of the equipment and using their collective experience to solve the issue at hand. Or, a group of technicians getting a 30-minute training session via a group chat that accomplishes the transfer of information, without having to assemble everyone at one location.

But not all geographic distances need to be measured in miles. Some of the biggest divides can represent distances of less than 100 feet. These divides exist within the office space and represent the disconnected nature of systems and data that can occur as IT infrastructure develops over time. Software that is installed at different stages of a company’s development can achieve some level of integration, but it is often difficult to integrate every key system – Customer Relationship Management, Accounting, Payroll, and even the Phone System – even though these systems collectively provide much better value when a high level of interoperability is achieved.

IT leaders often look to outside specialists for integration of existing systems, but what if there was a better way? Depending on the architecture, one of the software solutions within the IT ecosystem can support the integration requirements across all installed systems. Integration achieved at the IT level can also be augmented by enhancing technologies, such as collaboration. One approach integrates at a technical level, while the collaboration layer integrates people and processes, especially those that work in the same area or are part of the same workflow.

And finally, make sure that customers are also integrated into the system in order to deliver additional value to them, as well. A digital workplace incorporates customers to allow them to request service, access information about completed work, and ultimately to choose how they will interact with your company. By seeing information in aggregate, customers can make better repair or replace decisions. They can also choose their preferred method for receiving notifications, initiating service calls, paying invoices and other activities that require an exchange of information, facilitated by digital transformation.

So, take comfort in the substantial rewards that are available to field service-based businesses. Seek a strategy that allows for integration at both the technical and the business process levels. Be aware that field service management solutions that embrace a forward-looking architecture can also serve as a point of integration across multiple systems, linking new capabilities with legacy functionality. Transforming your business to embrace the digital workplace may not be the easiest journey you can make, but with eyes open and integration as a keystone, it is one that can pay amazing dividends.

FIELDCONNECT’S NEWEST FIELD SERVICE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS ARE FULLY INTEGRATED WITH OFFICE 365 AND LEVERAGE POWER APPS, POWER BI, MICROSOFT TEAMS, OUTLOOK, AND MORE. WANT TO TRULY IMPROVE VISIBILITY AND COMMUNICATIONS ACROSS ALL YOUR CUSTOMER-FACING DEPARTMENTS? FIELDCONNECT IS THE ANSWER. LEARN MORE BY SCHEDULING A PHONE CALL WITH ONE OF TEAM MEMBERS HTTP://FIELDCONNECT.COM/CONTACT/

What does the Digital Workplace mean for Field Service? – Part 1

These days, the concept of the digital workplace is described in so many ways and through so many channels. Technology media, social media, software business communications, websites, and blogs (oops, including this one!) are all touting the benefits of pursuing the digital workplace. But what is the digital workplace and how will you know when you have achieved the goal of creating it?  The problem lies with the context. The digital workplace has a high-level definition – use digital transformation (also a nebulous term) to align technology, business processes, and employees to improve operational efficiency and meet the goals of the business. But what does it mean in the context of field service management?  

The keystone in any field service management solution is the mobility application that allows the physically dispersed workforce to access dispatch assignments, view work orders, review site history, capture time spent on each job, and to transmit information to and from the office effortlessly. 

Improving Efficiency in the Field Service Industry

The good news is that field service is very well-suited to benefit from the transformational journey toward the digital workplace. This is due in no small part to one of the greatest benefits of achieving it – removing geographic barriers. Field service-based businesses suffer inefficiencies primarily because of the distance between their workforce and the office. It is inherent to the type of work that needs to be done, and is frequently addressed by requiring the workforce to travel to and from the office to deliver physical proof of their accomplishments – time cards, signed work orders, and other paper documents.

It reminds me of the early days of computing when we created electronic files, but had no means to share them easily with others. The “sneaker network” meant you copied a file onto a 1.44 MB floppy disk and then used your sneakers to walk to the other computer to copy it over. Hard to imagine in today’s networked world, to be sure. Components of the digital workplace for field service are designed to overcome these geographic challenges. The keystone in any field service management solution is the mobility application that allows the physically dispersed workforce to access dispatch assignments, view work orders, review site history, capture time spent on each job, and to transmit information to and from the office effortlessly. Amazingly, tens of thousands of dollars can be saved by taking this first, relatively simple step.

Additional benefits can be realized by looking at solutions that leverage cloud computing to lower IT overhead, provide tight integrations to back office systems that reduce or eliminate paper-based processes (payroll, anyone?), and deliver additional functionality like field quoting or a customer portal to capture even more revenue and enhance the customer experience. So, do not shy away from the opportunity to begin your own journey to the digital workplace.

Think about it in the context of your specific business and don’t get overwhelmed by the pundits and prognosticators that describe a future state that appears so complex you don’t want to even take the first step. Yes, make sure your potential solution provider has a forward-looking architecture. Sure, talk to them about their ability to integrate augmented reality and the Internet of Things. But more importantly, figure out who can help you take that first step, or two, will allow you drive efficiency and additional revenue, and can join you as a trusted partner to continue the transformation in a practical and manageable way – now, and well into the future. 

FIELDCONNECT’S NEWEST FIELD SERVICE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS ARE FULLY INTEGRATED WITH OFFICE 365 AND LEVERAGE POWER APPS, POWER BI, MICROSOFT TEAMS, OUTLOOK, AND MORE. WANT TO TRULY IMPROVE VISIBILITY AND COMMUNICATIONS ACROSS ALL YOUR CUSTOMER-FACING DEPARTMENTS? FIELDCONNECT IS THE ANSWER. LEARN MORE BY SCHEDULING A PHONE CALL WITH ONE OF TEAM MEMBERS HTTP://FIELDCONNECT.COM/CONTACT/

Read Part 2 – Click Here

Embedded vs. Integrated Solutions

FieldConnect has worked closely with our software partners, leveraging our 17 years of experience with these systems, to embed field service into the back office financial management system. Actions that occur in the field are written directly into the back office database – no secondary database, no other intermediary and no synching required. 

These days, as organizations work toward a unified software environment, the word “integrated” is used a lot. Integration methods vary widely and have evolved significantly over the years. Initial integration efforts were driven by the need to connect a few large, on-premise systems. These systems were large and expensive, affordable only to Global 1000-type companies. These days, companies of all sizes have substantially broader choices for their software applications, at much lower costs. Integration, however, can still be a challenge, even though the move to more SaaS applications has started to address some of these challenges. 

A word that is not used as much in these scenarios is “embedded.” That is because while integration represents one level of connectivity, embedded is a much deeper connection. Two solutions can be integrated so that they communicate with each other at some level. When these two solutions are embedded, they are no longer two solutions connected together but act more as one solution that interoperates seamlessly. 

The World of Field Service Management

This is an important distinction in the world of field service management, and one where FieldConnect distinguishes itself. Levels of integration vary widely, depending on how well software vendors and their development resources have worked together. While some integrations fulfill their objectives, the worst-case scenario for integration involves an intermittent connection, sometimes referred to as “synching,” to achieve their goal. Where the objective is to have seamless integration between field-based capabilities and back-office systems, synching does not fulfill that objective. 

Now that smartphones are so common, most of us are familiar with synching scenarios. This is the process of downloading the latest operating system, or application, or game. Or perhaps the way that we move data from an old phone to a new one. More than a few of these synching scenarios go sideways, resulting in an incomplete download, a loss of data, or data being reorganized in a way that requires additional effort to get it all in the right place. The causes can be many – loss of a connection, software version incompatibility, or inexplicable glitches caused by disruptions in the synching process. 

FieldConnect has worked closely with our software partners, leveraging our 17 years of experience with these systems, to embed field service into the back office financial management system. Actions that occur in the field are written directly into the back office database – no secondary database, no other intermediary and no synching required. 

So, as you evaluate potential field service solutions, be cognizant of the fact that “integration” is a spectrum of connectivity that has the potential to negatively impact your ability to effectively link field mobility applications with back office systems. If you choose an “embedded” solution, you can be confident that the two systems will work as one harmonious approach to delivering the results that you expect from implementing these enabling technologies.