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What is field service management?

The integration of advanced technologies into field service management operations has sparked meaningful change in the modern-day service experience. Not only do today’s consumers expect greater efficiency and transparency; they also want – and are willing to pay a premium for – more personalized, interconnected services.  

 

 

Field service management meaning

Field service management is the system of managing a company’s field resources within the service fulfillment process. Effective field service management is the key to delivering satisfactory service experiences in today’s competitive marketplace.  

 

Modern-day consumers want to know who will arrive at their door and when, and expect the job to be done right the first time. Whether requesting a home Internet network installation or a repair on a piece of industrial machinery, customers will no longer accept five-hour arrival windows for service professionals or less-than-stellar services. And with churn rates at an all-time high, companies are under extra pressure to assure that service professionals consistently deliver top-notch customer experiences. This is crucial for retaining market share, never mind increasing it. 

Why is field service management important today?

The field service space is one of many that has seen significant change in recent years. By unlocking greater agility, resiliency, and sustainability through new technological capabilities, companies using innovative field service management solutions have fundamentally altered consumer expectations and industry standards. Like Amazon’s impact on acceptable delivery standards, modern solutions have elevated field service standards such that consumer preferences have become consumer demands.  

 

Consider how consumer expectations in the rideshare industry have changed since the inception of Uber in 2009. The seemingly ancient process of ordering a taxicab involved calling a dispatcher, providing your location, then waiting for a driver to arrive – in time, you hope, to get you where you need to be. Contrast that with the transparent, personalized, agile experience offered by rideshares and it is no wonder why consumers are expecting the same from field service providers.  

Key benefits of modern field service management solutions

Field service management solutions that leverage advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning unlock unparalleled visibility into service operations, enabling proactive and efficient service delivery.

 

Here’s how: 

  1. Improve first-time fix rates. Innovative field service management technologies use AI-based recommendations to quickly locate the best technicians in the immediate area and ascertain that the right materials are available to complete the job. Besides boosting customer satisfaction, properly completing field services on the first trip bolsters efficiency – both of energy and human resources. Through more intelligent, data-driven dispatching of field service professionals, productive time and revenue potential are maximized while operational costs are held in check.
  2. Harmonize field service processes. Integrating and harmonizing front-and back-office processes enables effective collaboration and greater visibility, a key feature of the modern field service experience enjoyed by both service providers and their customers.
  3. Reduce environmental impact. At the same time, sustainability goals can more easily be achieved by reducing the service-related carbon footprint. Better route planning, minimal return trips, visibility into fuel management: in aggregate, this will go a long way toward diminishing environmental impact.
  4. Keep customers’ assets up and running. Field service management software is a key component of enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions that use advanced technology for preventative maintenance by service providers. EAM software uses real-time insights, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced predictive analytics to enable companies to keep their assets up and running by predicting, simulating, and optimizing their performance. 

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Overcoming common challenges in field service management

As service networks grow in scale and new business models arise, field service management becomes increasingly complex and unwieldy. After all, field service operations involve not only people, but countless other factors: navigating unfamiliar territory, traffic, parts availability, jobs that take longer than anticipated. The need for  data-driven field service management solutions is apparent. These solutions, when deployed correctly, help address some of the most common challenges faced in the field operations process.

 

For example:   

  • Scheduling conflicts: Human error and time-consuming manual processes can result in double-booking technicians, scheduling an unavailable technician, or setting up appointments at the wrong time. 
  • Low first-time fix rates: Because of miscommunication about job tasks or misunderstanding of parts or time required, technicians often need to schedule return visits – a recipe for customer dissatisfaction and poor resource utilization and efficiency.  
  • Poor work order management: Inefficient workflow – typically because a centralized database and integrated processes are lacking – leads to inefficient processes and higher cost to serve. 
  • Suboptimal route planning: Technicians are not necessarily skilled at finding the best way from point A to point B and navigating unfamiliar environments, which can lead to late arrival times, wasted fuel, and unnecessary vehicle wear and tear. 
  • Communication lapses, both internally and with customers: With so many channels – text, e-mail, dispatch apps – missed messages and misunderstandings are rampant. Delays in information sharing between field workers and the central office can leave customers in the dark, literally and figuratively.  
  • Safety and liability risks: Field service involves inherent risks for technicians working in hazardous environments and even for those who are simply on the road day in and day out. Field service technicians must be confident that their employers are invested in their well-being; otherwise, they will find opportunities elsewhere.  
  • Inability to manage performance: Lack of visibility into technicians’ on-the-job performance makes it difficult to oversee their work, compare their effectiveness against goals, and provide needed support. 

How does field service management software work?

The best field service management solutions all have one thing in common: they are data-driven. Through the constant collection and AI analysis of real-time operational data, informed decisions can be made and matters that require attention can be proactively identified and addressed, often before problems emerge. 

 

That said, the use of AI in field service management goes far beyond the analysis of operational data. AI is also leveraged in scheduling, which can often be one of the biggest barriers to success in field service management. Service requests or calls can be prioritized by importance, scheduling and dispatching can be optimized in real time, and future planning can be customized. 

 

Given the paramount importance of visibility and collaboration to effective field service management, the best field service solutions provide a 360-degree view of the entire service space in dashboards and graphical reports. These provide visibility on customers, connected products, and service staff. With online and offline mobile capabilities, service technicians gain real-time access to accurate info about customer assets requiring service and parts inventory available at any time and place.   

A view of a modern field service management dashboard

Modern field service software also helps deliver fully integrated customer experiences, whether generating service reports on-site, automatically uploading invoice reports to other software systems, or sending invoices to customers automatically. 

 

This integration extends to enterprise asset management solutions. Integrating field service management and enterprise asset management (EAM) software connects the entire value chain, enabling intelligent, proactive management of the full life cycle of physical assets.   

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5 tips to improve field service operations

Data, data, and more data: data fuels insights, and insights empower business owners to make better-informed, more strategic decisions to improve internal operations and the resulting customer experiences.

 

Here are five ways in which business insights can be leveraged to improve field service operations: 

  1. Smart scheduling and dispatch management: Dispatch the right technicians with the correct tools to complete jobs on the first trip. For added efficiency, plan routes to minimize travel time for each technician. This enables them to provide the most services possible per route and lessens the fuel, time, energy, and frustration of having to go back and forth.
  2. Tight internal collaboration: Effective and efficient field services require internal collaboration that goes far beyond an individual team. Entire departments, from sales reps to technicians, must be aligned on company processes, standards of service, and customer requirements to deliver efficient service that meets and exceeds customer expectations.
  3. Proactive planning and predictive maintenance: Emergency services and the accompanying stress on everyone involved – particularly with service scheduling and technician dispatching – should be a rarity, not a common occurrence. With the use of advanced technology enabling regular preventative or predictive maintenance, you can plan ahead to the greatest extent possible to the benefit of all stakeholders.
  4. Work order management: By tracking work orders from inception to service delivery and invoicing in a smooth, seamless process, your field service operations run like a well-oiled machine.
  5. Customer-adaptive processes: Finally, remember who you are serving. The customers of today are a new breed: they have heightened expectations, communication preferences, and alternatives at their disposal should your service fall short. A fully integrated field service management solution provides the agility to adapt processes to the customer’s preferences. It helps you anticipate the customers’ requirements and ensures that they consistently receive timely updates and accurate estimates.

The future of field service management

There is no question that technology will continue to transform field service management, from process integration and the mobile-enabled technician to connected assets and predictive maintenance. Mobile solutions, already essential tools in service management, will grow in importance with more mobile-optimized connected devices. 

 

Some anticipated advancements in field service operations are as follows:

 

  • Evolving role of the service technician: Empowered with accurate information anytime, anywhere, on any asset, the service technician will become the face of professionalism for their employers. Companies will need to invest in hiring practices and training that emphasize interpersonal skills for their front-line technicians. 
  • Sharpening customer focus: As companies evolve toward the “customer-adaptive experience,” which places the customer squarely in the center of company culture, it will extend naturally to field service management. Companies will use technology to build predictive capabilities while simultaneously developing their trust. 
  • Advancing productivity gains: Predictive maintenance in field service management will continue to advance, thanks to AI support and the Internet of Things (IoT), with associated productivity gains. 
  • Transforming the business model: Augmented reality (AR) has the potential for a reimagining of the field service business model. With a real-time look at a distant environment at a customer site or manufacturing facilities, a skilled technician can troubleshoot and provide direction to another technician – whether they are a customer employee or junior colleague. In short, AR connects specialists to real-time data remotely for insight into equipment status, required replacement parts, and next steps for maintenance and repair. 

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