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Integrating Parts Data into Field Service Scheduling

The first-time fix rate is arguably the most important metric for a field service organization (FSO). Like an olympic athlete’s technical marks, it’s a singular assessment of multiple performance areas — technician skill level, logistical acuity, mission-readiness, and so forth.

The most competitive FSOs have average first time fix rates in the neighborhood of 89 percent, which means technicians only have to make a follow-up visit for 11 percent of all service calls. And yet, customer complaints continue to revolve around unresolved issues. I.e. you didn’t fix what you were supposed to fix. Even for these top performing FSOs, 11 percent constitutes more than a few disgruntled customers. Not to mention, the average cost per dispatch ranges from $150 to $1,000.

If you want to improve your first-time fix rate, you need to give your technicians the knowledge and resources to finish each job correctly. Parts (asset components, tools, equipment) are one of the most obvious resources that can eliminate unnecessary visits. Just as a chef can’t successfully bake a quiche without the right ingredients, your mobile workers can’t deliver effective service without the needed parts. And what better way to allocate job-specific parts than by building parts inventory into your job scheduling workflow?

If your company still relies on manual or paper-based scheduling tools, this change will require a lot of extra steps, and even then, it can be difficult to manage in real time. If you’re using field service management software, on the other hand, you’ll have a much easier time making the new configuration. Most solutions can integrate parts and service scheduling by:

  1. Using remote diagnostics and analytical tools to determine which parts will be needed for the call
  2. Giving dispatchers access inventory data across warehouses, trucks, and individual technicians, and the ability to order new parts when necessary
  3. Using advanced algorithms to optimize job scheduling based on real-time part locations/availability (such as ServicePower’s “Simulated Annealing” process)
  4. Adjusting inventory data as parts are allocated to scheduled jobs (sometimes referred to as “parts scheduling”)
  5. Giving workers the ability to locate, update, and order parts from the field, usually through a mobile field service app

Here are some key benefits of integrating parts data into your scheduling process:

Bring the right parts to the job: If you’re scheduling service calls based solely upon job type and geolocation data, many of your workers will arrive unprepared and unequipped. Parts and scheduling integration, on the other hand, ensures that each technician has the necessary resources to deliver a first-time fix. And of course, better service call preparedness will translate to better service level agreement compliance.

Smart scheduling: Parts integration is often part of a broader field service automation called “smart scheduling,” which is a dynamic process driven by variables such as route optimization, agent skill level and availability, urgency level, and parts allocation. Field service management software can also dispatch technicians based on whether or not they already have specific parts on their van. This simplifies logistics and operations.

Proactive inventory management: When you attach parts data to service calls as they come in (rather than when the part is actually used), you can maintain a better real-time understanding of inventory levels. Instead of being cleaned out by an unexpected request, you can anticipate shortages and reorder common parts before they reach zero. That means better overhead management for your company and shorter service interruptions for your customers.

Make realistic promises: It’s nice to be able to promise solutions to your customers, but it’s nicer to promise they’ll be delivered in a specific window of time, and it’s even better when you actually follow through. Parts scheduling is a big part of that. If you tell a client or customer you’ll have their problem resolved in less than 24 hours, but it turns out you need to special order a part that takes three to five business days to arrive, your company’s reliability and reputation may be called into question.

Integrating parts data with service scheduling is about providing what is necessary in order to eliminate that which is unnecessary — follow-up visits, service interruptions, disputes, lost customers . . . you get the idea. It’s a crucial aspect of field service effectiveness, and by extension, customer satisfaction. As famous basketball coach John Wooden (and every father who’s ever lived) said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

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