The global workforce is changing, and certain industries, such as field services, will feel those changes more than others. As the workforce ages and newer generations see the workplace differently, companies in some industries will struggle to fill massive employment holes. To do so, they’ll have to look beyond traditional employer-employee models.
According to a recent Korn Ferry report, Future of Work: The Global Talent Crunch, by 2030 the U.S. alone could experience unrealized revenue of $1.748 trillion due to labor shortages, the equivalent to 6% of its entire economy. Traditional approaches to hiring won’t address these gaps. In fact, analysts at advisory firm Gartner predict that by this year more than 40% of field-service work will be performed by third-party technicians, not full-time employees.
Using third-party technicians will become the new normal for OEMs of consumer appliances, extended warranty underwriters and others who rely on field services. Managing this rapidly growing, but very different workforce will become mission critical over the next decade and beyond. In this blog, we examine the challenges forward-looking organizations face as they manage distributed workforces of third-party service providers.
Managing Highly Distributed Workforces
With a massive, geographically distributed workforce, starting off a busy week of assignments and priorities isn’t easy. For each assignment, critical steps must be undertaken to ensure provider reimbursement, proper incident resolution and, of course, customer satisfaction. The technicians accepting these assignments are vital to the business, but they aren’t employees. They work for themselves.
Any inefficiencies in this distributed model can mushroom, eroding service margins and negatively affecting consumer experiences with a brand. What’s more, a poorly managed field services operation misses valuable opportunity to consolidate learnings about product incidents and upsell opportunities – in the past, that information would have made its way back to a central location with the technician.
What are the most common challenges organizations face with a distributed workforce? Below are what we hear most from companies deploying third-party technicians.
Lack of Job Status Visibility - When dispatching jobs to contractors, managers can lose visibility into the job status of each incident. Without regular updates, it’s difficult to know when a technician is scheduled to start a job, when they arrive at a customer location and when the job is completed. If a job is deferred or canceled, you may not know immediately. By the time the status is reported, it’s often too late to take corrective action, which leads to increased costs and frustrated customers. This problem is easily solved, however, using detailed job-status reports that provide real-time visibility into the progress of jobs and - more important - make it possible to update customers immediately of any status changes.
Background Checks - Because customers are trusting third-party technicians to work in their homes, each individual must be thoroughly vetted. The onboarding process needs to include comprehensive criminal background checks, drug and health screenings and identity verifications, all of which can be supported by automated processes that ensure no steps – or issues – are missed.
Skills and Licensing - It can be challenging to find technicians with the right experience, technical knowledge, accreditations and certifications relevant to a specific brand and all its makes and models. Having all this information compiled, verified and available in advance benefits both the technician and the field operations teams, ensuring that the person entering the home is best suited for that job.
Geographic Coverage - Most OEMs and underwriters service customers across multiple geographies, including remote rural areas. Supporting customers in these remote areas is especially challenging, and potentially more costly, so it becomes increasingly important to have an easy way to identify and dispatch multiple technicians across key zip codes.
Capacity and Availability - Third-party contractors control their schedules, and it can be challenging to manage their availability and capacity to accept incoming jobs. This directly impacts customer expectations and service level agreements. Establishing specific availability windows and aligning that with technician capacity across designated service areas provides a level of certainty that is as good for the technicians as it is for the customers they service.
Claims and Payments - Reimbursement to third parties for parts and labor expenses incurred during service jobs is complex, and delays and errors benefit neither the technician nor the OEM or service company. Having a consistent process for submitting and processing claims can help intercept and resolve invalid claims and quickly address other issues that can delay payment to third-parties and prevent satisfactory closing of a service job.
Liability Coverage - Like any business, third-party service providers must carry liability insurance, so it’s vital to know whether they are covered by 1099 contractor policies. This protects all parties and ensures compliance with relevant industry regulations. Best practice is to periodically perform compliance checks to confirm that general liability and other insurances are applicable and up to date.
Leveraging Technology to Tackle the Challenges Efficiently
The focus areas above are critical for efficient and effective management of a distributed workforce, but it’s important to take a platform approach. When managed in siloes or through paper-based approaches, the opportunity for error, miscommunication, confusion and frustration is magnified. On the other hand, using technology to manage and streamline the work of third-party contractors is good for the OEM or service company as well as the field service teams they employ.
As the field services industry evolves, third parties are becoming a first priority. Dispatching, reimbursing and managing these critical resources is as important as sales, marketing and other functions. And each of these functions has been transformed by technology over the past decade or more. Third-party field service technicians are frontline representatives for a brand, and this is not the area to cut corners, especially as the skill-gap widens and these individuals become more important than ever.
To learn more about the importance of third-party workforces and how to get the most from your investment in the, please see our white paper, “The Future Is Now: Why Third-Party Workforces are No Longer an Option.” You can also learn more about ServicePower’s intelligent third-party service provider management solutions by scheduling a software demo today.