Today, field service organizations are no longer seen as just cost centers, but as the best and sometimes only customer touch point, post-sale. So, it’s critical to get field service right. New technologies have impacted field service greatly, as have customers and the Millennial workforce. Field service has recognized that it needs to become more customer centric, proactive in providing service through utilization of IoT and M2M, and maximize the new business opportunities each of these brings, including new sales and improved customer service levels through higher first time fix rates.
However, fundamentally, a workforce management software solution is the cornerstone on which the success of the operations relies.
Field service management or workforce management software differ greatly, though.
There are generally considered to be three types of scheduling approaches:
- Basic scheduling - Managers build and manage a schedule manually, which is labor-intensive and rarely considers travel automatically, and uses no logic to decide the best tech or the best place on a schedule for a job.
- Automated/Simple Rules-Based Scheduling - Some schedule automation is used in simple, rules based systems, including computerized logic which automatically builds a schedule. This kind of scheduling determines if the field tech has the right skills, and fills an open slot on the schedule. There is less manual intervention, but no reshuffling of existing jobs to achieve a less costly schedule.
- Intelligent Route Optimization - The schedule is built automatically based on complex optimization algorithms, to minimize overall costs, maximize service delivery margins, reduce response times and improve customer satisfaction. The algorithm ensures that best field tech is assigned, but also moves the job around on the schedule in order to create the least amount of drive time, continuously, all day long.
It’s imperative to pick the best approach for your field service operation, since the solution greatly impacts your cost structure as well as your ability to deliver service. Consider the following factors when choosing the right solution for your business.
- What’s your budget?
- FSM solutions vary greatly in terms of cost. Determine if a license or transactional SaaS model is best for your organization.
- Is your business complex or simple and static?
- The more complex your business, the more important true optimization software is. It takes true intelligent route optimization logic to create the least costly schedules, while also delivering the best levels of customer service.
- What are your goals for the software?
- Are your goals simple or complex? If all you require is a solution just a level higher than a white board, simple manual calendaring software might work for you. However, as soon as your businesses steps across the line, whether that be in terms of job volume or schedule complexity, you must move to intelligent route optimization.
- What are your security requirements for customer, employee and business data?
- Security is a consideration for any enterprise which uses software. In this age of hackers and identity theft, you must pick a solution that ensures your data is safe. You don’t want your name in the local headlines the same way federal government has been lately.
- What key performance indicators are critical to measure? What is the baseline data? What are the metrics for success?
- You cannot measure success if first you don’t decide prior to the implementation what KPIs indicate success. You also can’t measure success without baseline data to measure improvements against. Measurement of KPIs are so critical, and so often missed.
- Must the solution be a cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS) product or are you capable of deploying and maintaining the software on premise?
- To SaaS or not to SaaS? The answer is totally based on whether you want to deploy and manage an on premise solution or rely on vendor expertise to take that headache, and security concerns off your plate. There are also differences in the way you financially account for one versus the other. In fact, the industry as a whole is moving away from this really being a decision anymore. Increasingly cloud or SaaS is simply assumed.
- What back office systems must the workforce management solution integrate with to provide office and field based resources access to all the necessary information and processes to get in and out in a single visit?
- Increasing first time fix rates require that your field based technicians come prepared with not just the skills and parts anticipated, but that their connected mobile devices include enterprise mobility software that enables to do all tasks, as well as access in office experts, right from your customer’s location. So, decide during the implementation what data, other software and people they need to access while on site so you can create the processes to support them.
- How will you integrate the application? Do you employ the appropriate IT resources or will you require an integration partner?
- Determine if you can support the integration yourself of if you need someone else to do the heavy lifting. Engage your FSM vendor if you need system integration help so that they can recommend a partner familiar with their solution.
- How will you train staff? Later, how will you enforce utilization and compliance in using the software? Hidden factories can be cost suckers if not identified and corrected.
- Don’t forget the training and performance management. It takes leadership and time for your staff to trust the solution. It takes oversight to ensure it’s used like it was intended to be used.
- How will you continuously update the software to modify it to changes in your business, or take advantage of new features?
- Take advantage of experts on your FSM partner. Stay abreast of new releases and most importantly changes in your own business. Ask for advice in adapting and updating the software to suit both today and tomorrow’s needs and new technologies.
As your field service organization adapts to the new models of customer centricity, proactivity and maintenance, IoT and M2M, you must address how to build a foundation strong enough to maximize new business opportunities and improved customer service levels. These ten questions are ‘must ask’ for any field service operation to succeed.
Download our Latest White Paper - The Evolution: Creating a Customer Centric Operation