With the rush to decentralize a large range of consumer industries, the field service sector is becoming the single link between companies and consumers across a broad spectrum of product lines. Field service management (FSM) is a growth industry, expected to grow energetically in the next five years. New technologies are in rapid development. The field service industry as a whole covers everything from agriculture (including both chemical products and machinery) to IT.
Extent of the Industry:
As the use of technology expands into more homes and offices, the growth in the market for field service operations is expected to expand 160 percent over the next five years. At that rate the market is expected to reach $5.1 billion by 2020.
The means are coming to take full advantage of mobility potential in the cloud and the internet of things. All of the latest tech developments are being fitted to the needs of field services, including augmented reality transmission and virtual reality. Field service workers are expected to increasingly make use of all the new technologies that will allow companies to improve the speed and effectiveness of their service operations. Fast and effective field service is often what makes the important connection between company and customer.
Improving management training: Field service is a fairly self-contained sector. Field service managers are usually promoted from among the technical staff. Managers take on a host of personnel management duties as well as logistical responsibilities they may not have experience or training in. Logistical functions involve control of the supply chain, timing, location, supply, on-time delivery in a complex and moving business environment. Field service managers rarely have an inkling of how that works, and learn topsy-turvy on the job. This training gap represents a challenge.
Improving customer relations training: Technical support is the heart of the field service industry. Most field service operations involve installation, troubleshooting and repair. However, there is an important customer service component to field service. Many technically trained professionals do not have systematic access to customer relations skills. Often technical focus and customer service are at opposite poles of the human personality spectrum. The customer relations side of the field service industry represents an area of challenge.
Dealing with lone workers: The field service industry is alone in the fact that its entire structure almost always involves lone workers, who are in the field nearly all of the time. Many companies employ lone workers for special functions, but field services are unique in that their entire organization is composed of lone workers. Lone workers have communications needs, hazard and safety operations needs, legal restriction issues, bonding and trust issues, and issues of social isolation. These challenges are widely recognized both in business practice and in law.
Quality control: Having a team of solitary technically trained workers operating in the interest of a company creates unique personnel management, supervisory and quality control needs. Organizations need unique systems of metrics to monitor their success and control quality. The technical management side of the industry looks at metrics like:
Input variables like:
- Number of calls employees make per day.
- Mileage and time measures.
- Expenses incurred.
- Material and equipment costs.
Output variables like:
- Percentage of service calls leading to successful repair.
- Customer satisfaction metrics.
- Renewed contracts.
- Income from services.
- Profit against overhead.
Updating management software: In the face of all the complexity in field service management, the administrative outline of field service operations is still conceived as a species of outside sales. Many field service operations are managed with the company's Customer Relations Software (CRM) systems. According to marketing author Joanna Rotter,
"While current CRM software excels in areas like marketing, sales, and customer acquisition, it is unable to perform many of the functions necessary for the best-in-class field service organization. Gaining new customers and maintaining old is important, but as a field service organization, you must make sure you save money and retain customers by performing well. Not only do you need an organized sales strategy, you also need to make sure things run smoothly in your office and in the field."
CRM systems fall short in areas of logistics--which workers are nearest the site of needed work? Who is best trained for a particular repair? Which tools are needed and who has access to the tools? Few CRM systems have scheduling systems at all, let alone system that can handle complex logistics. Software like ServicePower provides mobile workforce management software with an intelligent, integrated customer portal, optimization, hybrid workforce management, and mobile tech enablement.