8 Ways Technology Can Improve Field Service Productivity
Many customers share that improving field service productivity is one of the primary drivers for manufacturers choosing to implement a new field service solution — and it makes perfect sense.
Field service technicians are often held up when dealing with customer issues or forced to drive back and forth from the office to the client due to process inefficiencies. This means that rather than service new customers or optimize existing customer relationships, technicians waste important time and resources on non-revenue-generating activities. If a team of 10 technicians who work 250 days a year could guarantee at least one new service call per day, it would equate to 2,500 orders fulfilled per year.
A field service solution can lead to field service optimization, which can improve productivity in a number of key ways. Let’s look at a few.
1. Dispatch the Right Technician With the Right Parts
One way to dramatically increase service call efficiency is to ensure that the right technician is dispatched with the right parts for the job, though this is often easier said than done. Without a clear understanding of what tools and equipment they need to complete a repair or perform an installation, a technician might find themselves making multiple unnecessary trips. A field service solution can help cut down on this back-and-forth by showing technicians which parts they need prior to heading to the customer’s location.
How does it do this, you ask?
Field service optimization software looks at a list of all of the service orders scheduled to be completed that day and, based on the specific details of each order, presents technicians with a list of corresponding parts. A technician can then cross-check this list with the parts in their vehicle to ensure that they have everything they need before they leave the shop.
For example, imagine that a customer calls in with an overheating issue on a piece of equipment your company manufactures. This is a common issue, one that usually is resolved by replacing the thermostat. Before one of your technicians heads out to handle the service order, they check your field service solution and see that they’ll need a thermostat and a gasket to complete the repair. The technician then checks their truck, sees that they have a thermostat, but no gasket, and pulls a gasket from your inventory before leaving to meet the customer.
2. Provide Access to Equipment Schematics
Although the goal is to always have the necessary parts for any service order readily available in your inventory, this isn’t always possible. Invariably, there will come a time when one of your technicians diagnoses a problem, only to find out that the part they need to complete the repair isn’t in their truck. If the technician is unsure whether this particular part is still in stock, they’ll likely call the parts department for more information, using the number from the malfunctioning part to find a new one to replace it.
This can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, one that field service solutions attempt to make easier by enabling technicians to access schematics, parts breakdowns, technical bulletins, and more, all from their mobile device. With a field service solution, technicians can easily identify parts numbers and locate items in stock by referencing equipment schematics, thereby improving field service productivity.
3. Make Time for Field Service Forecasting & Capacity Planning
Although even the most advanced field service solution can’t predict every outcome, it can make it far easier to plan ahead. Predictability is central to the success of any business and enables field service departments to more effectively plan for projected demand. Field service optimization software identifies service trends and creates predictive models based on historical data collected from IoT-connected equipment. Your field service team can then use this information to forecast the volume of future service requests, as well as engage in capacity planning in order to allocate resources more efficiently.
Forecasting and capacity planning eliminates much of the guesswork traditionally associated with field service, thereby reducing costs related to insufficient or surplus resources, as well as enabling your technicians to be more proactive in administering repairs.
4. Route Technicians More Efficiently
Fuel and labor costs can really run up the bill on a service order; therefore, it’s in a manufacturer’s best interest to ensure that technicians take the fastest and shortest routes to their destinations. A field service solution can map the most efficient route between the shop and the job site, so technicians can reduce their travel time. For example, field service optimization software can interface with GPS to give technicians turn-by-turn directions and help them avoid heavily trafficked routes.
5. Make Sure Your Technicians Are on Schedule
There was once a time when customers were content to wait hours — or, in some cases, a full day — for a technician to arrive and service a piece of equipment, but no longer. Today’s customer expects you to value their time, which means you can’t afford to leave scheduling up to chance. Modern field service solutions can provide a unified view of open work orders, technicians’ skill sets, and available resources, so you can assign the right technician and the right resources to the right job.
Field service optimization software also makes it easy for customers to monitor the status of their repair. Rather than wait hours for their technician to show up, a field service solution can quote a customer with the exact time by which to expect their technician; the customer can then use mobile functionality to track their technician’s current location in real time using GPS. This mobile support benefits technicians, as well, because it enables them to check their schedule throughout the day and to ensure that they’re on time for service appointments.
6. Diagnose Issues More Quickly With Service History Insight
Working with a field service solution enables technicians to diagnose issues more quickly by holistically viewing all of the equipment at a location, as well as the service history of each piece of equipment, including previous service tickets, technician’s notes, and meter readings. This information is valuable because it drastically reduces the amount of time a technician spends troubleshooting.
For example, let’s say you sent a technician out to work on a battery that was not charging on a piece of equipment. Using your company’s field service solution, your technician was able to see that the battery was replaced just two months ago by another technician due to the same issue. Based on this information, the technician decides to look at the battery cables and alternator to see if there are any additional problems that are preventing the battery from charging. By accessing a piece of equipment’s service history, technicians not only improve their field service productivity — they’re also more likely to administer a successful repair on the first try, thereby increasing your company’s first-time fix rate (FTFR).
7. Gain Greater Visibility Into Pricing
A field service solution can also help technicians accurately quote service costs to customers.
One of the last clients I worked with had a process for quoting service costs in which the technician would figure out what the problem was and then call headquarters to get a quote for the parts and labor. Someone back at HQ would have to pull the customer’s service-level agreement (SLA) out of a filing cabinet and read through it to determine the price. As you can imagine, this process was not only inefficient but led to major discrepancies between what the customer was charged from one visit to the next. Sometimes the technician would charge the customer more than was outlined in their SLA, which led to customer dissatisfaction, and sometimes they would charge less, which negatively affected the company’s bottom line.
With a field service management solution, a technician can pull up a customer’s SLA on their smartphone or tablet.
Whether you charge by time and materials or a flat fee for service as determined by customer agreements and pricing policies, field service optimization software ensures that customers consistently receive an accurate quote. After implementing a field service solution, my client saw an increase in field service productivity because their technicians don’t have to call into the office to get a quote for a service; they also saw an increase in service revenue because they no longer undercharge for service.
If you really want to boost your bottom line with accurate pricing, look for a field service solution with built-in asset and warranty management capabilities. Such a solution makes it easier to classify assets, track warranties against assets, and ensure that service and billing conform to warranty conditions, thereby reducing the risk of warranty leakage.
8. Build a More Loyal Customer Base
Customer loyalty is a precious currency in the world of field service, one that cannot be acquired simply by using the latest technology or having a high FTFR. In order to earn customers’ loyalty, your entire field service department must work together to create an exceptional customer experience, one that is more than the sum of its parts.
In order to do so, your team must not only provide fast and efficient service but also engage with the customer in a meaningful way at every stage of their journey, from when they file a service order to when they schedule an appointment to when their equipment is actually serviced and beyond. A field service solution equips administrators, dispatchers, and technicians alike with the data, tools, and insights they need to understand the unique requirements of each customer and each job, thereby exceeding expectations and earning customers’ loyalty.
Optimize for Efficiency With Hitachi Solutions
There are more benefits — and additional returns on investment — to implementing field service optimization software than those you see here.
Whether you’re in the market for your first field service solution or are looking to make a switch and want to discover the end-to-end functionality of a newer solution, the team at Hitachi Solutions is here to help. With Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service and Hitachi Solutions’ leading industry IP, we offer solutions designed to address the unique needs of field service departments everywhere. Our unified systems enable businesses such as yours to increase customer satisfaction with:
- Intelligent scheduling
- Native mobile support
- Remote asset monitoring
- IoT data collection and analytics
- And more
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of embracing digital transformation and moving to an outcome-based service model, check out our free webinar on the subject. And, if you have any questions about which field service solution would work best for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us.