In today’s fast-paced field service industry, everything revolves around how quickly technicians, dispatchers, and other team members can get the job done, and get it done right. Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, field service teams are also expected to find innovative ways to safeguard both customers’ and technicians’ health and wellbeing, as well.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the major technologies currently reshaping the field service landscape are designed specifically to achieve those goals, with the added benefits of improving performance, reducing costs, personalizing service, and promoting safety.

Field service automation is one such technology.

What is Field Service Automation?

Field service automation — more commonly known as field service management — refers to the collective processes, policies, and procedures that field service organizations use to manage resources. The “automation” part of field service automation involves using technology to streamline those processes, policies, and procedures.

For example, an organization might use field service automation software to automatically pair the right technician to a job based on the work order’s requirements and the technician’s skill set. Or, an organization might use their field service automation software’s warranty management module to automatically capture and manage warranty activities, as well as to automatically submit, track, and validate all open claims.

There are numerous benefits to embracing field service automation and implementing a field service automation solution, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Less Paperwork to Process: With field service automation software, all data is stored within the solution itself in an easy to access, indexable archive. Never worry about manually filing paperwork or misplacing important information ever again — it’s all right there in a single, consolidated data repository.
  • Supercharged Technicians: Armed with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices connected to their organization’s field service automation solution, technicians can easily review work orders, parts inventories, service-level agreements (SLAs), and more, all while out in the field. And, should they need assistance diagnosing a repair, they can call into their dispatch center for more information or to ask for backup, thereby increasing their first-time fix rate.
  • Faster Invoicing: Thanks to mobility, a technician can submit all relevant details about work done, including time spent, parts and materials used, and even the client’s electronic signature to headquarters while still onsite. Once that information is received, field service automation software can automatically generate an invoice for the work done, taking into consideration discounts, warranties, and so on.
  • Real-time Scheduling: Field service automation software provides dispatchers with complete access to and visibility into technicians’ work schedules, so that they can make schedule changes and update jobs on a moment’s notice, if necessary.

For more examples of the benefits of field service automation, let’s look at how field service automation solutions help solve some of the most pressing issues in the field service industry today.

Common Field Service Challenges (and How Technology Can Solve Them) 

Every field service organization experiences pain points that, when left unchecked, can have damaging effects to the business’ bottom line. Fortunately, field service solutions can use automation to overcome these challenges, streamlining both the business and the customer experience in the process.

Problem: Technicians lack visibility into customers’ service history.

Why it matters: Without knowing what previous repairs were performed on a piece of equipment, a technician is forced to go into a job essentially blind and provide reactive, rather than proactive, or predictive, service. This reactive service reduces the likelihood of that technician delivering a first-time fix, which reflects poorly on the entire organization.

How field service solutions can help: Field service solutions provide technicians in the field with a 360-degree view of not only the customer, but also of the equipment they’re servicing, all from their smartphone or tablet. This could include a detailed log of prior service requests and work orders, as well as guidance on how to diagnose problems and administer repairs to a particular piece of equipment based on prior jobs completed.

Problem: The wrong technician is dispatched for the job.

Why it matters: The reality is that every technician within a field service organization brings a different set of skills to the table. Some technicians are more experienced than others, and some are highly specialized in terms of the work they do. If dispatch were to send a relatively novice technician, for example, to perform a complex repair, that technician might take longer to complete the job — or worse, not complete it at all. This would necessitate a follow-up visit, which would likely lead to a negative customer rating.

How field service solutions can help: Field service solutions provide dispatch centers with better visibility into the specific requirements of each service request, as well as into different technicians’ skill sets, and their scheduling availability. This level of granular insight enables dispatchers to send the right technician for the job, every time.

Problem: A technician quotes a customer the wrong price for the work completed.

Why it matters: This situation is a problem for one of two reasons: Either the technician overcharges for the work complete, upsetting the customer, which could result in loss of business. Or, they undercharge for the work completed, costing their organization much-needed income. No matter which way you slice it, any time a technician provides an inaccurate quote, someone loses.

How field service solutions can help: Field service automation software enables technicians to access customer contracts and SLAs from their smartphone or tablet so that they can see the different billing rates for various types of work and materials. This mobility also enables technicians to generate detailed and accurate invoices while still onsite by simply plugging in information about the work completed into the right fields.

Problem: A technician arrives onsite without the right parts or tools for the job.

Why it matters: It’s impossible for even the most qualified technician to deliver a first-time fix if they aren’t equipped with everything they need to get the job done.

How field service solutions can help: Organizations can use field service automation software to maintain detailed service bills of materials for each piece of equipment in their inventory, so they know which parts they need to have in stock at all times. Additionally, a technician can use their company’s field service solution to look up a service request prior to a job, see what piece of equipment they’ll be servicing, and load up their truck with the correct parts and tools to administer a repair.

Problem: A technician gets lost on their way to a work appointment.

Why it matters: Any time a technician is late to an appointment — even if it’s through no fault of their own — it makes a bad impression on the customer and leaves a poor taste in their mouth.

How field service solutions can help: Digital maps integration provides office and field staff alike with street-level mapping, route visibility, and turn-by-turn directions, so technicians always arrive at the right location, right on time. Additionally, dispatchers can use geolocation services to see which technicians are in the area. If a technician who is already out in the field is available and their skills align with the requirements of a job, a dispatcher can add that work order to the technician’s schedule rather than send someone out from headquarters, thereby saving time.

Problem: COVID-19 makes it challenging to complete home or site visits.

Why it matters: COVID-19 has created challenges when it comes to ensuring the health of your customers and team members, while work orders are executed. Technicians are expected to operate with the utmost caution and field service organizations need to find creative solutions to accommodate this new normal.

How field service solutions can help: Once a “nice-to-have” item on most field service organizations’ wish lists, remote assistance technology has become a powerful tool of  support in these trying times. A growing number of providers are experimenting with remote assist technology that enables real-time guidance and collaboration between field technicians and back-office support.

Hitachi Solutions’ Remote Assist Quick Start is a great place to start for organizations looking for help on how best to enable remote support in their organization – take a look at our offer here!

Field Service Solution Evaluation Checklist

There might not be One Solution to Rule Them All, but it is possible for field service organizations to find a solution that enables them to optimize their existing business processes, increase customer engagement, monitor key performance metrics, and increase revenue — they just need to know what to look for, first.

Organizations in the market for field service automation software should look for a solution with the following features and capabilities:

  • Mobile workforce enablement
  • A user-friendly mobile application interface
  • Simple communications tools (e.g. chat functionality)
  • Cloud-based storage
  • A consolidated data repository
  • 360-degree view of the customer
  • Dynamic, real-time, best-fit scheduling and dispatch
  • On-site invoicing
  • Connected equipment enablement
  • Map integration and GPS tracking
  • Contract and SLA management capabilities
  • Asset and warranty management capabilities
  • Inventory management capabilities
  • Customer and subcontractor vendor portals
  • Resource tracking and performance management capabilities

It’s a lengthy list of requirements, to be sure, but the right solution will provide all of that, and then some.

Hitachi Solutions Field Service Automation

When it comes to field service automation software, Hitachi Solutions knows a thing or two.

Hitachi Solutions leverages the power and scalability of the Microsoft cloud platform – from field service to IoT – to help organizations reduce response times, lower costs, improve first-time fix rates, increase customer satisfaction and more. Find out how Hitachi Solutions can help you optimize your field service organization through automation today by contacting us directly.