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Defining End to End field service: Part Four

Feb 3 • Features, Future of FIeld Service, Software and Apps • 3314 Views • No Comments on Defining End to End field service: Part Four

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In this series we are tackling the topic of end to end field service and exploring the technology options across each stage of the service call lifecycle.

In part one we looked at taking that request, and in part two we focused on getting the right engineer to the right place at the right time.

Last time around we looked at selecting the right hardware for your field engineers and now in this the final feature in this series we look at what considerations should be put in place around the software we put on those devices.

There is also an accompanying white paper to this series which is available to download here

 

Tools to do the job  – Software

Having selected the device to empower your field engineers the next step is to select the right mobile software to make the most of that hardware.

Whilst there has been great strides forward with cross platform HTML5 applications a strong argument lies within a ‘native’ app approach where the application is specifically designed to work alongside your device’s operating system (OS).

A strong argument lies within a ‘native’ app approach where the application is specifically designed to work alongside your device’s operating system (OS).

A  strong argument lies within a ‘native’ app approach where the application is specifically designed to work alongside your device’s operating system (OS).Not only do native apps tend to be on the whole more aesthetically in line with the devices OS and therefore more intuitive for a user familiar with the OS but they are also able to take more advantage of the device’s capability – for example Near Field Communication.

There are of course numerous field service apps on the market, and as with office based systems the option to either sit within one platform or select a third party app is open to you. However, as with back office systems integration to your core ERP system is absolutely vital.

The whole point of moving your field workers onto a mobile device is to streamline processes and therefore communication between your office system and your team in the field must also be seamless.

As with all of the discussions so far again understanding your field engineers workflow is at the core of successfully selecting a mobile app that enhances your field service engineers productivity.

However, a few of the more common requirements for field engineers include:

Health and safety regulations:

Whilst your field engineers may undertake the appropriate steps to ensure they are working safely each and every time they tackle a job.

For example an electrician knows to turn off the main power to a house before he changes a light fitting – he certainly wouldn’t forget to do it more than once!

However, by locking an app until the ‘switch mains off’ box is checked not only prompts your field engineer but also ensures he and your company are confirming to health and safety regulations.

Similarly there are stringent regulations in place regarding loan workers, so many field service apps have necessary steps in place to ensure your loan working field engineers are both safe and complying with these regulations.

Knowledge Bases

Perhaps one of the most valuable tools you can arm your field service engineers with is access to a wider knowledge base.

This can range from information on the device they have been sent to repair – it’s previous fault history for example, through to knowledge bases with videos and articles that describe faults the engineer may never have come across before, through to video conferencing where the engineer on the job is able to discuss a problem he is unable to resolve with a more experienced engineer in real time – something that is particularly useful for organisations who are servicing devices in remote locations for example.

Access to parts ordering and contracts

Whilst in an ideal world the diagnosis of the issue would have been made in the initial stages of arranging a service call, in reality in many instances the field service engineer will find the right solution is something different upon arrival at the site.

In this instance it is absolutely essential that he has clear visibility into spare parts inventory and has the ability to order the parts needed if required.

Having to go back to the office and go through a separate chain to get these parts means further frustration for your customer and wasted time and resources for your company.

Similarly if they need to carry work that exceeds a normal maintenance contract – for example if the device he has been sent out to repair has been used beyond it’s normal working parameters, then it is vital he has an understanding of the level of cover the contract offers. Remember a field engineer’s main focus is making things work again and he will be under pressure from your customers when on site. The last thing he will be thinking of is ‘is this covered by there SLA’. Unless of course it is clearly highlighted in front of him.

A customer falling out of warranty is perhaps the easiest sell a company can have when the engineer is on site – as long as the engineer can show clear evidence that the repair falls out of the agreed contract.

This also leads us on to the next element, the ability to either communicate with the sales team or create sales directly from the field.

A customer falling out of warranty is perhaps the easiest sell a company can have when the engineer is on site – as long as the engineer can show clear evidence that the repair falls out of the agreed contract.

If the engineer can simply add the charge onto the clients account there and then so he can go about resolving the issue then the sales process becomes both simple and effective.

Similarly as a trusted adviser the field service engineer is in a great position to upsell.

“I’ve fixed the problem with your printer and noticed your running low on toner and will probably run out within a week – shall I order some more for you” is one simple example and 99 times out of 100 the customer will surely say yes.

Order approval:

A critical functionality of any field service mobile app is to approve the work as soon as it is done.

By giving your field engineers the ability to have customers acknowledge the work carried out and having this data instantly recorded in your back office system you are not only able to gather information on your field service engineers productivity but also have clear documentation of your work being approved should any dispute arise between you and your customers.

Communicating back to HQ:

Of course order approval is not the only metric you can assess your field engineers  productivity on. Every interaction the field engineer makes with the app provides the opportunity for further data collection on both the engineer themselves and the customer.

For example – is the engineer spending longer on each job than is average amongst his peers – in which case is training required? What about the travel between each job? Is he taking longer than expected? Or is regularly making journeys in less time than you would expect – perhaps indicating he is driving over the speed limit?

Is the engineer spending longer on each job than is average amongst his peers – in which case is training required?

What insight does he have into your customers? Has there been a change in personnel since the last company visit? Can your engineer update the CRM system? Perhaps anecdotally he hears that your customers are thinking of expanding – can he arrange for a member of the sales team to come and speak with your customer about how you can ease that process?

What about the device he’s working on? Is he seeing common faults at each customer he visits?

Could this result in a design improvement if fed back into R&D?

Important data is everywhere and there are few better equipped to collect it than a field service engineer. Giving them the right tools to transmit that data to the place it has most value is a crucial part of the field service mobile app.

Conclusion: Understand your engineers workflow.

As we mentioned at the very beginning of this white paper the introduction of the concept of end-to-end field service is both emerging and ill defined as yet.

it is absolutely key to develop a road map that plots your path to developing an end to end service management solution and the only place to start that road map is by stepping outside of your existing framework

What we have tried to achieve in this white paper is take you as a field service professional whether it be on the side of IT, business leadership or operations, through an end to end journey of how at each stage technology can play a part in streamlining your field service operations.

However, not only is the topic itself vast but so to are the resulting options and it is far too easy to end up making costly mistakes in such an environment.

Therefore it is absolutely key to develop a road map that plots your path to developing an end to end service management solution and the only place to start that road map is by stepping outside of your existing framework and understanding two key concepts.

Firstly what do your customers require from you in terms of service, and secondly what is your field engineers daily workflow?

Once you have an understanding of both of these questions then you are in position to build up your solution to enhance and improve these two areas.

It may seem like the longer path in the early stages, however, ultimately such an approach will take you where you need to be far more effectively.

There is also an accompanying white paper to this series which is available to download here

 

This series is sponsored by:

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