Defining End to End field service: Part Two – Right engineer, right place, right tools at the right time
End to end field service was one of the biggest buzz phrases heard across the past year and there is good reason for the movement as at each step of the field service cycle there is an opportunity to streamline your workflow…
In the first part of this series we looked at the technology that can be put in place to aid taking the request for service including web-chat, call centres and web based self-help solutions. Now in the second part of the series we focus on how technology can help us ensure we get the right engineer, to the right job at the right time…
Whether it be via call centre agent notes or customer provided information on a self-help portal, the one key focus of all of the should be to collect enough information to allow the effective dispatch of a field service engineer (or engineers depending on the task) with the correct qualifications to the job whilst simultaneously ordering any required parts so the engineer has everything at his disposal required to resolve the issue on the first call out.
Therefore it is absolutely critical that you can move this information from a to b as seamlessly and painlessly as possible.
Your organisation may well operate an ERP system that was designed to achieve this and this will sit at the heart of your businesses systems including the service elements.
We are transitioning from one generation of technology to the next and one of the major balancing acts we must undertake is ensuring compatibility with legacy systems as we upgrade certain programmes or modules.
Employing dedicated system integrators to tailor software to fit within your existing framework can be an expensive process. Indeed research by Field Service News showed that well over a third (38%) of companies faced issues with integrating software with their legacy systems.
The good news however is that more and more software providers are focussing on integration solutions as they roll out their next gen solutions.
Take for example Solarvista NET a key component in the software providers latest suite of solutions and is a technology that’s designed to enable connection both to Solarvista 8 but also other systems in a manner that’s flexible, reliable, secure.
And as integration issues are minimised it will become that much easier to configure a system that is tailored to your individual organisational needs. However for most service organisations there are generally three fundamental functions that need to be considered.
These are the ability to schedule your workforce to get the right engineer to the right appointments, the ability to manage your assets and order parts as required and the ability to manage and view your contracts.
The most important aspect of your field service operation is of course your field engineers. They are almost certainly one of your biggest costs as well so managing them effectively is vital if you are going to operate a service division as a profit centre rather than a cost drain on the wider business.
Sending an under qualified engineer or an engineer without the tools required to complete the repair not only causes a delay in resolving your customer’s issue but also represents a days labour cost simply thrown away.
for any business it is important to have as many staff as possible in customer facing roles where they can potentially contribute to revenue streams.
Therefore it makes good economic sense to have fewer resources dedicated to the back office dispatch and more allocated to the field.
This is where the inclusion of a modern scheduling engine is absolutely critical. Research by Field Service News identified that almost half (49%) of companies still using manual processes to dispatch their field engineers were able to manage just 5 field engineers per dispatcher. The same research showed that an average ratio of engineers to dispatchers in companies using any form of scheduling was 16:1.
Basically the introduction of scheduling engines resulted in an improvement in dispatch productivity of at least 300%.
There are a number of different types of scheduling available and the type that is right for your organisation is dependent on a number of factors, for large organisations with many hundreds if not thousands of engineers then an optimised solution maybe preferred.
For those companies with smaller mobile workforces then perhaps a simpler assisted scheduling solution may fit the bill.
For example Solarvista offer both solutions however at 80% more expensive they will only recommend their fully optimised solution to those companies who they believe will truly benefit from the solution
For example Solarvista offer both solutions however at 80% more expensive they will only recommend their fully optimised solution to those companies who they believe will truly benefit from the solution.
Whichever level of optimisation you select however, your scheduling system should be able to collate data from both your workforce’s skill sets and your customers requirements and either make recommendations or optimise a day’s schedule accordingly.
What is certain though is that whiteboards, post-it notes and Exel spread sheets simply won’t cut the mustard anymore.
Asset Management/Parts Ordering:
Of course getting the right engineer to the right job is all well and good but it becomes a moot exercise if he doesn’t have the parts required to complete his task.
The next vital element within a service management solution is being able to both track your existing assets and also to easily order parts not in your existing inventory.
As well as being a key factor in helping achieve the field service nirvana of first time fix rates there is also another highly important reason such functionality is a crucial part of a service management solution.
From a business perspective tying up funds in unnecessary inventory either in a depot or worse in the back of your engineers’ vans places an unnecessary burden on cash flow also.
The third element that is essential for almost every field service organisation within a service management solution is contract management.
This again has a two-fold importance.
On the one hand clear understanding of your service agreement with each customer is absolutely critical to ensure that you are not giving away valuable service offerings outside of your agreed SLAs. The flip side of this of course the same insight also provides clear upsell opportunities.
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