Do Social Bubbles Show the Way for Service Bubbles Post Covid-19?

As our industry is desperately seeking avenues to return to normality, FieldAware’s COO Steve Mason brings to the table an interesting solution…


As businesses continue to evolve their operating practices in the age of Covid-19, service organizations worldwide are resuming their operations in response to relaxed lockdown measures. In many locations, the introduction of Track and Trace protocols enables authorities to identify who a positive COVID-19 person has been in close contact. Once identified, they instruct exposed individuals to self-isolate and to get tested themselves. These new measures aggressively limit the exposure to COVID-19 and enable the suppression of uncontrolled virus breakouts.    


As part of reopening plans, many countries have successfully implemented Social Bubbles. In these “bubbles,” individuals agree to only have contact with a small group of others and practice social distancing with everyone else. The idea is to break transmission chains so that nobody within the bubble gets infected or, importantly, if somebody within the bubble is infected, the number of people to test is smaller and the virus is not transmitted into the wider population.


So, what does Track and Trace and Social Bubbles have to do with field service and service organizations? 


At the heart of field service is the delivery of work to customers at commercial facilities, private homes, or in open, often public, locations. This necessary public interaction creates an environment where field techs have a higher propensity to come into proximity with infected COVID-19 contacts. The result and impact on service organizations:


  • A customer becomes infected, and the field resources that have been in close contact with that customer are part of the Track and Trace investigation.
  • The tech becomes infected themselves, and the Track and Trace investigation includes other service team members and the customers they interacted with while providing service.


Either scenario creates an inevitable event that your field resources will have to self-isolate due to the evolving Track and Trace investigation protocols associated with COVID-19 exposure.


The question isn’t whether your techs will need to self-isolate. Rather, how do you reduce the number impacted at any one time and simultaneously minimize the impact on your service business?


Enter the concept of Service Bubbles. In the fight against COVID-19 service bubbles provides several key benefits:


  1. For individuals, it reduces the risk of exposure and infection.
  2. It provides a mechanism to manage the impact an exposure has on the available workforce for service organizations.
  3. For society, it contains the exposure and potential spread of an infection to a smaller number of members in the Service Bubble.


How do you set up Service Bubbles?


There are three primary ways to create service bubbles, and you mix and match options depending on business demands.


  • Physical Service Bubbles are created by creating small service areas and assigning individual resources and crews to work. You build up these smaller areas until you achieve complete coverage of your original service areas.
  • Logical Service Bubbles are created by using permits to allocate different customers to different resources. Once configured, a pre-determined resource can only service that customer.
  • Shift-based Service Bubbles are created by allocating resources to work at different times of the day. Setting the working hours for each resource to reflect their correct shift hours, and adjusting their shifts over time ensures no overlap.  


In addition to the different ways to create Service Bubbles, you can also use permits to limit further which resources can work at specific customer locations. By restricting the number of resources visiting a customer location, you minimize the resources required to self-isolate as part of a Track and Trace investigation if a customer tests positive.


The smaller team sizes require constructing teams to fully consider the skills necessary to service customers in a particular area. You want to avoid having to send experts into different Service Bubbles to resolve complex problems. Appropriately allocated experts have the benefit of keeping the integrity of your Service Bubble strategy, minimizing Track and Trace risk, while increasing first time fix rates.


Tactics used to avoid overexposing include:


  • Defining Skills against all your field resources and creating a Schedule Policy to utilize these Skills Rules. Planners and the Smart Scheduler will only assign jobs to techs with prerequisite skills.  
  • Ensuring knowledge management capabilities are fully enabled for field resources to have access via smartphone to provide access to customer and asset history; technical manuals; specification sheets; FAQ’s; and other artifacts to reduce the need for expert involvement.
  • For advanced organizations, using Augmented Reality to give access to your experts remotely. Using smart devices and even googles for a pool of experts to see what is happening on-site remotely and guiding technicians to fix more complex problems or unfamiliar systems.   


Setting up and managing an effective Service Bubble operation can be difficult if you do not have a modern application and technology. FieldAware with its configuration flexibility, enables organizations to efficiently and effectively set up and administer Service Bubbles, increasing the team’s operational resilience and protecting against having vast numbers of the team self-isolating.  


Once suspended and Track and Trace protocols are lifted, you can revert to your original service model by merely assigning your resources back to their original service areas and removing the customer annotated permits. Once updated, your system will automatically revert to your original service model.



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