Field services units are under constant pressure to balance customer satisfaction and costs. This is true whether the services are delivered as a part of a public agency or a utility or a cable company. Improving customer satisfaction has often meant more boots on the ground, larger “shovel-ready” crews all of which mean higher costs. Any quest for efficiency is usually equated with reduction in service levels. All of which lead to the famed “it’s the nature of the beast” conclusion.
It doesn’t have to be.
Focusing on Work Order process efficiency can have a definite and significant effect on the bottom line for field service organizations. Antiquated and disjointed manual or paper-based processes, outdated technology, and “that’s how we have always done it” (that mythical beast, again!) all contribute to Work Order process inefficiencies. These often result in increased costs, greater downtime for clients served, and decreased productivity and effectiveness for teams on the ground.
Efficient Work Order management, on the other hand, integrates end-to-end processes and data to create a seamless and streamlined flow.
Work Order management tools are aplenty in the market, as they always have been. What is different now is the computing power available in the field, courtesy the smartphone / tablet and the cloud – and these have a profound impact on what we should expect from our work management process.
Not Business as Usual
Take one key functionality of work management – Scheduling. This has usually meant simply attaching a field worker to a task. From massive whiteboards with an array of post-it notes to expensive software that attempt to optimize routes, timesheets and workload – every business has had their “way” of scheduling, each with varying results. And, no matter which way they went, the process was always the same: back-office does the scheduling, the worker shows up at the office and is informed of the work he needs to do that day, worker prints out a ton of paperwork for each job before he drives out to his first job. Which is fine until real-world issues show up every day: a traffic jam on the 101! Field tech 15234 just called in sick! Customer ABC requires more work than reported! Emergency call 30 miles away!
When real-world intervenes, the back-office is overloaded, field techs are stranded waiting for the new schedule, and the customers are unhappy (or unhappier than normal).
Yet, today’s technology puts a powerful computer in the hands of every field team member – any scheduling tool needs to allow a degree of flexibility to the field team to reschedule, reprioritize and more. And, importantly, events on the field can be relayed real-time to the back-office – there is no excuse for information latency. The ability to track the location of any resource – whether a field tech or a special purpose equipment – brings new power when dealing with emergencies. You know exactly who is available where and at what time if you need to reschedule. More importantly, the field supervisor has this visibility when confronted with that emergency.
Productivity, Mobility and Being where the action is
Providing your field crew with the access, visibility and workflows for order management ensures they are up to speed with the most current status on the ground. Field staff should be able to easily review work history, conduct field assessments, and much more, right from the field without needing to reach out to their back-offices or call centers for help. And, they really shouldn’t have to lug all that paper out there!
Additional advanced functionality, such as the ability to generate and submit digital forms and repair orders, can now be done efficiently and expeditiously in the field using mobile apps. No longer do these tasks need to be relegated to the back-office.
Technology can tame the beast
We can all agree that the field team’s work should really be in the…field. Mobile and cloud technology provides the means to get the information to them when they need it and where they need it. More importantly, they can also take action from the field (e.g. schedule work in response to an emergency) without being bogged down by a distant back-office.
When it comes to Work Order management efficiency, technology provides powerful investment theses. There are substantial bottom-line benefits that can be unlocked within your field service organization using readily available and configurable technology.
Connixt customers are successfully harnessing cloud and mobile technologies; they are utilities, transit agencies, contractors and construction companies, and they have some great stories to share – let us know if you want to know more.
And that beast you hear about all the time? It really shouldn’t really play a part in your business anymore because, you know, it is mythical.