September 21, 2016

5 Common Challenges of Field Service Management

Written by
Swati Kungwani

Field service management is a serious challenge that involves multiple levels of coordination. In addition to the mechanical and administrative aspects of field service management, companies need effective strategies to meet customer expectations, balance the workforce, and stay profitable.

In the digital age, that almost always means adopting new technology. 

ALSO READ: What Customers Want from Field Service Companies

Every business tries its best to overcome the challenges, but it’s a herculean task for field service managers to hit their targets and achieve results in all directions. It’s important to make every tactical and strategic decision based on accurate data, and in such a way that your whole team will comply. 

Irrespective of industry, field service organizations face many of the same challenges. Here are five of the most common — each followed by an explanation of how technology can make a difference.  

1. Schedule Adherence

Customers expect your company to deliver the products and services they pay for, and your company relies on its employees to meet these expectations. That means it’s important that field workers maintain their assigned schedules, even while away from the office.  It’s helpful to know your technicians’ real-time location, their performance, and their adherence with assigned jobs and hours. Tracking your workforce while they are in the field also means you can allocate work orders faster and manage task distribution on a daily basis. .  

A field service management application that lets workers to coordinate with the back-office using a service desk can solve this problem. You can see your workers’ location, schedule and dispatch jobs, track hours, and monitor incoming customer requests with ease.

According to our research, using a field service management solution for a mobile workforce can lead to a 47 percent increase in the rate of jobs completed each day and a 77 percent reduction in overtime.

2. First-Time Fix Rate

Budget directives demand that every field service manager make a profit for the business while maintaining a balance between quality of service and number of employees. For larger businesses with more employees, underused resources can quickly compromise the bottom line. SMBs have to keep a close watch on performance, even while operating with a smaller team. 

According to research conducted by The Service Council, the average first-time fix rate for an organization is around 77 percent. That means field technicians have to do at least one follow-up visit for about 23 percent of all service calls. These repeat visits affects cost, asset availability, and in some cases, response time.

To achieve a high first-time fix rate, it is a wise move to employ field service management software that comes with intelligent automation. This automation enables skill-based task distribution. And having complete details before the service call helps the technician succeed the first time.

3. Safety and Liability

In addition to providing customers with quality service, increasing the company’s reputation, and making most of available resources, there is the concern of safety and liability for workers visiting hazardous locations (e.g. the top of a radio tower). Safety is one of the most important issues for many organizations. The central office or dispatch needs to stay in constant contact with their workers and have a process in place for handling emergencies. Field service is a segment where many jobs involve a degree of risk. 

It’s not uncommon for employees to leave their jobs if they feel their safety is not being properly protected. Then, of course, you’ll have to spend additional funds to hire and train a new technician. Over time, that kind of churn can become a serious issue. 

One solution is to use a field service management tool that provides a “check-in” feature for lone workers. Basically, they use this function to notify dispatch of their arrival, and if anything happens, dispatch can quickly see where the employee is or where they last worked.

4. Communication with Customers

Customers like to stay in the loop about their service calls. If your truck is running late, or if you have to cancel, or if you have to order a part and come back on a different day, it helps to have a mechanism in place that extends visibility to the customer. 

Customer relationship management practices adopted by any organization have a huge impact on the success of the business, and field service is no exception. Retaining customers and gaining new ones requires attending each of them with equal consideration. But what if your representatives spend most of their time answering the same questions over and over again, and someone with a different question goes unnoticed? Negative feedback on social media and review sites can prove to be a major setback. 

The solution, in this case, is the integration of customer relationship management with field service. If you want to go the second mile, a branded customer facing app with a self-service portal can reduce the number of calls and increase customer satisfaction.

5. Performance Management

What are the best KPIs for measuring service efficacy? 

Every company needs precise and clear data to compare their performance against goals and make decisions that move the business forward. Do manual methods (like spreadsheets, paper documents, and calculators) provide accurate analytics? Maybe, but only after a mountain of manual data entry and research. 

Dashboard and reporting modules contained in many field service apps can help decision-makers monitor trends and performance without adding hours of labor to their already full schedule. Plug and play reports are also a great way to analyze product demand and monitor the growth of your customer base. 

According to Aberdeen, leading companies that implement field service analytics see an 18 percent increase in profits and a 44 percent increase in SLA compliance. 

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Field service success is about defining your standard of service and upholding it. Easier said than done, of course. Many companies consider increasing their workforce, increasing budget, opening additional contact centers, attracting new customers through multiple marketing channels, etc. But there’s no point in gaining more customers if you’re only going to lose them after the first (or second, or third) service call. Build your field service company on solid strategy, but don’t neglect technology. The right system with the right capabilities can make a world of difference. 


Swati Kungwani is a business analyst and content writer for iTouchVision, a UK-based customer service platform built for service desks, field service, case management, and contract management.