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TechnologyAdvice Field Service Management Software Buyer's Guide
What is Field Service Management Software?
Field service management software (FSM software, service software) is a system that helps companies deliver effective onsite service by tracking requests, managing personnel, and maintaining visibility into operations. Common features include work order management, inventory, fleet tracking, and reporting.
Successful field service management operations play a critical role in customer satisfaction and loyalty. Fifty-seven percent of organizations indicate that poor first-time resolution or a total inability to resolve issues is the top reason for customer complaints regarding field service work.1
Three main pain points exist for field service management companies: disjointed communications, over-scheduled resources, and under-skilled technicians. The technology covered in this guide, when utilized properly, can address all of these issues. This guide provides a full field service management software comparison, including a close look at the overall market, benefits and functionality every FSM solution should offer, and leading FSM software case studies for organizations of any type.
Field Service Management Software Comparison
The FSM Market
The global FSM market is forecast to grow from approximately $1.58 billion in 2014 to $3.52 billion by 2019, or a compound annual growth rate of 17.3 percent.2 However, since many privately-held software vendors do not disclose sales of dispatch and workforce management software applications or modules, market penetration can only be estimated. North America is expected to comprise the largest market segment, while the Europe and Asia-Pacific regions are also expected to grow, albeit somewhat more slowly.
The FSM software market is highly fragmented.3 Sometimes referred to as field service automation (FSA), the vendor landscape for these systems includes:
- Best-of-breed vendors that offer standalone field service management solutions for field workforce optimization, dispatch, or fleet management processes.
- Vendors that provide most of an end-to-end FSM suite (although all components are not necessarily best-in-class).
- Niche vendors offering add-on field mobility solutions to enterprises, or platforms focused primarily on a single industry, or on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).
The cause of this fragmentation is twofold. Historically, CRM and ERP solutions have failed to address the explicit needs of the field service industry:
- Complex scheduling and dispatch
- Remote inventory management
- Customer and work order management
- Tracking and performance
Out of necessity, FSM technology was created to help automate field service operations to improve both efficiency and visibility. Rapid adoption from businesses of every type and size is fueling FSM software market growth.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this rapid growth, FSM software vendors have struggled to keep pace with consumer mobility trends and customer expectations— until recently. Now, rapid business technology advancements and economical Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment options are fueling FSM software market growth. Companies now demand real-time tracking, strong collaboration between office and field workers, and other tools and enhancements that allow technicians to accomplish their tasks without any delay or interruption— all at an affordable price.
The Best Field Service Management Software
FSM systems aren't limited to companies who need to manage installations, services, or repairs of systems and equipment. Though telecommunications and cable service providers, utility engineers and inspectors, and HVAC workers are most commonly associated with field service work, the industry is much broader. Healthcare companies that provide mobile nurses, or any other business with field workers — plumbers, maid services, pest control, window cleaners — all need tools tailored to the unique challenges field work presents.
Field service management requires continuously balancing critical tickets, upset customers, and dynamic service routes and schedules. Furthermore, the addition of vehicles brings safety and driver concerns, as well as fuel and maintenance costs. Specialized software that automates and streamlines tasks enables executives to focus on growing the business, not managing minutiae.
Simply put, FSM software combines many functions into one unified solution that helps schedule and track field operations. At minimum, a field service management system must be able to receive service requests, schedule and assign a skilled technician, enable technician mobility, and provide real-time visibility into job status. A good FSM system provides tools for:
- customer appointments, trouble ticketing, order management
- complex scheduling and routing optimization
- managing worker activity (driver logs, time tracking, job status updates)
- automatically locating vehicles and ensuring driver safety
- integrating with inventory, accounting, and other back-office systems
Advanced programs will offer complex document management, automated customer appointment reminders, and project management or CRM tools. Some solutions may focus more heavily on one function— like dispatch — while other systems will offer customer portals, fleet management, or call center management. A company's goals and needs will ultimately determine which features are essential and what type of solution is best.
How to Compare Field Service Management Software
Since systems vary significantly from vendor to vendor, it's important to understand your needs before you conduct a field service management software comparison. By identifying pain points at the outset, you can decide which features are non-negotiable for your FSM system. Vetting vendors is a difficult process, and many solutions begin to blur together when evaluating options. After you've identified your features requirements, it's important to examine the following key factors when selecting FSM software:
In order to determine your budget for FSM, it's important to understand the possible pricing models. Cost can depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Number of users, admins, or "seats"
- Company size (multiple locations or franchises)
- Pay-per-employee / field worker
- Business needs
- Training, setup fees, data storage needs, technical support
- System customizations
- Deployment type
It's best to estimate costs a few different ways so you're prepared to compare pricing and avoid surprises. Depending on pricing structure, costs can range between $75-$2,000 per month. However, pricing could be higher for enterprises or businesses with complex processes that require customized systems, or in some cases lower for a business simply looking to automate dispatch. When determining a budget, it's helpful to have a range in mind, rather than a firm number.
Software can be deployed on-premise, hosted through a web browser as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or a hybrid of the two. The proliferation of mobile technology and demand for affordable solutions for small businesses has fueled SaaS adoption. SaaS solutions are not only attractive to SMBs looking for their first system, but also enterprises ready to upgrade their existing methods. Data access, customizations, long term total cost of ownership, and the need to integrate with existing software— like CRM or HR systems — can help determine which solution is best for your business.
Mobility is a critical requirement for the field service management industry. In a 2014 Gartner FSM survey, 85 percent of businesses surveyed are already using mobile field service apps or plan to use them within 24 months.4 Additionally, mobility was a top-three feature criteria for more than 60 percent of respondents. Companies have started using mobility to:
- Improve communication and provide real-time analysis of mobile work status
- Analyze technician skillset and location to send the closest capable worker and increase first-time-fix rate and enhance customer service and loyalty
- Reduce overhead or administration costs associated with paper-based process and data entry
- Increase productivity, streamline workflow, and shorten billing cycles
Though most FSM vendors offer some degree of mobile access, more advanced systems that offer offline access, geolocation, etc., are becoming commonplace.
3 Tiers of FSM Software
For large organizations, increasing visibility between the field and office is paramount. A field service management system that integrates with existing CRM or ERP systems is critical, as information that is captured in the field often needs to be available across several departments. Enterprises, especially those with multiple fleets, should focus on integrating information across all business units.
Mobile field workers should be able to access back-office systems or information outside the office. Technicians with mobile devices can easily view jobs, service history, and customer information. Additionally, workers in the field should be able to request additional time on a jobsite, record asset details and parts usage, view manuals, and instantly chat or collaborate with dispatchers, managers, and nearby colleagues.
In the office, FSM software allows dispatchers to automatically build service schedules based on technician skillsets, location, and historical job duration data. It should also include travel optimization that factors in traffic to find the shortest route. Customers should be able to choose a service time that is convenient to them, as well as receive notifications on their technicians' scheduled time to reduce no-shows.
Case Study: Electrolux5
With 56,000 employees and over $13 billion in revenue, Electrolux is one of the world's largest appliance companies. Headquartered in Sweden, Electrolux is a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, and freezers under the names of AEG, Electrolux, Eureka, Frigidaire, and Zanussi.
Electrolux Brazil was managing 900 service partners and 1,800 technicians through multiple systems, using phone calls, emails, and sticky notes. These fragmented organizational methods resulted in challenges such as:
- Information that was lost or never captured.
- No visibility into partner performance against SLAs
- Customer satisfaction rates for service were lower than desired
- Cost was impacted due to inaccurate warranty information
Electrolux Brazil looked at ServiceMax as a complete field service management solution because of its relationship with salesforce.com. Electrolux needed integration with their existing on-premise ERP solution, financials, inventory, and production planning systems, as well as internationalization into Brazilian Portuguese. Along with a rich database containing technician territory coverage, product expertise, and work schedules, they also required a partner portal to provide visibility into inventory and manage performance against SLAs.
ServiceMax met all of Electrolux's requirements, and the results after implementation included:
- Streamlined service processes and increased service partner efficiency.
- Technicians scheduled based on skills needed to complete service request thanks to
- SLAs consistently met for higher customer satisfaction
- Increased revenue due to accurate warranty renewal information and alerts.
- Increased volume of service request closed per week to over 15,000
II. Third-Party Field Services
Businesses that rely on outside contractors or third-party service providers for field work require the same functionality as enterprise businesses, but client details and visibility are even more important. Outsourcing field services, whether partially or in full, can help companies reduce labor costs and expand operations. However, these benefits often come at the risk of customer service.
After a job is assigned to a contractor, many companies have no way to know when a service is delivered, how long it took, or even if the issue was resolved— until complaints from customers are received. FSM software for outsourced services provides visibility into contractor service delivery and makes third-party technicians indistinguishable from an organization's internal workforce.
This is done through third-party vendor portals used to manage contracted work and related administrative tasks. Just like with traditional field workers, contractors need the same real-time access to work order information and parts availability, as well as the ability to report back quickly on service delivery and submit claims. Customer calls that require a technician on site can be dispatched by a company to its own technicians or to a local service partner.
Providing two-way interaction with outside employees allows service companies to issue last-minute schedule changes to the contractors, provide updates to customers about technician arrival times, monitor work orders to ensure SLA compliance, and even create opportunities for optimized scheduling and planning.
Case Study: Gaz Metro Plus6
Gaz Metro serves approximately 150,000 customers in Quebec and has a presence in the northwestern United States. Their subsidiary, Gaz Metro Plus, provides maintenance and repair services on gas appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters, and fireplaces. Gaz Metro Plus answers 75,000 calls annually and provides on-site services to 45,000 customers per year.
When Gaz Metro Plus took over field service dispatching, they had to build a workforce model from scratch. The company required an efficient way to improve customer service while keeping operational costs in check. They required "a system that automatically selects the right technician for each service incident, not just a Gantt chart that instructs a dispatcher on how to make the decision.6" They also required integration with their existing CRM software.
After implementing ClickSoftware, the company experienced:
- Increased Productivity: Gaz Metro Plus increased the average number of preventative maintenance visits nearly 50 percent— from approximately 4.5 to 6.5 per day.
- Cost Savings: The simple and efficient solution helped Gaz Metro Plus proceed on a strategic plan to outsource its entire dispatch function. The new dispatch model will save the company close to $1 million annually.
- Improved Mobility: Seamlessly integration with mobile devices provides field technicians tools to access schedules directly, improving efficiency.
III. Small Business
Growing small-to-medium businesses with mobile employees need automated processes and tools to efficiently manage field workers, increase productivity, and increase visibility. Though smaller companies may only require dispatch software or fleet management at first, cloud-based solutions offer scalability and can bring robust functionality to SMBs at an affordable price. For SMBs, ease of use and scalability are important factors.
SMBs have no shortage of vendors from which they can choose. Many niche companies offer solutions specifically designed for non-enterprise businesses, and many enterprise FSM software vendors have launched their own FSM product lines tailored to SMBs.
Functionality for SMB field service management software is very similar to enterprise software, though advanced scheduling, analytics, and technical support may be limited or only offered as add-ons. SMBs can still find great systems that automate processes, let customers book appointments, schedule and dispatch workers, and track time and location.
Case Study: AVID Ink7
AVID Ink is one of the world's leading sublimation printing companies. When the company's drivers started making up to 60 deliveries a day, managing and coordinating the mobile workforce became a challenge. The breaking point came when the company reached 1,500 pickups a month. Drivers would make notes and then email or call in to communicate their status. Sixty percent of the deliveries were unscheduled, and drivers were using Excel spreadsheets to coordinate more than 60 stops each day. Additionally, drivers had to rely
on memory to meet their delivery deadlines.
AVID Ink chose to implement Trimble as their fleet and work management solution to ensure deliveries were more efficient and on time. Now, a central dashboard helps with scheduling and monitors activities throughout the day, optimizing routing and sequencing deliveries according to geography, driver locations, and other business' operating hours. In addition to not missing a delivery or pickup since implementation, AVID has experienced:
- 30 percent increase in overall company efficiency
- 99 percent on-time delivery record
- 98 percent job completion rate
- Reduced fuel costs and overtime, as well as improved vehicle maintenance
- "Field Service 2013: Workforce Management Guide." Aberdeen Group. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://www.digitaldispatcher.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/150-Company-Study-2013.pdf
- "Field Service Management (FSM) Market Worth $3.52 Billion by 2019." PR Newswire. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/field-service-management-fsm-market-worth-352-billion-by-2019-287503511.html
- "Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management." Gartner, Inc. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://www.clicksoftware.com/globalassets/aasite_assets/documents/gartner/gartner_magicquadrant2013.pdf
- "Gartner Positions ClickSoftware in the Leaders Quadrant of the 2014 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management for Fourth Consecutive Year." ClickSoftware Press Release. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://ir.clicksoftware.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=122672&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2002107
- "Electrolux Brazil Chooses ServiceMax to Improve Field Service Operations." ServiceMax Case Study. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://lp.servicemax.com/rs/servicemax/images/servicemax_CS_Electrolux.pdf
- "Canadian utility cut costs while increasing maintenance visits by nearly 50%" ClickSoftware Case Study. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://www.clicksoftware.com/globalassets/aasite_assets/documents/cs/cs_gaz-metropolitain_en.pdf
- "Workforce Management Relives Avid Ink's Growing Pains." Trimble Case Study. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://trl.trimble.com/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-718547/CS_AvidInk_22Apr14US.pdf