The challenges of field service management are far-reaching and continual. As these jobs are performed in the field rather than on company property, field service management typically involves dispatching workers or repair people to specific locations to repair, install, and maintain equipment or systems. Only a few decades ago, much of the organizational work for field technicians was performed manually, which is a process now considered time-consuming and prone to human error.
Customer expectations have grown significantly (and sometimes unrealistically) in our modern, technology-driven world. People now expect repairs and installations to be an almost seamless process, with no surprises. And while technology has increased customer expectations, it also provides ways to meet those expectations. For example, preventative maintenance offers the opportunity to repair technology before it breaks down.
Field service management software developed as mobile technology developed. This type of software provides a technological solution for helping field service managers communicate with their staff and increase efficiency by automating certain tasks. It also offers real-time updates, potential customer insights, and other useful tools.
Field service management techniques can be applied to any industry with employees working in the field. Businesses that can realize significant improvements from using field service management software are:
- Utilities: Gas, water, electricity
- Healthcare: Equipment repair, primarily at hospitals
- Property maintenance: HVAC, plumbing, electrical
- Telecom services: TV, phone, internet
Read more: Best Field Service Management Software
7 Common Challenges of Field Service Management
Arriving on time meets a customer’s expectations, while arriving late will often irritate customers and break those expectations. Properly managing a field technician’s schedule is an important part of maximizing their efficiency while they are on the clock.
Field service management software with scheduling features can help tremendously. Scheduling can be performed online, making it accessible to technicians and coworkers, and schedules can be adjusted in real time to deal with emergencies and other situations.
Basically, there are three kinds of scheduling conflicts:
- Unavailable time slots: This happens when a customer requests a certain time and there is no field service representative available. With the appropriate software, that time slot can be scheduled in the future, when it is available.
- Double-booking: This takes place when two field service representatives are booked for the same event. This happens rarely, but when it does happen, it is a true waste of employee time. This would never happen with the appropriate scheduling software.
- Overlapping appointments: This occurs when one event such as a furnace repair takes longer than expected and overlaps with the next appointment.
Overlapping appointments are the most common source of frustration for customers. For them, it’s not an overlap and the technician is simply late. Frequent overlapping schedule conflicts can damage a business’s reputation. Job-scheduling software helps to organize employees across multiple job sites.
Juggling staff and/or communicating with the customer are essentially the only ways to deal with overlapping scheduled work. Good field service software should help with juggling technicians if possible. This means technicians who may have finished a job early can cover for those who may be experiencing an overlapping job.
If that can’t happen, the customer should be notified as quickly as possible. Sometimes, a customer would much rather reschedule an appointment than wait, wondering if the technician is going to show up.
Taking the Least Efficient Route
Route-planning software can organize and optimize a trip with multiple stops by predicting the most efficient routes. This reduces mileage and the cost of fuel. This software often includes GPS tracking features, so a manager knows where their field employees are located, and if they are on schedule.
Mobile field service software can offer a toolkit, of sorts, for field technicians. It allows them to accomplish a number of tasks using their mobile devices, such as creating invoices, locating replacement parts, or providing customers with quotes while on site.
It can use GPS to locate parts and get directions. It can also be used to order parts; record labor and expenses; and store pictures of parts, completed work, and more.
Dealing With Inventory
Inventory management is a challenge for most field service businesses. To manage work order demands effectively, field service managers need to see what parts they need. The appropriate software can provide an accurate inventory of parts. The inventory management software may also offer the ability to order parts when supplies get low.
Keeping the Accounting Straight
Using software for billing and invoicing solutions has become commonplace. It’s faster and cheaper than human accountants and makes fewer mistakes. This software can also help in adding more electronic payment methods, promoting quicker payments. Moreover, many field service organizations have already begun using accounting software.
Problem-Solving via YouTube
Youtube offers a near infinite number of what might be called open-source repair videos. If a tech is working on an air conditioning unit they are not familiar with, YouTube will probably have a video that will help in understanding the AC unit. In many cases, if the symptoms are included in the query, the video may even help with the diagnosis.
HVAC technicians and others have found YouTube to be an excellent resource for helping in the repair and problem-solving process. Because the industry keeps evolving, with new equipment continuously coming on the market, YouTube offers an excellent way to keep technicians up to date on repairs. It can be invaluable for troubleshooting and finding resources.
Even in the year 2022, several field service technicians continue to work with a pen and paper. Many field service organizations are currently using accounting software, but have not made the leap to providing their technicians with digital tools.
When they do make the leap to a paperless process, they discover increased productivity, starting with the initial service request and ending with an electronically signed service report. Adopting new digital approaches saves time and money. Becoming a smart service provides technicians with real-time access to schedule adjustments as well as useful information on the internet.
Providing techs with the right tools helps get the job done quickly and efficiently, alleviating one of the biggest challenges in field service management. And customers are more likely to become repeat customers if they have a positive experience. If you’re looking for FSM software, TechnologyAdvice has consultants available to help you choose.