Field service management software (FSM software) helps companies deliver effective onsite service by tracking requests, managing personnel, and maintaining visibility into operations. Common field service management software features include
These features coordinate the home office with warehouse and field technicians, which saves the company time and money while speeding transactions. The software increases field service automation (FSA) to take the manual work out of office tasks like scheduling, dispatching, and skills matching.
Field service management companies experience three main pain points:
Field service management systems, when used properly, address all of these issues. This guide introduces the overall market and outlines the benefits and functionality FSM software should offer.
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Field service software helps companies who manage installations, services, or repairs of systems and equipment, but they also benefit any company whose workers spend time in the field. Though telecommunications and cable service providers, utility engineers and inspectors, and HVAC workers are most commonly associated with field service work, the FSM user base is much broader. Mobile nurses, plumbers, maids, pest controllers, window cleaners, and any other kinds of field workers all need tools tailored to their unique challenges.
Field service management means juggling critical tickets, upset customers, and dynamic service routes and schedules. Furthermore, company-owned vehicles pose safety concerns, as well as fuel and maintenance costs. Field service management software automates and streamlines repetitive and detailed tasks and enables executives to focus on growing the business, not managing minutiae.
FSM software combines many functions into one unified solution that helps schedule and track field operations. A field service management system must receive service requests, schedule and assign a skilled technician to the job, enable technician mobility, and provide real-time visibility into job status.
Good field service software provides tools for:
Advanced field service software platforms offer complex document management, automated customer appointment reminders, project management, and CRM tools. Some field service management solutions provide deep capabilities for a single function — like dispatch — while other systems offer more generalized features like customer portals, fleet management, or call center management. A company should assess their goals and needs and decide which features are essential before making a purchase.
Field service management software vendors who provide cloud solutions and cater to global customers will likely see the largest growth as the market expands in the next several years. We can also expect to see FSM companies move from sales and operations software like CRM and ERP to FSM software with the specialized features that best serve this growing industry.
Historically, CRM and ERP solutions have failed to address the explicit needs of the field service industry. FSM technology was created because these tools lacked the ability to automate field service operations, improve efficiency, and provide visibility into the day to day processes. These features covered those gaps:
Rapid adoption by businesses of every size and across many industries fuels FSM software market growth. The combination of increased automation, lowered prices, and higher mobility have fueled the technology’s adoption. Companies who delay implementing the software inevitably experience delays and paperwork bottlenecks that set them at a disadvantage.
Customers benefit from FSM software and reward the companies that implement it with repeat service. They experience shorter wait times, better customer service, and faster job completion from companies who use field service management solutions. Customers now expect better service across the board. In response, companies 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.
Successful field service management operations play a critical role in customer satisfaction and loyalty. These systems help field service companies communicate with technicians in the field, electronically manage work orders, organize and balance warehouse inventory, and more. These management tools increase technician time with customers, reduce the technician’s back and forth between the site and the office, and speed time to delivery and payment. Look for these features in your field service management software options to reap these benefits.
Improving your customer experience has a direct positive effect on customer lifetime value and revenue. A field service management system not only increases the accuracy of scheduling and dispatching but also streamlines the processing of quotes and work orders between the technician and the home office.
Before today’s advanced integrated mobile field service software, the technician or company representative in the field worked alone and with little consistent communication with the home office where jobs, parts, available labor, and payments were coordinated. To request a part from the warehouse, the technician would need to call in. If they finished a job early, coordinating an early arrival to the next job was tedious and time consuming.
Technicians also had to check in to the office every morning and afternoon to pick up work orders and file paperwork, no matter the location of the job site. All of this back and forth resulted in increased wait times for customers, higher vehicle maintenance costs, and a higher likelihood of human error. Reducing any of these problems could result in increased customer satisfaction.
Modern field service management provides seamless technician-to-office communication through mobile apps that manage electronic work orders, automated dispatch, and streamlined scheduling. These apps also provide real-time updates to inventory management systems where technicians can request parts instead of racing to the warehouse. Streamlining the clerical processes both in the field and at the office, frees technicians to give timely and helpful service with minimal delays and increased customer satisfaction.
Inventory management tools have come a long way from spreadsheets and physical stock counts at 3 am. Using barcodes, scanners, RFID tags, and Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices, companies keep better track of their material assets and run leaner warehouses.
So how does all this innovation affect a field service company’s software? A real-time view of the company’s available and on-order inventory lets technicians judge the time to complete a job, reduce the number of trips to and from the warehouse, and even carry a store of commonly-used parts.
Inventory management features within an FSM software give field service companies the freedom to reduce warehouse stores. Field service management can provide essential data on the parts that need to be restocked most often, those that sit idle on the shelves, and those that are constantly under order. These data points reduce inventory and warehouse costs through more informed ordering.
One of the most exciting trends driven by FSM software is the move from reactive to preventative maintenance, fueled by the software’s analytic capabilities and the proliferation of data from connected devices and IoT products. Using IoT-connected devices, the service company can collect feedback about a machine’s working systems. The software then uses machine learning to better understand the machine’s status and can alert the service company to any potential threats to performance.
This technology goes beyond ensuring that the service company’s vehicles stay in top shape, and can extend to IoT-connected private and industrial HVAC, medical devices in hospitals and private practices, and any other mechanical, internet-connected device used by a service company. Because they receive notifications of potential issues, the company can repair or replace parts before they break, rather than wait until the machine has an emergency.
These innovations drive the move from emergency repair to just-in-time maintenance across the service industry. Customers no longer have to wait in a sweltering office with a broken HVAC system or reschedule a much-needed medical procedure because of mechanical failure. Service companies spend less time responding to emergencies and spend more time providing actual services that enhance their customers’ experiences. The service companies can also increase profit margins and increase monthly recurring revenue through preventative maintenance subscription plans.
Work orders have been both the lifeblood and stumbling block for service companies since their early days. Work orders communicate job details and invoicing between technicians, office workers, and customers, but as with most paper filing systems, they are notoriously unreliable. Without a highly organized filing system, work orders quickly stack up, get lost, or go unfulfilled.
Work order software is itself a subset of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that allows users to create, assign, and track maintenance work orders across an organization. Many field service management solutions also include work order management features.
FSM software solves many of the problems companies encounter with paper work orders by digitizing the whole system. Office and technical staff can easily make new work orders and quickly search existing digital work orders. Automation further eases the work order process by sending completed work orders directly to invoicing or the customer when completed, and a few clicks of a button can assign the right technicians to the right job.
Digital work orders not only remove a lot of the office desk clutter, they also streamline work for technicians and office crew. Automatic transfers send a work order to a technician on the go without needing to physically check in at the office, and upon completion of the job, the technician can move directly to the next assignment without stopping off to drop off paperwork.
You may have noticed that you’re no longer waiting hours on end for your HVAC service to show up, and your cable guy arrives on time or ahead of schedule now. You can thank advanced field service management software tools that let dispatchers see technician locations and coordinate scheduling more accurately than ever before. Workers in the field can move more quickly between more jobs while still increasing the accuracy of service.
Field service companies reap these rewards in higher customer satisfaction, more technician time on the job, and more jobs completed per day. Higher customer satisfaction causes more referrals, better online reviews, and a happier sales and marketing staff that don’t have to make up for high customer churn with equally high net-new business.
Field service companies need optimal vehicle maintenance, repair, and route optimization to ensure on-time delivery of services. Some companies choose a fleet management software solution to alleviate this pain point, but a good FSM software will include features that address all of these issues as well.
In order to keep company service vehicles in working order, the office can schedule preventative maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations in the FSM. The office can then plan for the temporary absence of a vehicle to align with the larger service schedule rather than scramble to cover jobs when vehicles go to the shop.
As an added bonus, field service management that includes route optimization features can quickly plan the best route for daily service or readjust for one-off needs due to repairs and maintenance. Route optimization also saves the company on gas and unnecessary time in traffic by mapping out the best route between jobs.
Field service management software is built for teams that spend the majority of their time outside of the main office, warehouse, or manufacturing plant. But other than mobile capabilities, why should you choose a field service management software over other options?
Although not necessarily the case, field service software costs less to implement and maintain than an enterprise resource planning system (ERP). FSM and ERP tools both combine CRM, time clock, payroll, inventory, and even marketing tools into one convenient interface, but industry-specific features set them apart.
Field service management software includes features specifically suited to field service companies. Most FSM software includes a mobile app for technicians and their managers to use in the field, while most ERP systems require a browser or desktop app to interface with the software. FSM solutions may also include GPS tracking, geofencing, and route mapping to help field service companies track their technicians. Inventory and supply chain features are more robust for many ERP systems, where they are less fully-featured for FSM systems.
While a field service management system will often include client or customer management tools, these systems are built for very different purposes.
Depending on the customer relationship management (CRM) system’s capabilities, this software is designed to manage contacts and communication records as they pertain to those contacts. CRMs can be highly complex databases that track all sorts of interactions on websites, emails, text messages, and even phone calls and can differentiate between leads, prospects, current customers, and former customers.
Compare this with FSM software, which manages contacts within the context of the services the company performs for them. While many FSM tools include lead management and sales features, they traditionally manage current customer interactions. You’ll find that field service software tracks customer information pertinent to the completion of a job rather than the information needed to line up the next sale. Thankfully, many field service management tools integrate with CRM software to ensure a seamless movement from lead to customer.
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 feature requirements, examine the following key factors in your FSM software choices:
In order to determine your budget for FSM, you must understand the possible pricing models. Cost can depend on a variety of factors, including:
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 extended franchises, enterprises, and businesses with complex processes that require customized systems. Businesses looking to only automate dispatch may encounter lower subscription costs. 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. With cheap and widely available mobile technology and increased demand for affordable technology solutions for small businesses, SaaS adoption has risen. SaaS solutions are not only attractive to SMBs looking for their first system. They also tempt 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 deployment option works best for your business.
From supporting logistics to completing paperwork faster, mobile apps and devices are now an expected tool, and FSM companies have started using mobility to:
Though most FSM vendors offer some degree of mobile access, many companies are investing in more advanced systems that offer offline access, geolocation, image upload, connected work orders, and mobile payments.
Automation is finding its way into business software and consumer technology across nearly every industry because it’s just so darn useful. Based on a system of triggers and actions, automation helps businesses get more done faster because it reduces the need for humans to perform manual actions. When a technician completes a work order on-site or a customer signs off on a quote, the documentation gets entered automatically into the general ledger for processing.
Automation is more than just sending the right paperwork to the right hands. We now see more complex automated systems in field service management solutions that combine technician mapping, mobile work order apps, and automated task management that can move technicians between jobs and assignments at optimized rates throughout the day, rather than relying on human dispatchers to coordinate each task.
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 captured in the field needs to transfer across several departments.
Mobile field workers should be able to access back-office systems or information outside the office. Technicians with mobile FSM software can easily view jobs, service history, and customer information. Additionally, workers in the field should be able to request more 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 skill sets, 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 for them, as well as receive notifications on their technicians’ scheduled time to reduce no-shows.
Businesses that rely on outside contractors or third-party service providers for field work require the same functionality as enterprise businesses, but with greater emphasis on visibility into client details. Outsourcing field services, whether partially or in full, can help companies reduce labor costs and expand operations. However, these benefits often come at the expense 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 if the issue was even resolved — until they start receiving complaints from customers. FSM software for outsourced services makes third-party technicians indistinguishable from an organization’s internal workforce.
Companies can manage their contractors and related administrative tasks through vendor portals within their FSM software. Just as with traditional field workers, contractors need real-time access to work order information, parts availability, service delivery, and 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. These portals exist outside of the main company interface, so company data remains secure while allowing everyone to access what they need.
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.
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 a wide set of useful features to SMBs at an affordable price. SMBs value quick implementation, ease of use, and scalability.
SMBs can choose from a wide range of vendors. 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. Despite the price difference, SMBs can still find great systems that automate processes, let customers book appointments, schedule and dispatch workers, and track time and location.
Most field service management platforms include a mobile app where technicians can access all of the pertinent functions right in the field from their mobile device. From the technician interface, individuals can receive notifications from dispatch, log invoices, take payments, order new parts, check inventory, and schedule follow-up visits to the customer. These features reduce the amount of paperwork the company manages, increases the speed between work quoted, completed, and paid for, and reduces the mistakes that happen because of misplaced paperwork or poor verbal communication.
Look for these mobile-ready features:
A team manager’s most important function is to quickly and efficiently coordinate technicians’ movements between and within jobs. From a field service app, team managers can ensure that the technicians are matched with the right job for their skills, that the team makes the best use of their time moving between jobs, and that each member of the team is following safety and company protocols. A field service software will show team leaders the schedule for each of their technicians, an overview of the jobs they are responsible for, and will drill down into the specific tasks expected of each team member. Most FSM apps will provide these views from a mobile app, so the team manager can spend his time in the field rather than in the office.
Look for these mobile-ready features:
If the field service company is a body, then the dispatcher is the brain. These individuals are responsible for scheduling technicians to the best-fit job while also juggling task urgency, timelines, and team work schedules. The more that these tasks are automated and governed by preset rules, the easier it is for the dispatcher to build a solid schedule. Automated scheduling tools also free dispatchers from time-consuming scheduling tasks so they can manage emergent situations that need quick analysis.
Look for these features:
Bookkeepers, accountants, and tax professionals need full access to every touchpoint through the financial lifecycle. A field service management software can streamline and digitize the payment process, making transactions searchable and easy to port over to an accounting software. An FSM software can also track digital time cards for all employees and pass this information to a payroll or accounting software, greatly reducing the number of hours the staff spends on payroll every month.
Look for these features:
While technicians deal directly with customers in the field, many field service companies also employ customer experience staff to manage their customer support. These individuals need access to the entire customer profile and job history to understand job status without taking the technician’s time away from current jobs. They should have direct communication and visibility into the scheduling features to take some pressure off the dispatch, as well.
Look for these features:
Field service management software (FSM) is a highly complex landscape with so many options to choose from, it can be confusing to even begin looking at which vendors might be right for your company. TechnologyAdvice can help you find solutions with the right features for your company.
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