Field Service Management Best Practices
4 Essential Field Service Management Best Practices
When it comes to field service management best practices, some are more important than others. As we have noted elsewhere, an overarching theme is to empower field staff with remote or on demand access to all the customer information available. That information is normally in your manufacturing CRM system.
With the right information, technicians will improve service delivery and the customer experience. Further, they will improve upsell and cross sell opportunities while on site, ensure that you don't miss service agreement measures, and reinforce the value of the customer service agreement. That last item will become essential at the contract renewal.
Below are four field service management best practices that will improve the most important performance measures.
- On Site Productivity.
Forrester’s William Band, a widely-respected CRM analyst, wrote in a field service CRM white paper that correctly-done integration of remote service with your value chain "will drive the conversion of field operations from a cost center to proﬁt center." Band then goes on to analyze how to "make on site operations a tool for customer retention" in addition to other business development functions.
Some of the advantages of using CRM software with field delivered services lie in leveraging native mobile technologies to help your people be more productive when at a client site. Band says, cash flow is accelerated and credit memos are reduced "by giving them up-to-date customer information and enabling them to complete more tasks, such as invoicing, while on the client premises.”
Integrated spare parts management is another area where Band sees great improvement, observing that the lack of satisfactory spare parts management practices means "wasted trips to client sites if the right part is not at hand to complete a repair." That advice is especially important as multiple trips for an issue are generally the top cost for service.
- A 360 Degree Customer View.
ServiceMax sells a product called Orange for SMBs. It's effective in tying your field service performance to overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. That link supports another business development best practice of upsell, cross-sell and renewals. It proactively monitors soon-to-be expired warranty and contracts and suggests next best offers.
Many other packaged applications offer similar capabilities. And most of them use workflow parameters to access the 360° view of the customer, including the customer’s issue, escalation and resolution history, with every customer interaction. For example, with a complete customer profile, dispatchers can more efficiently assign resources, such as getting to the right tech to the right customer at the time.
- Optimized Scheduling and Dispatch.
In a recent paper the ever-readable Paul Greenberg contrasted field technician services today with the Maytag repairman of ‘70s TV commercial fame, who sat around doing nothing -- much to the customer's benefit. Today these services are (or should be) much more than overhead. A company wants technicians out in the field to upsell and present other opportunities for deepening the customer relationship, cementing customer loyalty and generating additional sales opportunities.
Greenberg, principal of The 56 Group, breaks down the scheduling and dispatch best practices as key to achieving these goals. "Optimizing service calls is one of the most complex and difficult undertakings," he said. It requires the call center rep to first analyze the customer record, warranties and SLAs. Then find the right service technician while factoring in considerations such as geographical proximity, the tech's specific skills and schedule, and what parts are needed. The dispatch process must also consider optimized route planning.
Greenberg says, automated prioritization attached to contractual agreements creates "a significant time and cost savings." Even better, it creates more satisfied customers. The best practice here, Greenberg says, is optimized scheduling -- the customer rep who receives the call should be able to access all customer information, allowing the job to be booked and assigned to the best possible technician for the visit.
- Mobile First Accessibility.
Mobile apps for field services seems an almost redundant concept. Tom Bullotta, managing director for Acumen Solutions, recommends focusing on usability and the user experience when buying tools for field employees.
The CRM platforms gave field services apps a big step up in usability. However, not all CRM field services management apps are equal when it comes to mobility. Pay particular attention to proper interface design and the information architecture, Tom says, because what you want is an app that not only is intuitive, but uses multitouch gestures for touch-enabled devices, and is optimized for the device form factor. In other words, the easier it is to use the more effectively it will be used.