In a competitive landscape such as the delivery of services, making sure their team of field workers provide great service to customers is essential for businesses. As is maximizing efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.
To achieve this, there are various tasks that need to be accomplished. Typical processes include tracking vehicles, logging work orders, assigning technicians, and managing job statuses. But, managing multiple field service duties at one time can be overwhelming. Particularly if these processes are being done by using pen and paper or spreadsheets. That’s where a Field Service Management Software solution can help.
The tools found in Field Service Management Software allow businesses and their field staff to provide a quick, efficient, and automated service to customers. As well as streamlining employee tasks by automatically assigning technicians, providing helpful resources on-demand, optimizing vehicle routes, and logging jobs directly from a smartphone or tablet. After all, it seems only fitting that an industry so synonymous with mobile working should require a mobile field service tool to further enhance its operations.
What Is Field Service Management Software?
Used by service managers, supervisors, and field staff, Field Service Management Software is a platform that provides the tools necessary to improve the efficiency of field workers and the delivery of services to customers.
Primarily used for scheduling work orders, dispatching agents, and tracking job statuses, typical Field Service Management Software features include:
- Job scheduling
- Vehicle and technician tracking
- Remotely updating job statuses
- GPS navigation to plan and optimize cost-saving vehicle routes
- Storing job and payment logs
- Digital invoicing
- Reporting and analytics tools
Although 52% of businesses still use pen and paper, spreadsheets, and whiteboards, the use of Field Service Management Software is on the rise. Most notably due to the increase of Software as a Service (SaaS) and affordable pricing models.
Whereas the deployment of field service tools was only common in large mobile operations such as utilities, waste management, healthcare, and telecommunications, it has now become an attainable tool for smaller organizations offering services such as plumbing, landscaping, pest control, and window cleaning.
The use of a field service management tool can result in a number of benefits that have a positive impact on the delivery of services, including:
- Increased job completion percentages
- Reduced fuel costs with route optimization
- Improved communication between off-site and on-site employees
- Reduced delivery delays with vehicle and technician tracking
- Better accountability provided to customers with real-time job status tracking
- Increased first-time fix rate (FTFR) with mobile access to on-demand resources
- Improved customer retention rate
Typical Features Found in Field Service Management Software
Although Field Service Management Software can be built to match a business’s specific requirements, there are some features that are found in all types of FSM solutions. Typical features include:
Scheduling and Dispatch
By digitizing scheduling and planning, service managers are able to assign technicians in a way that not only reduces costs but also increases the likelihood of a first-time fix. There are several tools that make the use of a mobile platform essential when managing a team of field staff, including:
- A real-time calendar view to know which technicians are available and when
- GPS navigation and route planning to calculate how close a worker is to a specific job
- Instant access to a technician’s labour rate and job knowledge to highlight preferred staff
The ability to track vehicles in real-time enables office-based staff to see how far their contractors are away from a potential job. This allows them to efficiently assign the right worker and avoid any delays in the delivery of services to a customer.
Coupled with a fleet management integration tool, vehicle tracking can also provide updates on driver behaviour and live GPS tracking to optimize routes and save on fuel costs.
Deploying mobile access in the form of smartphones and tablets allows office-based staff to easily connect with workers in the field. Field staff are also able to create jobs, update work orders and statues, log hours, and process payments without having to wait until they’re back in the office to do so.
With a mobile solution, field staff will have access to back-end systems, trade tools, spare part inventory, and knowledge resources. All of which can assist them in completing a job without delays. Effectively improving first-time fix rates (FTFR) and delivering greater service to customers.
Digitized Invoicing and Payments
With the use of a mobile device, field workers are able to receive payments as soon as a job is complete. This helps reduce the time-consuming process of chasing payments from customers.
A team of mobile workers can also create professional invoices on-demand and either print or email them to customers. As well as having the technology to collect a customer’s digital signature.
Inventory and Spare Parts Management
Among the various resources available on-demand to field workers is real-time inventory management. This provides a holistic view of what inventory is in stock and ready to be used if a technician requires a spare part to complete a job. If a part is not in stock, workers have access to the supplier’s catalogue with the ability to place an order and track its delivery.
How to Highlight Your Current Field Service Management Processes
The level of understanding of your current processes has a direct impact on how efficiently you choose and implement Field Service Management Software.
Whilst most field service managers have a visual image of their services, we highly recommend mapping out all your field service management processes and responsibilities. To have a greater understanding of the processes you’re responsible for, ask yourself:
- How do your customers log service requests?
- Are service requests converted into work orders for your field-based workers?
- How do you plan and schedule field jobs? Is it by priority, technical availability, spares availability, or completion time?
- How are you relaying information regarding your field service tasks to your field-based technicians and engineers?
- How do you know the status of each work order? Is it by the customer, job status, or billing?
- How does your office-based team process service requests and information?
To state the obvious, an FSM solution is only going to improve and automate your current field service process. Therefore, if you only have a loose understanding of your current field service processes, it will be difficult to envisage how Field Service Management Software is going to enhance your services.
Once you have identified your current field service process, the next step is to outline any gaps or challenges in activities. We recommend that you categorise these gaps into three groups:
Logical Service Management Gaps
- You may not be setting clear service level and completion expectations when requests are logged by customers. For example, most companies tend to set a completion time for their services. But, setting a shorter and more accurate first-time fix rate can result in greater customer satisfaction.
- You may not be assigning technicians and engineers to the right job based on availability, availability of spare parts and inventory, expertise, and hourly rates.
Informational Service Management Gaps
- You’re not collecting comprehensive information about the location of a job and your services.
- You may not be collecting the identifiable unique asset identification number of assets that need to be serviced.
Ease of Service Delivery Gaps
- You may not have a single data access point for your office-based employees and in-field workers. Instead, you’re providing information through email, on a mobile app, and on a spreadsheet. Which can make life difficult for your service team.
- A less structured approval process to start, progress, and complete service jobs.
What Field Service, Workforce, and Commercial Outcomes Do You Require?
Being able to quantify the outcomes that you want from a field service management solution is beneficial for both you and your service teams. For instance, it can help you to:
- Amplify your confidence and clarity in buying a new tool
- Help you relay the outcomes of investing in a Field Service Management Software to your management
- Define milestones to monitor the deliverables of your FSM tool
Most leading field service businesses will set clear goals for their services and in-field workers. For example, if you receive 300 requests per month, your total service management costs will be £400,000. The average service time would be 90 minutes. But, with a field service management system in place, you may set a target to reduce your field service costs to £300,000. You may also want the average service time to come down to 60 minutes.
Setting Your Field Service Management Goals
|Field Service Management Parameters||Current System||Targets for New Field Service Management Software|
|Number of Service Requests Per Month||300||300|
|Service Cost Per Equipment||5.5% of the total equipment cost per annum||4 to 4.5% per annum|
|Equipment Life||6 Years||7.5 Years|
|Total Service Costs||£400,000||£300,000 to £320,000|
As you have decided to implement a new way of delivering your field services, we strongly recommend using this milestone in your team to understand what type of behavioural changes and team enhancements you need to focus on in order to amplify your service delivery.
Your team is going to exchange information differently with a field service management tool. They’re also going to communicate differently with a field service management system.
So, before embarking on any system changes, it is highly recommended that you have clarity on what level of training and coaching your field service team will require. Allowing employees and in-field workers to adapt to working with the new software.
Identify FSM Software Features Needed to Meet Your Service Management Requirements
All field service management tools will be packed full of various features and capabilities. But, there may be some features that you want to prioritise above others in order to reach your field service goals. Because of this, it’s useful to have clarity on both the generic and process level features that you want from your new solution.
Ideally, having an understanding of your current field service processes and the gaps you need to rectify should act as a foundation for the features you require. It’s also important to identify what your core requirements are. For example:
- What data do you plan to import data into your Field Service Management Software?
- Do you need to integrate your FSM software with an existing in-house tool?
- Do you need data feed from your accounts software or any external feed?
- Are you wanting to improve collaboration between in-office employees and in-field workers?
- Do you need to improve your work order and service request management?
Here’re some typical functions that field service managers and businesses require from a field service management tool:
Cloud-Based Service With Mobile Access for Technicians
Typically, cloud-based software refers to data being hosted on an external server that can be public, private, or a hybrid between the two. In this model, you rent the software and the space to hold your service data.
Most businesses opt for cloud-based software due to low upfront costs. This Software as a Service (SaaS) model allows you to access field service data at any time, anywhere, from a mobile device. This is crucial for allowing in-field workers and technicians to access data in real-time when on a job.
Most mobile field service engineers and teams have access to devices such as tablets, mobiles, and laptops. But, whilst the job and work order information is available on mobile devices, getting the balance right between information overload, concise information, and type ability/readability needs to be constantly revisited. Listed below are key parameters that you may want to consider when deciding on the features for your mobile service technicians:
- Job access on tablets, mobiles, and laptops
- Health and safety checks
- Job progress and completion features
- Spare parts traceability, return, and shipment
- Job completion reports
As well as a cloud-based software option, other types of field service management tools include:
Web-Based FSM Software
This can be installed on a cloud model or on your own servers and is accessible through the web.
On-Premise FSM Systems
These are installed on your own servers. This architecture is mostly preferred over a web-based model for its extra security features.
Easily Log Field Service Requests
How you log service requests depends on both the nature of your business and your customers. For example, consumer service requests tend to be volume-driven, with low-average service costs. With Business-to-Business (B2B) services, the level of information you need to capture in order to plan and schedule field services can be complex.
Here are a few conditions that are likely to help you define your service request features:
- Effectively organise service requests logged by customers
- Filter jobs logged by condition and time-based parameters
- Identify jobs logged due to service level agreements (SLAs)
- Identify jobs logged due to condition monitoring
- Being able to issue service certificates and reports
Planning and Scheduling Service Jobs
Here are a few typical service management conditions that allow you to define your features list:
- Jobs planning and scheduling by availability, expertise, and service type
- Calendar layout options to review plans and schedule
- Calendar options to book technicians based on availability and hourly rates
- Incorporating the availability of external technicians
- Planning based on spare parts availability
- Scheduling parts delivery
- Route planning
- Fleet management
Having Visibility and Control of Your Office-Based Teams
Service coordination, cooperation, audits, and inspections are just some of the key areas that office-based service teams lead. Here are some of the key tasks of office-based service teams that may help you to define your features list:
- Accessing service information and technician information
- Assigning and reassigning jobs
- Ordering spare parts
- Calendar scheduling
- Logging calls and service notes
Reporting, Analytics, and Work Order Management
Leading service teams leverage Field Service Management Software by using it as a common repository for their entire team. They set it up to capture and relay data effectively, then use the service data to draw insights and trends. Ultimately making transformational service level decisions on data.
Here are some of the typical areas that may help you to refine your service reporting requirements:
- Service incidents and status by each customer
- Job completion metrics by each technician
- Profitable service jobs
- Loss-making service calls
- Adherence to service level agreement
- Threshold ordering for parts
- Spare parts management
- Vehicle servicing management
How to Shortlist & Compare the Best Field Service Management Software
Whilst most field service management tools look and feel the same, there are nuances in them that can make a big difference. For example, some systems will prioritise ease of logging service information, while some will focus more on mobile planning and scheduling.
We recommend reviewing the entire Field Service Management Software marketplace and shortlist at least five tools that match your core requirements.
Once you have your tools shortlisted, it’s then vital to develop a granular understanding of each system. Ask yourself:
- Does the product match your core requirements?
- Is the product used within your industry and would it be a good industry fit?
- Will it be easily implemented within your current workflow?
- Do your team, employees, and in-field workers need to be trained to use the system?
At this point, we recommend cross-referencing the deliverables you want from the tool with the price of the tool (use a budget calculator) and project the return on investment period.
Ideally, you’ll want to reach clear value statements. For example, you know that you can spend up to £23,000 per year on Field Service Management Software because it will save you £38,000 per year and you’ll recover your investment in nine months.
This type of clarified thinking helps to drive confidence and speed of decision making on purchasing and deployment.
Getting Buy-In from Decision-Makers
After you have seen an initial overview of each shortlisted system, you should then arrange an in-depth product demonstration for each field service tool.
It’s highly recommended that you collaborate, communicate, and involve all decision-makers during each product demo. Here are some key points that may help you to evaluate the fit with your requirements:
- Is the tool easy to use?
- Can the field service tool hold your data and replicate the desired service workflows with minimal training?
- Review each feature that you have listed from Step 4 during the demo
- How well is the service management system used in your industry?
As buying decisions are emotional, quantifying the logic to buy a tool that is going to be used in your organisation for the next three to five years is important.
Field Service Management Software is an automation factor to deliver your field service processes. It will amplify good data and well-thought-out processes. But if the data is not accurate and the processes are not well thought out, then it will just be another software tool that acts as a junk data collector.
Implementation, in many ways, is much more important than the solution you choose. A well-implemented, average service software will easily beat a poorly implemented, good service tool.
Key Factors to Consider When Purchasing an FSM Solution
Most field service software buyers make the mistake of not speaking with existing customers of their chosen software product. Speaking with a couple of customers is always recommended, as it can give you validation on the product, implementation and support.
Licensing conditions need to be clearly understood. If you are buying cloud-based software, you are renting the software and the space to hold your data. You’ll want to make sure you know what happens to your service data after you stop paying the rent, or what happens if you decide to switch software at a later stage.
Most UK-based products come with support included in the pricing, yet it might be an idea to cross-check support terms (technically known as a service level agreement) with the selected vendor.
If you are considering an open-source field service management product, you’ll have to have a clear understanding of how you are going to install the product, how you are going to configure it and how you are going to get support.