Whether you want to increase customer retention rates or maximise delivery output, the efficient distribution of services by your gas engineers is essential. Particularly when servicing central heating systems, installing boilers, and ensuring gas safety.
But, the process of tracking and managing workers in the field can be challenging. Especially as gas engineers typically work remotely for both domestic and commercial purposes. Luckily, that’s where Field Service Management Software can help.
In this guide, we highlight the challenges that manual field service management poses. As well as touching on the importance of using software to improve your gas engineer management.
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What Type of Field Jobs Do You Do?
The Benefits of Managing Gas Engineers With Software
Specialised software is used by operations managers, field workers, and even customers. It provides the capabilities to elevate services and improve the management of engineers. Whether specialising in installations, repairs, or callouts, gas engineer software is key for most business types.
Sas engineers play a crucial role in the ever-expanding field service sector. Contributing to the projected 1.87 billion mobile workers. Trained engineers are on hand to deliver services to customers in the form of domestic and commercial callouts. As well as planned maintenance and fixes for gas appliances. Which, with an average of 1.7 million boilers being installed each year and 21 million being serviced, is essential.
To compete in a populated marketplace, companies expect a good return on investment from their engineers. Typical KPIs can include:
- High job completion rates
- Exceptional customer satisfaction scores
- Minimal delays to jobs
- Good customer retention rates
The key to achieving this is through the use of automated field service tools. Although software solutions were once only common in larger mobile operations like utilities and healthcare, greater accessibility has ensured that they’re a must-have for all field service providers. With the right tools in place, gas engineering companies can begin to reap the benefits. Such as:
Gas engineer software enables both field managers and engineers to benefit from an all-in-one job management tool. This means all customer entries are received through one centralised system, allowing supervisors to be more efficient with their scheduling. As well as providing workers with the information needed to make better decisions when carrying out a job.
No More Paperwork
The use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, means engineers don’t have to worry about paperwork. Instead of cluttering up workspaces and misplacing essential documentation, all information is stored on a cloud-based app. That includes customer details, maintenance history, installation manuals, gas safety certificates, and invoices.
Dynamic Scheduling of Gas Engineers
By using features such as real-time tracking and job management, field operators can optimise and improve their scheduling. They can reduce job delays by locating and assigning the nearest technician and ensure the most qualified gas engineers are assigned to high-priority tasks, such as reactive callouts.
More First-Time Fixes
Having access to a centralised system allows workers to stay on top of their tasks. They can check spare parts inventory levels, read boiler manuals offline, and generate gas safety certificates. All from a mobile device. These are just some capabilities that improve an engineer’s efficiency and lead to a higher percentage of first-time fix rates. With businesses achieving a customer retention rate of 86% with a 70% first-time fix rate, it’s essential to ensure a customer’s problem is solved the first time asking.
6 Software Tools to Equip Your Gas Engineers With
1. Real-time Job Tracking
With over 35 billion IoT devices predicted to be in use by 2025, the field service industry should be taking advantage of this technology. One benefit of working with IoT devices is having the ability to track engineers in the field. Through tracking tags such as GPS trackers, businesses can:
- Be updated on job status and progress as it happens
- See how many hours an engineer has worked
- Track vehicles and plan optimised routes
Businesses can also provide logins to cloud-based apps for their customers. This allows them to see when an engineer is arriving, their contact details with an identification photo, and if they’re on the gas safe register.
2. Shared Customer Portal
A popular software feature is the ability to upload information to a centralised dashboard and share it with your team. This is no exception when it comes to gas engineer software.
When in the field, engineers have access to customer details, job requests, work schedules, and job sheets. This eliminates the process of having to contact office staff to request data, which can lead to delays.
3. Offline Access
Although engineers may be supplied with their own mobile devices, they’ll still require a network connection to be able to access data. But, that’s not the case with an offline access tool. Through a dedicated app, workers can have offline access to:
- Site notes
- Inspections and surveys
- Inventory and spare parts tracking
- Asset and service histories
- Appliance photos and videos
- Knowledge bases
4. Digital Documents
Relying on paper documents or manual input methods such as spreadsheets can lead to misplaced information and data errors. Instead, a field service tool can be used to digitally convert all documents via a mobile device.
Whereas workers would typically be sending quotes via email or having supervisors chase customers for unpaid invoices, data can be collected and actioned straight away. This can also relate to other documentation, such as:
- Maintenance and survey checklists
- Gas safety certificates and compliance forms
- Customer signatures
5. Boiler Service Reminders
A tool that is solely focused on gas engineering processes is the ability to automatically schedule annual boiler services. This works as an auto-renewal and reminder process. Once a technician has serviced a customer’s boiler, that data is input into the system and a reminder is created to perform another service in 12 months.
With over 700,000 boiler-related incidents that include gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning in 2015 alone, providing regular services to gas appliances is essential.
6. Equipment Integration
A feature that will come in handy for a majority of gas and heating field workers is the ability to connect external devices. For instance, most engineers will get readouts from gas analysis equipment that are used for various documentation. With an integrated field service management tool, these readings can be logged in to an app and added to a boiler’s gas safety certificate or compliance form.
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The Challenges of Manually Managing a Workforce
With 52% of businesses opting to manage their field service processes via spreadsheets and whiteboards, it’s not uncommon for gas, heating, and plumbing providers to follow suit. For instance, a typical approach to manual field service management can involve:
- Supplying engineers with job locations
- Updating customers on an engineer’s arrival time
- Updating job statues on a spreadsheet
- Emailing invoices and gas safety certificates to customers
- Waiting on payments from customers
Not only can manual processes be time-consuming, costly, and harmful to a business’s delivery of services, but they can also present a range of challenges to both field managers and gas engineers.
Problems Dispatching Gas Engineers
When it comes to scheduling and dispatching engineers, service providers must do so in the most streamlined and efficient way. But, when operating without the use of automated tools, this can become an issue.
For instance, you might be assigning engineers via the use of an office whiteboard. Not only does the lack of real-time data make this challenging to know when a job is complete, but it also means engineers have to travel back to the office and see where their next job is.
A manual approach to dispatch can also blur the lines between knowing which engineers are qualified. One technician might be more adept at performing regular boiler checks, whereas another engineer may specialise in ensuring gas safety and compliance.
No Tracking Data
Being able to collect data in real-time opens up many opportunities for field service providers, including:
- Live job status updates
- Vehicle route optimisation
- Spare parts and inventory management
- Instant job scheduling and dispatch
But, although workers may be equipped with mobile devices, having no access to a cloud-based tool means there is a lack of real-time data. From tracking engineers to sharing data, without real-time capabilities both field managers and their workers can suffer.
Lack of Job Information
Having access to offline data is key to providing customers with a first-time fix, which is essential for improving a business’s customer satisfaction scores. This data is crucial for completing a job. But, without the right information, a job’s first-time fix rate can suffer. If a job isn’t completed the first time of asking, customers face an average 14 day wait.
Things to Consider When Choosing Gas Engineer Software
It’s important to remember that not all gas and heating service providers have the same goals or requirements.
For instance, a larger operation that has hundreds of workers attending multiple locations will have a preferred focus on real-time job tracking. Whereas a smaller operation of fewer than 10 engineers will want to optimise their scheduling and ensure workers are available to customers at all times.
So, when it comes to choosing the best software for your team, there are a few factors that must be considered:
Does the Product Match Your Requirements?
Before diving into the marketplace of gas engineer software, it’s important to highlight what your goals are and what ROI you expect.
Is your goal to increase customer retention rates by improving first-time fixes? Or, with 45% of mobile workers wasting significant time due to outdated and inaccurate information, is it to increase the efficiency and productivity of your engineers.
This is also a good stage to make a list of what features are essential to achieving your goals and which aren’t.
Can Engineers Be Easily Trained?
Unlike spreadsheets, which, although error-prone and often unproductive, are a familiar sight for most employees, a new system can take a while to learn. Sending your engineers on a crash course to understand a new tool may not be feasible, particularly if you only have a small team. In this case, be sure to see what training aids a vendor offers. It could be videos, online tutorials, or evening classes.
Another key factor is to try a demo of the product before making a purchase. As most software vendors provide free demos, this should be relatively easy to find. By accessing a trial of the product, you can understand how difficult or easy it is to use. As well as gauging how long employees will take to learn the new system.
Does the Product Cater to Smaller Gas Engineering Companies?
As service providers were typically seen as larger operations, software vendors built their products with enterprises in mind. But, as cloud-based tools have become more accessible and affordable, smaller operations have thrived. Such as window cleaning and pest control services. This means that vendors now build their tools with smaller field service teams in mind.
For gas and heating businesses with less than 10 engineers, it’s important to understand if a software vendor can provide the right features for you. Do you need a tool to focus on offline access that provides engineers with data on the job? Or, do you require a tool that makes it easier to invoice customers while on the job?