Modern mobile field service applications strive to exceed customer expectations by keeping field agents informed and connected to company information systems in real-time. And today, more than ever, field personnel are expected to act as the voice and face of companies as they interact with customers.
In this article, we’ll show you some of the high-impact ways that mobile field apps and Field Service Management Software can improve customer experience and streamline the operational delivery of your products and services.
The Primary Benefits of a Mobile Field Service System
Faster Reaction Time for Customers
When service disruptions or other emergencies occur, it’s essential to have a fast and effective way to communicate with all stakeholders. Mobile field service apps allow you to send out real-time alerts and updates to your team as soon as an incident occurs. This can help reduce the response time for getting critical information out to the people who need it most.
Transparency and Accountability
While there is no substitute for an empathetic, collaborative management style, mobile apps can work in both directions to increase communication to and between management and front line team members. When properly used, mobile field service apps can help keep everyone informed and on the same page. This can help prevent problems before they snowball into larger issues and improve customer satisfaction.
Better Audit Trails
Whether internal or external, efficient audits increase operational confidence and can provide valuable insights for process improvement. Mobile field service apps can automatically record all user activity, providing an accurate audit trail of all modifications and actions taken in the app. This capability can be critical for maintaining compliance with government or industry regulations, or simply proving that a task was completed correctly.
In many cases, companies are legally responsible for the actions of their employees. When using mobile field service apps, companies can limit their legal liability by ensuring that all tasks and activities are performed within the app. This helps to protect both the company and the employee in case of any unfortunate incidents. By making it much easier for customers to sign necessary legal documents, field teams can get started on servicing the customer quickly without unnecessary legal exposure.
How Mobile Field Service Apps Work for Team Managers
From the manager’s perspective, mobile field service apps can provide a wealth of data that was once difficult or impossible to collect. With the ability to track employee location and performance in real-time, managers can now make better decisions about resource allocation and job prioritisation.
In addition, by interfacing with corporate information systems, they can provide managers with up-to-date customer information, order status, and other key data points.
Coordination across teams and departments requires managerial reports and interfaces that let managers and directors make informed decisions with up-to-date information. By providing managers with mobile field service apps that give them access to real-time data, you’re empowering them to make better decisions and take corrective actions quickly. This can minimise the impact of incidents on your customers and improve your organisation’s overall performance.
With the ability to assign and track jobs, as well as receive updates on the status of each job, dispatchers can better manage resources and keep your team moving. In addition, many mobile field service apps include a GPS-enabled map that shows the exact location of all field personnel. Advancements are always being made in solving the “travelling-salesman” problem more efficiently, and the right field service apps make it possible to leverage those improvements in a practical way.
What Technicians Gain From Using a Mobile Field Service System
From the field service technician’s perspective, mobile apps can provide a wealth of valuable features. In addition to the capabilities mentioned earlier, field service technicians can use mobile apps to:
- Access customer information and history
- Enter or upload customer notes
- Upload pictures or videos of work being performed
- Record time spent on each task
- Receive updates on the status of active jobs
- Submit completed work orders
- Get directions to the next job location
- View inventory levels
Less Paperwork for Field Techs
It’s best to keep the field experts doing what they do best and away from pencil pushing downtime. Mobile apps help by automating many of the data entry tasks that need to be done in the field. This can free up time for technicians to focus on the job at hand and also help to keep your data organised and accurate. By automating data entry, you’re also reducing human error that can lead to lost or incorrect information.
Improved Job Performance
With the ability to track time spent on each task, technicians can more accurately bill for their services. In addition, many mobile field service apps include a library of standard procedures that technicians can use as a reference guide. Having quick access to this information can help reduce the time needed to complete a task and improve a worker’s first-time fix rate (FTFR). It also helps ensure that tasks are completed in the correct order and with the correct steps.
What to Consider When Choosing a Mobile Field Service System
Like any new technology, mobile field service software does produce some challenges. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the software can interface with your organisation’s other information systems. Without this integration, you may not be able to get the full benefit of the mobile app. Consider these four factors when choosing to deploy new software:
1. Device Support
Make sure that the software works well on a variety of different devices. With the number of mobile platforms and devices out there, it’s important that the software performs well on a variety of different devices.
The rollout and adoption of new software can also be a challenge. It’s important that management is on board with the new software, and that employees are trained on how to use it. By taking the time to plan and execute a rollout strategy, you can ensure that the new software is adopted quickly and smoothly.
Security is an ever-present concern. While a properly designed mobile app can mitigate some of the risks, due to their very nature mobile field service apps have the potential to greatly increase the attack surface area of a network. Companies must take great care in the design of their mobile apps to properly protect against unauthorised access.
Another potential challenge is the workflow impact of new software. Mobile field service apps are often quite disruptive and can cause confusion and chaos if rolled out incorrectly. It’s important to have a solid plan for deploying new mobile apps and to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of and understand the changes.
As with all new technology, there are always some challenges faced when deploying mobile field service apps. But with careful planning and a clear understanding of the needs and goals of your organisation, these challenges can be overcome. The benefits that digital apps provide are too great to ignore.
Top Tips for Selecting and Deploying a Mobile Field Service Tool
There are several factors to consider when deploying a mobile field service system. One important consideration is the app’s compatibility with your existing information systems. Your field agents will need access to the same data that they normally would, and any changes or updates to company data must be reflected in the mobile app quickly and accurately.
Include Field Agents in the Evaluation Process
Ideally, every field agent would be included in the decision making process when defining those core functionalities and qualities that a mobile field service app should have. Whether it’s as simple as sending out a well-designed survey, or as deep as multiple in-person interviews over time; consider the input from front line team members.
There are more considerations beyond the field users, but they are invariably going to be impacted the most by any new technology you deploy. The simple act of getting their opinion during the process has been shown to improve adoption rates once a choice is made.
Stagger Your Mobile Field Service Deployment
Setting expectations is key when making any changes, especially for those who are going to be required to adapt. As much as possible, you’ll want to deploy new mobile field service applications to a small beta or test group first for a week or two.
Get feedback from this core team of early adopters and refine your messaging to the rest of your field teams. Improve educational documentation. Inform them of problem areas and workarounds in advance, so they don’t have to go through the same frustration cycle as those in the beta group.
Employees appreciate when changes are made slowly and cautiously, as it gives them time to adapt and prevents upheaval in their day-to-day work. Consider relaxing performance requirements in those situations when the new mobile technology is especially disruptive and slowly ramps up as everyone is brought online and becomes familiar.
List and Prioritise Features and Functions
Depending on the size of your departments, be more or less comprehensive in the creation of a hierarchy of features for your mobile field service application. With large departments affecting hundreds or thousands of employees, you’ll want to be very thorough. Less so for smaller teams that can adapt more quickly to changing software systems.
After you’ve identified those features that exist across various solutions, begin prioritising them all at least based on customer impact, cost reduction, operational efficiency, and employee impact. You may also want to consider the managerial impact such as reporting options, dashboards, and other more advanced summarisation and forecasting capabilities.
Seamless Integration with Other Systems
Most businesses have a variety of information systems in use, from customer relationship management (CRM) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and more. To be effective, mobile field service apps must be able to integrate with these existing systems. Good solutions will have connectors for the most common systems or at least be able to export data in a standard format that can be easily imported into other systems.
If you’re considering a custom-built app, make sure that the development team understands your existing information systems and is familiar with the necessary integration points.
The Future of Mobile Field Service Apps
Looking into the future, mobile field service apps will only become more powerful and versatile. With the advent of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the mobile industry as a whole is very promising.
The continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) brings more and more devices online and they’ll need to be managed by teams who install and service them. This will create opportunities for even more sophisticated applications that can not only manage devices and sensors but also diagnose and repair them.
All of this is to say that if you’re thinking about deploying a mobile field service system, don’t wait. The time is now. With the right planning, you can make the transition as smooth as possible for all those affected.