What Is Field Service Management & How Does It Work?
From plumbers and electricians to landscaping and pest control, field service management is essential for ensuring workers deliver exceptional service to customers. Traditionally, service management involved assigning jobs to workers via phone calls and keeping track of paper invoices. But, with cloud-based software and SaaS packages becoming more accessible, businesses of all sizes are now able to maximize and automate their entire service output.
What Is Field Service Management (FSM)?
Field service refers to tasks and operations that are performed off-site by employees away from company property. Typical field service jobs include installations, repairs, and maintenance across multiple business sectors such as utilities and construction. Field service management then provides the platform that enables businesses to manage their employees who work in the field, while seamlessly connected them with on-site staff.
Field service management can provide numerous benefits for service providers, including:
- Increased job completions
- Quicker communication between office-based staff and field workers
- Reduced delays of services to customers
- Improved customer satisfaction and retention rates
- Reduced expenditures such as fuel and inventory spending
FSM consists of various components that help businesses to maximize their delivery of services to customers. Typical activities include:
Field Service Management Scheduling
Managers and supervisors can schedule, assign, and dispatch their most qualified field workers with the most suitable jobs. This not only reduces costs such as travel expenses but also increases the likelihood of a better first-time fix rate (FTFR).
Vehicle Tracking and Dispatch
Real-time tracking with IoT devices, such as GPS trackers, helps to provide field workers with the information they need when assigned to a job. It can also help to eliminate the estimated 50% of service hours lost due to travel time discrepancies such as traffic congestion.
Office-based staff have an overview of each contract a business has with its customers to ensure service level agreements (SLAs) are being met.
Inventory & Spare Parts Management
Having real-time inventory access provides workers who are off-site with the exact number of spare parts in stock back at the warehouse. This enables them to know if the right part for a job is immediately available or needs ordering.
Billing and Invoicing
Digitized billing and invoicing tools mean payments and accounting statements are quicker and easier to perform. Off-site workers can collect payment from customers when on the job, while invoices are immediately received back at the office.
Who Benefits From Field Service Management?
Service management processes help provide a quicker and more efficient link between workers in the field and on-site staff. This makes FSM tools essential for companies looking to maximize their delivery of services to customers. Particularly in industries such as energy and gas, utilities, construction, and healthcare.
Although field service management has a strong focus on dispatch and communication protocols, certain FSM tools are also able to elevate the performance of other areas in a business. In particular, the employees who use them.
Managers and Supervisors
Real-time tracking and speedy communication have propelled the efficiency of managers assigning jobs to their field workers. They’re able to assign workers in the proximity of a job request, schedule jobs with advanced warning, and dispatch their more qualified workers to a particular job. This helps to increase the chances of a first-time fix as well as improve customer service levels.
With the right FSM tools, on-site staff are easily able to connect with workers in the field. This helps to improve the collaboration between both teams and increase the speed of data input. Including hours logged, work order status, job completions, and payments processed.
Workers in the field have access to a shared dashboard that provides them with real-time updates regarding job locations, inventory control, and job details. This helps to accelerate job completions and ensures that each worker is fully prepared when going to a job. Without field service management, workers are more reliant on contacting the office and waiting for information to be relayed to them. Resulting in a delay to job completions and unsatisfied customers.
Businesses have the option to share certain details regarding a job and their workers with their customers. This provides customers with real-time location updates to know exactly when a technician will be arriving.
3 Common Challenges of Service Management
Although processes are easier when managing a small team, businesses can face several challenges in their field service protocols when it comes to managing larger groups of field workers across multiple locations.
Three common problems that are regular when it comes to performing field service management include miscommunication, lack of data, and scheduling conflicts.
1. Miscommunication Between On-Site and Off-Site Employees
With cloud-based Field Service Management Software, all employees have access to a shared dashboard. Within a dashboard is all the information that both on-site and off-site workers need, such as job requirements and customer information. But, without a single point of access, field workers will rely heavily on job details to be sent manually via email or over the phone. This means information can be delayed or even false.
2. Scheduling Conflicts with Field Workers
With over 52% of service providers choosing to use manual methods such as pen and paper or whiteboards for their service management tasks, scheduling and dispatch conflicts are a common occurrence. This results in multiple workers being sent to the same job location, leading to a drop in productivity and a rise in expenditures such as fuel costs and job expenses.
3. Lack of Real-Time Field Service Management Data
For field service management to operate smoothly, data not only needs to be correct but also updated. This allows off-site workers to know the exact amount of spare parts available for the job, office-based employees to communicate with customers regarding work orders, and managers to know the location of all staff when assigning jobs.
The Advantages of Cloud-Based Field Service Management Software
Understanding the importance of FSM and implementing it in the workplace is a good starting point for providers. But, to get the most from service management processes, businesses should consider a cloud-based Field Service Management Software solution.
In a competitive landscape, making sure teams provide the best possible service to customers is essential. As is maximizing efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards. As opposed to manual methods such as spreadsheets, software solutions provide the features necessary for businesses of all types and sizes.
Key features that make up an effective FSM Software tool include:
- Mobile access via an app or dedicated log in
- A shared dashboard for all service management information
- A secure billing and payment process for customers
- Inventory management for ordering and suppliers data
- Work order management for monitoring job activities
- Real-time fleet management capabilities
The Difference Between FSM and Mobile Workforce Management
Although often used interchangeably, the terms ‘mobile worker’ and ‘field worker’ are fundamentally different. A mobile worker is someone whose core job function does not take place on-site. Whereas a field worker is a designated mobile worker that has been enlisted to deliver a specific type of service to a customer.
Understanding the difference between each type of worker is important when it comes to selected the right tool; Field Service Management Software or mobile workforce management (MWM).
Ideally, if a business intends to focus more on improving the customer experience and in-field productivity, then mobile workforce management is the intended choice. Whereas, if a company wants to improve the installation and deployment of their own products, field service management would be the preferred option.