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Ramesh Sunder

Operations

How to Drive Operational Excellence in Field Services

Don’t leave your customers out in the cold

Published: Tuesday, November 9, 2021 - 12:02

Imagine you’re on the road on a cold night. You stop at a coffee shop to get a latte to keep you awake. You come out, and your car doesn’t start. You call your roadside assistance company, which promptly dispatches a technician, only to find out that the car’s alternator needs a replacement, and he doesn’t have the specific one for your car.

We often find ourselves in similar situations with repair services for appliances, electronics, plumbing, air conditioners, heaters, and Wi-Fi service. Too often, the technician leaves without solving the problem because of missing supplies or necessary tools. It’s maddening when we have to wait for the repair person to arrive and then learn the service will be delayed because of poor planning by the service provider.

Companies that manufacture equipment or provide installation and repair services are recognizing the need to “get it right the first time” to provide a differentiating customer experience. Any repair that doesn’t solve the problem in a single visit creates extra work as the company must reschedule the appointment; customer dissatisfaction leading to possible churn; and employee dissatisfaction because the dispatcher didn’t relay the right information. All this has a direct impact on the company’s margins and profitability.

Consumers have many choices today, and for companies to stay competitive, providing operational excellence in field service is necessary for survival. What are some ways to drive operational efficiencies as an integral part of a great field-service experience?

Accurate data collection

Resolving a field-service call to a customer’s satisfaction requires a modern system that will allow customer service agents to collect all the details related to the service call. Cloud-based enterprise software helps here by ensuring that the right information is collected no matter what channel the customer uses—mobile app, phone call, or website. Providing options so customers can use any communication channel is the first step.

Identifying the nature of the service call is next. Collecting some basic information and providing other data points based on the customer’s purchase history or previous service calls makes the process easy. Identifying data like VIN or serial numbers is a quick way to accurately identify parts that may be needed during the service. This is where the field-service process truly starts. Incorrect part identification could require a repeat visit from the technician if a wrong part ends up in the service truck.

Comprehensive resource planning

Resources include technicians, vehicles, and materials. Planning the field service involves allocating appropriate time for skilled technicians, including the shortest time to the site, as well as understanding how long the work will take and scheduling adjacent jobs. Fleet availability with proper equipment is another aspect. A combination of software solutions that focus on field-service management along with enterprise resource planning can provide end-to-end support for effective field-service operations.

Delivering transparency and visibility

Many roles within an organization work together to create an efficient field-service operation. It starts with a customer entering a service request. A service agent gets all the necessary details and coverts the request into a work order. Work-order details should be visible to a dispatcher to schedule a service appointment. The technician must have the right parts to complete the service request. The costs of the service request are identified in the final invoice. Material planners and buyers must have visibility into the material inventory.

To drive an enhanced customer experience, transparency throughout each stage of the process must be available to all parties. An effective software solution provides access to information anytime, anywhere, and on any device to keep everyone in the loop during the various stages of the field-service engagement.

Mobile-ready

Any field-service software solution must include a mobile app to allow customers to submit a service request. The app should be able to identify locations using GPS, scan bar codes and take pictures using the device’s camera, and receive notifications. Technicians can use the app to get to the service location, report service completions, scan serial numbers of part replacements, and log service time. Capturing customer satisfaction scores as soon as the service is completed is also helpful.

Finding a solution that works for you

How does one find an appropriate filed-service solution that delivers operational excellence at a scale for growth and profitability? Start by exploring integrated solutions that provide the following:

• Compatible with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software
• Extended capabilities such as materials planning for spare parts, inventory management, serial tracking, and financials
• Low/no code functionality

The potential of expanding functionality by leveraging platform such as Salesforce, Slack, Einstein Discovery, Einstein Bots, and others also offers artificial intelligence and machine learning options for future growth.

Discuss

About The Author

Ramesh Sunder’s picture

Ramesh Sunder

As the VP of Products & Technology, Ramesh Sunder brings over 25 years of experience in building Enterprise Software and SaaS products. Sunder leads product development, QA & DevOps teams at Rootstock and oversees all product and technology related decisions to deliver a robust Cloud Enterprise application for Rootstock customers.