Traditionally, field technicians have punched in each morning, picked up a stack of job tickets, and then disappeared to work offsite for the rest of the day. This time away from company headquarters can create an unknowable black box.

How well are they interacting with customers? How effectively is their time and knowledge being utilized? What communication tools do they – and you! – need to be more efficient?

Site engineer with his tablet PC on a construction site

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. As recent research from Salesforce.com indicates:

  • 83% of company leaders say their service departments play a critical customer service role.
  • 38% of service technicians feel they can’t access the information they need in the field.
  • 52% of companies are still using manual processes to coordinate field services.

So, to move away from outdated and inefficient field service processes, what technology helps manage workers most effectively? We’ll go over the different options below, so you can identify which solutions are best suited for you.

How Technology Helps Manage Workers

Increased digital connectivity is driving improvements in the scheduling of service technicians as well as communications in the field. Plus, these employees are often the frontline face of a company. This demands they be as responsive in dealing with customers as they are skilled when fixing equipment problems.

After all, while the global field service market was $1.78 billion in 2016, this is projected to increase to $4.45 billion by 2022. Optimizing this revenue stream isn’t just a take-it-or-leave-it option. Instead, it’s a key performance indicator (KPI) measuring competitiveness in your industry.

1. Smartphones

First things first: Quit thinking of smartphones as primarily being phones, the opportunities they offer go far beyond voice communications. As a study by the Service Council notes, smartphones can also be used to find out the parts needed for a service call, record new customer opportunities into a CRM, and even check for optimal driving routes.

When it comes to communication, short message service (SMS) texts can be more effective than phone calls. After all, the necessary information will be delivered even if a technician is occupied. In addition, the content of the message can be easily accessed, such as a link to a street address. Customers will also no longer see field technicians sidetracked by calls when an SMS text will suffice.

Plus, thanks to mobile payment processing apps such as Square, you can be paid as soon as a job is done. Or, if it’s a business client, invoice on the spot without any delay. This can shorten the payment cycle by as much as 22 days.

2. Tablets

The use of tablets is also increasing due to their larger screen size which offers greater functionality. For example, there are a variety of HVAC apps whose use will be optimized on a tablet:

  • HVAC Buddy: Access multiple features including diagnosis of leaks, contaminants, and overcharge as well as airflow, target evaporator exit temperature (TEET), and Delta-T calculations.
  • HVAC Duct Sizer: Size and resize duct runs as well as input airflow, friction loss, and velocity parameters to calculate maximum efficiency.
  • Refrigerant PressTemp HVACR: Locate and easily scroll through comprehensive information for more than 50 different refrigerants.
  • HVAC Check & Charge: Determine refrigerant charge using airflow, subcooling, and superheat calculators.

In addition, the larger tablet screen makes accessing diagrams, fact sheets, technical videos, and other information easier and more productive.

Field workers of a Managed Services Provider (MSP)

3. Analytics

The allocation of jobs, resources, and field technicians is too often done on an ad hoc basis. The use of comprehensive field service analytics, however, can identify both positive and negative trends to help maximize performance:

  • Service Time: average time to resolve all service calls for each technician
  • Expertise: time to resolve each type of service call for each technician
  • Customer Service: rates of customer satisfaction for each type of service call as well as individual technicians

Using checkpoints and check-ins will generate additional actionable information. Automatic geotagging technology helps manage workers by pinpointing their locations during the day. Time-stamped status updates for arrivals at, and departures from, jobs help identify the ratio of service time to drivetime.

Applied at a more granular level, these types of metrics can also maximize your fleet management. Are service technicians speeding at any point during the day? Are vehicles idling for excessive periods of time or being used outside of working hours?

This information will help reduce costs as well as potential liability.

4. Company Knowledge Base

Increased levels of communication in the field also have the possibility to leverage the accumulated knowledge of your service technicians and related information. A virtual knowledge base offers multiple opportunities for better service and increased revenue:

  • Share expertise among technicians.
  • Access detailed equipment installation and service history.
  • Identify optimal lines of communication for each client as well as critical relationship data points based on service history.
  • Maximize parts management and inventory.

Some companies see an in-house knowledge base as important enough to create a new position: an information “czar” to oversee its creation and management.

Field service management

Field Service Management Software

You can always implement one or more of the options above in a standalone fashion. Given the state of digital connectivity discussed earlier, however, an integrated field service management software solution may ultimately be your best bet.

Robust dispatch software, like ServiceTitan, allows you to implement and coordinate many of key features. This includes everything from using SMS communications with – and among! – field technicians, to ensuring the skills of each tech are best suited to the jobs assigned.

Not only will customer service satisfaction rates increase, you’ll also be able to maximize revenue generated.

Taking the Next Step

Technology helps manage workers, but it’s not a cure-all by itself.

You’ll want to first take a close look at your current field service practices to identify both what’s already working well and the areas needing improvement. That way you can most effectively integrate one or more of the technologies above – or even an entire field service management system – to increase the overall effectiveness of these activities.