Few functions are as challenging to manage as field service management. In fact, it’s practically a managerial nightmare. From tracking entire fleets of vehicles to scores of technicians, it’s a sector that requires intelligent monitoring and constant feedback to stay ahead of the next potential breakdown.
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3 major pain points that every part of the field service industry faces, and the solutions to the same:
1. Filing paperwork… doesn’t work
You can’t align every employee’s tasks, results, and performance from inside a filing cabinet. That’s why upgrading from a dusty old filing system up to a sleek, user-focused field management software can relieve the pain point of disorganization. That recommendation comes with some caveats, of course.
For starters, it’s an analgesic and not a vaccine. Implementing that software comes down to your organization. It’s difficult to turn an industry which has relied on clipboards and carbon paper for decades into a digital playground overnight. From losing critical reports to digging for the right forms, upgrading your reporting system can be a Herculean feat in change management.
Be mindful of “solutions” that obligate your workforce to alter their processes overnight you don’t want to introduce growing pains that rival the issues you’re trying to resolve. Find a solution that integrates seamlessly with your current processes. Avoid boilerplate templates, rigid “one-size-fits-all” solutions, and platforms that don’t let you add custom features.
Software that marries your existing IT with the new digital infrastructure keeps employees in the loop with minimal orientation. Consider the “extras” relevant to your particular form of field service management. Do your employees need task management and workflow options? Does the platform offer offline functionality? Inform your choice with your organization’s unique needs and processes.
2. Meeting client expectations
Consumers especially modern, entitled, and enterprise-level consumers- demand that their service never is interrupted, and, if for some reason it is temporarily halted, they demand that the issue should be instantly remedied. It’s a tall order to mitigate the risk of field assets going down, least of all coordinating repairs to restore service in the case of an outage. That’s why service-level agreements can serve as pain point “health insurance” on both sides of the table.
Service-level agreements (SLAs) have long been a source of frustration both for clients and their service providers. Whether it’s a US state using an internet provider for lackluster options or a government-mandated inventory of the supplies used in a Las Vegas school district, the wording and stipulations of an SLA can make or break a field service management provider.
The key to drafting a mutually beneficial SLA is to set reasonable parameters for service downtime. “Stuff” happens, and occasionally your organization will find itself in a situation where you have to buckle down for some maintenance crunch time, lest you or lose your client’s confidence– and possibly their business.
Of course, you don’t want to leave your customer out in the dark, either. Volunteer your own SLA clauses that encourage communication about service interruptions. It’s better to demonstrate that your field technicians are on the case than to pretend there isn’t a problem at all.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t agree to a punitive SLA that assigns fines or reprobation if you fail to meet every customer demand; after all, you’re running a business, too. Simply give your clients a reason to trust you and provide a generous but reasonable window for correcting problems.
3. Keeping employees accountable
The highly esteemed slang reference site Urban Dictionary defines pencil-whipping as “The act of falsifying documents for work that was in fact not really done at all.”
The slippery slope of the pencil-whipper looks something like this:
1. An employee, let’s call him “Peter Pencilwhip,” starts working at your organization and learns the ropes like a champ.
2. He starts strong, following through with every task. No matter how tedious the paperwork may be, he crosses every t and dots every i.
3. A year later, Peter is entrenched. He feels bulletproof. Not only does he have the routine down so well that the cost of replacing him is higher than the price of accepting his sub-par work, but Peter’s also mastered the “art” of faking it. Sometimes he doesn’t even visit the worksites to which he’s dispatched.
4. One day, an asset under Peter’s watch critically fails, costing your company dearly. According to his paperwork, everything was just fine a week ago. You begin to wonder if Peter is truthful.
The unfortunate reality is that field service managers are unable to monitor the employees they send out, which leaves an uncomfortable margin for productivity loss. It also means that you’re at the mercy of your employees’ varying dedication to the job. How can you maintain a presence in the field if you can’t physically track every employee yourself?
While some field service companies have gone so far as to require GPS location on their vehicle fleet to ensure employees really are where they claim, but the solution is a lot simpler. Get a data capture utility capable of time stamps and photo validation.
A mobile app that requires field technicians to append time-validated images as proof of their presence at a work site provides airtight accountability. In cases where they’re documenting observable issues onsite, photos can be a valuable asset to follow-up inspections or repairs.
Nothing hampers a field service job like gaping data blind spots. What do all three of these field service management frustrations have in common? For one, they can all be mitigated or prevented with solutions available on the market right now. More importantly, they all stem from how your business is organized. Chaotic organization tends to cultivate a toxic attitude in your workforce.
Until you alleviate the pain points plaguing your employees, they’ll be suffering under what they perceive as a top-down problem. Besides wasting time and resources on aligning your field employees manually, worker dissatisfaction bleeds into the quality of your service. Ultimately, if your workers feel thrown under the bus, your clients will know it from their work.
Don’t leave your field workers out in the cold. Address the pain points of field service management before they undermine your standards.