With new technologies entering the market, field service management is changing rapidly. Trend reports estimate that as early as 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) will play an important role in the scheduling of field service management, as much as a tenth of all field service technicians is estimated to then be planned by AI. Furthermore, most field service organizations with at least 50 field service technicians is expected to implement intelligent platforms that go well beyond simple data collection. Capabilities that are sought after include mobile apps and AR devices. Is it time to revisit your organization’s approach to field service management? Here are 5 expert tips you should follow to future-proof your field service operations and stay ahead of the competition.
1. Optimize, optimize, optimize your field service management
Route optimization is the norm nowadays and there is a lot to be won by doing it effectively. You can save money while improving responsiveness for increased customer satisfaction. However, route optimization is most effective when it’s done in combination with scheduling optimization, and when it takes real-world constraints into account. For best results, consider the following in real-time:
- The true availability of technicians
- Potential changes to job status originating from customer requests
- Required tools and resources
- External impacts such as traffic and weather
- Opportunities to sell or upsell
2. Review pre-scheduling
Pre-scheduling is still necessary to gain better insight into the total field service capacity vs. the expected/predicted number of tasks. However, expected arrival windows can still be reduced significantly.
Using mathematical optimization for pre-scheduling in combination with real-time scheduling allows you to have greater control over costs and improve customer and employee satisfaction. When connected with back office systems and customer and employee apps, mathematical optimization can greatly improve capacity planning, batch planning, and time-slot booking.
Ideally, your optimization solution should take part availability, current contract agreements, labor regulations and a diagnosis of necessary parts into account. Scheduling and rescheduling should be done in near real-time and automatically to maximize efficiency.
3. Invest in training
There is a growing need for well-trained technicians. If you have them, how do you keep them? How do you educate younger generations? Start a training and leadership development program for experienced staff members to train or guide less experienced technicians. In a recent survey, 69% of next-generation workers stated that they desire digital access to experts while in the field. It’s time to start considering new approaches for knowledge transfer —even remotely, in real time—to provide the best possible service to customers.
4. Replace quotas with near real-time data and responsiveness
Quotas are typically used to maximize workforce productivity. However, there are ever-changing real-world conditions that often prevent employees from meeting these quotas, such as traffic jams, changing weather conditions and other outside influences.
Consider using predictive analytics to respond to the unexpected. For instance, you can take historical or even current traffic data into account or use predictive maintenance to improve the responsiveness and productivity of your staff. Using analytics to identify optimized time windows for customer visits is a good example of responsive field service management.
5. Consider your change management plan
A perceived loss of predictability makes people want to hold on to old methods, such as fixed appointment time buckets and master routes. Make sure you don’t just adopt new technology for its own sake. You need to ensure your entire team is on board with the change.
Employee and customer satisfaction are more important than ever, and there is a pressing need to reduce costs and CO2 emissions. As you consider how to improve field service management to meet these goals, make sure you keep optimization, training and change management high on the agenda. Consider using real-time analytics to boost productivity and responsiveness as well.