The 21st century has witnessed a massive shift in the customer mindset. The pervasiveness of high-speed Internet, mobile devices, and technological innovations designed to facilitate routine tasks has created a new kind of consumer demand: one that anticipates immediate and effective responses and solutions. This has posed a problem for field service providers who lack the technological infrastructure and manpower to cater to these demands. However, the best-in-class field service companies have already realized the need for transition: from a more analog approach to service processes to digitalization. These best in class service providers are setting new benchmarks for customer satisfaction, efficiency and revenue gain by transitioning to field service management tools and crowd service solutions. In so doing, they are reshaping an industry and redefining the customer experience.
Measuring customer satisfaction
One of the most important indicators of field service success is customer satisfaction. Best-in-class companies know that customer satisfaction goes hand in hand with customer loyalty and, as a result, increased revenue streams.
A study conducted by Aberdeen Group in 2016 offers valuable insight for field service providers into the customer experience.[i] The three top complaints by customers were
- 61% of customers were unsatisfied because technicians failed to resolve their issues due to a lack of proper equipment or necessary expertise.
- 51% of customers complained about having to wait an inordinate amount of time to get appointments.
- 41% of customers were displeased with late arrivals for scheduled field service technician appointments.
More concisely put, customers want reliability. They want to know their field service provider will be available when problems arise, will have the know-how and the correct parts to resolve the issue, and will do all of this punctually.
These are hardly unreasonable demands. Nevertheless, field service providers relying on analog systems struggle to fulfill them for a variety of easily solved reasons.
- Information overload: There is a massive amount of data associated with field services. Customer data including device history, machine specs, technical manuals, instructional videos. Companies relying on analog systems often have no centralized system for storing and disseminating this information to the field service technicians who rely on this data to complete field services, or the field service company managers who analyze the data to streamline processes.
- Unintelligent scheduling: A successful field services provider has to juggle an extensive number of field service requests with a limited number of qualified field service technicians. Appointments made using a standard scheduling system are not able to take into account important parameters like a technician’s area of expertise, or proximity to the location of subsequent appointments. This means that the neither the time nor skill set of field service technicians is being optimally used.
- Customer alienation: Much customer dissatisfaction is proportionately connected to a customer’s sense of being an integral part of the customer service experience. When a customer is confronted with an issue and can not seek out immediate assistance, or if a customer can not provide feedback, or if a customer can not track arrival times or the progress of the field service being performed, this all contributes to a general feeling of exclusion and frustration.
Thankfully, there is a dependable tool that every field service manager can implement to tackle all these issues: field service management software.
Digitalization: Moving forward with field service management (FSM) software
Field service managers intent on achieving their customer service KPIs have turned to field service management (FSM) software as the solution. And with a 19% increase in customer satisfaction following the transition to FSM software, it is clear that their approach has yielded positive results.
FSM software solves the abovementioned customer service concerns by offering:
- Knowledge management: Using FSM software makes it possible to consolidate corporate knowledge, field service technician expertise, customer data and history, device specifications and repair history, and training materials. Plus, the option to include process checklists for service technicians further reduces the risk of error. Having all of this information centrally located and accessible from mobile devices ensures that field service technicians have all the information, equipment and parts they need to perform their jobs. This reduces the number of potential errors and increases the first-time fix rate, which is positive for both customer and profit margins.
- Artificially Intelligent scheduling: FSM software relies on artificial intelligence when it comes to smart scheduling solutions. When a client requests a field service technician appointment, the scheduling system relies on available data to determine the best service technician for the job based on the problem and the technician’s location, availability, and expertise. This minimizes unnecessary travel time for technicians and maximizes the number of available appointments with experts who are qualified to solve a customer’s specific issue.
- Customer integration: Self-service tools are completely digitalized, which means customers can keep track of the entire field service process on their mobile devices from start to finish. They can choose the most convenient appointments, track their technician’s arrival, and provide immediate feedback once the field service technician has completed the task. This leaves the customer feeling like an integral and valuable part of the equation.
However, there are also numerous other benefits to switching to FSM software.
- No-added infrastructure requirements: Mobile devices are ubiquitous. Field service management software capitalizes on this ubiquity by making it possible for everyone with a mobile device to connect to each other and share a wealth of accumulated information without the often immense investment in additional equipment.
- Mobile app: A mobile field service management app allows field service technicians to stay connected to customers and field service managers. The app facilitates, quick, paperless communication. This means field service technicians can easily view their appointments and accept new ones, quickly transmit invoices once a service is completed, review feedback provided by customers, all on mobile devices that are already literally at hand.
- Real-time/predictive maintenance: The best way to provide real-time service is to address customer issues before they have manifested and begun disrupting business operations. FSM software relies on IoT – in this case the transmission of information from sensors to connected devices – to detect potential malfunctions or breakdowns before they become a problem. This approach to field services is called predictive maintenance, and it is revolutionizing the entire industry.
- Work order management: FSM software makes it possible to maintain an ongoing real-time inventory of parts. This leads to optimized logistics and also reduces the costs associated with time wasted on repeat visits because necessary parts were not available.
In effect, by digitalizing the field service process, FSM software has quite literally placed the power to optimize the field service experience at everyone’s fingertips.
Workforce 4.0: Getting the most out of FSM software
Field service management software has made tremendous strides towards enhancing field services and guaranteeing customer satisfaction. In particular, the incorporation of predictive maintenance technology has re-imagined how best to cater to the needs of rapid-paced industries. However, the success of field services is also directly contingent on the field service technicians who provide them. And with the burgeoning number of predictive repairs, many field service providers lack the skilled manpower to tackle the ever-growing number of requests and the customer expectation that these requests will immediately be met.
Years ago, the solution would have been to hire additional service technicians to meet the rising demand. However, this would have been associated with increased fixed costs for full-time personnel: personnel that might not necessarily be working full-time.
Best-in-class field service providers have opted for a better solution: crowd services, the workforce solution of the future. The crowd itself is a network of qualified and certified service technicians created by individual field service providers. The network generally includes their own partners and subcontractors, but it also incorporates trained and skilled freelancers. In so doing, it generates a workforce that not only does this eliminate the need for employing additional service technicians, it also increases the chance of having a service technician with the specific expertise required.
The crowd service solution is maximizing the potential output of FSM software. What exactly does this mean?
- Better performance: With a large pool of qualified service technicians with extensive expertise, all provided with access to a large wealth of knowledge in the form of training materials, videos, and other field service technicians, first-time fix rates are nearly guaranteed.
- Happy customers: Better performance, quicker access to appointments, predictive maintenance that minimizes disruption to daily operations, and integration in the field service process through mobile device tracking and feedback all leaves customers feeling like part of the field service experience.
- Savings: Since there is no additional overhead cost for the increased workforce, field service providers can benefit from the extensive savings that go along with streamlining and digitalizing once analog processes.
- Increased revenue: And all of this – on top of an increased return rate and referrals by satisfied customers – adds up to more revenue!
Field service providers who continue to rely on analog solutions in a digital world have already begun to suffer the consequences. Customers are no longer willing to settle for anything less than the best field service experience available, and that experience is reliable, inclusive and in real-time. Anything less is an affront to a client base that values its time and input, and expects its service providers to do the same. Digitalization is no longer about keeping up with the Joneses, it is about keeping one step ahead of them. Best-in-class companies know that the only way to do this is to offer the best field services provided by the best field service technicians. The only way to move forward is to re-envision the field service industry by making the switch to FSM software with Crowd Service ability.
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