The four key components of efficient field service management

Nov 05, 2014 • FeaturesOneserveEfficiencySoftware and Appssoftware and apps

How do you optimise your service delivery and ensure an excellent service is provided to your customers? It’s a question that doesn’t have a single answer; there is no silver bullet solution. What’s more, every company is likely to take a slightly different approach and what works for one organisation may not necessarily work for another.

A key aim for every organisation, though, should be to operate as efficiently as possible. That’s why Oneserve’s latest white paper is designed to get people thinking about how they can improve the efficiency of their field operations (or mobile workforce).

Here are the four key components that we believe are essential to achieving efficient field operations:

  • Cost optimisation
  • Workforce performance
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Workflow rationalisation

Read on to find out how the components fit into an effective field service management strategy.

Cost optimisation

It’s said that cash flow is the lifeblood of every business; without positive cash flow, even profitable companies can fail. That’s why getting value for money should be, and usually is, a primary aim for businesses. For this reason, cost optimisation is of great importance.

There are a number of ways in which field service organisations can optimise costs. Three of these are:

  1. Ensure effective stock control and procurement – the key to managing stock is visibility; it lessens the chance of over-ordering while allowing you to ensure you have enough stock at any one time. You can also use data collected over a period of time to analyse your requirements and forecast future requirements, potentially giving you the opportunity to negotiate better rates with suppliers.
  2. ]Improve first-time fix rates – in order to achieve high first-time fix rates you need to send an engineer with the right skillset to each job. They also need the right parts and tools with them, while their proximity to the job should also be considered if you want to keep costs down. If you can get all of these things right, your first-time fix rate will improve and costs should be reduced.
  3. Remote resolution and preventative initiatives – although not necessarily suitable for all types of field service businesses, remote resolution and preventative initiatives can help to reduce costs. Remote resolution could involve the use of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, which allows assets to be monitored remotely. Preventative maintenance initiatives can help to reduce the number of emergency call-outs and allow costs to be managed more effectively.

Workforce performance

Your people are the key asset of your organisation. An engaged and motivated workforce will be capable of achievements well beyond simply boosting productivity.

They could provide recommendations for improvements to current, inefficient working practices and even come up with innovative new business ideas if given the chance. They’re also the face of your company, so it’s important they are conveying the right message about it. Happy employees are more likely to portray a positive image of your company and deliver a great service to your customers.

So, it goes without saying that it is important to try and keep your workforce motivated. This is not always easy when they are all working in different places, as the nature of field service dictates they often will be.

There are however a few things that can be done to keep staff engaged and motivated:

  • Make sure each field worker can easily contact their line manager, and that line managers regularly meet with employees in person.
  • Encourage internal collaboration so people feel comfortable asking colleagues for advice. This will also help them to build relationships between each other and work better together.
  • Set goals for each member of staff so they have targets to aim for (as long as they are achievable; unrealistic targets could lead to employees becoming demoralised).
  • Invest in improvement programmes and allow your staff to share suggestions on how processes can be improved.
  • Maintain training programmes for your staff and remember to keep them updated with changes in the business so they don’t feel as if they’re working in a silo.

Customer satisfaction

In today’s competitive business world, keeping customers happy is more important than ever. As we revealed in arecent blog, a 10% increase in customer retention levels results in a 30% increase in company value. So, while it’s natural to go out and try to win new business, the needs of your existing customers should be kept front of mind at all times.

However, customers expect more from their service providers these days. They have greater choice and information is a click away. As a result, they are more impatient and expect issues to be resolved quickly. Meeting customer expectations is undoubtedly becoming more and more of a challenge.

Gone are the days when customers were willing to sit in and wait for a visit at some point during the day. They want to know exactly when an engineer will arrive and fix their issue. So, precise schedules must be built for all your field staff. And that’s just the first challenge – next you need to ensure these schedules are met. To do this, accurate initial diagnosis of the issue is required, as this allows you to estimate the time required for each job and take this into account when scheduling your field staff.

Another key expectation of customers these days is excellent communication. They expect to be able to contact companies in a number of ways – phone, email and social media to name a few. Therefore, try to make it as easy as possible for customer to contact you, and clearly highlight the ways in which they are able to.

Workflow rationalisation

In a recent report from The Service Council, 38% of organisations indicated that they could save 30 or more minutes per day, per technician with a basic change in process. For these organisations, this could lead to average annual cost savings of £525,000.

This statistic demonstrates the value that can be found in optimising your workflows. After all, they keep field service organisations ticking over, enabling staff to carry out their daily routines and meet the expectations of customers.

Any organisation that wants to become more efficient should review its workflows. They’re difficult to perfect but over time you should be able to identify ways in which they can be improved and streamlined.

To conduct an effective workflow review, you will need to collect as much data as possible from your existing processes and then analyse it to root out inefficiencies. For example, you can look at how many jobs per day are completed on average by your engineers and see if this matches with your expectations and targets. If it’s lower than expected, it would indicate a process review is required.

Analysing your data is key here. If you run into difficulties at this stage, you’ve already identified a way in which your processes can be improved. Consider firstly how data is collected – do you have a service management system in place that collects it automatically or are you relying on manual processes to do this? Secondly, do you have a system that allows you to analyse this data effectively through dashboards and reports? If not, it’s worth considering a service management solution that does have this capability.

You can find out more by downloading the Oneserve Guide to Efficiency which covers everything discussed here and much more.