ClickSoftware’s Paul Whitelam wonders if crowdsourcing could be the solution to fluctuating demands on a workforce that field service companies have been waiting for...
Service organisations have long relied on third parties to augment their core workforce to manage fluctuating demand, emergency work, and expansion to new regions.
The Service Council reported that 76% of service organisations have used a third party for service delivery and to augment their regular workforce.
By 2020, Gartner predicts 40% of service work will be delivered by contractors.
This increasing reliance on an external workforce appears to run parallel with some anxiety about talent shortages. The Service Council reported 70% of service organisations expect a talent shortage in the next 5-10 years. Many already struggle with hiring.
While contractors have supplied support to service organisations for a long time, there is growing interest in tapping into the gig economy and free agents to build an ad hoc workforce.
Rapidly scaling your field service workforce is a challenge under any circumstance, but a blended workforce can deliver many benefits. Let’s explore the pros and cons of outsourcing service work, and compare how crowdsourcing and contractors can play a role.
The Case for Outsourced Service
Variable demand persistently vexes anyone charged with scheduling a service workforce and forecasting the level of resources needed to do the expected and unexpected work.
Seasonal differences and large stand-alone projects are common reasons for temporarily increased demand, along with emergency and disaster relief work
When expanding to new geographic areas, a contracted workforce enables a service organisation to quickly increase available coverage without the delay of needing to recruit, hire, and train a completely new core team. This separation from the core workforce can also provide a convenient way to pilot new technology or procedures before adopting them across the entire business.
Adding specialised skills to your roster is another massive benefit of outsourced service. A contracted workforce allows for new types of work to be done without the entire team requiring retraining.
Blended Workforce Challenges
Adding contractors to your workforce introduces challenges. Most stem from a lack of visibility into what happens once a job is assigned and accepted.
The service engineer is often the only face-to-face interaction a customer will have with a company, and serves as an ambassador capable of upholding or undermining the brand.
To blend your internal and external workforce successfully, the right processes and technology are essential. Your service organisation needs the ability to locate third-party resources, appropriately gauge their availability and skill level, track job status, and provide the support and information needed to deliver service in a manner consistent with business policies and SLAs, and customer expectations.
Some contractors will resist the adoption of new tools and processes when it forces change, but most will ultimately adopt your preferred solutions once they understand the value.
In a recent study from Michael Blumberg, KPIs for The Blended Workforce In the Gig Economy, his consultancy found that nearly 70% of field service organisations used a freelancer management system of some kind for staffing purposes.
Managing Contractors and Crowdsourcing in the Gig Economy
According to Intuit, the gig economy now makes up 34% of the US labor workforce. With new tools, devices, and skills, imagine how many thousands more will choose to work remotely as a part of this budding freelance economy in the coming years.
Millennials, as a subset of the working population, have already upended what had long been accepted as a standard employee-employer relationship. They are tech-savvy, adaptable, and value career advancement and mobility over longterm employment. Many are more comfortable with freelance and temporary employment and provide much of the supply to meet the demand for a more flexible workforce.
The most sophisticated service organisations have gained and maintained a competitive advantage through maximising productivity and optimising customer experience.
The most sophisticated service organisations have gained and maintained a competitive advantage through maximising productivity and optimising customer experience. A blended workforce should be able to extend the same level of efficiency and customer focus to its outermost layers.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty should be the ultimate goal for any business. With the right plan and solutions in place, any permanent or ad hoc worker should be able to provide the seamless experience your customers want and deserve.