Marina Stedman, ClickSoftware begins a two part feature in which she looks at the multi-faceted challenges field service managers and supervisors face and a key philosophy in how to best serve customers...
Field service managers and supervisors do not have easy jobs.
They’re trainers, mentors, time keepers, and job shufflers. They must have stellar communication, interpersonal and operational skills – all on top of being the first point of call for many escalations.
Basically – field service companies demand a lot from their field managers.
Of all the demands made on them, the trickiest obstacle they face in performing their jobs well is balancing the ever present tensions between their in-office tasks and field work.
How do they get both aspects of their complicated job done without consuming huge amounts of time and energy, while still giving their roles due attention?
Mobile technology seems to be answer. Yet we don’t see the introduction of mobile technology reducing the obstacles that field supervisors face in meeting traditional expectations of operational efficiency.
Instead, use of mobile devices has increased everyone’s expectations and standards of quality customer service and how much value a well-run field technician team adds to the bottom line.
The client SLAs are becoming more demanding and internal stakeholders require more aggressive cost management of field technician labour.
The fact is – arming field supervisors and their technicians with mobile devices that connect them to each other whilst in the field, as well as back to the home office, does offer the potential for field supervisors to manage their teams more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The key words here are “offer the potential.”
Without the right approach in implementing the mobile tools and work processes, providing mobile communication will only add another layer of complexity and frustration to field operations. Field supervisors work too hard to deserve that.
Using mobile to make field supervisors’ lives better – not more complicated Our philosophy centres on helping service organisations answer five questions – the Five Ws of Field Service, in order to best serve their customers.
This approach can help field supervisors to use mobile to excel at their jobs and give their field technicians the full support they need to serve your company’s customers.
Think of it as trickle-down customer service.
W#1: Who does What?
In the traditional customer service framework, this first question serves to clarify exactly which field technicians are qualified to do which tasks.
Scheduling a service appointment for a customer that can and sending a field technician who doesn’t have the technical qualifications to complete the work needed makes everyone unhappy.
The field technician can’t do the job and the customer doesn’t have their problem resolved.
Everything’s come to a standstill.
For field supervisors, the volume of office and field tasks they need to master and execute can create a similar bottleneck to getting things done.
In addition to the tension between back-office and field tasks, the field supervisor also has to allocate attention between big picture tasks and minutiae.
Correctly prioritising tasks determines the “What” they should be doing in any given moment. Their scheduling system needs to easily and accurately serve up the information they need – no matter where they are – to make the right decisions in prioritising attention.
This is where the real-time, mobile updates are so critical.
For example: Mobile helps the field supervisor conduct back-end tasks while in the field. They get a holiday request from a field technician while sitting in the car, just as they have finished updating another field technician’s performance record (while parked, of course!).
They can look through that technician’s holiday usage and upcoming volume of demand to decide if they should approve the request.
But before they begin that review, the mobile alert system pushes out a notification that a customer service appointment scheduled for later that day is in jeopardy because the field technician currently assigned to has spent more time than scheduled at his current appointment.
With mobile technology, none of these new actions need to be postponed until the field supervisor is back in the office.
Supervisors can easily prioritise resolving the risk to today’s service appointment from a ‘phone by finding another field technician who’s qualified and available to take care of the upcoming appointment on schedule.
An effective mobile system gives field supervisors the freedom and flexibility to complete all of their responsibilities
In short, an effective mobile system gives field supervisors the freedom and flexibility to complete all of their responsibilities.
In the concluding part of this feature I’ll explain what the remaining 4 W’s are and their importance in field service.