Field service operations are pretty challenging as there are many factors involved. You have to manage workers in the field, coordinate schedules with them, keep track of the equipment, and respond to emergencies. You have to do all this to keep your customers happy with good service, else your business is doomed.
If we look at the past, whiteboards were pretty useful when it came to service scheduling and planning. First, the dispatchers took inputs from their staffing managers and manually mapped schedules. Then, the managers identified an available field worker with little-to-no-visibility in the full mobile workforce. Unfortunately, this highly-complex and time-consuming activity often led to human error and accidental field worker bias.
All this chaos can be prevented or reduced to a bare minimum with just three steps. Let’s explore them one by one.
1. Implement Industry’s Best Practices
Collect and analyze data
Whichever industry you belong to, data is the king and technology makes a ton of data available to organizations today. Organizing and making sense of it can be challenging. But you don’t need to analyze all the data. Here are some key touchpoints that can improve your field service:
- Data on driver behavior
- Speed of service
- Delivery logs
- Time spent on each site
- Routing records
When managers monitor and analyze such data, they can recognize patterns in services provided by the field agents. They can use these patterns to adjust scheduling more effectively.
Prioritize peak times for staff
Overstaffing when the business is slow proves to be expensive, whereas understaffing results in unhappy customers and employees. Ensure proper coverage during peak business hours. Plan everything at least one month in advance to anticipate vacations, holidays, and time-off requests.
Take staff preferences into account
Ask field workers for their preferred days and hours, and those that should be avoided, ahead of time. As a manager, you may not be able to meet all scheduling requests, but distributing popular shifts evenly is key to showing field workers some flexibility.
When field workers get a schedule around their requested time, they feel appreciated and valued. This further boosts your business in the long run.
Get work done in advance if possible
Develop a workflow to distribute schedules in advance for mobile workers. This allows field workers to relief in tough times. They also have room to raise any issues or make alternate arrangements with coworkers and management.
Document schedule histories
Have you kept a record of your schedule history since the day you entered the industry? If not, start now! Using this history, you can predict busy times and patterns. It also helps you to have constructive conversations with workers if they have any questions about shifts.
Give the Sales Team an Overview of Field Operations
Your sales team interacts with customers over call or online but they don’t communicate with them face-to-face. No matter how good they are at their jobs, they can’t get a full understanding of customer needs because they aren’t in the field.
Tell your sales team to train field workers to ask the right questions. Create a line of communication between both the teams to take advantage of this information. It’s helpful when technicians have some sales training as they can upsell additional products and services or renew contracts onsite.
2. Empower Dispatchers and Planners with Skills and Knowledge
Dispatching and scheduling are crucial elements of field service. You need to provide planners with the right information and skills to make them efficient and predictive. Ensure their success with these tips:
- Help staff planners gain speed on analytical skills. Enhance their knowledge of business strategy and operations. This connects the dots and solves problems faster.
- Ensure planners are on the same page as the finance and HR departments. You can achieve this by providing enterprise-wide definitions for your business initiatives and workforce.
- Educate teams on the benefits of automation and scale your business.
3. Automation is Not an Option Anymore
Automation is absolutely necessary for field service industries. With intelligence and automation embedded in the solution, dispatchers can identify the best person for the job based on skills, availability, location, equipment, and more. This also eliminates any crossover and scheduling errors, resulting in better communication with customers and greater user experience.
Use a connected field service management solution to give everyone access to plans and schedules in real-time. This helps businesses in many ways. For example, if a mobile worker finishes a job early or is held up in traffic, real-time data keeps both dispatchers and customers informed.
This mobile communication and information help agents and dispatchers to update schedules in real-time based on forecasted demand and changes in job status.
You can give workers a field service app that can display updates on job status and provide alerts of delays in real-time. This allows dispatchers to easily reassign jobs. Some of the exclusive benefits of such apps are shown in this image.
Always be on your toes to make minor improvements in your business workflow. This will lead to something big in the days to come. Maintain a healthy professional bond with all your employees. After all, happy employees lead to happy customers.