Five reasons contractors need to automate service operations

IFS Australia

By Rob Stummer*
Friday, 10 November, 2017


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Let’s face it, if you are relying on whiteboards, spreadsheets and handwritten notes to drive your service operations, then you are going to have an uphill battle on your hands.

Service-based businesses like those in the electrical industry succeed and fail based on how they manage complexity in the face of increased competition. Best-in-class organisations not only respond quickly to market demands, they also anticipate needs and proactively add value to their clients. If your business is to compete and grow, then your field service software must help automate and streamline your service processes.

When, where and how a service is delivered, by whom and under what conditions all impact your customer’s experience and satisfaction with your business. Mobility and productivity enablement tools, therefore, are important elements in maximising service delivery effectiveness.

Automation of your field service operation can also remove constraints that unnecessarily reduce efficiency. For example, field service software can automate elements of the dispatcher’s role by using information on jobs, projects and technicians to create the day’s schedule. Tracking all non-part transactions including labour, travel and expense allocation, as well as facilitating request generation and service order management, are all functional possibilities with the right tools in place.

The old methods of service simply don’t cut it any more. Research and advisory firm Gartner details four objectives that field management applications should meet to qualify for inclusion in its Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management (FSM):

  • Receipt of requests for a field service technician over the internet, over the telephone or from an intelligent device.
  • Scheduling and assigning a service technician (long, mid-range, weekly and intraday optimisation of the technician, factoring in assets and improved service level agreement [SLA] compliance).
  • Complete mobilisation of that technician to perform end-to-end service tasks, including the ability to look up inventory status in real time or cached from a mobile device.
  • Field service functionality that supports a continuum of field service models, from reactive to preventive to predictive to reliability-centred maintenance.

With the right enterprise software that is integrated with, or includes, FSM software, companies will place themselves in a strong position to enjoy future success. They can improve their customer satisfaction, efficiently schedule service and have the information they need to manage service costs.

IFS has identified five key benefits that electrical organisations can obtain from selecting the right enterprise service software to drive their business.

Optimise resource scheduling

Software with sophisticated scheduling capabilities can use known information about the technician’s skills, knowledge, qualifications, availability, location and a number of other parameters to coordinate scheduling tasks which meet your predefined business rules. Scheduling in this manner can help reduce the number of dispatchers required, improve performance against SLAs and reduce travel distance and time — all of which help to reduce cost.

Particularly in a fast-paced environment, a resource which adapts in real time and uses GPS tracking to ensure efficiency in everything from drive time in bad weather, to fuel consumption in instances of fuel cost rises, is a real game changer.

In the absence of advanced scheduling tools, should your company have many technicians in the field, then you are likely to need multiple dispatchers to coordinate, on a case-by-case basis, which technician has the right part and the right capability to work on a product. However, with the right service management application, scheduling and mobility can together allow a dispatcher to handle otherwise unfeasible scheduling tasks as the software can drive recommendations to them.

Attract and retain talent

Changing societal behaviour and consumer expectations on many levels weights a growing importance on businesses that embrace mobility. Therefore, beyond the direct benefits to field service management operations, embracing mobility is also important in positioning your business as an employer of choice.

Whether employees are using laptops, smartphones or tablets, their field service software should be an easy-to-use, functional application that supports productivity in as many business scenarios as possible. Therefore, mobile field service solutions should not be limited to a browser-based app. Consider the nature of your organisation’s operations in the field. Could your technicians benefit from scanning barcodes for parts details or accessing SLAs for response time commitments?

Facilitate better decision-making

Business today is far from static. Internal and external stakeholders need access to accurate information, in real time, to facilitate business decision-making and for their system automation to run effectively. Being unable to make efficient and insightful decisions due to system limitations is like riding a penny farthing in the Tour de France. It is a waste of resource input, it is clumsy and it attracts risk.

The benefits of a system which empowers real-time data analysis and communication should be considered the baseline for field service software. As an alternative, third-party driven business intelligence projects can be disruptive, complex and expensive.

Automatically generated management dashboards, alerts, notifications and reports provide your business with the operational insight to act on emergencies immediately and forecast and capture revenue more accurately. Contextualised real-time insights also facilitate effective strategic planning as important market trends can be detected sooner and more thoroughly, to help avoid missed opportunities.

Optimise contracts

Effective service management software at many levels plays an active role in improving performance against agreed contract requirements. Through an ability to load contracted requirements into your field service management software, it plays an active role in helping you meet and exceed these requirements.

With scheduling prioritisation, notifications and delivery of information, which is targeted on reaching the highest standards, the right software system will optimise your resources in a manner you are unlikely to be able to replicate manually. While meeting your contracted requirements is important from a compliance perspective, reaching and exceeding customer expectations should also be a priority in creating customer lifetime value.

Increase customer satisfaction

Whether dealing with other businesses or direct to customers, buyer behaviour has changed and as organisations, we must all recognise the importance of delivering a service worthy of loyalty and referrals. Aside from having a culture that promotes a customer-first approach, without the right insight, driven by the right technology platforms, it becomes difficult to deliver an experience that meets growing consumer expectations.

Warren Buffett, often referred as the world’s greatest investor or the Oracle of Omaha, believes strongly in the notion of going beyond customer satisfaction and focusing on customer delight. In competitive markets, this approach is what propels many great Australian service businesses to stay leaders in their industry. If your business does not have the right service management software for the future, then it is likely to fall short of reaching its potential in this area.

The benefits of choosing a field service management system are far reaching because the right software will be integrated across broad business functions and deliver a wide range of benefits. You must, therefore, ask yourself, “Does our business have the right tools to take us forward?”

*Rob Stummer is the Managing Director, Australia and New Zealand for global enterprise applications company IFS. He has held this position for the past nine years, continually achieving significant growth annually in both revenues and EBIT. Rob holds several degrees, including a Masters from Melbourne University.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/nirutft

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