Field Service Management: What It Is and Why You Want it
From plumbing companies and HVAC installers to property managers and in-home healthcare providers, any business that does the majority of its work in the field knows just how tricky it can be to manage teams of semi-independent workers. Even something that sounds simple in theory (such as knowing where everyone is at a given time) can be a real headache in practice.
Field service management (FSM) technology was specifically designed for these kinds of organizations. Nevertheless, many companies have been slow to try out FSM solutions.
This lack of user adoption is unfortunate. Companies that have switched to FSM-driven solutions have generally seen:
- Huge improvements in their overall efficiency and client satisfaction
- Significantly less costs and overhead
So what’s the holdup?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at FSM. What exactly is this technology? And how can your company benefit from it?
What is Field Service Management?
It’s important to understand that FSM isn’t new or untested. Delivery firms like FedEx and UPS have used similar systems for decades. In fact, they completely transformed the package delivery service industry in the process.
Have you ever wondered how it could possibly be profitable for a company like FedEx to pick up something from an Amazon warehouse and deliver it to your door within a matter of days—all for just a few dollars in shipping? A big part of the answer is the efficiency boost this FSM-like technology provided.
More recently, cable and telephone companies have embraced FSM as a way to improve technician scheduling. Just a few years ago, these companies were forced to assign truly vague appointment times (such as between 11 am and 5 pm)—because the unpredictability of factors like traffic jams and installations were causing shipments to take longer than expected.
But with an FSM solution, a field rep can easily update the system through an app if he or she is running behind schedule. And customers can be immediately notified with new ETAs via text or automated phone call.
FSM systems are becoming increasingly common across a wide range of industries. As a result, customers now expect to see FSM functionality and features whenever possible. If their ride-sharing and grocery-delivery services can provide them with real-time updates, why shouldn’t they expect the same level of service from your company’s field reps?
One of the primary reasons why more companies haven’t already invested in an FSM solution is the cost. Adopting any new technology can be expensive. And prior to a few years ago, FSM was one of the most expensive technologies out there.
Thankfully, the recent boom in cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers has dramatically reduced the costs of FSM solutions. Today, this technology is easily within reach, even for small businesses.
What are the benefits of FSM?
Is FSM a good fit for your business? Let’s take a quick look at some of the key improvements FSM technology can provide…
If your company has a fleet of vehicles that makes multiple stops every day, it’s essential for your drivers to take the most efficient routes between those stops. This practice simultaneously helps reduce fuel costs and creates time to make more stops, which will improve your overall efficiency.
Real-time status updates
Your customers don’t expect perfection. They know that traffic jams happen, and that some jobs take more time than your technicians anticipated. But they do expect your company to respect their time.
FSM systems allow your technicians and representatives to easily provide updates from the field. So they automatically keep customers in the loop about scheduling changes and other status updates.
Do you know where your workers and vehicles are at any given moment? If you don’t, you should. FSM systems allow you to use GPS tracking to see exactly where everyone and everything is—any time you like. Some FSM systems even allow you to see real-time movements as workers go from one job to the next.
Even the best technicians can’t be expected to know everything. For instance, they may need access to a repair manual for an old or uncommon system. Or they may need to watch a step-by-step video, in order to refresh themselves about a repair they haven’t made in a few years. FSM solutions provide the perfect storage platform for these resources.
Mobile parts ordering and inventory management
Service vehicles often act like a mobile parts warehouse. They allow technicians to easily access a huge range of parts and tools. However, keeping track of all those bits and pieces can be tedious, particularly if your company relies on paper-based inventory management.
FSM systems are ideal for mobile inventory management. They allow managers to track every item from anywhere—down to the nuts and bolts. These systems can even send out automatic alerts when parts get low.
Mobile invoicing and payment processing
Is your company still sending out paper invoices and requiring payment in the form of paper checks? If so, it’s time for an upgrade. FSM systems make it easy to invoice via email and take on-site payments. You can even manage contracts from any tablet, phone, or other mobile device. Join the rest of us in the 21st century!
In a variety of situations, it makes sense to give your customers limited access to their own data. For instance, customers may want to reschedule an appointment or change their payment information.
A customer portal allows customers to access this data directly from your FSM. It can even be integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.
Digital record keeping for regulatory compliance and auditing
Some industries have serious compliance requirements. Every step in the process needs clear documentation. These requirements result in a ton of tedious paperwork for field technicians and their managers.
FSM platforms can automate the process of creating e-audit documentation, which will save them time and reduce human error.
The above list cites just a few examples of the ways FSM technology can make daily operations more efficient for a wide range of businesses. If your company relies on drivers, installers, repair personnel, and other field service representatives, an investment in FSM could easily reduce operating expenses, improve efficiency, and increase overall profits.
To learn more about the ways FSM could benefit your business, contact Faye for a free consultation.