How to run a successful Field Service operation
|Jon Crofts||Job Planning||10/12/2020|
How to run an efficient field service team
The 5 key components
Despite what some people would have believe, running an efficient field team is not rocket science nor a black box art and it certainly doesn't require complex or expensive software, algorithms or AI!
After working with many companies across many different industries for a long time we have put together the 5 common components that our customers tell us have been successful for them and their businesses.
5 components of a successful field service operation
Without doubt this is the #1 component that companies tell us has the biggest impact on efficiency and smooth field service operations. Breaking it down this is a combination of :
- interpersonal communication skills of admin staff (not technology related),
- clear operational procedures that staff can refer to covering common day to day situations that arise,
- using pre-agreed, standard methods of communication with customers and suppliers,
- using easy methods of passing new & updated visit information from the office to field staff,
- not relying on technology solutions as a replacement for unambiguous, clear & concise communication.
It may sound rather obvious but every week we are amazed at the number of companies we speak to that are struggling with basic information - everything from up to date addresses, Post Codes, site/ access & contact details through to accurate customer requirements.
If missing or incomplete any of these is sufficent to reduce the chances of a 'right first time' visit outcome by field staff - whether it be to install equipment, carry out a service, fit parts or conduct a survey/ risk assessment.
Specific information issues we regularly encounter include:
- duplicate, missing and out of date information,
- inaccurate data collection & entry into IT systems e.g. Post Codes, serial numbers, quantities etc
- multiple entry of the same information into different systems,
- lack of sharing of information between business teams and departments,
These may not sound like a big deal but imagine having to swallow the cost of sending an engineer in a van to a wrong location in peak traffic to meet a customer to carry out work in an agreed time slot?
3. Wrong tools for the job
Ever been 'sold' a system which has 'everything you'll need' only to find it has way more features than you actually need and you end up paying to use about 25% of all thing things it can do?
Yes? It's an all too familar story in phone calls to our office as companies start the hunt for something simpler, often cheaper and easier for staff to pick up and use.
Or what about the admin staff member who has a black belt in Excel, who over time has built spreadsheets linked to other spreadsheets to replace paper-based processes cheaply? And what happens come the day they leave and their knowledge goes with them? Or the day the business reaches the point where it feels like a square peg is being forced into a round hole and it just doesn't fit the business any more?
The spreadsheet scenario is all about businesses maturing and facing changing needs and is perfectly understandable. The first however, can be avoided by doing some basic homework on possible systems, taking free trials at no expense and having a clear list of : must have features as a minimum, features it should have if possible, others that it would be nice to have but aren't essential and some that might help in the future.
4. Simple processes that staff can follow
Staff come and go - by choice or otherwise. That's just a fact of business life.
But what can help as new people join and maybe even to stop others leaving in the first place are clear processes that they can follow. Those 'what do I do when...' kind of guides that help both office and field staff. Just simple, light weight, easy to follow and which cover the vast majority of situations likely to be encountered.
Such processes help immeasurably when running a field team working remotely from your office premises and admin staff. In particular they can :
- help build confidence that the right decisions are being made when working on site,
- ensure the right information is sent to & captured by field teams so jobs are completed as agreed with customers,
- improve customer service levels.
Even more importantly, well thought through, easy to follow business processes are essential BEFORE any technology solutions are brought into the business to help avoid potential chaos and keep everyone - office and remote field staff alike - working together as one team and not as individuals.
5. Technology - deliberately left to last!
Being a software company, you'd be forgiven for expecting this component of successful field service to feature earlier on in this blog. Experience has and still does, teach us that technology alone rarely leads to a well run field service environment within a business.
More often than not the opposite happens and business owners and managers hope that for a modest investment a new IT system will some how solve the underlying failings present through not getting the basics of the other 4 steps discussed here right.
What does seem to work in nearly every successful situtation we come across is a combination of all of the above areas and not simply the field service software alone. When things don't work out as hoped following a software investment it becomes very easy to blame the solution selected or the vendor or both.
Carefully selected software solutions most certainly do have the potential to revolutionise a company's activities, improve team performance and efficiency as well as enhancing customer satisfaction levels.
A happy team, happy customers and a profitable business and everyone is happy.
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