Imagine you’re driving down the road on a dark, stormy night. The rain pounding on your windshield makes it nearly impossible to see where you’re going and there are no street lamps to light your way. Luckily, you see the tail lights of the car in front of you so you decide to follow it until the storm is over. Every turn the car makes, you make. Every time it stops, you stop. Eventually you realize the car isn’t going where you want to go nor is it moving as fast as you’d like to move. But you’re blind without it, so you just react to its lights and follow its turns as you continue to drive further from your destination.
This sense of driving in the dark is what running a field service organization without reliable data is like. Instead of carving your own path and growing at your own speed, you are blind to what makes a successful company. Your only option is to react to results and follow trends in the field that may or may not be right for your company. Without quick and reliable data, you lack the vision that would put you in control of where your company is going.
By restructuring your field service operation with data collection and analysis at its center, you can begin to make small changes that reap huge benefits. By using accurate and up-to-the-minute data you can optimize your field service operations, ensuring your place as a leader in the field. Use the following steps to shift your field service organization to a data-driven operation, and begin leveraging your data to make more informed business decisions.
1. Break Down Barriers to Information Access
The best way to break down barriers to information access and make sure data is accessible to everyone in the company is to integrate operations. Integrated field service management (FSM) systems allow you to connect, collect and centralize data for easy access from multiple areas in the company, including:
- Work Order and Job Tracking
- Service Level Agreements and Contracts
- Parts Tracking and Inventory
- Customer Equipment Assets and History
- Technician Schedules, Skills and Availability
- Customer site and call history
Recent studies have found that service organizations utilizing (FSM) software complete more orders and turn more profit than companies using paper or manual methods. The integrated FSM system makes it simpler to collect and analyze data from many avenues, making it easier to optimize your operations, which will eventually lead to more profit.
FSM systems are made for service organizations, so everything you need is built into one system. The process—from data entry, to collection, to analysis—is integrated with the rest of the office operations and flows exactly how you’d expect. The integrated system provides easy to use software for anyone in the company to access. For example, when a technician closes a work order in the field, the service manager is able to see that data in real time and make adjustments to optimize operations ASAP. With out-of-the-box portals and reports, data is displayed in easy to interpret charts and graphs, which visually lay out how companies can use the information for maximum optimization.
When the data is integrated with the rest of the system, the service manager isn’t left to follow the leaders in the field. He becomes the leader.
Because of the high volume of work, and the thousands of field visits per month, service industries lend themselves to being data-driven. Small adjustments multiplied across an entire fleet of technicians can make major improvements. Performing a SWOT analysis—using data to measure your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—can be a great way to break down your current performance and determine small changes that will lead to large improvements. This sort of data-driven analysis breaks down barriers of information access by providing visibility into how well the company is actually performing and leading to more confident business decisions backed by data.
2. Employ the Power of the Field for Data Collection
Because technicians are usually the ones collecting data, it benefits the whole company to have an integrated, mobile solution for data entry and collection in the field. When technicians are in the field, having a mobile device to record detailed data not only makes the data collection process faster; it also makes it more accurate and thorough.
Mobile data recording streamlines how data is collected across the industry, making it less onerous overall. With a mobile FSM system, technicians can perform inspections, clock their hours, and take notes for specific jobs. This information then links to the back office instantaneously. Having techs enter data in the field provides various instant returns on investment, such as:
- Reduced administrative time in the back office
- More accurate entry of data
- Invoice and receive cash from customer sooner
- Ability to submit completed work order information to customer for approval before they leave the job site
- Access to training material through portals while on site so they get the work done faster/better
By employing the power of the field workforce for data collection, field service companies can get real-time feedback concerning projects and equipment they are currently working on. This real-time feedback produces relevant and actionable information that can be used to make positive changes in the company. Recording data on paper and waiting for the back office to combine and interpret it just isn’t fast enough for companies to be proactive in the field. Mobile devices integrated with the rest of the FSM system allow data to fulfill its optimization function as quickly as possible.
3. Benchmark Yourself
Data is the starting point in terms of determining how you stack up against your peers in the field. It gives you the tools you need to optimize operations and make your company more efficient, which is, after all, the number one reason you’re collecting data in the first place.
The following three steps outline how you can begin to use data to improve efficiency and, ultimately, increase profitability:
- 1. Plan: How much will the job cost?
- 2. Measure: Based on the data collected, how much did the job actually cost?
- 3. Analyze: If the job cost more than the plan assumed, how can you account for those costs? Did the job take longer than expected? Was the technician’s training insufficient? Did it take the tech too long to get there? Did he have to go back for necessary parts?
Knowing what data you’re going to collect and what you’ll do with the data are as important as collecting it in the first place. Often, companies don’t even know they’re having problems until they see the data, which is why it can be so valuable. Data provides actionable information which allows businesses to identify trends, opportunities, and threats that force them to reexamine their assumptions.
After going through the steps above and making necessary adjustments to fix the situation, service executives can then point to specific business outcomes that could be improved based on the results of the data, such as:
- Customer satisfaction
- Reduced cost of service
- Increased revenues from service
By using data to drive optimization strategies, your operational efficiency will begin to rise in relation to your peers. Once you’ve established what sort of performance you expect, you can use data to determine whether you’re meeting those expectations; and, if you’re not, prescribe remedies that will enable you to meet them in the future. By using data to benchmark yourself in the field, you can then translate findings into action.
4. Deliver Data to the Right Person at the Right Time
Now that you’ve collected, measured, and interpreted your data, it’s important to get the results to the right people at the right time. A variety of people can benefit from the data you’ve collected, including:
- Service managers—Service managers and executives use data results to optimize operations and increase efficiency in all areas of the company.
- Service technicians—Findings from data often lead to techs spending more time working on billable resources and less time entering data, traveling, and returning to the office for parts or training materials.
- Schedulers/Dispatchers—Time and inspection data give dispatchers more insight into how long jobs will take, making them better able to schedule the most jobs per technician per day.
- Stake holders—Corporate offices, equipment manufacturers, and retail distributers can use findings from data to find out what companies and customers want, adjusting their sales and/or production strategies accordingly.
- Customers—When field service organizations are more organized and knowledgeable about what makes a best-in-class company, customers experience better service, more first-time fix rates, and are generally more satisfied. Customers can also receive alerts and technician ETAs electronically without human intervention.
It’s more important than ever for field service organizations to have strategies in place to measure their operational efficiency, and becoming data driven is the best way to make those measurements clear and actionable. Once you begin to make data a bigger part of your business decisions, you’ll want even more of it. You’ll see that the information gained through a quick and accurate data process will make your company more efficient all around.
As technologies advance (link to Kris’s post(?), data collection processes will only become more sophisticated. Don’t let yourself drive in the dark any longer. Optimize your operations and increase profits by making it easier than ever to run a data-driven field service operation.
7 Best Practices for Choosing New Field Service Software
It’s important to consider a system’s ability to collect, interpret, and integrate data when choosing a new field service software system. Unsure what else to look for? If so, view these tried and true methods you can use to organize the buying process, eliminate the unexpected and significantly increase your chances of success with your new software.