In customer service, metrics are one of the most important tools you can use to measure productivity, customer service satisfaction, and workflow. If your customer service department includes a field service team, you may find it difficult to keep accurate metrics that help you improve productivity; with a team that’s dispatched all day long, you have a more limited supervisory capacity. To help you keep better track of your field team so that you can set and manage accurate metrics, you need to address three basic challenges in field service.

Read on, and we’ll explain these challenges and give you tips on how to address them.

Field service challenge #1: Not having a clear picture of what’s happening in the field

Traditionally, field service dispatch units assign jobs for the day ahead and aren’t able to adapt quickly when changes come up. If dispatch centers aren’t tracking changes in real time, they are unable to fill in schedule changes, and valuable time is lost. One study found that an estimated 5 – 10 percent of jobs are cancelled a day, and 20 – 30 percent of all jobs run shorter or longer than expected.

Solution: Keep track of your field team in real time

To solve the challenge of scheduling and losing valuable time in-between calls, you need to invest in technology and adopt practices that allow your dispatch team to have real-time awareness of where your field service technicians are at all times. Does your dispatch team keep close tabs on your field service team with mobile phone communication and GPS? Are you able to make schedule changes as they occur? Keeping close contact with your field service team and using software that helps you monitor and make schedule changes in real time is a solution that will help your dispatch team close scheduling gaps and keep your force productive throughout the day, responding dynamically to customer issues as they occur.

Field service challenge #2: Overbooking versus under-booking calls

A second common challenge companies face is lost time and missed opportunities to schedule more calls in the field. This occurs when companies build in scheduling gaps in case any urgent jobs arise that need to be addressed immediately. However, companies are not taking into account the amount of cancellations that typically occur each day, so technicians will be under-booked instead of over-booked.

Solution: Keep close metrics on urgent jobs and cancellations

Of the field metrics you track, are your urgent calls and cancellations counted? Statistically, companies will receive more cancellations than urgent calls, so you can generally overbook without causing problems. To find your optimal scheduling amount, start keeping track of your urgent calls and number of cancellations. Once you have a clear pattern identified, create schedules for your team that allow for some overlap. Most likely, the cancellations will keep your technicians from having actual overbookings throughout the day, and you’ll be able to keep the schedule full with little downtime.

Field service challenge #3: Forecasting that doesn’t take into account the full business picture

Field service forecasting shortfalls happen when managers schedule solely based on traditional factors, such as weather or power outages. In reality, marketing and sales promotions, and things such as community events, can have more of an impact on forecasting than seasons and weather. When companies don’t take into account the full business picture – such as what is going on in departments other than customer service – they can drastically miss their forecasting targets.

Solution: Look at broader cyclical patterns when forecasting

When developing your forecasting model, your sales team should be talking to every department in your company (especially sales and marketing), and studying local patterns. Are there major sporting events? Is school starting? Look at holidays, regional events, and even national events (such as the SuperBowl if you’re in electronics) to help you plan accordingly with forecasting. When you plan smarter with your forecasting, you’ll reduce the cost of overtime and contractors, and you’ll keep your trucks stocked accordingly and have extra equipment on-hand during peak times.

Improve customer service in the field by marrying technology and management

Even though your field service team is not close by, where it’s easier to keep close metrics, you can improve inefficiencies and ensure that your customers aren’t left waiting. Invest in field service technology that allows you to dynamically make changes throughout the day. Tighten up lost time by adjusting the metrics you keep, and finally, make sure that your forecasting takes a broad view so that you can account for local patterns that affect demand.