Field service engineers can often have the most face to face contact with customers of any personnel in a wholesale business. This gives them a major responsibility – and a major opportunity.

If they are empowered to do their job as efficiently and as effectively as possible, they’ll have a great chance of impressing the people who buy your products. Put simply, outstanding customer service equals loyal customers, repeat business and increased longer term spend.

As we’ve discussed before, advancements in mobile technology are allowing service engineers to seriously up their games. However, it’s not just on the road and at the client site where service performance can receive a boost. The right technology also has a role to play earlier in the process.

At the time of initial contact with a customer experiencing a problem, the way in which triage and diagnosis are managed is critical. How well this is done directly affects how easy it is for a service engineer to impress the customer. In other words, your team receiving, processing and planning service related information are playing a major role in your ability to deliver value and exceed expectations.

Support from the right IT systems is crucial here. They allow information to be integrated in new ways to drive performance. Part availability, for example, can be combined with scheduling to ensure work isn’t planned that can’t be delivered. Dynamic service resource plans and centralized scheduling of service activities can increase the time engineers are available for customers – even more so if performance management tooling allows continual fine-tuning.

Think of the challenges in a typical service management set-up. Response times that don’t meet customer expectations hurt the business. The problem, however, can be addressed with help from a smart planning system that makes use of historical data to schedule work. Customers can be helped quicker and incomplete visits reduced if planners can schedule the time a job will actually require.

Issues around billing can also be damaging. However, if the service management system can be integrated with the financial administration, billing can be done more accurately and more quickly – reducing DSO and boosting the operational cash position.

Intelligence around part availability is another. Being able to integrate inventory information from the warehouse enables tighter control. The two way sharing of information supports more accurate stock planning – customers are less likely to need to wait for parts, and unnecessary cash being tied up on the shelves of the warehouse is avoided.

KPI’s will become essential
In order for service organizations to gain and then keep a tighter grip on their processes, the collection and analysis of data on KPIs will be crucial. They provide the insight necessary to judge whether strategic objectives are being met, in which areas the business is progressing, and in which it is struggling.

With this in mind, the ability to harvest the necessary insights from the organization’s ERP databases, analyse and then present it in actionable form, in real time, will become essential. Service companies looking to steer performance on customer oriented indicators will need continual overviews of the latest first time fix rates, completion times, total completions, customer satisfaction scores, time at client, time per activity, and jobs completed per engineer.

It’s this intelligence that will enable management to focus their attention on the areas of the business most impacting on customer satisfaction. To ensure they have the complete picture at all times, business software will need to offer, or link seamlessly with, business intelligence tooling. No business will have the time to dive through spreadsheets and disparate reports generated from dispersed information. Decisions need to be made quicker than that, and based on what’s happening now, not at an unidentified point in the past.

With a fully integrated finance and process management system to ensure all data is efficiently captured and shared, the ability to trace and react to real time performance indicators, and the power of mobile applications in the hand of engineers on the move, service organizations will have the tools to drive significant improvements in both performance and profitability