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20 Dec 2021 | 09:00

Easing field service and mobile workforce management pressures

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Field service challenges can be overcome with an established mobile workforce

Managing a field workforce can be complex and challenging. Managing a field workforce in a way that makes a business agile and as productive as it can be is even harder. For many businesses with mobile workforces, however, it’s a key determinant of success in a changing business landscape.

In today’s world where consumers expect personalised service and purchasing experiences, an established field workforce can be a great asset. The ability to get to know those customers in person, to discuss their needs and tailor your response to them is commercial gold. However, it is gold that can only be mined when your workforce has the right mobile connectivity. 

Other advantages of the mobile workforce include the flexibility to respond swiftly to changing demands, the ability to quickly extend geographical markets and better options in upselling and cross-selling. However, it is also very easy to lose track of a dispersed workforce, and hard to quantify performance and value for money. Too often, this leads to field services working in a haphazard and unstrategised way that costs more than it should and misses opportunities.

For all field service challenges, the overarching need is to secure the relevant data and use it to plan, stategise and adjust field service workflows. To do this, the workforce needs mobile devices, to be used with relevant field service and mobile workforce management solutions. These give actionable insights and real-time options to save costs and increase revenue. When the field service workforce is digitally connected, the organisation can analyse relevant operational data and make better business decisions.

This post examines some pain points and field service challenges, and suggests some field service and mobile workforce management solutions to streamline operations for a coherent, well-informed and more efficient organisation.

What are the current field service challenges?

Field services currently face two top-level challenges. The first is to respond to patterns of consumer behaviour and expectations that have been changed by the pandemic, and the second is to thrive in a digitally-connected world. The savvy use of field service and mobile workforce management solutions can help you meet both of these challenges.

Maximising operational productivity and efficiency

Maximising efficiency is perhaps the biggest challenge of all, but very amenable to digital solutions. In field service it is important to know where staff are, what they are doing and for how long: this not only keeps workers safe, but also allows managers to make meaningful comparisons and benchmarks. 

Several enterprise management (ERP) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions generate the real-time data needed to do this. What is more, it is now possible to integrate ERP/EMM/back office software with modern fleet management software, which goes way beyond tracking drivers and vehicles, and includes a host of automation options that reduce error, manage assets and cut the time spent on jobs and on trouble-shooting. 

Furthermore, when fleet management is used with telematics for real-time traffic monitoring and a connected field workforce, it is easy to optimise routes and reduce journey times, which drives down the cost per job even further, and integrates with today’s digital supply chains.

But of course, all the digital solutions in the world are only going to work if communication between managers and the field service workforce is as fast, clear and efficient as possible. Not only do telematics and push-to-talk (PTT) applications achieve that, they can also be configured to give pinpoint control in terms of the groups or individuals communicated with, and the speed at which they can be reached.

Improving payment and cash flow

Field staff are usually employed for a given skill set – for example, engineering or sales – and this is what they are good at. However, day-to-day tasks like billing and invoicing are sometimes not in that skill set. Human error and oversight can lead to billing problems and delays, which affect cash flow. On-the-spot billing via mobile devices linked to accounting software can both release skilled staff for more specialist work and improve cash flow (particularly where follow-up actions are automated from the moment the bill is issued). 

Building better relationships with customers

The ability to communicate and interact with customers face to face while solving problems is a major advantage of field service work: it’s the best way to build relationships with customers. Mobile solutions let field service personnel cross-sell, upsell and put customers in touch with other parts of the organisation, providing the personalised service and all-channel access that other sectors dream of. 

Connectivity is crucial to maximise this advantage. Connected workers can use their digital devices to immediately schedule sales visits or demonstrations, share marketing videos, put customers in touch with people elsewhere in the organisation and/or to access manuals and product information they need to solve issues on the spot.

Developing new markets and revenue streams

Staff in the field can act as informal market researchers: they talk to customers and often get a heads-up on which of their needs are not being met, which are not met well and where any gaps in the market might be. Traditionally, there has been a problem with capturing this (often informal) information, but with mobile solutions it’s much more simple. Information gleaned in the field can be swiftly fed back to a central platform via mobile device, stored securely and actioned by the appropriate people. This type of intelligence is also extremely helpful when data analytics are used to inform business decisions, benchmarking and strategy.

Reducing costs and trouble-shooting costly issues

Many of the ideas presented here will drive down costs, even if incidentally (reduced travel times, less manual admin, etc.) and at a time of rising inflation and increased competition, incremental savings make a difference. When it comes to getting best value for money, an overview of field service operations and sufficient data to pinpoint the source of problems and potential savings is vital – but you need that data in formats you can use. Lots of ERP/EMM packages do this, but if you are truly ambitious, you will want to pair these with other options to get the very best from your mobile intelligence. It’s worth investigating the market to find which combination of solutions works best for your organisation.

An efficient field service is a huge advantage, but it requires the coordination of diverse processes, people and assets. What is more, the increasing digitalisation of everything from supply chains to deliveries, along with changing customer expectations, mean that it’s rapidly becoming impossible to run a successful business – and to meet field service challenges – via manual processes alone. For a truly efficient field service workforce, the use of mobile digital solutions is simply non-negotiable.

This sounds good; how do I get the ball rolling?

If you would like to learn more about field service and mobile workforce management why not look at some of our solutions?




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