Without the right tools managing a field services company can be extremely inefficient and costly. Field service management software gives you the right tools to manage all of your agents out in the field and intelligently assign work and plan routes.
If you’re currently organizing field work and managing field agents using spreadsheets, phone calls or emails, then field service management software is guaranteed to save you a lot of time and money. Field service management software will save you time in the office, reduce effort, cut down on mistakes and improve your customer satisfaction.
When researching which field service management system is the best fit for your business there are a number of factors you should take into account. We’ll discuss 10 features you should look for in a field service management (FSM) system.
- Field agent skills and qualifications
If your business offers a range of service to your customers then it is important to be able to track the skills and qualifications of your various field agents. FSM systems have a lot of range in their ability to do this.
Many FSM software suites have no functionality at all in this area, which may be appropriate for your business if you only offer services that require a single skillset.
If you have staff or contractors with a range of skills or qualifications this feature becomes very important to ensure jobs are scheduled to the correct technicians, avoid rework and callouts to jobs the technician is not qualified to complete.
You may not need this feature if you know all of your staff and their abilities very well. However, introducing an element of human error into the job scheduling process creates a weak link in the process and can have drastically negative effects if there is staff turnover or leave. This will also become a limiting factor for the scheduling process to scale requiring specific knowledge of the field agents in order to schedule work.
Systematising this information allows for work to always be assigned to a qualified technician and allows the scheduling process to easily scale to large volumes of booking without booking staff requiring specialised knowledge of the field agents.
- Intelligent scheduling tools
Assigning work in an efficient manner will allow you to complete the most work with the least resources and provide better service levels to your customers.
There are a number of factors that need to be considered to efficiently assign work to field agents. Addressing all of these factors will ensure you can offer your customers the most accurate timeframe for completion of work. Ensure each field agent works at their highest capacity and work is completed in the most cost efficient manner.
- Location of the job – Knowing where the job is located and having the ability to search and map the local area will allow you to search for all nearby field agents to complete the job.
- Location of the field agent – Mapping out the location allows for you to estimate booking times for customers and ensure technicians are available to complete the work during the requested timeframe.
- Skills required to complete the job – If your company offers a range of services it is important to be able to track the required skills on the job sheet to ensure that only a qualified field agent is assigned the job.
- Field agent availability – availability and calendar features are important for the booking process as they let you plan your resourcing capacity and remaining capacity to ensure that field agents are assigned the highest number of jobs each day. Capacity planning features can also help plan your work schedules and customer sales.
- Customer availability – Being able to track the customers schedule preference on the job sheet will allow you to schedule the job to the customers preferred time.
- Other work scheduled for the day – being able to see other jobs which are already scheduled for the same day or scheduling period allows you to group jobs together by skill set or geographical location which allows you to minimise travel time and expenses.
- Cost – In the case where your field agents are contractors with varying rates or where travel payments are applicable it is important to have cost estimation features in the booking process to ensure that jobs are completed at the lowest possible cost.
Ensuring your field service management system can address each of these factors in the job scheduling process will allow your business to schedule work in the most efficient way.
- GPS tracking
GPS tracking allows you to track all of your field agents throughout the working day. Most field services GPS tracking systems will use the GPS from the agent’s mobile phone. For privacy reasons the GPS systems will only track when a field agent has clocked in to work in the field agent portal or application.
GPS tracking allows you to ensure that each field agent is on time to each scheduled job and allows you to identify early if a field agent is running behind schedule.
Some field service management systems will allow you to automatically notify the customer of the technicians approach and give an estimated time of arrival. Tracking like this helps reduce customer service enquiries and administration work which will reduce overall administration costs.
- RCTI/Payroll system
Field service management systems with automated field agent invoicing and payroll systems can significantly reduce administration costs related to paying contractors and employees.
Recipient Created Tax Invoice (RCTI) functionality will allow you to create a payment schedule for contractors based on jobs completed and the work completed on each job and automatically generate payment invoices on the contractor’s behalf. The best systems will allow you to integrate with your accounting solution, further reducing administration costs related to data entry.
An automated payroll system will do the equivalent for salary and per hour employees by creating timesheets based on their sign on and off times.
When selecting a field service management system you should review the system’s reporting capabilities. Reporting is very important to ensure you know what’s happening in your business and out in the field. Having up to date information allows you to make intelligent business, human resource and scheduling decisions.
The reports required will vary for different businesses and industries so one thing to look for is the ability to build custom reports. However, there are a number of useful generic reports you may want to look for when reviewing a system.
- Daily job status report – this report will show the number of jobs each day and their relevant job statuses. This allows you to track the completion of jobs throughout the day to ensure things are going to schedule and also allows you to identify and action exceptions.
- Rework requests – A report tracking rework request should display the number of rework requests over time, the percentage of total jobs over time and also give this information on a per field agent basis. This allows you to track the overall percentage of jobs that result in a rework, allowing you to identify the root causes and minimise rework over time, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Having this information on a per field agent basis helps to identify field agents with quality problems so that they can be performance managed to increase the quality of their work.
- On time arrivals / late arrivals – This report will help you ensure that field agents are working to schedules and arriving on time. The report will help you identify causes for late attendance and ensure on time attendance in future. This will help you schedule work more accurately and increase customer satisfaction.
- Customer satisfaction – Customer satisfaction reports are important to ensure your customers are happy and to identify avoidable causes of customer dissatisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good measure of this.
- Capacity reporting – This will allow you to identify skill and availability shortages in each geographical area. This can be used to identify recruiting requirements to ensure you can meet customer demand.
- Custom reporting – Every business is unique and will have their own reporting requirements. So it is important that the system you use has at least some basic functionality to be able to create custom reports specific to your business or at least has the ability to export data so custom reporting can be done using excel.
- Technician portal
It is important for your field agents to have a portal to manage their workload and information. The factors you should look for in a technician portal are
- Scheduled jobs – technicians should be able to log in and view their scheduled jobs and their daily job routes to ensure that every job is completed on time.
- Availabilities – technicians need to be able to enter their availabilities for each day and also track leave on their profile to ensure that work is not scheduled to field agents who are not available to work. The system can also use this information to track skill shortages in geographical areas.
- Skills/qualifications – field agents should be able to track their skills and qualifications against their profile to ensure that they are scheduled work accordingly
- Compliance – If your industry has any regulations regarding qualifications, registrations or insurance etc. it is efficient to have technicians ensure their compliance and attach copies of any required documents to their profile.
- Job history – this allows for field agents to track their job history should any rework ever be required.
- Customer portal
A customer portal is a web page application where a customer can log in and track their scheduled jobs. Customer portals will reduce contact center enquiries regarding the field agent arrival time and increase customer satisfaction as they are able to track the job each step of the way to completion.
- Sales and customer invoicing
If your field agents have the ability to make additional sales for services or products then these features are a must have in a field service management system. Field agents should be able to sell extra services and products on site, charge the customer’s credit card or accept cash and have the system email the customer a tax invoice.
- Customer service tools
Customer satisfaction is very important to ensure long term repeat business and positive word of mouth from your customers.
- Customer satisfaction surveys – You can’t improve your customer satisfaction if you don’t know what it is. You should be able to configure a customer satisfaction survey to be sent to each customer at the completion of their job. Some systems will have surveys that can be completed on the field agent’s device at the time of completion. However, these are open to abuse by field agents or the customer giving inaccurate results due to the presence of the field agent. Surveys emailed at the completion of the job allow the customer to fill the survey out at a later time and provide more accurate results.If you give every customer the opportunity to offer feedback you can ensure you follow up to ensure customers who have had a bad experience can be result in a happy customer again.Customer comments will also allow you to identify specific causes of dissatisfaction and improve processes to ensure the issue does not repeat in future.
- Job completion report – This report shows what was done on each job. This can be stored on the job card for future reference and also emailed to the customer at job completion. The completion report is important so the customer knows what was done and so you can ensure that jobs are being completed correctly according to the scope of work required.
- Customer notifications – Customer notifications allow the customer to be notified by SMS or email when the field agent is on route to their property. This ensures the customer is going to be home at the scheduled time and also reduces the number of enquiries regarding the technician arrival time.
- Digital sign off
Digital job sign off allows for your field agent to have the customer sign off on the completion of the job. This feature is important as it can be used to ensure the job was completed by the field agent and avoid situations where the field agent has not actually attended. Additionally, it will allow you to ensure the job was completed to the customer’s satisfaction and have the customer sign off on completion of the work. This will reduce rework as the customer has signed off on the job and cannot then dispute the job completion at a later date.
When deciding on a field service management system for your business it is important to assess the systems capabilities in each of the features addressed in this article and ensure that you select the best software suite for your business. Not every business will require every feature that we’ve covered above and you may be able to save money by selecting a more bare bones FSM suite, but it is important that you also plan for features you may need in the future as migrating between systems is a significant and expensive process.
About The Author:
Brendan works in field service management, marketing and business management for Quick Air and Jack B who provide Australia wide service in air conditioning, heating, and IT services.