Businesses that service for equipment or machinery installed at customer sites recognize how critical field service can be to maintaining a strong customer relationship. This happens because, for one thing, equipment problems can cause negative impacts on the account. More broadly, the field service technician will become the face of your business, for all practical purposes. He or she is the one who visits the customer location and interacts with employees. When the time comes to replace or upgrade a piece of equipment, the quality of field service—and the professionalism of the service tech—will factor into the decision.
Considering the importance of field service management, we thought it might be useful to share a checklist of features and functions to look for in a field service management solution. As you’ll see, it’s only partly about field service. Integration with other systems as well mobility and data analytics capabilities are also essential for field service success.
1) Integration for end to end field service management
Field service is not an isolated activity. It occurs in the context of business operations and sales. For this reason, the best field service management tools will integrate into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), financial and Customer Resource Management (CRM) solutions. For example, if a customer calls for a field service call, it will be helpful if the field service manager can quickly get a 360-degree view of the account. If the customer is behind on paying bills, for instance, that issue might have to be resolved before the tech is dispatched.
Integration with inventory management and tracking tools is also useful. If a field tech needs a part, and he or she can instantly see on a mobile device that is in the warehouse, that will improve the quality of the service call. In contrast, if the tech doesn’t have access to inventory information, that can cause delays and the kind of “I’ll get back to you…” service visit that satisfies no one.
2) Getting your service technicians to the right place at the right time
A good field service management solution will make it possible for service technicians to be where they’re supposed to be, on time. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised to learn how big a problem this can be. Sophisticated scheduling features can help a lot in this regard. For example, being able to book preventive maintenance calls in advance will reduce last-minute rushes to deal with issues that could have been prevented.
Another part of ensuring on-time/right place field service is to provide tools for flexible rescheduling. Emergencies may arise. People have to be able to deal with them without affecting other customers. Field service management software is critical for this ability. Route optimization is also valuable for the field service team.
3) Being able to deploy advanced mobile technology
Field service is mobile, by definition. For this reason, the best field service management solutions will enable advanced mobile functionality. This might take the form of a mobile app or software for a dedicated mobile computer. The mobile field service software should tap into ERP, accounting and so forth. However, the mobility should not be limited just to field service technicians. Their managers and dispatchers also need it. This is increasingly true today, where people may need to be responsive after hours or when they’re out of the office.
Field service management will involve more mobile technology and Internet of Things (IoT) devices in 2020 and beyond. Learn more about field services trends.
4) Tracking of installed equipment
Sometimes, the best field service call is one you don’t have to make. Modern ERP solutions can and should integrate with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that enable remote monitoring of installed equipment. With such equipment in place, you may be able to anticipate trouble and communicate with the customer to advise of them of impending issues before they cause real problems. When combined with artificial intelligence software, you can deploy “predictive maintenance” that interprets data from IoT sensors in the field and predicts when they may be a mechanical issue—and suggest a service call to avert it.
5) Certifications and compliance tracking
Certain kinds of equipment, like elevators commercial kitchen appliances and healthcare equipment, require certification by the distributor or manufacturer. It can even be a matter of legal or regulatory compliance. Being able to stay on top of certifications is a good way to maintain a good relationship with customers. They will feel well cared-for. If your field service management solution enables tracking of installed products, you can anticipate certification expirations and call the customer in advance to schedule a re-certification.
6) Better management of the tools and parts inventory
Even in the best-run companies, tools and parts required for field service can get spread unpredictably out across multiple warehouses and vehicles. An effective field service management solution enables you to track the locations of parts and tools. That way, when a service order is created, you can quickly find the required parts, wherever they are. The solution should then also integrate into the inventory and procurement systems, in case parts are out of stock and need to be reordered. Having tracking and seamless integration with inventory and procurement cuts down on manual processes to reordering—a practice that inevitably leads to wasted time and errors.
7) Integrate your analysis, accounting, and administrative info
You need accurate data on the state of your field service program. Integration with data analytics and reporting tools is therefore a desirable feature in a field service management solution. You may want to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track metrics like on-time appointments or levels of customer satisfaction. The right field service management solution should therefore provide an easy connection to data visualization and reporting systems.
We have worked with many companies on the implementation of the Acumatica field service management solution. To learn more about how we can help your field service operation with Acumatica, please contact us to arrange a demo.