Better Field Service Tools Reduce Frustration
Companies today are realizing that quick post-sales service delivery can lead to vastly better customer experiences. As a result, the field service management software market is expected to explode in the next few years, driven largely by innovations in cloud and mobile technologies that will allow companies to increase their operational efficiencies and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction at lower costs.
But despite a lot of interest in field service management technologies, most companies still use manual methods, including paper, whiteboards, and Excel spreadsheets, to manage their field service workers.
“The reality is three quarters of the companies we see still don’t use a formal field service system,” says Max Paltsev, CEO of Service Fusion, a field service software provider.
Part of the reason, he and others acknowledge, is that the market is still very scattered. The software available to help companies manage their mobile field service workers has traditionally consisted of a lot of disjointed technologies. In a very broad sense, the software could consist of tools to perform some combinations of trouble-ticketing, order management, invoicing, payments processing, service-level agreement tracking, scheduling, dispatching, route planning, knowledge management, forecasting, reporting, and customer appointment notifications, among a host of other capabilities.
“A majority of companies lack a system that can address every aspect of a service call from start to finish,” Paltsev says. “Usually, both the techs and the people back in the office have to constantly wrestle with communication disconnects.”
Further compounding the burden on the service technician is the amount of paperwork that must be completed in the field and then manually entered into systems when he returns to the office.
“Companies want to reduce this field service paperwork,” Paltsev says. “Many of these companies were started by fathers or grandfathers, and their younger sons and daughters are beginning to take over. These younger managers are accustomed to technology, and they want to introduce it to their field service workforces so they can eliminate paperwork and the many manual processes that their companies are using in the field.”
Companies are also acknowledging that developing and keeping a strong reputation for service contributes to a positive customer experience and grows revenue. And so they are increasingly coming to realize that they need to spend a little more on technology to improve service in the field than they have in the past.
“Sixty-eight percent of the companies we’ve reviewed in surveys view field service as a critical driver of overall customer experience,” says Mark Bloom, senior director of strategy and operations for Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud.
Research firm Markets and Markets also expects to see the technology landscape and user adoption grow. In a recent industry forecast, it identified field service management software as a $1.97 billion market in 2015. By 2020, it expects the market to reach $5.11 billion, growing at a compound annual rate of 21 percent. Much of that growth, it concluded in its report, will be fueled by larger enterprises, but as the costs and availability come down through cloud-based services, small businesses will adopt field service management solutions, too.
Bloom has also seen “a lot of excitement right now in the marketplace about how companies can connect technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things with other systems that give them feedback and information on the customer experience.”
TECH ADVANCES ON TAP
New technologies are indeed dominating the field service landscape, as they have in virtually every other area of the customer relationship. Among the major technology leverage points for field service organizations, four of them stand out.
The first is mobile technology. “Mobile technology is the first tech concept that companies need to consider for field service operations,” Bloom says. “With mobile apps, field service technicians are immediately empowered to do more in the field. By using a smartphone or mobile device, technicians can look up their schedules for the day, review work orders, and review the accounts of the customers they are going to visit to see what the equipment and repair histories have been like. If a technician encounters an unfamiliar problem at a site during a service call, the mobile technology has collaboration tools that enable him to get online guidance or check in with a specialist in a specific area of expertise.”
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