Mobile Field Service Is a Priority in 2006

Executives at businesses of all sizes now recognize the need for mobile field service automation to help drive service levels and ultimately increase customer satisfaction, according to a new Aberdeen Group report. "The Mobile Field Service Solution Selection Report" reveals that connecting the field and the office is a top strategic priority for 88 percent of best-in-class firms. It also finds that mobile hardware and software devices rank as top business investments. Companies that have deployed mobile field service solutions have seen an average 27 percent improvement in worker productivity, a 19 percent increase in customer satisfaction, a 17 percent increase in overall profitability, and a 13 percent increase in service revenues, according to the report. "The biggest selling point--the quickest ROI--is in technician productivity," says Mark Vigoroso, vice president of service chain management research at Aberdeen and author of the report. Techs are able to fill more work orders and improve first-call resolution rates. Goals will be different depending on how a service organization is positioned within a company, Vigoroso says. "If it's a profit center, being able to deliver higher levels of service can be monetized. Often, customers are absolutely willing to pay more." The strategic importance of post-sales service, coupled with the complexities of conducting business from the field, is driving service organizations to more seriously consider mobile field service solutions. Approximately 84 percent of best-in-class companies said they are forced to try to do more with less. Next comes the thought of customer service as an advantage over other organizations. "Customer service has become a competitive trump card," Vigoroso says. "Fully 80 percent of best-in-class firms said they were aiming to leverage superior customer service to edge out competitors." Customers expect faster and more efficient work order resolution. "Faster response times and more first-call resolutions are building blocks of increased field technician productivity," he says. Industries taking the lead include medical device manufacturers, utilities, high-tech manufacturers, telecommunications, and consumer-driven companies like Best Buy and Home Depot. The biggest obstacle to deployment or advancement in this area is the "perception of prohibitive costs associated with mobile hardware, software, and infrastructure," Vigoroso says. Fifty-seven percent of respondents cited cost as the largest obstacle, followed by integration of the mobile system with back-office IT systems (33 percent), and insufficient IT personnel to support mobile deployment, insufficient IT infrastructure, and wireless information security concerns, which each received 30 percent. However, "as more and more solutions providers work with midmarket companies who have budgetary constraints, they're lowering their barrier to entry," he says. Some are partnering aggressively with carriers trying to bundle their applications, or offering hosted solutions and subscription models. As service organizations consider their mobile solutions strategies, Aberdeen recommends a number of self-assessment steps. First, organizations should look at what technology they already have deployed and at their field force's receptivity to technology. Next, they should prioritize their solution requirements according to whether they run primarily a dispatch-centric or asset-centric service operation. Third, they should set metrics to measure success prior to deployment whether it be increased productivity or revenue growth. This step will be important when deciding how to move forward. Ultimately, companies must understand the impact on the customer, Vigoroso says. "If you're not able to achieve some additional value to the customer, you're going to have to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate your investment." Related articles: Pounding the Pavement with Real-Time Communication
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