Construction Executive included this article about considerations for contractors considering new field service software.
Field Service Software:
Tips to consider before taking the plunge
Today’s field service technicians are often finding the need to not only be technical experts but to also be a repository of knowledge. Demanding customers expect them to:
- Know how to diagnose and maintain a huge variety of equipment.
- Have a photographic memory of past service history for every piece of equipment.
- Know the details of maintenance contracts.
- Understand the service level agreement for all locations of every customer.
- Juggle schedules to be on time for every appointment.
- Manage truck inventory to have the right parts.
- Ensure billing is accurate.
Their service managers expect them to:
- Promptly record their time and materials and collect customer signatures.
- Use service calls as an opportunity to sell additional service.
- Treat each customer with courtesy and respect.
Oh, and somehow make sure everything rolls into the accounting software in a way that allows for fast billing and data analysis. Got all that?
The good news: There are apps for that.
The bad news: There are an overwhelming number of choices.
Here are some tips to help a contractor know what to look for when evaluating potential solutions so they can make a smart choice.
- Technician Assignment Review and Live Work Status Updates. Whether sitting in their driveway, at the shop or at a customer, the technician needs to have easy access to work assigned to them. Awareness of the nature of the problem, the customer’s environment and equipment, and any commitments that need to be met help guarantee first-time fixes and customer satisfaction. The technician keeping the dispatcher aware of their current status electronically arms the dispatcher with the information they need to schedule effectively and respond to customer questions.
- Contracts and Warranty Visibility. Knowing and sharing which work is covered by agreements and warranties and which work is not prior to work beginning allows for proper expectation setting with the customer. This helps eliminate surprises or disputes once the work is completed.
- Task Lists. Whether it is a detailed maintenance checklist specific to a model of equipment and the season the work is being performed, a set of commisioning tasks that need to be completed, or a safety checklist, it is important that the technician has that list and updates the completion status of each item. This eliminates forgotten tasks and provides an auditable history of what was done. Some applications provide added functionality such as recording meter readings or answers to questions for tasks, or building logic into the task list so the list is tailored to the equipment manufacturer or model, the size, etc.
- Equipment Information. The more a technician knows about the equipment at a customer’s location, the better prepared they are to address issues that arise. From make, model and capacity to belt and filter sizes, meter reading trends and service history, a fingertip accessible portfolio of information about the equipment is valuable in helping the technician adress issues.
- Labor and Materials Capture. Electronic recording of expended labor and parts and materials used as the work is performed helps guarantee accurate and complete cost tracking, billing and reporting. Accurate tracking of materials such as refrigerants is necessary to generate special reporting to both the customer and regulatory agencies.
- Customer Signature. The technician capturing the customer electronic signature on their device and storing it in a centralized location helps to avoid future disagreements. Presenting information about the work performed, the customer cost and any terms and conditions in one place prior to collection of the signature provides full transparency and enhances the customer experience.
- Service History. Having access to prior service calls at the location or on a particular piece of equipment provides the technician with valuable information both in preparation for the visit and in diagnosing any problems. Information like notes, meter readings or photographs from a previous visit, a history of when preventive maintenance was performed, or recommendations that a technician previously made all contribute to quick and efficient identification of what needs to be done. It also provides the customer with a sense of confidence that they are working with a knowledable and dependable contractor.
- Barcoding & Inventory Management. A key component to a high first-time fix rate is having the correct parts and materials necessary to perform the repair or service. The technician having to run to get parts or order them often causes delays that frustrate the customer and cause subsequent scheduling issues. Being able to see in advance what parts are needed for specific equipment and tasks, the technician can make sure their truck is properly stocked prior to heading to a customer. Barcoding enhances the technician’s ability to maintain a well-stocked vehicle and easily track quantities used and replenished so they are aware of what they have on hand and what needs to be re-stocked.
- Special Instructions. Every customer is different. The technician needs access to things like alarm disarming notes, building access instructions, customer relationship considerations, etc. Having this information readily and centrally accessible eliminates the need for it to be verbally communicated.
- Functioning Connected or Disconnected. Despite our ever-evolving connected world, whenever working with a mobile device, the technician can often encounter situations where they cannot access the data network needed. It is critical that the information they need to continue their work is mirrored on their device to avoid disruption, and that any new information they record is immediately synchronized once a data connection is restored.
- Part of a Unified System. As mentioned, there are numerous applications available for these functions and the back-office functions that use the information gathered. Avoiding double entry of information or numerous hand-offs via complicated interfaces ensures accuracy, efficiency and completeness of information throughout the process. The better the integration from the time information is entered until it is posted for payroll and financials, analyzed, billed or other back-end functions, the more confidence a company can have that it is accurate.
In the information age, an increasingly important tool in the technician’s toolbelt is a device that can provide them the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to perform all that is asked of them. Any assistance they can get in aligning what they can deliver with customer’s and their company’s expectations is welcomed. The results are satisfied customers, happy and productive technicians and a loyal and profitable customer base. Win-win-win.
Roger Eineichner is a Senior Product Manager at Penta Technologies, responsible for products including PENTA Service Management and PENTA Mobile Field Service. Roger has over 35 years of experience in all facets of software development from hands-on development to driving product direction.