“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in their own way,” reads the famous opening line of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
The same could be said of most companies, which is what we’ve found as we help more field service firms shift from paper-based processes to automated ones.
Field service companies usually come to us seeking a more streamlined way of working. Typically, they are burdened by individual processes based heavily on paper that are time-consuming. For example, one customer required technicians to enter previously handwritten data into their system at the end of the day. Another passed the paperwork on to data-entry clerks who had to interpret the often unreadable information. Neither process was ideal.
When choosing software, our potential clients usually focus on the efficiencies and cost savings that can be achieved. They want to know: How can we dispatch technicians faster? How can we ensure they have the information they need, and get data back to the office? How can we increase first-time fix rates? And how can we invoice faster?
Once the software is in place, field service companies start enjoying the benefits of a more efficient process. Then technicians begin to notice something else: not only are customers happy, the technicians themselves are happier. The work environment and the work culture shift to one that is positive and efficient.
At Vegetable Growers Supply, a California-based packaging supply firm, a new work culture emerged after their move to automated services.
“It’s a whole new business,” said the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Erling.
Like happy families, happy field service companies appear to have certain traits in common.
Here are our top six:
1) Technicians Are in Control of Their Day
Using field service software on a mobile device allows technicians to see and manage everything about their day. They can easily record and track working hours, and also view the day’s schedule along with any scheduling changes that occur. With a mobile solution, the lines of communication between technicians and the back office are always open. This means technicians are better supported, and don’t have to return to the office when problems occur.
2) Technicians are Free from the Burden of Paperwork
Forgotten forms, lost paperwork, re-entering data when arriving back at the office, and even interpreting their own illegible handwriting used to add to the administrative burden of a technician’s day. Having an automated, mobile solution where everything is in one place and completed and captured over the course of the day reduces the hours technicians need to spend on the administrative portion of their jobs. “Our employees are very satisfied,” says Johann Schild Jr., Managing Director of Johann Schild Herstellung & Handels GmbH, a German supplier of hydraulic systems and accessories. “They are able to save time, which they use much more effectively. They benefit from having all the data they need in their hands and they have less paperwork to fill out, which for a technician is always an advantage.”
3) Technicians are Empowered with the Information They Need to Perform at Their Best
Mobile solutions give technicians everything they need to do their jobs correctly: service manuals, customers’ service histories, inventory levels, and the ability to order spare parts. First-time fix rates rise, as technicians feel empowered by their ability to do their jobs quickly and well. A service technician at Cald’oro, the Austrian maker of high-end coffee machines, named Daniel Reichert says: “I am much faster in creating service orders or in finding spare parts. I can see at a glance what my colleague did during his last visit, from what work he carried out on the machine to what the problem was. Everything is just much faster. You can see right away what part was changed during the last service or which item was damaged and when. It allows me to narrow down the errors in no time.”
4) Relations Between Technicians and Customers are Improved
Technicians who know their customers and their service histories can put customers at ease immediately by demonstrating their expert understanding of the equipment and its issues. They can also make the repair process more transparent. For instance, a simple photo of an inaccessible part in broken equipment can show a customer the location and severity of a problem.
5) Better Communications and Team Work Between Technicians and Back Office
No one likes to be required to constantly check in with their office or have their office checking up on them. With mobile devices, automatic status updates can be easily sent when a job is marked done, when snags are occurring, or when drive times are taking longer than expected. Open communication between all team members can also let techs tap into each other for knowledge. If needed, techs can also quickly locate a supervisor or call in extra help.
6) Technicians Can Work Faster and Save Time
If there’s one thing that makes technicians happy, it’s the ability to work faster and save time. No one wants to be bogged down trying to diagnose a problem, when simply having the service history might speed up the process. Furthermore, re-entering information is not necessary, because easy data capture would let them do enter data as they work.