How Automation In The Field Service Industry Leads To Success
September 6, 2021 - FSM Software - 10 minutes
Field services are a fast moving, complex, and competitive industry. Managing customer relationships, ensuring timely and quality service, and executing multifaceted operational procedures can be difficult and exhausting.
When a business falters upon delivering a successful product or service, it’s often challenging to pinpoint exactly where the point—or points—of failure lie.
Did a technician deliver low-quality or delayed service? Was there a back-office administrative error? Did a logistical hangup throw a wrench into everyone’s schedule? Was there a communication breakdown between your business and your customer?
Whether the issue was one of, none of, or a combination of the problems above, it’s important to perform a post-mortem to figure out exactly what went wrong. Most of the time, issues run deeper than a single slip up or mishap. The problem needs to be addressed at its source—the inefficient processes and technologies that are behind the billable work and labor.
One of the best ways to address process inefficiencies at the core of a business? We’ve asked Craig Conville, a business automation expert at Striven, to tell us about his favorite solution: field service automation software. We’ll let Craig take it from here!
What Is Field Service Automation?
One of the core components of a successful field services enterprise is the ability to intuitively plan ahead. Accounting for changing customer demands, the availability of specialized equipment, and even monitoring the weather forecast are just some of the variables that need to be taken into account.
Dispatching a technician to a job site for the first time doesn’t come without its fair share of stressors. After all, first impressions matter—in the field services industry, it’s more true than ever. If a business and it’s technicians fall below an 80% first time fix rate, they’d be considered a below average organization.
Fluctuating jobsite conditions, the importance of getting it right the first time, always staying a step ahead of competition—businesses often find themselves asking what more they can do to stay ahead.
Automation in the service industry allows businesses to accomplish what would have otherwise taken all-too-many hours of labor by creating mechanisms for a variety of basic tasks including the following:
- Scheduling automated service reminders
- Automatically updating property and customer history before and after a job
- Keeping GPS locations of technicians up to date
Field service technicians are experts at what they do, whether that be repairing a broken cable wire or installing an HVAC system.
Business executives and administrators play a direct role in the success of their technicians in the field—their role is providing the best tools possible, for both the technicians and the customers.
Benefits of Field Service Automation Software
By utilizing the automation capabilities of field service management software, businesses can enable technicians to do their best work.
Let’s explore the ways in which taking advantage of field service automation software will help businesses achieve their goals without breaking the bank:
Lower Operational Costs
It’s easy to say that better technology will save businesses money. It’s, also, almost always true. While the old adage “you have to spend money to make money” still holds, the amount spent on upgrades more than pays for itself in the end.
Businesses don’t have to don a Fortune 500 label to afford cutting edge, difference-making field service software. In most cases, field service management software will cost less than the compensation of a single employee over the span of a calendar year.
In a study conducted by WorkMarket, 53% of employees stated that they can save up to 2 work hours a day thanks to automation in the service industry. Business leaders were asked the same question—78% responded that they are able to free up 3 work hours a day.
If “time is money”, then saving between 25-38% of time in a given day, month, or year will minimize the impact that operational costs have on a business’ bottom line.
However, saving time isn’t the entire picture. Utilizing field service automation software improves the overall flow of information—the accuracy and accessibility of the data collected from projects, employees, and customers will provide a greater benefit.
Whether it’s data collected from the field, marketing and sales numbers, or just plain old financial records, it’s important that this information is accurate and able to be accessed from anywhere.
Higher Customer Satisfaction
Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction is obviously a priority in all industries, but due to the often intimate nature of field services (i.e. entering people’s homes) it becomes increasingly important to ensure that customers are content with the service they receive—in both the quality of work itself and the innately human, emotion-driven experience of maintaining professionalism and respect.
Maintaining high standards of customer service doesn’t just reflect on a businesses Google or G2 reviews, it reflects directly on the bottom line. 70% of Americans are prepared to spend more money with a company that provides excellent customer service. This benefit also compounds over time—a loyal, returning customer is 60-70% more likely to purchase a product from a business than a brand new customer if the perceived level of customer satisfaction is high.
It’s apparent that maintaining customer satisfaction in the field service industry is vital, but how does automation fit into the picture?
Well, technology can’t put a smile on the face of a technician, but it can provide the customer with a better experience overall.
For example, let’s take a scenario where a customer schedules an appointment. They’re able to book the service online, receive a confirmation email, and even the name of the technician soon to be arriving at their front door.
All of these processes are automated to some degree—and that’s a great first step. But the true benefit of automation in the service industry takes place when a business goes above and beyond for the sake of their customers.
Before a technician arrives, technology can match the work order request to an appropriately skilled technician without any humans making a keyboard stroke. This reduces the risk of a job being delayed or mismanaged. Automation also helps when a customer wants to ensure that a technician arrives on time (think of Uber’s tracking interface).
At the jobsite, the benefits of automation continue. Technicians can track their processes, which is then updated in real time to the customer. When the job is complete, technicians can automatically generate invoices by marking tasks as completed from their mobile app. In a world that continues to be plagued by the pandemic, reducing facetime with customers can be of vast benefit.
Increased Flexibility and Efficiency
When it comes to field services, information is king. Information about equipment, parts and orders, customer information, financial data, analytical reports—the list goes on and on.
The primary objective of a business that wants to implement automation capabilities into their processes is to better collect, analyze, and act on the information that they gather.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical scenario:
Without Automation: A business’s sales increase dramatically over a single quarter. Several large customers and clients are requesting premium services. This is great news, but it’s going to require some late nights crunching the numbers. It’s all hands on deck—physical paperwork and Excel spreadsheets are being hastily passed and sent around.
This trend of overworking continues for the better part of five or six weeks. Your clients were satisfied with the quality of service they received, but it didn’t come without a couple of hangups—those dreary-eyed nights led to some erroneous calculations and missing documents. It didn’t seem like a major issue, though. They were addressed promptly and never had a direct effect on a customer.
In what felt like the blink of an eye, the next fiscal quarter concludes. This time, there is way less fanfare. Profits dipped, some 1 and 2 star Google reviews arrived, and administrative errors seem more commonplace. What happened?
With Automation: A business’s sales increase dramatically over a single quarter. Several large customers and clients are requesting premium services. This is great news. All of the new invoices, sales data, customer data arrive directly within their field service management software, ready to be exported and analyzed.
The numbers come back even better than expected—good enough that the business will finally have the cash on hand to hire some much needed sales and marketing talent. The business owner directs his established, veteran team to take care of those large clients that came in while the new team members are able to observe, train, and get up to speed.
As the next quarter concludes, the business has successfully been able to maintain their large clients from the previous quarter while expanding their marketing budget to reach new audiences. New leads are rolling in every day, and they are automatically processed through the field service CRM system. By this time, the new sales team feels confident and ready to be on their own, and they continue to secure more clients seeking the business’s services.
The takeaway here? Field service automation software helps businesses plan ahead.
Securing new clients is great, but it takes sustained success to allow a business to reach its fullest potential and to make the biggest impact. In the words of golf legend Ben Hogan, “the most important shot is the next one.”
The takeaway on automation in the service industry
Nothing is ever certain—in business, relationships, or any other facet of life. Twists and turns always arise, and problems always find a way to rear their ugly head. In an industry as intricate and elaborate as field services, the best a business can do is to work smart and be prepared for anything.
Communication, precision, and plain-old hard work are values that every field service technician carries with them to each jobsite. Technology will never replace them, but it can certainly act as a catalyst for people to reach their fullest potential.
While automation in the service industry may seem like “non-personal” or “non-human” work, it actually enables the opposite. Automation technology alleviates some of the repetitive, mundane, and error-prone duties from humans to allow workers to be the best at what they do: servicing customers to the fullest. If you want to get the best of both worlds and imbue your automated strategy with a human touch, download the templates below and start improving your customer communication now!