When one considers the archetypal business, what comes to mind? For many, it’s images of cubical-lined office buildings or brick-and-mortar retail establishments. However, not every organization fits this mold. For a large number of organizations, company resources are much more mobile. This is particularly true for field service providers, who often have a significant portion of their workforce and equipment deployed away from company property. Field-service industries include property maintenance, residential and commercial cleaning services, civil engineering, home health care, as well as others, and rely on the ability to coordinate and direct these resources remotely. Of course, when dealing with a large fleet deployed in the field, keeping track of work orders, schedules, and availability becomes a difficult task—one made even more so by the constantly-changing demands of customers.; In order to combat these hazards, many organizations are beginning to rely on the mobility and computing power afforded by mobile smart devices. However, simply having access to smartphones and tablets may not be enough; in order to achieve peak efficiency, these industries benefit most from adopting field service management software solutions.

Field service management software describes any tools, systems, or platforms that are designed to increase efficiency and accuracy in field service industries. The idea of field service grew from the analogue tools, calendars, and printed information files/work orders that field agents would use to plan their schedules, but left little capacity for those agents to coordinate amongst each other or with the home office while in the field. The eventual introduction and proliferation of pagers and mobile telephones made it possible for agents to remain ‘in-touch’ with their superiors and their customers, but still relied on direct, two-way communication—in order for a schedule change to be implemented, one would have to contact the agent by phone, and relay that change verbally—which could not account for issues related to missed calls or miscommunications.

As computers became more prevalent, digital organizational tools replaced analogue ones, allowing for more-accurate record keeping, and the advent of the internet made it possible for more-detailed information to be shared almost instantaneously with a large number of agents.

However, these advances did little to address the issue of mobility among field agents. After all, how advantageous is it to be able to make up-to-the minute changes to schedules, if the agent in question can only access those changes from the home office? The real game-changer for field service industries arrived with the introduction of mobile, internet enabled devices.

Today, the best field service management software is built upon the cloud, and allows users to keep in touch with all of the most-important data in real time. This means that when schedules are updated, new information becomes available, or new work orders are being issued, field agents know about it instantly. And, also thanks to the cloud, all authorized users are are able to access the same dynamic system, so any changes made to any part (such as a schedule update), are viewable by all users in real time. The end result is a completely unified workforce, capable of adapting to unforeseen developments as they arise. This provides for a better customer experience, a more-efficient use of time, talent, and equipment, and as an added bonus, makes it possible for businesses to track their agents, so that they always know who’s doing what, and when. But while most web-based field service management software can help improve field agent effectiveness, the leading field service management software options are those that take things a step further.
Before committing to a specific field management solution, you should be aware not only of your organization’s specific needs, but also the particulars of what is being offered. Researching various options, reading up on field service management software reviews, and taking advantage of any free trials being offered are all vital to finding the right solution to fit your needs. That said, here are our top 4 features, benefits, and functionalities that a user must understand in order to make an informed purchasing decision.
  • Added Mobility Allows Ultimate Flexibility
    Given that smartphones and other handheld smart devices are the primary communication tool for 49% of companies’ workforces, forcing agents to rely on other devices for important business communication doesn’t make much sense. The convenience of being able to use personal portable devices benefits not only the agent, but also the customer, who can enjoy up to-the-minute service updates that come from mobile-device based communication. But while many field management software options are accessible on mobile devices, only those that are designed to offer full functionality on mobile devices (rather than the limited functionality of interfaces borrowed directly from desktop platforms) provide all the benefits associated with mobility. As such, user reviews and trial usage periods are the best way to get a feel for how optimized for mobile specific field service software options are.

  • Cloud Storage is Now Commonplace
    Although the cloud has become industry standard for the best field service providers, there are some that still rely on outdated batch-processing methods and in-house computer servers. The cloud provides not only real-time updating across all devices, but also allows organizations to save money on expensive hardware installation. At the same time, cloud data is automatically backed up and stored offsite, so that no local threats (such as fires, floods, etc.) can endanger the system. And, for field service management software, cloud-based systems are generally better able to integrate with existing company CRM and related systems, for a more streamlined overall process.

  • Ensure Scalability for Future Conquests
    Your business isn’t stagnant, and neither should be your field service management software. A field management solution that can be customized—to fit your organization’s unique needs not only for today, but also for years to come—helps ensure that you have the room you need to grow. And, should your company’s focus shift, or it’s processes change along the way, a superior, scalable service management software solution can easily shift along with it. Likewise, a scalable solution can be used to benefit businesses both large and small, so whether you are looking for something for a small business that operates out of your garage, or you need a field service solution fit for an enterprise-level organization, a scalable solution that can handle massive amount of data and integrate into existing systems is a must. Scalability may also factor into cost, with some providers preferring pay-as-you-go pricing models, so that you won’t have to worry about being charged for features you don’t use.

  • Work Order Management Made Easy
    Before an agent can complete an assignment, a work order must be created. Work orders provide the instructions and other details needed for fulfilling a particular job, but even more than that, work orders are used to assign personnel and manage the scope of the agent’s responsibilities. Because of this, work orders are supremely important. Field service software increases work order effectiveness, by instantly creating work orders as job details are acquired, assigning jobs based upon availability and skillset, providing customers with invoices to help keep them informed and up-to-date, and tracking job progress. In fact, work orders are so important that work-order management is the most sought-after feature by customers of field service software solutions.
The archetypal office, with its desktops, cubicles, and stationary workforce, doesn’t have much need for mobile field service software. However, those businesses that want to be able to track and coordinate a mobile workforce are finding it increasingly difficult to function without one. As technology progresses, customers are becoming less forgiving of missed appointments and miscommunications. Despite this trend, approximately 60% of companies surveyed are not using a field service management/automation solution .
What does this mean for your organization? The answer all depends on the direction you decide to go. By applying the benefits of advanced field service software, your business will gain a competitive advantage over those competitors who are not. On the other hand, if you choose to continue viewing your mobile workforce as something that needs to be maintained in the office, then you’ll likely end up left behind. With advanced field service software, agents can receive work orders, coordinate with decision makers and other agents, schedule appointments, and access relevant data, all in real time, for a service that customers and agents can get excited about. After all, when agents need to go where the customers are, then it only makes sense that they take the office with them.
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