The first thing to understand about field service management is that it differs from traditional IT-based service management. Field service management is about coordinating mobile agents and equipment. And although this definition says little about the need to provide exceptional customer service, customer service management is the logical extension for those businesses who want to enhance the customer experience.
Historically, service management relied on a limited number of field agents operating under the direction of some form of central dispatch office. These agents would receive work orders, plan schedules, and then proceed to specific assignments. However, once in the field, these agents’ ability to receive updated information or other relevant data was severely limited. As mobile smart devices became common, field service companies recognized the boon that fully-mobile computer systems could offer their industries. As of now, 60% of field service organizations allow employees to use personal devices for work, and by 2018, it’s expected that 70% of mobile workers will use a tablet or a hybrid device that has tablet-like characteristics. Still, the potential for field-based customer service management software wasn’t realized until the introduction of the cloud.
The cloud is a term used to describe the ability for various computers to access one network, essentially the same concept as internet. But more than that, the term has taken on a more specific connotation, describing the ability to remotely access stores of data, applications, and even entire platforms at full functionality via a standard internet browser application. This means that businesses no longer need to invest in expensive hardware or inhouse servers, and it also means that any authorized users can access the same data from wherever they are, and see updates in real-time. This particular advancement paved the way for other improvements and benefits. Modern service management offers a number of advanced features that every field service business should understand when choosing a service management tool. These are the benefits we consider to be most essential:
- Cloud Security Protects Valuable Data
One of the most valuable aspects of cloud-based computing is that it allows users to store data securely offsite. This means not only that the data is protected and encrypted against cyber-theft, but also that it is protected against in-house disasters, such as fires, floods, earthquakes, etc. And, given that it has been suggested that 60% of companies that lose their data end up going out of business within six months of the disaster this is one security measure that no business should be without.
- Enhanced Mobility Empowers Field Agents to Act
Mobility is at the very heart of the advantages of field service software solutions. When a workforce operates while in the field, they need to be able to access more than just schedules and appointment information; they need to be able to get all of the relevant data quickly and easily. With a variety of service management tools accessible directly from a smartphone or tablet, agents and customers can enjoy increased convenience of mobile service management, without ever having to head back to the office to sort something out.
- Intelligent Scheduling Ensures the Best Resources for Each Project
Without proper scheduling, field service industries would be completely ineffectual. And now, thanks to cloud-based field service management tools, agents can access real-time scheduling that takes into account up-to-the-minute changes. The best tools incorporate scheduling-automation, so that appointments can be automatically assigned to agents based upon availability, skill, location, and other factors.
- Real-Time Tracking Keeps Everyone in the Loop
The key to success in a field service industry lies in effective tracking. This means not only using work orders to track the progress of jobs and other assignments being handled in the field, but also to better keep track of (and evaluate) the field agents themselves. And business leaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from agent tracking; 89% of customers want an ‘Uber-like’ agent tracking service, so that they can have a more accurate idea of when an agent is likely to arrive, with 86% would be willing to pay more for such a service.
- Detailed Analytical Reporting Takes the Guesswork out of Customer Interaction
The simple truth is that if you don’t know what your customers want, then you can’t provide it for them. Built-in analytics tools help you access the customer data that will allow you to improve your business, resulting in more accurately targeted email messages and marketing campaigns, improved resource and equipment management, better anticipation of needed services, and more. At the same time, the ability to gather and analyze data associated with field agents and company processes enable you to streamline your business for maximum efficiency.
- Multichannel, Cross-platform Integration Brings All of Your Systems Together
While the ability to access full functionality of tools while away from the office is a boon for any field-service business, service management software is capable of even more. After all, your organization will probably be relying on more systems and processes than just a service management tool. As such, a tool that takes advantage of the cloud’s ability to integrate effectively with existing systems and processes makes for a much more efficient experience.
- Near-Limitless Capacity Can Handle a Huge Volume of Data
If a service management tool is unable to handle a large volume of information, then it will be unable to scale with your business as it grows. Thankfully, the cloud is the perfect answer to this issue, with off-site servers generally capable of handling entire fleet's worth of tracking and scheduling information. This means that no matter how large-scale a project may be, you won’t have to worry about being able to manage it.