One of the most difficult aspects of day-to-day work in the field service industry is scheduling. In order to provide customers with timely, exceptional service, field-service companies need to be able to organize what they will be doing, where they will be going, and how they will be getting there, for entire days or weeks at a time, and they need to be able to do so down to the minute. As an added obstacle, customers will often need to reschedule their appointments, sometimes with little or no forewarning, requiring field agents to reshuffle their itinerary in order to accommodate them. Given these and other concerns, it’s quickly becoming apparent that traditional scheduling tools, even digital ones, are simply not capable enough to effectively handle the constantly-shifting needs of field service providers.
Real-time scheduling is changing all of that.
At its most basic, real-time scheduling is a form of CRM designed to increase efficiency and promote accuracy among service agents. More specifically, real-time scheduling software is designed to integrate with existing CRM tools and other mobile workforce systems, and is used to create and update schedules so that they are instantly accessible to all authorized users across a variety of devices. This enables agents to adapt their calendars at a moment’s notice to better serve their customers. And, according to analysis firm IDC, mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce by 2020, meaning that the need for superior customer field service is one that is definitely on the rise for those businesses that want to remain competitive.
Of course, there’s more to real-time scheduling than just the ability to ensure that field agents reach their appointments on time. Advanced real-time scheduling offers a range of features which can be leveraged by businesses who want to improve their field service operations. Here are several features worth considering:
Cloud-Based Storage and Operation
While conventional scheduling-programs may rely on on-site hardware and software, in order for real-time scheduling to be possible, it requires the use of cloud technology. As a cloud-based tool, real-time scheduling applications are ‘stored’ in remote, off-site servers, and accessed via an internet connection. This makes it possible for users to access the applications’ full functionality without having to install expensive hardware, or even worry about maintaining on-site software. Additionally, cloud technology gives users the freedom to connect to real-time scheduling software regardless of what platform they may be using. Whether it be a desktop computer or mobile smart device, as long as they have internet access, users will be able to take advantage of the complete functionality of the tool, wherever and whenever they need it. And, because the applications are maintained off-site, they can automatically update and sync with every new change, so that every user is always accessing completely up-to-date information.
61% of employees report working outside the office at least part of the time, and when doing so, there’s a good chance that they’re using mobile smart devices. As such, it’s no surprise that so many business-related systems, tools, and applications are designed to be mobile-compatible. However, just because something is compatible, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is optimized. Many programs offer reduced functionality when accessed on mobile devices, and even those that don’t, often suffer from issues related to navigation and ease-of-use. The best real-time scheduling tools avoid these potential problems, with a mobile-first design. This means that mobility and smart device access is more than just an afterthought; it’s the main focus of development, which is perfect for field-service industries that operate almost entirely while on the go.
There are many factors associated with creating and maintaining field service schedules, and many of those factors are simple, yet time-consuming. By introducing smart automation in the form of real-time scheduling tools, the tedious minutia of scheduling is removed. The system automatically creates work orders, assigns available representatives based upon availability, skillset, and other factors, and even collects relevant data for analysis, leaving users with more time to focus on other matters.
There is an old adage which suggests that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And while there is certainly something to be said for not making changes that aren’t necessary, there’s also something to be said for keeping up with the latest technology trends—especially when it comes to field service. When customers see field agents using the most up-to-date devices and technologies, then they’re more likely to trust the organization that sent them as being competent and informed. And, by relying on new technology, real-time scheduling ensures that as new advances occur, it will remain compatible.
Of course, while these features may be attractive, they aren’t worth much to your business unless they can provide something more concrete. Here are some of the benefits associated with real-time scheduling:
Less Wasted Time
Organizing the schedules of a fleet of service agents is a difficult, time-consuming endeavor. By relying on real-time system scheduling, employees can automate various tasks, and relax in the knowledge that everything being accomplished is easily accessible to all other authorized users. This frees up a significant amount of time.
Better Tracking Capabilities
Field agents and technicians are the most valuable resource of any field-service provider, which means that keeping an eye on them in order to ensure that appointments are being kept, and work is getting done, is of primary importance to most organizations. The built-in tracking capabilities of field-service scheduling software makes this easy to do, providing leaders and other users an easy method for knowing where their agents are, and what they are doing, at all times.
One of the most-valuable aspects of real-time scheduling software is that it can be configured and customized to meet the needs of any field-service business. So, users are able to enjoy a completely compatible tool from day one, as well as one that changes and scales along with the business. The ability to integrate with existing systems adds to this benefit.
Taken together, each of these benefits result in improved customer satisfaction, more efficiently used time, and, as a result, higher profits, overall. While, money isn’t the only reason to invest in real-time scheduling software, it’s still probably the most common reason.
Although there are a number of features which are common among real-time scheduling tools, not every option is the same. Certain programs and systems may be lacking in one area or another, or might otherwise be a poor fit for a particular business. When choosing a real-time scheduling solution, there are several factors to consider.
In order for an organization to benefit from real-time scheduling, it’s employees and decision makers have to be willing to use it. If the system isn’t user friendly, or if its interface is too complicated, then adoption-rates will decrease. How user friendly your real-time scheduling solution is has the power to either make, or break, its effectiveness. And, going hand in hand with ease of use, is the issue of convenience.
Does the tool make the user’s job easier, or is it just another complex system that will over complicate your employees’ lives? How convenient a real-time scheduling tool is will affect how often it is used. And, as the purpose of these tools is to unify and simplify an entire organization’s scheduling, real time systems quickly become ineffective when they are too inconvenient to reach 100% adoption.
Simplicity isn’t the only issue related to convenience; the tool must flexible enough to fit your business’ existing processes and systems. A superior real-time scheduling option will likely feature robust customization and configuration options, but for times when even more personalization is required, the ability to incorporate third-party modifications may be invaluable.
And, while there are definite monetary benefits associated with adopting a real-time scheduling solution, those benefits will have to be compared against the initial cost of accessing the tool. If the cost is too high, then it will have a negative effect on your ROI. Before committing to a solution, do some research, read some online reviews, and (if possible), take advantage of any free trial-periods being offered, to get a better idea of what is being offered before any money changes hands.
Success in a field-service industry relies on two elements: the ability to keep appointments, and the ability to keep customers satisfied. Real-time scheduling offers an advanced, effective path towards achieving the first of those two points. And, in so doing, fulfills the second promise as well. After all, despite the difficulties inherent in maintaining a working schedule in a constantly-shifting environment, clients expect that their work order will be filled correctly and on time, every time; show those clients that you care enough to ensure that it happens, with advanced real-time scheduling solutions.
The best way to see how Salesforce is revolutionizing customer service is with a guided tour of Service Cloud. With the guided tour, we can show you how Service Cloud shines in several common use cases and scenarios.
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