The 5 Biggest Challenges within Field Service (and How to Solve Them)

In my 10+ years of working with solutions for mobile workforces, I’ve seen some organisations go to great lengths to stitch together various tools and applications to create the right Field Service solution to meet their needs. I’ve known a company to employ full-time staff to sit in front of two huge screens of Microsoft Excel, spending their hours arranging and rearranging colour coded blocks of appointments by hand.

However applications have come a long way, and there are now prebuilt solutions in the marketplace that can streamline and optimise processes more effectively. These advantageous platforms are built to empower dispatchers and technicians with effective scheduling, a full view of engineers and their skills, better communication, and the flexibility and accessibility of the cloud.

Your organisation needs a smooth end-to-end solution, from case open to case close. Just imagine how much more your dispatchers could do with automated scheduling, and how many more appointments could be cleverly fit in. What material effect would it have if each field technician in your organisation could fit two more jobs per day?

What if there was a Field Service Management (FSM) system that could do it all?

 

1. Scheduling and rescheduling is challenging and requires too much manual work

Scheduling boards are the heart of field service operations. When boards are created and maintained with tools not specifically designed for this task – such as Microsoft Excel – then it will lack the functionality needed for optimised scheduling. Businesses need to react quickly to customer demands either within, on or outside of SLA. Business as usual is manic enough for dispatchers, but they need the flexibility to then also handle the unexpected.hat if bad weather strikes, heavy traffic causes delays, or staff fall ill?

Solution

Dispatchers need to be assisted by a first-rate FSM solution with features such as a large, clear scheduling board with multiple views, effortless drag-and-drop organising and colour coded tasks. Time is shifted from manual scheduling to more value-add tasks such as customer service. Keeping on top of rescheduling is manageable with alerts, a constant line of communication, and flexible, fast job organisation. Innovative FSM software allows for varying levels of intelligent scheduling; manual, assisted, automated and optimised.

 

2. A limited view of engineers’ inventory and skills means low first-time fix rates

With poor system performance and only a basic calendar view of work, dispatchers have the impossible task of manually staying on top of many moving parts. Understanding job status and engineer whereabouts requires several texts or calls, delaying all involved. Availability is often prioritised above engineers’ skills and inventory which increases the chance of engineers having to return to finish a job with the right tools or parts. This inconveniences customers and for an engineer, this takes time away from other paid jobs.

Solution

With a clear view of all engineers’ skills and inventory, outstanding and scheduled work orders, a map view of technicians and jobs, and travel journeys, dispatchers can make informed decisions and efficiently manage resources in the field. This deep level of information from everyone and everything involved, all in one place, means first-time fix rates can dramatically increase.

 

3. Communication with engineers and customers is inefficient

Engineers often aren’t efficiently informed about upcoming jobs, travel routes, traffic issues, customer information and job requirements – meaning they often go into a job blind or aren’t made aware quickly when there is a cancellation. Customers are also often not alerted when their appointment has been booked in or completed. A lack of communication can lead to errors or customers becoming dissatisfied.

Solution

Customers must be kept informed at all stages of service delivery, and engineers need a full view of the information they require to do their job. Field service organisations can send automated texts and email reminders, and customers can log in to an online portal to view upcoming appointments or log incidents. Inbuilt mobile app functionality means field technicians are able to complete tasks on their mobile device, with any changes being sent to head office, such as:

  • Generating sales opportunities in the field
  • Viewing all job information including location, client, tasks, items and services
  • Entering and viewing timesheet entries
  • Capturing and/or viewing photographs, videos, documents and client signatures
  • Providing step by step instructions on how to complete the task at hand

 

4. Key business systems are disparate and departments don’t have a companywide view of customers and data

There are many streams of data coming in from different departments and systems that can be invaluable to an organisation, such as sales, customer service, and field service engineers. However, most FSM systems aren’t a centralised hub for information, but a siloed single-channel platform. This provides a limited and blinkered view for each department.

Solution

With data all in one place, it gives a much richer view of customers and their requirements so they can be provided with the best service possible. The following platforms can be advantageous when integrated as part of an FSM solution:

Sales and Marketing

Use opportunity and activity data in conjunction with Field Service information for a fully rounded view of customers, your organisation, and how you can continue to grow and succeed.

Productivity Applications

Cloud-based productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office 365 which includes Outlook, Word, Excel and OneNote) enables seamless creation of documents directly from Dynamics and synchronises users’ tasks, emails and appointments.

Business Analytics

Business Intelligence platforms such as Microsoft Power BI and Qlik will gather Field Service data from multiple systems which can be interrogated to produce detailed and insightful reports. Discover how many appointments are missed, what the overheads are, cost per job, average time spent per job, how many SLA breaches there are and why, etc.

Accounting

Integration with accounting software, such as with a Dynamics ERP system, will provide order fulfilment and financials directly into your FSM system.

 

5. On-premise software is inflexible and expensive

The software and applications used to manage a workforce is often hosted on-premise, meaning updates, patches and upgrades regularly at great expense and labour. This can also be a barrier to providing access to job information outside of the office by your field engineers.

Solution

Cloud-hosted Field Service solutions have monthly subscription costs which include regular updates and upgrades for the newest available functionality (such as Microsoft’s most recent Dynamics 365 Spring Launch with a huge 241 pages of improvements). Cloud provides more flexibility with cost, updates, scalability, adding and removing users, data security, and having a system with high uptime and backups.

 

Final thoughts

I began this article by talking about a company using colour-coded Excel sheets as their scheduling system. What they were attempting to recreate was a basic version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service – the solution we actually helped them to later implement. Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service is a highly customisable platform that can increase first-time fix rates, empower mobile workforces, and enrich scheduling.

The Field Service app sits on the Dynamics 365 platform – a flexible, intelligent solution that integrates a wide variety of D365 apps (Customer Service, Sales, Marketing) and third-party or existing systems (BI, ERP and Office 365) for a full, smooth, end-to-end service delivery with companywide improvements.

 

Mark Jackson – Business Development Manager

Mark Jackson is a Business Development Manager with over 10 years of experience in helping companies to choose the best Field Service Management solution for them. Mark first began at Perfect Image in 2011, where he works with companies to fulfil their business requirements. He understands the pain points of organisations with mobile workforces, and how they can strategically adopt or optimise Field Service Management systems to streamline processes to meet the ever-increasing demands of customers.

 

How Perfect Image Can Help

Perfect Image is here to tailor Dynamics 365 for Field Service to your exact business needs. We are a Microsoft Gold Partner with over 25 years of experience in architecting a wide range of end-to-end IT solutions that drive transformation. If you have existing systems or Microsoft applications that you already work with, we have experience with the full Dynamics 365 suite, which is made up of modular applications that work together seamlessly on the common data platform. Starting from how your organisation currently runs, we know how to work with you to architect a solution that fixes issues and optimises processes.

 

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