Modern Field Service Management Requires a Digital Anchor. Here’s How to Optimize Your Distributed Teams.

As technology has advanced rapidly, consumers have come to demand more visibility into the operational processes that impact their experiences with businesses. As many as 73% of consumers identify experience as an essential factor in their purchasing decisions, yet fewer than half say they receive the experience they want.

The obligation to deliver a stellar experience hangs particularly heavy on businesses that provide service in the field. When a field service company representative travels to a customer’s home or office, the expectations are through the roof. Nothing but the best will do, and any mistake — showing up late, bringing the wrong part, fumbling to answer questions — could lead to negative customer experiences.

Fortunately, collaborative field service management tools can help any business that services customers off-site to coordinate the operations that go into creating the customer experience. The right technology can keep managers, employees, and customers informed about important details like technician location, work status, and last-minute changes.

Better collaboration has a measurable impact on field service quality: a 20%–30% increase in productivity and a 10%–40% reduction in costs, according to McKinsey & Co. Most importantly, a field service collaboration tool can lead to consistently better customer experiences.

Selecting and Implementing the Right Tools

Considering that 32% of respondents in one survey say they will leave a brand after one bad experience, technology that can help maintain consistently positive experiences is a wise investment for any business in field service.

Unfortunately, finding the right collaboration tools isn’t always easy. Too often, technology simply creates more chatter, leading to notification overload and a lack of real action. To find the right field service collaboration tools that will deliver measurable improvements, look for these features specifically:

  • Communication in context: At the core of any digital collaboration tool is a communication platform that connects the person in the field with both the company and the customer. The key to an effective collaboration tool, however, is that it allows for greater actionability with more context. The platform should offer multiple means of sharing information — voice, chat, document transfer — and include contextual information like location details and project specifics. The goal is to make information exchange seamless and miscommunication impossible.

  • Notifications and alerts: A great field service collaboration tool works like an automated project manager. Employees receive notifications in the field whenever they need updated information. With a smart system of alerts in place, companies spend less time coordinating large numbers of distributed workers, yet no one goes without the information he or she needs to get the job done.

  • Integrated workflows: Collaboration tools need to create new opportunities for improved efficiency and should not offer features that prioritize communication over workflow. Practically, that means they need to integrate communication and workflows so field service happens seamlessly for both the person performing it and the person receiving it. Be wary of collaboration tools that make things more complicated.

To get a better sense of what good tools look like and why they matter, consider a hypothetical pizzeria that provides field service in the form of food delivery. Before collaborative technology, the process was managed manually: Customers made a phone call to place an order, drivers checked a map before leaving the store, and customers waited for the pizza to arrive. Managers could only offer apologies or discounts when a customer complained that the delivery was taking too long. It was an imperfect system, but there were no alternatives.

Now, with a field service collaboration tool in place, the same pizzeria can coordinate its entire delivery operation in one place. Drivers get immediate access to locations, routing, and traffic alerts. They can also easily send photos to prove delivery. Managers can better coordinate drivers and delivery locations so pizzas arrive faster, and customers can track those pizzas in transit. Everyone has greater visibility along every step of the way.

Optimizing the Field Service Customer Experience

Delivering a stellar experience time after time takes more than just the right tool. It also takes a commitment to service throughout the organization and a true understanding of what a quality experience looks like to today’s customers. Put differently, collaboration tools shouldn’t just upgrade the status quo — they should enable innovative approaches to field service customer satisfaction.

Above all, remember that technology is just a way to facilitate the human interactions at the core of field service. It should make things easy and efficient for workers in the field so they can focus on going above and beyond for customers. Make sure the technology doesn’t become a distraction for the user or a replacement for the service representative in the mind of the customer.

Along those same lines, find ways to use field service collaboration tools to eliminate common roadblocks in the customer experience. Take price adjustments, for example: Instead of a lengthy back-and-forth approval process, have managers and employees communicate via instant message and reach a final figure instantly.

Customers notice when companies go the extra mile to make their experience better. They also notice when the representatives in front of them don’t have the information they need. Collaboration tools are excellent at closing this gap by providing the information employees need to provide a high level of service in any situation. These tools make it easy to put the right information at the right person’s fingertips — which means when customers have questions, they always get answers.

Field service businesses need to build trust with customers and create positive experiences. It’s an ideal time to invest in a tech-driven approach that will bring you and your customers greater operational visibility and service assurance.

To learn how collaboration tools are impacting other industries, download “The Future of Collaborative Logistics” infographic.

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Author: Thomas Oberting

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