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How software can help field service technicians offer top-notch support

How AI in Field Service Management Can Streamline Your Business

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I never mean to peek at other people’s computers, but sometimes it happens. It’s the downside of working in an open office, where everyone’s monitor is easily visible. There’s one monitor I never look at, however, because it scares me too much: the one that belongs to our office manager, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle’s computer is usually open to her calendar, which is so full of appointments it looks like a patchwork quilt. I don’t know how she keeps up with it.

Schedulers and managers at any small business face similar organizational challenges.

At field service businesses, for instance, schedulers have to keep up with multiple technicians carrying multiple pieces of equipment and going to multiple locations, every day. That’s like keeping up with one set of responsibilities, raised to the third power—and if they get one part of that wrong, it can also mean unhappy customers raised to the third power.

However, help for field service schedulers and dispatchers can come from a surprising source: artificial intelligence.

AI in field service management

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already helping field service companies do their jobs more efficiently. The small service business that ignores AI is ignoring potential savings and improved performance.

AI makes field service scheduling and dispatching easier

Chris Butler, director of AI at design consultancy Philosophie, helped one field service team reduce both scheduler workload and return trips for service technicians.

Return trips

Service technicians would frequently get to a job site without the right information, or the right parts, or the time to complete a job. That meant technicians would have to make a second, or third visit, to resolve a problem.

“These problems could all have been helped by dispatchers asking customers the right questions.”

Chris Butler, Philosophie

If dispatchers weren’t getting the right information to the technicians, jobs didn’t get done.

Philosophie designed an AI program that analyzed successful jobs and determined what information schedulers gathered to make them successful. Philosophie’s program included “an algorithm that predicted whether that job, based on info collected, would be successful, or cause a return trip.”

In turn, this helped dispatchers know what they needed to ask customers in the first place.

Scheduling

Philosophie’s AI program also made schedulers’ jobs easier. Butler estimates that about “90 to 95%” of his client’s jobs were easy to schedule.

The AI program automated scheduling for these jobs. Rather than the scheduling team having to coordinate information between their paper calendars, telematics software, and inventory management system, the AI program did that work for them, finding the best time to schedule technicians based on that information.

AI scheduling automation didn’t just make the work easier, it also changed how schedulers worked. With the 90 to 95% of easily scheduled jobs handled by the AI, schedulers could focus more on those difficult cases, in which the customer’s problem wasn’t readily apparent, and figure out what the customer really needed.

AI makes customer service more efficient for small service businesses

Incoming obvious statement: Chatbots help you with customer service.

Specifically, chatbots can help you cover customer requests. If you’ve only got so many employees to answer the phones (and the chat feature on your website), an AI chatbot can take work off your employees’ plates.

AI chatbots are a growing priority for businesses everywhere.

“Ten percent of emergency field service work will be both triaged and scheduled by artificial intelligence by 2020.”

Gartner (Full research available to Gartner clients.)

That artificial intelligence will come in the form of chatbots. So much so that Gartner also predicts that, “By 2019, 40% of enterprises will be actively using chatbots to facilitate business processes using natural-language interactions.” (Full Gartner research available to clients.)

That’s quick adoption in a short amount of time. The business that fails to use chatbots will quickly become second tier.

When customers visit your website, an AI chatbot can do basic intake work and ask what their problem is. AI-driven chatbots are great at simple, repetitive work such as taking down contact information and customer problems. Automating that sort of data entry helps companies avoid human errors that tend to happen with rote work.

This AI help doesn’t just reduce the busy work on your employees. It also frees them up to do more complex work such as matching tasks to technicians.

In some cases, chatbots may even be able to solve customer problems. Chatbots can be programmed to suggest possible fixes to simple issues, if they can take down information about a customer’s equipment and problem.

Case study: AI in field service management

ATM manufacturer Diebold used ClickSoftware’s field service management solution to improve its scheduling.

Before investing in ClickSoftware, Diebold’s schedulers needed data inputs from multiple software programs: CRM, logistics, and scheduling. Now, the AI algorithms in ClickSoftware’s program manage all that information and use it to make better scheduling suggestions.

Instead of scheduling the technician geographically closest to a job, ClickSoftware’s AI prioritizes which technician is best suited to a job. That technician, however, might be farther away. Diebold didn’t want to increase spending on fuel, so it also used ClickSoftware’s telematics capabilities to make technician routes as short as possible.

Thanks to ClickSoftware’s AI-enabled scheduling, Diebold was able to increase the number of daily jobs technicians performed by 33.1% and to better share resources among branches.

Have you used AI to get ahead?

Has your field service business used AI to get ahead? If so, let me know in the comments below!

If you’re interested in the other ways to integrate new technology into your field service business, check out one of these Capterra posts:

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.

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