Your automated scheduling tool could be costing you thousands!
Managing a field service team, whether small or large, isn’t easy.
With operatives working remotely and often spread over a large geographic area, you face a number of challenges when trying to get your team functioning as effectively as possible. For example, how can you ensure workers are doing their job properly? How can you keep them motivated?
You may already be using field service software to address these issues, but is it helping you to improve the service you deliver to your customers? If you’re using a manual scheduling tool, or automated scheduling that simply picks the closest field engineer, your business performance and customer satisfaction rates could be taking a hit.
What you need is intelligent scheduling.
So what is intelligent scheduling?
Put simply, it is a feature of field service management software that enables a mobile workforce to be scheduled based on a number of factors, such as skill level, resource availability, drive time, location and even the parts and stock each worker has with them.
It offers organisations with a mobile workforce the opportunity to save time and money and vastly improve the service delivered to customers. Sound interesting? Read on for three reasons why you should consider intelligent scheduling software.
1. Dramatically improve first time fix rates and customer satisfaction
Research from the Aberdeen Group showed that the #1 reason customers were unhappy with service was that the technician did not resolve the issue. Achieving a resolution 100% of the time on the first visit is perhaps somewhat utopian, but there is no doubt you can dramatically improve first time fix rates with intelligent scheduling.
To demonstrate how, let’s consider the factors needed for a field worker to achieve first time fix.
- Firstly, they’ll need the skills and knowledge to resolve the issue.
- Secondly, they’ll need the right tools for the job.
- Finally, they might need replacements parts or materials with them (although this won’t always be the case).
If you can get all three elements right, it should be possible to resolve the majority of issues at the first time of asking, and intelligent scheduling helps you to do this.
The positive knock-on effects could be huge. For a start, the more issues you are able to resolve at the first time of asking, the happier your customers will be. That said, for many service organisations, the challenge of doing so has become greater in recent years. For example, 31% of respondents to another recent survey from the Aberdeen Group cited increased product complexity as a major challenge they are facing. And of course, it will generally be the case that the more complex the product, the greater the challenge of resolving any issues with it are.
This is where intelligent scheduling software is especially useful, as it can help to ensure the right engineer is sent to each job. Complex products are likely to require some very specific knowledge that not all of your engineers will have. So if you end up sending an engineer without the required product knowledge to a job, it will only serve to frustrate the customer. But if you send someone with the necessary expertise, they’ll be able to provide a superior service.
Even if they can’t fix the issue at the first time of asking, they can still keep customers satisfied by keeping them informed of what needs to be done. They may discover that a specific part needs to be ordered to resolve the issue, but by telling the customer this, they (the customer) will feel confident that a resolution is just around the corner. On the other hand, if the engineer is unable to provide any further information about what needs to be done to fix the issue, the customer will just feel like they have wasted time.
As an aside, it’s also worth mentioning that intelligent scheduling can make sure jobs are arranged based on your employees’ availability and drive time, so they are less likely to miss or be late for an appointment, a huge source of frustration for customers.
2. Employee motivation – send them to the right job
Maintaining the motivation of remote workers can be difficult as you’re not necessarily able to meet with them on a regular basis to discuss issues and provide encouragement. But one way in which you can keep them motivated is by giving them work which matches their skillset.
Put yourself in the shoes of a mobile engineer for a moment, and consider the following two scenarios: in the first one, you’re regularly sent to fix issues that you have little knowledge of and are unable to resolve. In the second scenario, you are sent to fix issues that you have the knowledge and skills to resolve. Which would you prefer?
Of course, you’d rather be sent to jobs that you have the skills and knowledge to deal with. In the first scenario, you’d quickly become demotivated and likely think that you were not able to do your job properly. You’d probably also worry about your line manager getting a negative impression of you and thinking you’re not able to do your job. In the second scenario, you’d resolve more issues, feel like you’re doing a good job and be much more likely to enjoy working. As a result, you’d be intrinsically motivated to do a good job.
As the manager of a field service team, you have a responsibility to help your employees do the best job they can. And that’s where intelligent scheduling comes in. It can help you to schedule workers to jobs based on their skills, so wherever possible, they are tackling issues that they have the ability to resolve.
3. Reduced costs and greater productivity
Intelligent scheduling can help you to reduce your costs and deliver greater productivity, two things the vast majority of field service organisations are looking to do. Specifically, drive times can be reduced as field workers can be scheduled based on their location. By spending less time on the road, workers will be able to spend more time being productive. You’ll also be spending less on fuel, thus making further cost savings.
You’ll also save costs as a result of requiring fewer visits to resolve issues. The more issues you are able to resolve at the first visit, the higher your cost savings will be.
Finally, using an intelligent scheduling system will allow your office-based staff to spend less time on the scheduling side of things, freeing them up to complete other tasks and consequently become more productive.
A few final points to consider and caveats…
- Although it brings a number of benefits, intelligent scheduling alone won’t solve all your problems! Ideally, it should be one of the features of a complete field service management solution, not a standalone product.
- Not all solutions are created equal – the intelligent scheduling features provided will vary by vendor. Not all will be able to take into account parts and stock availability, for example. So make sure to check which features you’re getting before you buy.
- Finally, consider the ROI intelligent scheduling could provide for you. If you only have a small team, it may not yet prove cost effective. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider it, but it is a feature that generally provides the greatest ROI to companies with larger mobile workforces.