With teams comprised of individuals who do the bulk of their work far away from each other, people who work in field services are always looking for new ways to collaborate and operate with greater efficiency. Discover some of the unique challenges facing field services teams today and learn ways to turn those challenges into opportunities.
Challenge: Rising customer expectations.
For customers in field services, it’s all about expectations, managing them, meeting them, and, eventually, exceeding them. Customers, unsurprisingly, are just like us: they want services performed correctly within the time frame that they desire and expect. They’ve also come to expect seamless mobile and web interactions with their favorite brands, and increasingly won’t settle for less.
When it comes to many services functions, however, complexity makes it difficult to deliver on requests that too many customers appear simple, like ensuring schedules line up and problems get resolved quickly. Before focusing on new ways and competitive mobile technologies you can use to exceed customer expectations, you must first zero in on setting expectations and meeting them.
Opportunity: Find new ways to delight clients.
Reframing the way you look at customer expectations presents a huge opportunity to discover new ways to delight clients. Before creating a mobile digital strategy or implementing new technology, rethink existing processes to solve for the customer. How can you work backwards from the customer’s real, human need and integrate mobile and web technology where it makes the most sense? When it comes to field services specifically, customers:
- Want proactive service and personalized mobile and web experiences
- Want their problem solved as soon as possible, on the first visit, if circumstances allow.
- Want to know when to expect a services technician to arrive, and how long the project will last.
- Want to know how much the project will cost them
- Expect to be informed of any shifts in schedule or cost, and a valid explanation for a change or delay.
Start by finding and building solutions that meet these needs. If you can find new ways to meet customer expectations, it won’t be long before you start to exceed them.
Challenge: Scaling complex work.
Whether you work in telecommunications, healthcare, utilities, engineering, maintenance, or beyond, field services management involves a lot of variables. More variables mean more complexity.
For example, to deliver a seamless customer experience, the field services team needs to be able to, for starters:
- Receive a services request in a timely manner
- Understand what’s needed to provide the correct service
- Locate the proper tools/order equipment
- Coordinate teams and schedules
- Calculate costs for time and labor
- Manage customer expectations, especially when things don’t go as planned
All of these elements exist separately from the actual service to be performed, and often, this list doesn’t include the half of it. For complex projects that span multiple days, require work to be done in multiple shifts by multiple technicians, or involve complex planning regulations, the list gets longer and more complicated. As your business grows, and new mobile and web technologies enter this complex mix, how do you manage all of these variables at scale?
Opportunity: Manage complexity well.
Complexity, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.By definition, “complex” means, “consisting of many different and connected parts.” Electrical systems and water supply networks consist of many different and connected parts, but that’s part of what makes them so valuable.
Complexity can be powerful. The hard part, of course, is managing complexity. To do it successfully, start by completing an audit of all the different and connected parts of your field services strategy.
Do you need each part to achieve your goal? Are the right teams managing the right parts of the process? Do the hand-offs and the timing make sense? Which parts are connected? Which are not? Once you’ve asked these questions, you can start to bring mobile and web technology into the picture to automate exactly what you need to automate, from invoices, work orders, and inventory to scheduling, appointment reminders, and work notifications.
You can even integrate AI and machine learning insights within your mobile and web apps to surface recommended fixes, anticipate and schedule maintenance work, or proactively schedule a work order before system or hardware failure.
Challenge: Missed connections.
Historically speaking, the further away we get from each other, the more difficult it becomes to communicate.
Greek legend tells us that in 490 B.C., just to deliver a one-word message (“Nike!” meaning, “Victory!”), the messenger Pheidippides sprinted 26 miles from the city of Marathon to Athens, Greece, only to fall down dead as soon as he delivered it. The legend is where we get the term “marathon” to describe a roughly 26-mile race, and where the athletic company Nike gets its namesake.
Luckily, technology has made it so that you don’t have to sprint 26 miles to your death just to pass along a message. But sometimes, technology can feel almost as tiring. When legacy systems don’t connect to new mobile and web applications, or an app doesn’t update in real time, or you can’t find a WiFi connection, disaster may strike for field services teams.
Something gets miscommunicated, resulting in lost time and resources, and dissatisfied customers. To enable growth, field services teams need to know that they can trust the web and mobile tools they use to communicate and work faster.
Opportunity: Enable real-time communication and visibility.
While most industries invest heavily in the customer mobile and web experience, and for good reason, the employee experience often gets left by the wayside. But if employees and managers aren’t able to get access to the information they need, when they need it, customer experience quickly erodes.
Employees in field services need to be able to keep up with scheduled appointments, easily prepare for their next assignment with all relevant information available, and access their mobile application from anywhere, even offline without an internet connection. Meanwhile, managers need to be able to track technicians’ location and schedule in real-time, and get high-level visibility into team performance.
To make all of this possible, mindfully choose a solution that will allow you to integrate all of your data within a single user interface that you can adapt for desktop or mobile devices. When data is connected on the back end, you can make things easy to access on the front end. Your employees and customers will win as a result.
Challenge: One size doesn’t fit all.
If you’ve spent any time on Skuid’s blog, you know that we believe (from experience) that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all web and mobile software, especially when it comes to an area as complex as field services. As discussed earlier, field services operations are complex and vary by team and project. Even the best off-the-shelf software can’t predict every unique way your team might need to use software to accomplish your goals.
Additionally, most field services functions require multi-device operations, so that technicians, managers, and customers can stay connected anywhere and everywhere. You need to adapt your solution seamlessly across multiple devices. It might seem easiest to bite the bullet and go with web and mobile software that almost fits, just not quite. It’s important to remember, however, that field services applications that don’t fit “just right” don’t fit at all.
Every minute that your employees spend doing a workaround, or trying to find something in a field services app because the UI doesn’t match their process, is a minute that they’re not servicing your customers. And all those minutes will add up fast.
Opportunity: Customize to meet your needs.
Given all of the elements that must be considered when building a mobile or web application for a field services team, and given the limitations of off-the-shelf software, many organizations feel they’re faced with a tough decision: build or buy.
If you buy and use field services software out-of-the-box, you’ll likely have to change your company’s processes to match the software, undermining all the work you’ve already done to find a process that works for you and your customers. When you customize your application, however, you’re looking at longer time frames for delivery, scarce resources (like developers that specialize in mobile app development), higher costs, and more required maintenance.
A new breed of application development, low-code and no-code technology, makes it possible for organizations to create custom field services apps that you can easily scale across web and mobile use cases. By removing the additional costs, resources, and maintenance that typically accompanies traditional app development, brands can spend the majority of their time on studying what works best for the users, and bringing it to life.
With a platform like Skuid, you can design and quickly create mobile and web applications that unite data from multiple locations, all within one beautiful user experience. Ready to see for yourself? Get a personalized field services application demo today.