Automate Field Service Management | Business Automation
The field service industry has undergone a massive shift. Organizations are increasingly turning to the use of digital technology to help them overcome their operational bottlenecks and are looking to deliver customer experience that would improve profitability. While some of the market leaders and early adopters have already made the shift, it would surprise you to know that a large majority of companies are still using Excel spreadsheets for scheduling and managing operations. Worse still, there are many others who are still making the use of traditional pen and paper methods or relying on whiteboards to continue their operations. A recent report  suggests that even in 2020, as many as 25% of FSO’s were still using spreadsheets for job scheduling, while the rest still use whiteboards and other manual methods. Another study suggests that only about 48% of the organizations are using FSM Software.
Understandably, any kind of change is difficult. While some may feel justified in sticking with a manual whiteboard or Excel scheduling method – such as smaller companies with a handful of field techs to manage – the cons far outweigh any pros they may falsely cling to in order to avoid the natural and necessary progression from manual to automated processes.
It is not a viable and a long term solution – manual scheduling, while it may be a quick fix, is not a viable long-term solution to the management, success, or growth of any enterprise. Scheduling with spreadsheets can only accommodate a small amount of field technicians, and it can be cumbersome and inefficient.
Automated scheduling allows companies to create schedules and respond to emergencies and changes in scheduling instantaneously. While it might take a dispatcher using a spreadsheet half of a day to re-arrange schedules manually, that same dispatcher could do the same task with drag-and-drop capabilities a matter of minutes.
Other time-intensive tasks for the dispatcher are streamlined as well. Tracking tech skills and location, making sure the tech that shows up has the right tools to fix the job the first time, time-stamping, notifying techs and customers of changes and more are simplified with the click of a key, and in some cases, completely automated.
Some tasks, such as having to key in hand-written notes and tech hours from a service call, can be completely omitted, since that data is entered digitally into the system by the field tech on site. One manual spreadsheet cannot grow with a business. As new employees, branches, services, even locations are added, the manual task of keeping up becomes exponentially difficult and inefficient.
Lack of integration and unification – With Excel spreadsheet, sharing it across an enterprise is difficult and introduces even more challenges. How will it be made visible to others in the organization that would benefit from knowing schedule information such as techs, salespeople, and other dispatchers?
If it’s shared over a network or through a cloud-based sharing system, security is an issue. It can get hacked, someone can inadvertently change it, or the file can become corrupt or get completely wiped out. Additionally, multiple versions floating around can wreak havoc on your business. All of these scenarios can grind productivity down to a halt and ruin customer service. This is not the case with a software solution which has the ability to integrate all stakeholders and the executives have access to real-time information which helps them makes informed decisions.
Lack of customer centricity- Senior managers and executives understand that service models in their organizations need to adapted to fulfill customer demands. That means having technology that proactively emails customers about updates or service needed to avoid equipment downtime, being able to professionally communicate with customers, getting qualified techs to job sites faster, automatically and immediately emailing receipts after customers electronically sign off on work completed or even the flexibility to integrate any emerging tech (like IoT) with it.
Field service software systems are just that – systems. They connect all facets of a service department in real time in order to serve the customer properly and work most efficiently. Excel spreadsheets or other manual databases are just documents. They cannot act in ‘smart’ or proactive ways to improve the overall customer experience or boost productivity.
Lack data pointers to identify pain-points for improvements- Manual methods of scheduling and tracking do not provide business intelligence that is critical to gaining information about what is going on in a business, and how its operating. Everything from knowing exactly where each field tech is at a particular moment, to gathering information about efficiency, trends, first-time fix rates and more, field service scheduling software gives executives and business owners the information they need to succeed.
‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ - While some companies have procrastinated making the jump to automated scheduling because they believe they probably can’t afford it, they should look at an ROI calculator here to understand all the inefficiencies that a software could remove. These companies would soon realize they are losing money due to inefficient billing and administrative methods, and the teams are performing repetitive (and often error prone) work which is non value adding, usually having put in long hours just to get caught up.
A study  indicates that 89% of customers want to see modern, on-demand technology applied to their technician scheduling, and nearly as many customers would be willing to pay a premium for it. Having a dedicated FSM software like Steer would help you overcome all the obstacles which Pen & Paper, Excel spreadsheets, whiteboards or any other manual method poses.
Shatrujeet Swain is an HVAC Engineer & Consultant, and is also a mentor to fellow HVAC Engineers who aspire to master different industry skills . His expertise include HVAC Systems Design, Sales, Project Execution, and Management.
The ultimate guide to automating job scheduling in Field Services