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Top 5 challenges in field service management

Many organizations overlook field service management in their customer service strategies, yet this area -- and its challenges -- are critical to CX success.

While much discussion on CX initiatives centers around contact centers, CX leaders have increasingly turned their attention to another key area of customer interactions: field service.

Organizations invest in numerous contact center tools to manage agent performance, call routing, schedules and customer satisfaction. Like contact center agents, field service technicians must track performance, route on-site service calls, schedule hours and track customer satisfaction.

Field service management software can create effective processes to oversee employees who interact with customers in-person, like how contact center and CRM tools assist virtual service representatives. However, organizations need a solid strategy to address challenges and provide the expected quality of service to run field service smoothly. Key challenges in field service management are the following:

  • scheduling
  • cost
  • process tracking
  • time and performance management
  • customer experience

Challenge 1: Scheduling

As organizations start or expand service departments, many don't realize the challenges in scheduling field workers. Organizations with field workers who schedule calls manually should consider automation. But even with automation in field service management tools, organizations still face issues like the following:

  • accounting for travel time to schedule service calls realistically;
  • predicting a service call's length, so the field worker gets to the next call within the scheduled window;
  • ensuring each service call has a worker with the right skill set;
  • integrating the available time with each worker's schedule and incorporating real-time changes;
  • manual intervention that could cause event overlap for a single worker or booking two workers for the same service call; and
  • sending timely schedule changes to workers.

If scheduling problems happen frequently, organizations can suffer from lower customer satisfaction, poor ratings and increased operational costs. Organizations can improve how workers schedule calls with scheduling applications.

Challenge 2: Costs

Field service management has different cost categories, including scheduling, travel and ROI.

A chart listing the main challenges in field service management
If organizations know how to handle these five challenges, they can ensure field service management runs smoothly.

Scheduling. When organizations pay for regular service contracts, efficient service plays a major role in profit. So, scheduling challenges come into play. Organizations must schedule recurring service calls at convenient times, like when a worker is in the area and won't incur higher travel costs.

Travel. GPS and mapping technologies can help assign a service call to the closest person, and the apps can automatically provide the best and safest route without the worker entering the address into a cell phone or navigation screen. The address automatically pops up on the in-vehicle tablet. This approach can save workers' time and money and reduce fuel and vehicle costs over time.

ROI. Organizations typically invest in the people, and the return is the revenue that people generate. Business leaders must decide whether to invest in higher salaries for more experienced field workers or training for entry-level people coupled with lower salaries. To simplify how organizations track ROI, they can use analytics tools to track workers' revenue.

Additionally, organizations can reduce other investments, like automation or self-service, to improve ROI. For example, customers who can schedule a service call online through a self-service portal cost the organization significantly less than those who call and schedule with live agents.

Challenge 3: Process tracking

From the field worker's arrival to payment receipts to post-call customer feedback, organizations may struggle to track field service processes. Workflow automation can help with this challenge.

Among the challenges in field service management, CX most affects an organization's success.

Mobile integration with a cloud-based field service management tool can help. If an organization equips its field workers with tablets, they can see call details upon arrival, including customer name, the issue at hand, past issues, credit limits and more. They also can see their names assigned to calls, and if they need to communicate in real time with someone in the office, they can click a voice or video call button from the tablet.

After the service call, the worker can enter notes, have the customer sign and pay with a credit card all through the tablet. The device automatically uploads the content into the field service management CRM or ERP system.

Visibility into each step helps business leaders isolate problems and identify areas ripe for robotic process automation.

Challenge 4: Time and performance management

Time and performance management are at field service management's core. Like in a contact center, if workers take too long, they become inefficient. If they rush, they may not solve the customer's problem. So, organizations need KPIs to measure field worker success.

Each organization must identify important KPIs and measure them regularly. For instance, GPSes can automatically note workers' arrival and departure times. Workers also can use apps to request that customers provide satisfaction ratings. Managers must regularly review this data to address small problems before they grow.

Challenge 5: Customer experience

Among the challenges in field service management, CX most affects an organization's success. Any management technique, software automation or training program ultimately must help create excellent CX.

In field service, excellent CX requires simple scheduling, on-time arrivals, issue resolution, fair prices and follow-ups. Software automation can help with these areas but, most importantly, can track CX. In-office customer service agents can pair with on-site field workers to follow up with customers, ensure satisfaction or resolve issues.

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