Mobile Apps Close the Loop between Home Office and Field Technicians

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Field service companies don’t want their technicians driving around in circles, but they definitely want to close the loop when it comes to information flowing from ERP into scheduling and field workers, then back into customer reports and billing.

Although the pieces of the field service puzzle are not complex, getting a technician with the right skills and right parts to the customer at the time promised is difficult when you’re fitting together tens or hundreds of jobs a day. That’s why there’s a vast difference between mobile-technology-enabled field service companies and those still using clipboards or spreadsheets.

“We continuously hear about problems using paper in the field,” says Kelley Starr, director of business development for MSI Data. “Paper-based information from field technicians is disconnected from the organization. With a mobile app that’s integrated with scheduling and ERP, there’s no manual entry, no data duplication; all the systems are more accurate.” MSI Data provides Service Pro Mobile, which runs natively on iOS and Android and can be integrated with Sage 100 ERP.

Improve information flow, increase productivity

Starr says the first benefit field service companies see from a mobile app is that flow of information from the home office to the field. Schedulers can see every technician’s schedule and quickly drill down to see whether or not an available technician has the skill set and the parts to perform the service needed. Technicians receive the information they need on their tablets or smartphones, including who to ask for, the serial number and location of the equipment needing service, and what the issue is. Customers are given a short ETA window and alerted if there’s a delay or the technician is about to arrive.

field service software by MSI
The new clipboard: a tablet or smartphone that syncs with the back-end system for real-time data.

Critical information flows back to the home office as well. Information on labor and materials for each job is submitted electronically from the field, so bills can be generated more quickly. After the job is complete, the customer signs off on the work order on the technician’s smartphone or tablet screen. “You get fewer customers calling up saying they just got the bill for a service call that took place 45 days ago and the bill doesn’t look right,” explains Starr.

When the mobile app is integrated with an ERP, service information from field calls can automatically update the master record on each piece of customer equipment, including when it was last serviced, what was done, how long it took, and what parts were used.

Starr says research from MSI Data found that this type of integrated solution can increase first-time fix rates by 25 percent or more and that many service companies see technician productivity increase by 15 percent or more, the equivalent of every technician on staff being able to make one additional service call per day. Some companies see back-office productivity increase by 50 percent due to faster scheduling and the elimination of data entry from paper or spreadsheets.

Upsell delighted customers

The customer service and upsell opportunities provided by field-service automation are harder to measure but equally important. A 2014 report by Trimble (“Transforming Service Delivery: An Insight Report”) notes that the most common customer complaint is a technician not being able to resolve an issue during the first visit, whether that’s due to not having enough time to complete it, not having the right skills, or not having the right tools or parts.

Trimble’s report references research from Aberdeen Group’s “State of Service Management: Outlook for 2013,” which found that organizations with customer service satisfaction rates over 90 percent saw significant advantages in customer retention, loyalty, and overall revenue growth compared to companies with less than 50 percent satisfied customers.

Some of that growth comes from upselling, notes Joanna Rotter, content marketing manager at MSI Data, in her blog post Common Denominators in Mobile Service. With short ETA windows and quickly resolved equipment issues creating happy customers, technicians are well positioned to leverage their face time.

“More than anyone else in the company, customers look to technicians to give them trustworthy advice,” writes Rotter. “Technicians are often in the best position to sell customers on upgrades, new products, or extended warranties.”

And thanks to full integration with back-office systems, managers can track those additional sales by technician as easily as they can view productivity levels and parts inventories, whether those parts are in a warehouse or divided between dozens of vans speeding toward customer locations.

This article originally appeared at Sage ERP Wire.

Cloud 101: Guide to Managing Field Service in the Cloud

Cloud-based field service software makes it easier than ever to close the loop between the field and the office. Learn steps to synchronize your service organization in this free guide.


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