Nothing frustrates the American consumer more than having to re-arrange a busy schedule or take time off of work to be available for a service technician with an ambiguous ETA.
Customers are willing to wait a reasonable amount of time for field service, but most rarely enjoy that experience. In Trimble’s Field Service Index: The Key To Customer Satisfaction whitepaper, 53% of American consumers are fine with receiving service within a 1-2 hour appointment window, yet only 28% actually get this.
The failure of many service organizations to satisfy this basic customer need is not only an annoying waste of time, it costs money. In 2011, 58% of American workers squandered 13.5 hours as they waited for service appointments, with losses totaling $37.7 billion.
This gap in customer service within many service organizations is a frustrating conundrum, when – for the rest of the world – scheduling and keeping appointments is a basic customer service tenet.
Can you imagine making a lunch date with a client within a “9 am-to-noon window” and expect them to wait around for you to arrive? How about making the client continue to wait an additional hour or two because you got held up in traffic?
This scenario just wouldn’t fly in the business world. So why does it happen all too often in the field service world?
Let’s take a look at 5 of the most common reasons.
#1 A Lack of Scheduling Technology
Unlike scheduling for large, in-house call centers that are more predictable and where centralized agents can have calls assigned more readily, scheduling a mobile field service workforce is akin to hitting a much harder moving target.
All too often, mobile field service scheduling is done either manually – with a whiteboard, or paper-based scheduling system – or with applications like Excel or Outlook, which are not designed to intelligently respond to the complexities and changing variables of field service.
These ultra-simplified solutions may be fine for service organizations that coordinate less than a handful of technicians with limited tasks per day, but managing many different technicians of varying skill levels performing a multitude of complex tasks each day (within reasonable time windows) can be a near-impossibility if scheduling tools are archaic.
With scheduling being a key performance indicator (KPI) for any service organization, utilizing advanced field service scheduling software translates into shorter appointment slots.
Additionally, field service scheduling software is proven to improve productivity and efficiency, as evidenced by the Aberdeen Group‘s report that investments in scheduling technology will improve dispatch efficiency by 60%, and that “intelligent, in-day scheduling” increases productivity by 30%.
#2 A Disconnect With The Field
Things change constantly in field service. Without real-time visibility, many service organizations are disconnected from their field operations. This greatly hinders their ability to have a full grasp on what’s going on, and make intelligent and informed decisions on the fly.
Flying blind like this in field workforce management hurts both businesses and customers.
Field service units are usually the only face-to-face representatives customers interact with. They can have a huge impact on the success of any business. Along with problem solving, there is a golden opportunity for properly-supported field techs to foster customer loyalty and grow revenue. Successful interactions are the difference between growing a business, and losing customers.
Frustrating customers with punctuality issues – and failing to fix the problem the first time – is a great way to lose customers and send company profits into the dump.
Just consider Trimble’s Field Service Index findings; 51% of consumers say that their biggest frustration is a failure for techs to arrive on time, while 62% point to inadequately fixing problems the first time as their top concern.
Without knowing specific job details and asset status, where agents are – and who’s best to respond, field service management will be hard pressed to not only schedule the proper agent, but enable that agent with the proper information and necessary materials to fix the problem the first time.
#3 Murphy’s Law
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It’s an inevitability in life, and field service.
A perfect schedule at 8:00 am soon gets thrown out the window when traffic, customer unavailability, repair delays, and other emergency issues muck up the best laid plans.
In an effort to get to as many customers as possible, service management may not build enough slack into a schedule, hampering their ability to respond efficiently to things going “wrong”.
Or, they may use outdated processes such as relying solely on phone communication, which can waste time and prevent intelligent management decisions to be made on the fly.
Additionally, service organizations may not be analyzing job completion rates, customer activity, seasonal consideration, and other factors to properly forecast trends, create shift overlaps, and proactively plan best practices for emergency situations.
#4 Locating Technicians
Managing a large team of technicians who perform multiple tasks all day, while being flexible enough to respond to emergencies – and assign the right tech with the necessary resources to get the job done the first time.
Not knowing where every member of a tech team is at any given moment, and how quickly they can be dispatched to a specific location. turns field service into a frustrating experience for everyone involved.
Service organizations that do not have GPS-enabled capabilities have a much harder time scheduling and keeping accurate appointment times, and their customers suffer.
However, service managers utilizing GPS technology have the transparency and advanced communication systems to track technicians’ exact location, schedule more accurate ETAs, and even have the opportunity to give customers a courtesy call if their tech is running late.
#5 Failure To Match Skills And Tools With Task
Other factors that contribute to bloated wait times are the level of experience of the dispatched tech, and their available resources. This is often caused by a lack of real-time visibility into worker status, location details, and all aspects of field operations at the moment.
Service organizations who do not have this important field service visibility may send the first available tech to a work site, whether or not that tech possesses the skill set, tools and parts to complete the task.
For instance, if a junior tech or apprentice is dispatched on a job beyond their scope, the customer will have to wait even longer until a more experienced colleague shows up to assist.
Or, a service technician may have the skills necessary to fix a problem, but because of poor communication with service management, doesn’t have the tools or parts to fix the problem. This results in either additional wait time (while the tech goes to get the necessary assets), or a failure to get the job done the first time.
And customers are keeping track. For instance, Trimble’s Field Service Index reports that 1/3 of consumers are frustrated when techs don’t finish the job the first time due to a lack of equipment or parts, and 19% couldn’t get their problem resolved the first time due to a gap in the agent’s technical expertise.
The Wait Is Almost Over
The good news is that this is a transformative era in field service. With 40% of the workforce predicted to be mobile by this point in time, the industry is well on its way to embracing the advancements in technology and software that will ultimately shorten appointment windows and improve customer satisfaction on all fronts.