Are field service teams overdue for workflow improvements? Plenty of executives think so. In a recent Forbes Insights and Microsoft survey, more than 80 percent of executives say “empowering first-line workers with the tools and platforms they need has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, growth and worker job satisfaction.” And there’s good news in this regard: technologies like field services management applications, automation and embedded communications have the potential to transform both the workflow and the customer experience.
How? To start, let’s look at how service calls have traditionally worked. They start when a customer calls a support line and talks to an agent, who captures the details of the service request by typing it into both the CRM and the field service management application. Next, the dispatcher reviews the order and schedules a technician for the next day.
Let’s say the technician is unable to resolve the issue on their own at the customer site. They place a call to a subject matter expert back at the office, which is as likely to go to voicemail as it is to get picked up. Ultimately, the tech can’t resolve the problem because they don’t have the right parts. A follow-up call is scheduled.
One way to improve the first-time fix rate is to embed communications into field services management applications and combine it with automation. There’s a two-fold advantage to putting technology to work this way: communications are faster and service requests have greater context.
Eliminate disconnects with embedded communications
Many field services teams face multiple disconnects: their field service management application doesn’t talk to the CRM and the communications system isn’t integrated with the field service application. Information frequently has to be copied manually from one to the other, so errors and omissions happen all too easily.
But when these systems are fully integrated, the techs have the context they need to make better decisions about customer issues. For example, an integrated CRM provides the tech with crucial customer details: not just contact information but also products purchased, a history of previous repair calls and notes that the last technician may have made. And with communications embedded, the technician – while onsite at the customer’s location – can check the availability of subject matter experts back in the office. Once connected with the right person, they can collaborate using video, document-sharing and web chat to troubleshoot the issue.
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Remove humans from the process
The entire process can be streamlined further by removing people from some steps. Even before the technician is involved, sensors and the Internet of Things can be used to bridge the gap between machines and the field service team. Sensors monitor machines and products continuously. When something goes wrong, they deliver an alert in real-time that triggers a field service call.
This eliminates the need for human intervention almost entirely. Alerts can trigger sequences, such as notifying the field service team, matching the problem to the right customer record, and finding and dispatching the nearest available representative. A process that might take several minutes now takes seconds.
Putting it all together
With embedded communications and automation, here’s how the scenario described above changes.
When a piece of equipment fails – be it a large piece of machinery or a homeowner’s washing machine – an alert is delivered to the vendor’s CRM, where it’s matched to a customer record. Through integration with the CRM, the field service management application receives the details of the problem, as well as a supply list for the service call. This information is automatically delivered to an available, nearby technician.
At the same time, the customer gets a message letting them know the technician is on the way. The technician uses built-in GPS to find their way to the customer’s location. During the repair, they use an app to connect to a subject matter expert for help. When the job is closed, they collect payment from the customer using their tablet or smartphone.
To improve first-time fix rates, field service teams need to place themselves at the intersection of automation and embedded communications. Systems that self-diagnose and automatically trigger a service call get technicians to the customer site faster, while embedded communications provides the answers to fix the problem. In doing so, these tools and platforms help field services teams work more efficiently and – most importantly – enrich the customer experience.