Cost and field service organizations have always been an ongoing strategy-making process where businesses find the most effective ways to cut operational costs. Deploying field service agents can be expensive when you take transportation costs, labor costs, miscellaneous expenses, and unavailability of technicians into account. Hence, field service organizations often opt for instant solutions which include:
cutting down of the number of technicians
reducing work hours
leveraging service from a third party
When looking at the big picture, these methods often wind up being ineffective and can affect your customer experience for the worse. Fewer agents having not-so-impressive skill sets can hamper your service quality and also affect the first-time-fix (FTF) rate. More often than not, such cases push your customers away from your business. So what can be done? There are three key aspects of field service management that you can look into when trying to improve your overall customer experience and reduce costs.
Three Proven Methods
Fewer volume – address customers’ needs before they arise to cost of responding i.e. need to travel to customer’s location
Active solution – aid your technicians with the necessary resources during the field visit to resolve any issues they may face to avoid the need for a 2nd/ repeat visit
Optimum performance – what matters more than the number of field service agents is the rate of efficiency they are being utilized in
Methods for decreasing the frequency of visits by technicians
Here are a few strategies that have helped numerous field service companies cut their technician dispatch rate, resulting in considerable cost savings in operations.
SLAs should be based on performance
Many field service companies are transitioning to a performance-based operating model SLAs, with the goal of maintaining client equipment functioning at all times. According to a Gartner poll from 2019, 19% of service businesses currently offer these contracts, with another 26% planning to do so in the next 12 months. This frequently necessitates a larger dependence on automated remote monitoring and support technologies, which results in the hands-off technique that is so important in today's safety-conscious society. This concept simplifies contractual duties for customers by lowering the number of customer concerns. Instead of worrying about the intricacies of service plans, the field service provider takes whatever actions are required to avoid or fix complications as quickly as possible.
Collaboration with the contact center should be improved
Traditionally, contact center personnel and field service technicians were two different departments. Field services will benefit from the contact center agent's knowledge of policies, customer information, and product specifications, all of which are critical pieces of information for resolving customer complaints without dispatching a technician if the cooperation between the two departments is improved. Cross-departmental cooperation can be accomplished through the use of common knowledge bases, shared customer histories, and even joint triage, which is an excellent option when a customer service representative is unable to resolve the issue and waiting for a technician to appear on-site is not an option.
Make use of predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance is the process of monitoring and collecting data on a particular product or service's operating status in order for organizations to predict potential outages or breakdowns before they happen. This allows any abnormalities to be addressed before they cause harm and necessitate the dispatch of technicians.
The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) offers organizations limitless potential for real-time data-based insights, making it easier to forecast when equipment or devices may malfunction and give proactive customer support. The financial benefits of being proactive are evident. Unplanned downtime, which is caused 42 percent of the time by equipment failure, equates to approximately $50 billion per year for industrial manufacturers.
Methods for optimizing time
When each part of the technician dispatching is streamlined, it allows each technician to achieve more every day. Here are a few tried-and-true techniques for optimizing a field service technician's time.
AI can help with scheduling
One industry survey states that 52 percent of businesses still utilize manual techniques for most field service activities including scheduling and job planning. These manual tasks generally have a negative impact on time management and, as a result, on operational expenditures. These constraints are resolved by AI technology, which automatically dispatches work to the appropriate technician based on past history, skills, location, priority, tools, and availability. According to Gartner, algorithms and bots will coordinate more than 70% of field service work at automated schedule optimization-dependent field service providers by 2025, up from less than 25% in 2019 - a trend that will help cut field service expenses even further.
With remote expert assistance, minimize IT visits
It's not uncommon for field service technicians to require on-the-spot knowledge assistance while on the job, whether it's for a brand-new item they haven't encountered before or diagnosing a problem they aren't familiar with. Allowing the technician to connect with a remote expert lets him receive fast and efficient assistance, ensuring that the task is completed correctly the first time. Quick first-time resolutions mean less time on the customer site and less time spent searching for the correct solution.
Make information readily available
Faster and more effective service can be achieved by utilizing technology to connect off-site field service workers with in-office expertise and data. Using machine learning to include intelligent search functions into field service knowledge bases, the knowledge base can learn over time to offer the most important information relevant to the technician’s specific search query. It can also help technicians prioritize their expertise based on specific customer data or history, allowing them to help customers quickly without having to conduct manual searches or wait extended periods of time.
Methods for optimizing staff
Each employee's workday is limited to a specific number of hours. A field service organization can get more work done without incurring more costs by optimizing how they use those hours.
Boost the use of technicians
The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) estimates that the utilization rate of technicians is just 73 percent. This indicates technicians are wasting too much time on non-profitable activities, lowering total company profitability. Working to increase technician utilization helps organizations to do more with fewer employees, resulting in increased productivity and profitability when operating costs are maintained.
Assign the appropriate technician to the appropriate task
By automatically allocating work to the most suitable technician based on history, skills, location, priority, tools, and availability, AI technology can optimize technician dispatches. For instance, historical data can be utilized to calculate the average time it takes a technician to perform a task in order to identify the technician who can finish the work the quickest and which technicians require further training. This not only ensures a high success rate, but it also frees up the company's human resources for other crucial functions.
Collaboration with other technicians should be increased
Field service businesses, in particular, are confronted with the problem of an aging staff and the loss of knowledge that entails. When technicians have gaps in their knowledge, they will have a lower first-time fix rate and a higher frequency of repeat visits. By allowing technicians to communicate in real-time with colleagues who can supplement their skills or expertise, they can obtain instant support with field operations and avoid the need for a follow-up visit.
Measurement is essential
Reducing field service costs are critical, especially now, but whether financial goals are met by reducing the need for multiple visits, assisting technicians in resolving customer issues faster, or ensuring technicians are utilized in the most efficient manner possible, the change must be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure long-term success. Reducing costs does not necessarily mean reducing your people but more effectively and efficiently leveraging them.
Staff feedback can be gathered on a frequent basis since technicians are well-positioned to detect any bottlenecks or challenges to success. Furthermore, monitoring technician and team performance levels with the customers they serve on a regular basis will guarantee that the change hasn't had an adverse influence on service KPIs. Instead, do not be startled if the changes resulted in lower field service expenses and a better overall customer experience.
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