When you’re a field service representative, you can’t afford to get stuck with the logistics of the day.
As per a Salesforce report, 45% of a company’s service agents’ are frustrated with the slow speed of their current tools, and 38% feel they can’t access the information they need on the go. One can see the motivation levels going down the drain right there.
Sure, field agents in many businesses may not use technology for performing their core job, yet having the technology to make their everyday’s job easy is a blessing no one would like to deny.
In fact, when I speak to field service agents from different businesses, I realize there’s plenty the right tool can offer them. For instance, on their way to a customer's site, if an agent knows about the customer’s engagement history, imagine how well their conversation would flow. By the time he reaches the site, he would already know about the customer's previous purchases, if the products bought are under warranty, if they’ve opted for annual maintenance services, how many times they’ve faced similar issues in the past, etc.
I can probably go on and on with the number of insights a rightly represented data can offer.
Now to reach this ideal state, there are well-planned steps involved:
Get into field service agents' shoes (not quite literally!): Speak to your field agents to know how their typical day looks like. I know it sounds like an obvious first step, but trust me, it's the most crucial one. Talking to a bunch of individuals would give you different perspectives on the same job. For instance, for one of them, the time spent on commuting could be the biggest hurdle to productivity, while for another, reaching a customer’s site without proper equipment would have been the greatest nightmare. List down the most frequent challenges on top of your list, but also keep a note of edge cases, for all you know, a great tool can solve them too.
Speak to other key players from operations: So far, we’ve only heard one side of the story. This story has more actors to make it a happy ending. Network providers dispatch field technicians to install the necessary hardware at customers’ homes. Site inspection and maintenance companies send out multiple teams each day. The repair of refrigerators is taken care of by a different technicians team. Another team keeps a track of the replacement of a defected washing machine with a brand new one. From food delivery to electricity and maintenance of water filters, there are plenty of hands & brains involved in getting these jobs done. Having an open-ended conversation with the Service Managers, Call-centre agents, Inventory & logistics keepers and anyone else who’s closely involved in the field service process would be a great step 2. If you’re not sure what kind of questions to ask or conversations to have, reach out to experts. The goal is to understand the pain areas & the purpose of having a tool that makes everyone’s job stress-free. Finding answers to “What it currently is?”, “What should it be like?” and “Why should it be like that?” is the outcome we’re looking for at this stage.
Finding the right tool to do the right thing: Time to find the solution to the problems identified so far. I’m quite confident these problems would either fall under the category where technology is the solution, or else changing the way your organization functions, or both. Either way, looking for the right tool at this point is the best foot forward. In my experience, the companies look for a tool mainly because of these identified field service challenges:
Lack of visibility into an agent’s schedule: Service Managers & Dispatchers often lose a track of field agents' availability, workload, skills preferences & even assigned locations. This is due to the absence of a mechanism to track agents' schedules & other relevant data in real-time.
No Schedule Adherence: Companies find it hard to ensure the agents reach the customer’s location at the promised time & date. This is one of those “make or break” points of your company’s brand reputation in the customer's head.
Uninformed customers: Customers like to stay in the loop about their service requests. If an assigned field technician has gone for emergency leave, or if the truck is running late due to traffic, or if it is taking time to arrange for a spare part, it becomes important to offer your customer visibility about these developments.
No context of prior engagements: Oftentimes the customers have to repeat themselves every time a new service request is made. While the absence of this may not seem like a big deal, its presence is what makes your brand stand out from the rest.
Unnecessary Follow-up Visits: According to research conducted by The Service Council, in around 23% of the service requests, field agents have to do at least one follow-up visit. Many times these visits are attributed to lack of preparation in the first visit. These repeat visits affect the cost, asset availability, and in some cases, response time.
Difficulty in tracking spare parts & product inventory: Where are the spare parts located? Which is the closest warehouse to request the product replacement? How long will it take for a product to be in stock again? Do we need to replenish the product inventory? How to track product transactions in real-time? Lack of such crucial information causes many operational obstacles to the field businesses.
Working with Contractors: Many companies outsource their field service to third-party contractors due to a shortage of staff, higher labour costs, or high demands during peak seasons. It is often difficult to have visibility into the progress of the work assigned to the contractors. This also poses a threat to the brand’s reputation if the service levels are inconsistent & not up to the mark.
There are some implicit challenges too that often come out during conversations with such businesses. The frustration is genuine but the worries aren't. Tools like Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning (a.k.a FSL) can prove to be the panacea for all your field service ills.
What’s Salesforce’s Field Service Lightning solution, you ask?
Salesforce’s FSL solution helps organizations manage any kind of fieldwork task. It helps you find answers for “who does what, how, when, where, and for whom?” for your field service business.
Let’s understand this through a simple story - Jacob bought a Convection Microwave (or you can think of any other serviceable hardware of your choice) from a brand called “EasyFix” about 3 months ago. On one not so fine day, while reheating his food, his microwave stops working. He immediately calls EazyFix’s service centre to log a complaint.
Based on Jacob’s profile, the call gets automatically transferred to a call centre agent, Dannis, who’s able to view the complete engagement history of Jacob - What purchases has he done in the past? When was the last purchase? When was the last issue/complaint logged for any purchase? Which microwave model is it? When was it bought? And whether it is still under warranty.
Within a few minutes, Dennis is able to log Jacob’s issue and almost instantaneously, book an appointment. While booking an appointment, he can mention work type (which would identify the skills required, the products/spare parts required), customer’s address, service territory (immediately associating this appointment with the correct team). Dannis hits the Get Appointment button and a really cool & complex algorithm runs in the background to provide the list of available service appointment slots based on proximity, availability, skills, and other rules configured. The system shows the “ideal” slots (matching the KPIs or scheduling policy of your company) & “recommended” slots (the second-best slots available). Jacob tells a convenient slot out of the list for Dannis to book it. Dannis can now have at the booked appointment and glimpse of the assigned technician. As soon as an appointment is booked, it gets reflected on the Dispatchers Gantt chart, indicating that the slot/interval has been reserved for the assigned technician to service a customer.
The Day of Service
The day of service has arrived, the dispatcher realized that the day is really busy with emergency appointments. She decides to reschedule Jacob’s appointment. She clicks on the appointment and sees Jacob’s details to call him and ask if the appointment can be rescheduled. Over the phone call, she quickly tells him about the alternative available time slots without leaving the Gantt chart. Upon confirmation of a time slot, a confirmation email is received by Jacob and a notification goes to the assigned technician about rescheduling.
Now, on the actual day of the appointment, the service technician is able to view the schedule, appointment details like Jacob’s address, the issue with his microwave, the spare parts required to fix such issues, Jacob’s previous complaints about the microwave, his warranty card details. All this information helps him reach Jacob’s home all well equipped, offering a great quality support experience to Jacob.
As he fixes the issue in the microwave, he’s able to update the appointment & share a service report with Jacob.
This is just one of the many common use-cases we’ve highlighted as a story. Salesforce Field Service Lightning can fit in many other daily hurdles your field force struggles to overcome. In fact, besides your field force, your service managers can now have visibility into what work had been performed by a field technician in a day. As a mobile dispatcher, I no longer have to rely on whiteboarding hundreds of appointments, I can schedule appointments with a few clicks, keeping my company’s service KPIs into consideration.
Here are some of the key features of the Salesforce Field Service Lightning (FSL) platform that can help you realize your field service capabilities to the max:
Creating & tracking work orders from service tickets
Booking service appointments from service tickets
Optimizing field technician’s service routes using dispatcher console
Tracking service vehicles & warehouses
Updating jobs status in real-time (mobile)
Allocating jobs to service crew based on skills
Managing & tracking inventory of spare parts & products
Managing assets and their warranty
Authenticating service appointments with customer feedback
AI-powered data to manage service territories & schedule preventive maintenance
d. Consult an expert: The right tool/software is similar to a pair of jeans bought from a great brand. It’s great with all that extra comfort, but if it doesn’t fit you, it's a waste. For the right fit of a pair of jeans or a tool requires tailoring. Seek out experts who can tailor-made the software for you to make the best out of your investment. Collaborating with Salesforce FSL consultants, in this case, is an ideal thing to do. You know your business best, they know the tool well.
Best practices for FSL implementation:
Take a fresh look at your workflows to simplify customer interactions with your business: Most companies have very outdated workflows with very little or no history of digitization. Before implementing any software, it’s always a good idea to take this time out to reassess your existing business flows and check if they can be simplified for good. Identify critical customer touchpoints of your field service business and current challenges associated with them. Have process walkthrough sessions with your implementation partner to get those challenges addressed with Field service software capabilities. Always have some level of flexibility in changing your business workflows, if it is not aligning with industry best practices.
Learn from a system’s shortcomings: If you’re implementing a field service software for the first time, then you can choose to skip this step. But, there are companies who have some history with other field service tools, be it a homegrown system or other software available in the market. For such businesses, it is important to remember the shortcomings of your legacy systems and how much problems those caused to the business operations. Always look to fill those (as many) gaps with the new field service software that you’re opting for. Again, a Salesforce implementation consultant can be a great guide to help you bridge those gaps with Salesforce’s field service lightning platform.
Build a roadmap: While the new platform may bridge the shortcomings of your legacy system, remember that implementing all features at once could also be overwhelming for your service team. When we change a tool, the users take time to adapt to the new tool’s features and functions. Switching on all the features at once is not an ideal thing to do in such cases. Review the features and understand which ones should take the first few places in the queue. With the help of your implementation partner, perform an exercise of listing all the “must-haves” and “nice to have” features of the new field service lightning platform. Create a roadmap for the software to mature over the course of a few months or years.
Devise a mobile-first strategy: Ultimately, your service boils down to field specialists. The design & implementation of a successful field service software should be mobile-focused to ensure that the core members of the field service business, field technicians, are able to get access to the correct information on the go. Enabling features like optimizing routes to minimize travel, check-ins & check-outs, timely notifications about service appointments, uploading images of the serviced product, and reaching out to the in-house support team in case of any technical challenges can bring in great efficiency in their routine jobs.
Document everything!: This may sound like an obvious part of your implementation journey, but the importance of documentation is often overlooked. When your requirements, expectations, and design of the to-be software are documented in one place, it becomes easy for the entire implementation as well as the business team to anticipate how the system is going to look like once it’s live. Business process flow diagrams, screen mockups & wireframes can be great reference points for any implementation. Proper documentation also helps in knowledge transfer and making any foundational changes to the software in the future.
Build Key Performance Metrics: Determine which key performance indicators (“KPIs”) align with your business objectives and which can be met with Field Service Lightning features. Follow the SMART (specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, and time-based) approach in defining your KPIs. You get what you measure, hence, starting off with defining metrics at the initial stage of the project is very important. This will also ensure that the system’s architecture is designed and aligned with your business from the very beginning.
Evergrowing platform: Lastly, it is very important to make sure all your team members & FSL users understand that the application is never perfect and it will grow & mature with your business. You will need to continuously align your data, people, business workflows & goals for the smooth functioning of your business operations.
I hope this article helps you take a step by step approach to implementing the field service solution for your business. To learn more about how WarpDrive can help you make the most of your Salesforce.com Field Service Lightning investment, please contact us at warpdrivetech.in for more information.