The field services industry is advancing at a rapid pace. Field force managers want to collect and utilize all the information they can possibly get as their employees work out in the field. These managers want to make sure they’re doing everything they can to provide great customer service, while maximizing the productivity of their employees.
Although ensuring peak customer satisfaction is the endgame, properly managing the field force is the way to accomplish it. Enter field force management software. Just as the field services industry is changing, so too is field force management software.
These solutions are upgrading their capabilities to accommodate the information needs of field force managers. By including new features and deployments, field force management solutions are more robust than ever before. In light of these changing systems, we took a look at five of the biggest changes coming to field force management:
Mobile Field Force Management
It seems like with each passing day, we’re all becoming more and more mobile. From our personal lives to our professional lives, we can do almost everything we need to do on our mobile devices. And now that’s true for field force management, too.
Your workforce is already mobile; they’re field workers after all. But using mobile-friendly field force management software helps you create a truly mobile workforce. IBM described what your mobile field force management solution should be able to do. Specifically, it should be able to handle work order management and customer communication.
Mobile field force management streamlines work order management. Instead of getting a call from an employee telling them where to go next, your field workers can check a mobile app to find their next assignment. This not only saves time, but also eliminates the need for dispatchers to manually call your field workers.
In addition, mobile field force management enables easier communication with customers. As your field workers finish an assignment, or as they’re delayed in one, they can send an alert to the customer to let them know that they’re on their way, or that they’ll be late. Customers value transparency, so they appreciate it when your workers are able to give them accurate, real-time information. In particular, they appreciate it when your workforce can provide accurate arrival times.
More Real-Time Information
A byproduct of becoming more mobile is the ability to collect more real-time information than ever before. Whether this information is automatically collected or manually input, field force management systems can gather all types of data.
We already referenced one example of this: as your field workers finish a job, they can input that information into the system. This one piece of data entry can reveal all types of information, such as the length the job took to complete and the ETA for the next assignment. Although this process includes some manual input, the information is still collected in real time.
Field force managers can also collect information automatically. One of the most common uses is to find out where their employees are by using location tracking. Field force management systems can use this information to help auto-assign jobs, by assigning them to the closest worker.
These two examples are only scratching the surface of how many different types of real-time data can be collected today. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), everything from your equipment to your vehicles to devices like wearable technology can collect data for your field force management software.
Today’s field force management solutions are becoming smarter, too. They’re able to automate many of the more complicated tasks facing field force managers, using what’s called field force automation, or FFA. These smarter systems are possible thanks to the real-time data they gather, but what makes them smart is what they do with that information.
Context-based assigning is possibly the most important advancement in field force management. This involves the process of automatically dispatching your workforce to each new assignment. It doesn’t do so randomly, however; it assigns jobs based on where your workers are, the skillsets of each of your workers, the status of their current assignment, and other factors.
Not only can field force management systems adapt in real-time, but they can also help your business plan ahead. Many systems have started to add predictive analytics capabilities. With predictive analytics in hand, you can optimize scheduling. And with AI permeating so much of today’s technology, it isn’t too far away from becoming a staple of field force management as well.
Like all systems, integration is important to field force management. This is nothing new. What’s changing, however, is which systems are integrating with field force management. Or rather, which extra systems are integrating with field force management.
ERP integration is already common, in order to centralize a business’ various software. The same is true of BI integration, which helps evaluate your workforce’s productivity and optimize your route planning.
But what about integrating with a CRM? CRM-field force management integration is one of the best strategies for improving your customer service. By integrating the two, your field workers have the complete interaction history of your customers, so they can see what services they’ve used and know how best to interact with each customer. Additionally, your customer service reps can access the entire service history of each customer. When a customer calls and has a question related to their service, the rep isn’t left in the dark; they can just look it up and give a complete, accurate answer.
It’s also becoming more common to integrate field force management with a CMMS. This centralizes all of your asset management, as you can track the maintenance and usage of the equipment and vehicles used by your field workers.
Although this isn’t a feature of field force management software per se, it’s still an important change to the industry. Before adopting a field force management solution (or any software, for that matter), it’s recommended to train the employees who will use it. This isn’t anything new. The change, then, lies in the need for continuous training.
As software company Onforce puts it, “Because technology can quickly become outdated, tech workers often need more training and specialization. As such, your staff will have to redefine their roles as service techs over time in order to continue to be effective at completing projects.” Some of your field force management users may get lost as new features are added to the system.
You obviously don’t want any of your users feeling this way, so you need to provide occasional training. This will keep them up to date on what’s new and what’s changed, while eliminating the need for hiring new employees to help run the system.
The Changes Will Keep Coming
These are five of the biggest changes coming to field force management, but they’re far from the only ones. And who knows what will change in the next few years. All we know for sure is that the changes and advancements aren’t stopping anytime soon. So if you’re in the market for a field force management solution, make sure you choose one that’s both flexible and scalable. Both you and your software need to be prepared for the changes that have yet to come.