Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk, sipping your morning coffee after having just arrived at the office. Everything seems all well and good until you notice a huge stack of papers lying on the corner of your desk. Alarm bells start going off in your head as you realize that today isn’t going to be anything near an easy day. As you thumb through the papers, you see documentation of just about everything your business covers: job schedules, work orders, inventory lists, reports and, for some reason, screenshots of texts and emails between your dispatchers and field technicians.
Sounds like the stuff of nightmares, doesn’t it? Trust us, we were getting goosebumps just writing it. But this is the horror that faces any field service management business that doesn’t implement software. Field service management (FSM) software is an all-in-one solution that manages every aspect of field services, such as job scheduling and reporting. Of course, those are only two of the many features available from FSM software. For a more complete list of field service management software features, read on:
When you’re searching for FSM software, there are certain standard features that you need to make sure your vendor provides. Below are those five standard features:
Job Scheduling and Dispatching
Getting jobs done is the most important part of field services, so naturally the most important aspect of FSM software is its workforce management solution. This feature manages the job scheduling and dispatching of your field service technicians for on-site service. Based on your field technicians’ schedules, FSM software can automatically schedule them for new jobs as they come in. Then, once they’re scheduled, your technicians are automatically notified of what and where that next job is.
What’s important to look for is FSM software that optimizes scheduling. In other words, software that can triage jobs based on the severity of the issue, and/or software that dispatches technicians based on their previously scheduled jobs. This ensures that they work on jobs that are nearby or, at the very least, ensures that they’re not driving across town multiple times per day.
Work Order Management
Like everything else these days, work orders have gone digital. Who wants to work with paper work orders anyway? Work order management is a standard feature of FSM software because it streamlines the process and eliminates confusion. After a job is received and assigned, the technician who was assigned it is recorded on the work order, so everyone can see who was responsible for completing it.
After your technicians complete a job, they can mark it as such in the system, so that nobody needs to question if a job was actually completed; all they have to do is check the system to see the status of all of your work orders. And even after work orders are complete, they’re saved so you can view them later if need be.
Just as everything either has or is moving to the digital realm, so to is everything moving to mobile. The field services industry happens to be the perfect industry to take advantage of mobile access. Just about every cloud-deployed FSM software has a mobile app that provides access to all of the system’s most important features.
Since the field services industry, by definition, deploys a mobile workforce, why not also make your workforce mobile? Using a FSM system’s mobile app, your technicians can view their schedules and receive dispatches on their phone, in addition to marking work orders as complete as soon as they finish the job.
Parts Inventory Management
FSM can also help in your asset management efforts by monitoring the inventory of the parts your technicians use on a daily basis. Since your field technicians likely use many of the same parts to complete various tasks and repairs, you need to make sure that those parts are well stocked at all times. FSM software with parts inventory management features helps you monitor those inventory levels.
Whenever a technician takes or uses a part, it’s recorded in the system, which keeps a real-time record of your stock. Many FSM providers send an alert once the inventory for a certain part reaches a predetermined level, so you always know when you need to order more.
Case, Contact and Order Management
Tracking and monitoring your customer service is one of the most difficult things to track, since it’s so arbitrary, and usually dealt with simply by talking on the phone. But FSM software can help you monitor it by tracking incoming calls from your customers. When multiple calls are made about the same issue, they’re recorded in a contact database so you can go back and assess why it took multiple calls to handle the issue (i.e. whether your technicians should’ve done better, or if the issue was a serious, massive one). With this information in hand, you can learn from your past work orders, continuously improving both your customer service and customer satisfaction.
Of course there are also some features available in FSM software that aren’t standard, but still commonplace among the best providers. These are generally the features that separate the industry leaders from the rest of the FSM software market:
We all want, and frankly need, to be data-driven in today’s world in order to succeed. Built-in reporting features help you analyze your data, so you can find the trends that’ll help you optimize your business. FSM reporting helps you analyze all of your data, whether it’s related to how efficiently your scheduling system is working, how long it takes for each technician to complete certain jobs or even your customer service efforts. FSM providers that include reporting features give their customers the best chance to make their field service operations as effective and efficient as possible.
A built-in messaging system is a helpful feature that keeps all of your field service-related communication within the FSM software. Although you can certainly communicate effectively outside of the system, built-in messaging allows for plenty of integration possibilities, such as tagging technicians and specific work orders, that aren’t possible when texting or using another messaging service.
Route Planning/GPS and GIS Integration
One of the more advanced features available in some FSM software solutions is automated route planning. Aiding in the effort to maximize your field technicians’ time and fuel, route planning can reveal the best routes to take to complete a set of jobs.
GPS and GIS (geographic information systems) integration helps deliver the best routes every time. The GPS tracks the various possible routes, while the GIS analyzes the data from the GPS and puts together the best one.
Know What You Need
Although this list certainly doesn’t represent all of the features available from various field service management software vendors, it does include the most common and important features available. Depending on your business’ unique needs, however, you may realize that you need a feature that isn’t on this list. When evaluating vendors, make sure that they not only provide the features listed above, but also any unique ones that your business requires. This is the best way to ensure that you find the best-fit system that’ll improve your field service management for years to come.