Many of today’s companies need to manage large numbers of skilled staff across various locations. They may need to monitor the work of a geographically diverse staff, a high number of remote workers, and/or a very large workforce. Modern field staff management software, also known as field service management, helps firms automate field staffing and make overall business management more efficient.
Just like other kinds of enterprise solutions such as customer relationship management, field staff management solutions are designed to help companies tackle a particular set of problems. In this case, the problem is the labor-intensive process of keeping in touch with workers, monitoring their performance and tracking their daily and long-term activity as they do their jobs. Here are some of the big challenges that field staff management platforms can help out with:
Managing Remote Staff
The work-at-home phenomenon is growing. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates from 2015 show that nearly a quarter of American workers now do at least some of their work from the comfort of their own homes, or from a remote office not attached to a corporate business location.
The challenges here are profound. In fact, loss of direct observational control is one reason companies balk at allowing people to work remotely, even when it economically benefits both parties. Businesses have to have some way of making sure that remote workers are operating on-target, and doing the critical work that they need to be doing.
Good field service management programs anticipate this challenge and build in specific features that help companies effectively manage remote workers and their work-life balance.
One core aspect of functionality of these systems is the ability to track project progress, rather than just tracking hours at a desk. In remote work situations, hourly compensation may not make much sense, especially if the job position is project-oriented. However, many jobs still get paid hourly, whether they’re done remotely or not, so field staff management platforms also have time-tracking devices tied to a desktop that documents and tracks hourly work.
Making the System Responsive
Another major challenge in field staff management is providing a responsive system for leaders and employees to use.
One of the selling points of some field service management systems is that companies can “get rid of phone calls” from field service employees by simply requiring everyone to use a common communication interface. That’s based on the idea that phone calls are an obsolete bother to modern business.
However, this is easier said than done – in the digital age, companies are moving from a telephone directory to platforms like Slack, Basecamp and other communication systems. The problem is that none of these messaging apps really provide the same type of vibrant communication that the telephone does.
To give an example of this challenge, picture an employee out in the field trying to make a deal without a particular sign-off. Imagine when an employee has questions about upcoming events, how to put products together, or even just how to write a press release. Messaging platforms do not provide the same direct response capability as a phone call – that is, unless the company links its communication platform to every employee’s mobile device, which is a fairly unusual step for companies to take.
The bottom line is that companies have to make sure that their field staff management platforms are adequate for the communicational needs of their staff. That involves doing detailed research by looking at when people work, how they work, and how they work together. With all of this data in hand, businesses can set up the right protocols and use field staff management tools the right way to make sure that everyone gets the responsiveness that they need from the system.
Keeping Things Moving
Another commonly reported problem with field staff management is actually customer-facing. It’s making sure that deal contact points and business processes happen in a timely manner.
Some companies using field staff management platforms may see problems with invoices getting processed. They also may see problems with customers getting responses from individual employees.
This is another area where a good field staff management tool makes all the difference. Many of these platforms offer real-time tracking, so that business leaders can assess each contact point and follow up accordingly. That means if there are delays with 10 out of 100 deals, top management can isolate those 10 cases and work on them quickly to get them resolved.
Assuring Ease of Use
A field staff management platform is really not that helpful for businesses if the interface is not intuitive.
Poorly designed interfaces lead to massive frustration on the part of individual workers. It’s important to get a certain amount of ‘social buy-in’ when implementing a field staff management tool in the first place — otherwise, the company risks some form of rebellion when mandating the use of that tool for communications. That can be a problem for a manager or someone with a supervisor role.
It’s also important to think about how field workers present themselves to customers if they are using the field management tool in front of them. Will they be fiddling around with their device trying to access key information? Or will a well-designed, user-friendly interface make each employee seem like a pro in his or her field?
Various features of field staff management software help to eliminate these and other kinds of problems.
Good invoice management tools keep money flowing where it needs to go. Good work order management tools also enhance the customer experience. Customer feedback tools help companies build better business intelligence to satisfy their client base. And last but not least, if the platform is set up for responsiveness, as mentioned above, employees can get better communication models in place with messaging. Just think about how modern field staff management tools can help you better manage your workforce.