Following on from our recent blogs focusing on trends in mobile workforce management solutions, and benefits of mobile workforce management, we are looking at some of the key challenges that field service professionals face, and how mobile workforce management can help.
Jobs taking too long
Field service operations typically make a plan for each shift using average task durations that have been assigned to the range of tasks that engineers carry out, based on experience and analysis of previous work. However, your engineers keep telling you that they don’t have enough time to complete their work. Using data from your mobile workforce management solution you can see that in some - but not all - cases they are correct. To resolve this problem you need to dig deeper into your data to look for patterns. Is there a particular type of task or type of customer that is causing the problem, or is it confined to a particular region, or group of engineers? If estimate versus actual is often wrong for a particular task, you can adjust the estimate. However, if there are some engineers who always take more – or less – time than others, it might not be as simple. It may be that some workers are more efficient than others, or are tackling the task in a more effective way; this is great news as you can turn their innovation into best practice for the company as a whole. Alternatively, it may be that slower workers have training gaps. Either way, you can take action and plan more effectively next time around.
SLAs being missed
Every service business occasionally misses customer SLAs, whether for response times, arrival times, first time fixes or any other metrics by which your customers judge the quality of their service. It's not ideal but it happens. Research in Field Service News shows that, in the last year, 99% of field service organisations surveyed incurred a financial penalty or were required to provide a customer rebate for missing SLA or response time targets.
Your mobile workforce management solution can help you prevent such breaches, and also minimise the impact of those that do happen. Solutions that give you real-time visibility of which SLAs are likely to be met and those that are at risk, put you in control, so you can prioritise the most important (or potentially costly) SLAs, and divert nearby engineers from other tasks. If all else fails, you can at least call the customer to manage their expectations.
If you are experiencing frequent missed SLAs, your mobile workforce management solution can also be used retrospectively to understand not only what is causing the problem, but also what the impact was and how to prevent further breaches. Analysis of your mobile workforce management data will show the details you need: which SLAs are being missed, for which customers and by how much? Then you can adjust your planning, and how customers are prioritised, to get SLA compliance back on track.
It can be tough to be a field-based worker, some of whom have no face-to-face contact with colleagues or managers for weeks on end. And it can be tough for managers to keep such workers motivated, and feeling like they are part of a team. Employee engagement is a big issue, as disengaged employees thought to make up 70 percent of the UK workforce and cost £52-70 billion per year in lost productivity. Research by Gartner shows that improving the employee experience is one of the top three HR issues worldwide, in 2019, with 51 percent of HR leaders and 62 percent of heads of diversity and inclusion saying it is a priority.
You can use mobile workforce management software to help engage mobile staff and improve their working lives. As well as listing the jobs to be done, the operations team should be communicating with workers in the field via their devices, broadcasting information such as company news, HR updates or training tips. More importantly, you can use the solution to send personalised updates. For example, if an engineer gets some good feedback via a customer NPS survey, why not pass on the positive comment via the mobile device, with a message of thanks from his or her line manager?
In addition, your mobile workforce management solution will enable you to compare engineers’ performance across the metrics that matter to your business, such as productivity, NPS scores, first time fix rates or SLA compliance. This means that you will be able to link pay, incentives, training and career advancement to performance; if you make rewards transparent in this way your workers will know exactly what to do in order to progress, which can be highly motivating.
Overall, the field service operation is a complex and dynamic environment, and when problems arise they can quickly spiral out of control. A mobile workforce management solution gives back control of what is happening at the front line of service and helps you deliver the best possible experience to your customers.