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Outside of the field service industry, the growth of big data and analytics is old news. The most advanced organisations have already gone beyond the hype and have developed strategies that are delivering exciting performance-enhancing results. For example, Leicester City’s surprise Premier League win was based on the club’s expert use of football data analytics. Stories such as this are why Gartner say “Data and analytics are taking centre stage as the single most powerful catalyst for change in the enterprise”.
However, field service companies have been slower to achieve similar levels of success from the use of advanced analytics. Whilst in many organisations there is plenty of data available, it can be hard to use effectively: the data may not be sufficiently accurate or timely, and service professionals may lack the skills and tools they need. But this is changing. Field service organisations are getting smarter with both the data they collect and how they use it.
Over this series of three special guides, we will show how simple analytics can make a significant difference to three key components of field service excellence: customer satisfaction, employee engagement and, the subject of this guide, productivity.
Customers are used to the speed of delivery and quality of service that they get from consumer companies such as Amazon; this has raised the bar for all service companies. Customers want a service appointment quickly, they want smaller appointment windows and they expect your field worker to have the right information as well as the skills, knowledge and parts to resolve their issue first time.
Against this backdrop is the growing need for the service department to both reduce costs and contribute to revenues. Uncertain economic conditions have led many companies to strive to be more efficient and field service departments are facing significant pressure to cut costs and "do more with less."
To answer that question, you have to know what productivity means to your business. All businesses will have a different definition and an individual approach. For example, would you be happy to drive up the number of visits per day your field workers attend if that meant fewer first time fixes, or reduced customer satisfaction scores? The old adage is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure but, these days, companies know that it is a bit more complicated than that – measurement for its own sake or using the wrong metrics to set targets can be counter-productive. It is vital to know how to measure success: which metrics are useful and which aren’t, which can be accurately determined and which can’t, how metrics interact and how setting goals and targets will affect how employees go about their jobs.
The market backs this up too:
In 2016, Field Service News reported that improving the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used to measure performance was the top strategic action for the year ahead for 64% of field service organisations in the UK and Europe.
Field Technologies Online reported that 75% of field service organisations do not effectively measure their KPIs and 27% of those do not use KPIs at all.
Our customers tell us that the biggest challenges in improving productivity come not only from a need to define and measure it, but also from knowing how to influence workers to behave in the most productive way. This is a challenge that plays out at an operational level and an employee level. At the operational level, field service leaders need accurate, timely data about field operations and the analytic capabilities to look for bottlenecks and opportunities to improve. At the employee level, leaders need to know how each field worker is performing, how to solve performance problems and how to motivate, train and support each worker effectively.
This is not a new idea. Continual improvement is a well-established practice that seeks to increase customer value, reduce waste and optimise resources via incremental change, feedback and analysis. These techniques originated in manufacturing; on a production line, it is relatively simple to measure variables such as number of defects, as you can easily see how the work is being done and you can observe the impact when you make changes to the process. But as continual improvement methodologies have developed, they have been profitably applied in many other industries, so why not field service operations?
There are challenges: field service workers aren’t widgets that can be counted and checked. They work remotely, often independently, and may only come back to base on rare occasions. If you can’t actually see what they are doing, you need detailed, timely, accurate data from which you can build up a picture of how they behave. With the right data, it is possible to adopt a proactive, systematic approach, breaking down the processes within the operation.
Adopting a continual improvement approach means that first you plan and do: Planning data has historically been focused on task, time and location: telling workers what to do, where to go and when. But if you want to improve the plan for tomorrow, you will need to study how efficiently the plan worked today and act to make changes. For example, were job durations as you expected? If tasks took longer than planned you may have unhappy customers and a big overtime bill. If they took less time, are you paying workers who have gone home early? Detailed data on durations enables you to act, adjusting task durations to feed back into the plan for tomorrow. It is the combination of many small changes, and the continual feedback loop of measurement, analysis and change that will gradually and incrementally improve productivity.
Cognito iQ Mobile is a cloud-based mobile workflow solution, that connects workers in the field, such as engineers and technicians, or drivers and couriers, with the back office, in real time. Cognito iQ Mobile guides field workers through each shift, increasing efficiency and first time fix or ‘on time in full’ delivery rate, connects workers to information and updates in real time and gives back office managers unrivalled visibility of the mobile workforce.
Cognito iQ Mobile is our starting point to perfecting productivity, but we are seeing the most exciting results from adopters of our flagship analytics technology, Cognito iQ Operational Performance Analytics (OPA). Cognito iQ OPA takes real-time mobile workforce data from Cognito iQ Mobile or other mobile workforce solutions, and presents it in a series of clear, easy to understand dashboards and reports. This enables you to drill down into granular detail for a thorough understanding of operational and employee performance. Using Cognito iQ OPA, you have the data and analytics to define your productivity goals and continually improve both your operational and your employee performance towards those goals. What if we told you that some customers have driven productivity up by over 30% using this technology in less than 18 months?
The Plan Perspective shows you how well actual performance compares to your plan, in terms of number of tasks completed, rate of completion and task duration, by the hour or over a specified period. In real-time, your operational managers can analyse any variance from the plan and either fix the issues that are causing it ahead of time or improve the plan next time.
The Resource Perspective gives you visibility of the current state of your entire workforce through a single infographic. You have total visibility of what your teams are doing at all times and therefore the abillity to identify and respond to workers who are exhibiting undesirable behaviours, such as too much time spent performing the same task. Compare performance and productivity measures over time to assess improvement.
The Worker Scorecard assesses individual workers at the end of every shift against six Key Performance Areas (KPAs). By giving each KPA an overall score it becomes extremely easy to see individual's strengths and areas for improvements, particularly when viewed over time. Taking things further, we generate a balanced overall score at the end of every shift, giving managers the ability to rate a worker simply and easily. The granular detail required for further analysis is no more than 2 clicks away.
Baxi is the UK’s leading brand in both the manufacture and servicing of gas boilers. Their field service and customer support operation consists of over 100 call based staff and 220 field based engineers covering the whole of the UK, each completing six to seven visits per day.
Baxi has been a customer for nearly ten years, and has used Cognito iQ Mobile to automate its field service operation, making many productivity gains. More recently, the company has been one of the early adopters of Cognito iQ OPA, which the leadership team use to examine a wide variety of metrics across time periods, regions, teams and individual workers. This means they can compare actual job outcomes with what was planned – duration of jobs, travel time, SLA compliance – to spot gaps in the process and opportunities to improve. OPA has given them the ability to drill down into detailed operational and employee performance data, to reflect on what is working in the business and where improvements are needed, and to drive a programme of continual improvement.
Konica Minolta UK produces business and industrial imaging products, such as MFPs (multi-functional peripherals), copiers, laser printers, and digital production print systems, as well as optical devices for various other markets, such as healthcare. The company’s service organisation has over 280 field-based engineers providing planned and reactive maintenance and support to businesses throughout the UK.
Cognito iQ OPA gives the service management team real-time visibility of what is happening in the field. The service desk team always have the Cognito iQ OPA Plan Perspective displayed, so they can see at a glance how they are performing against the plan for that day, and can address any problems before they arise. There is constant communication between the field and the service desk and the third-party planning tool is always working out the best routes, so jobs are allocated one at a time to engineers.
Tunstall Healthcare Group manufactures, installs and maintains telehealthcare solutions: integrated monitoring, communication and alarm systems for home, assisted living and specialist care environments, backed up by response centre software systems and monitoring services. In the UK, Tunstall employs 165 field-based engineers, across six regions, supported by a team of office staff, each performing around five or six site visits per day. Although some equipment requires planned maintenance visits, most of the work is reactive service, with typical SLAs ranging from same day to 48 hour response.
Tunstall has been a customer since 2001. The Cognito iQ platform has given Tunstall real-time visibility of engineers in the field and enabled the field operations team to plan on the fly. The team has been able to align processes across all engineers and regions and to make improvements such as call screening to reduce the need for site visits, fine-tuning vehicle stock and re-engineering parts logistics.
Quite simply we develop the most advanced mobile workforce solutions and operational performance analytics in the world.
That’s the reason why the biggest names in Field Service, Facilities Management, Courier and Retail Logistics and Utilities rely on the Cognito iQ platform to run their mobile workforce operations.
Let's see if we can make it happen. Get in touch.