How Connected Field Service Management Can Improve Your Field Service Operations

If field service is an important part of your daily business operations, you know how tough managing your field operations can be. Things such as equipment installation, maintenance and repairs; service call dispatch and follow up; and fleet and worker activity management are difficult and time-consuming to manage on their own, but you also need to integrate these operations with your inventory, accounting, and other business systems as well as customer service operations. Too often, companies run their field operations using a traditional break-fix model, but with the help of Connected Field Service Management (FMS) systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service, these companies can switch to a more predictive/prevention model.

What Is Field Service Management?

Whether you are primarily a service-oriented business, such as a plumbing or HVAC company, or off-site field operations are only a minor part of your business, you need a way to manage your field service operations. Spreadsheets and accounting systems have evolved into field management systems that range from simple scheduling software to all-encompassing FSM systems that leverage the power and data of the Internet of Things (IoT) to manage every aspect of a company's field operations.

Basic FMS systems include capabilities for scheduling and dispatching service trucks, work order processing, and invoicing. Ideally, your FSM will integrate all these components together in a seamless solution that improves the efficiency of your field service operations, cuts costs, and improves the customer experience.

These basic FSM systems are indispensable in today's fast-paced digital world; however, they still operate on a reactive break-fix model. For example, when a customer requests a service call to fix a problem, you send an available technician. But what if you could detect issues and correct them before they cause problems or down time? Technology advances have led to the development of Connected FSM systems, which permit this type of proactive service model.

What Is Connected FSM?

Connected FSM leverages the vast universe of interconnected devices and technologies known as the IoT to maximize efficiency, reduce operating costs, track key performance indicators, and provide an optimal customer experience. When combined with machine-learning technologies, Connected FSM can remotely monitor systems and equipment, detect and accurately diagnose potential problems, and provide the proper personnel and equipment to correctly and quickly fix the problem. Connected FSM ultimately allows the company to abandoning the break-fix model and conduct its field services more proactively and efficiently, resulting in cost savings and increased customer satisfaction.

How Can Connected FSM Help Your Field Service Operations?

A complete, end-to-end Connected FSM solution automates all aspects of your field operations. It integrates customer information, technician information, scheduling and routing, inventory management, accounting, and feedback. In decades past, each of these components of your field service delivery would have been individual departments working separately with little communication or sharing of resources. With a Connected FSM solution, all these operational units are integrated, providing for overall greater operational efficiencies and better service. Specifically, Connected FSM can

  1. Maximize service technician involvement by automating scheduling and routing. It can also use available data to match a technician's skills and location to a particular assignment and maximize resource allocation.
  2. Automate billing and payment processing through the integration of the invoicing component with the scheduling and work-order processing. With the ubiquity of connected devices, field workers are able to easily connect to the company's invoicing system to process payments in the field.
  3. Improve the customer experience by offering a user-friendly web portal for information access and to request service.
  4. Manage inventory so you stay ahead of orders but don't require a lot of storage. Inventory is tied to your order processing and is automatically updated accordingly.
  5. Reduce customer downtime by remotely monitoring and scheduling preventive maintenance or quick repairs. 
  6. Decrease your ecological footprint through more efficient route scheduling, optimal equipment performance, and less use of paper.
  7. Improve first-time fix rates. Repeat service visits are costly, especially when providing warranty and contract service. Through proactive monitoring, preventive maintenance, integrated customer data, and optimal resource and skills allocation, a Connected FSM can find and fix problems before they cause malfunctions or downtime.

What's the Future of Field Service Management?

The IoT is transforming the way companies manage their field service operations. A Connected FSM can leverage the vast amounts of data available through this interconnectedness to enable companies to remotely monitor equipment and systems, receive alerts when equipment is performing outside normal standards, accurately diagnose malfunctions and failures, and send the right technician with the appropriate skill level and correct solution. In an era where more and more products—from software to books to cars—are being offered as a service, managing the delivery of these services will be increasingly important. But with a Connected FSM solution, it will not be increasingly complicated to manage.