Planning is a pretty routine task for most field service businesses. However, it is often a practice that is carried out in a silo, or with minimal connection to what’s going on in real-time in the business.
Today, more and more field service company owners realize that incorporating automated forecasting and planning tactics into their processes can help them know where they’re going, especially in relation to fluctuations, scheduling, inventory status and seasonal changes.
While nobody has a crystal ball that can predict each and every possibility or unexpected event that can occur, the advantages for field service companies applying modernized operations are wide-ranging. This is especially true when it comes to helping with forecasting and planning thanks to the latest Field Service Management (FSM) technology.
According to a 2016 survey of approximately 150 new FSM users, field service companies noticed vast improvements in their overall operations after utilizing FSM tools. The most significant improvements, the participants noted, were in customer satisfaction and profitability.
Every Business is Different; Be Open to Testing Out the Waters
The pure nature of the field service industry often makes it difficult to predict demand. However, it doesn’t mean it’s not feasible to get a rough idea of what’s coming down the pike. Forecasting and planning are crucial to knowing what areas, such as scheduling, can impact your company the most, regardless of your niche. This is particularly true for those smaller-sized companies that have limited resources.
It is important to understand that techniques that work for one field service business may not work for another. For example, factors like the type of business and services you provide, your company’s total number of field staff and geographic service area all impact planning optimization efforts. For this reason, you should always conduct forecasting and planning endeavours according to your specific business type and primary objectives.
Much of the latest FSM technology is designed to allow service providers and field technicians to collaborate in real-time to ensure a smooth, cost-efficient and automated chain of relationships. Here are some areas to consider when developing your forecasting and planning strategy:
Scheduling and Staffing Needs
In general, making scheduling a priority can be one of the most vital aspects of streamlining your company’s operations; it ensures that your in-field technicians are in the right place at the right time (and with the right equipment).
Make a goal of creating your company’s schedule in advance. Of course, in the field service industry, even the best-laid plans can suddenly switch gears and change direction. However, this does not mean that you can’t aim for consistency for your team members. FSM technology can equip you with essential data – job duration, demand, traffic and weather patterns – so you can craft more accurate schedules.
It also can be helpful to know which team member is nearby when last-minute requests roll into your office. One way some companies handle increased productivity on the fly is by leveraging FSM technology’s rule-based employee assignment feature that allows dispatchers to quickly map and match the closest, most qualified technician to a specific job.
Many field service companies admit they could stand to enhance their operation’s supply chain logistics.
According to industry experts, to realize where the process needs improvement, you must first understand the details behind how your inventory travels from manufacturer to wholesale, to storage and to consumption.
Then, you can use an FSM system to capture the details of the lifecycle behind any piece of equipment in your inventory. The technology helps you effectively retain and capture data about each unique item used by your crew.
By offering preventive maintenance to your customers, you can ease scheduling pressures and boost customer satisfaction rates. This approach also helps reduce the need to schedule emergency or unplanned jobs. There are a few ways that field service companies can apply preventive measures:
- Manual preventive measures. This strategy includes utilizing your current customer data to predict how long before a piece of equipment experiences failures. As a result, you can use this valuable information to offer customers deals for preventive check-ups and can also replace the risk of scheduling eleventh hour emergency appointments when equipment breaks down.
- The Power of automation and IoT. Many of today’s field service companies are moving to using predictive maintenance processes. By placing sensors on equipment that send signals and collect data, supervisors are alerted when equipment is broken or in need of repair. The advantages abound, allowing businesses to schedule more effectively, reap more potential profits, as well as less potential downtime.
Look into your company’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool to better understand what types of customers would be open to a preventative maintenance plan. Those with ageing systems, those who have just purchased a brand-new system, those who are juggling multiple properties or accounts are great candidates. Find a CRM that lets you segment your customer data based on custom tags to do this sort of research efficiently.
The Bottom Line
Today’s field service operations can no longer rely on gut instinct alone to schedule technicians, forecast downtime, weather challenges or other common operational glitches. They must look inward and assess routine practices that may not be working and could be potentially damaging their bottom line.
By carrying out enhanced forecasting and planning practices via the latest FSM technology, taking a proactive approach to inventory assessment and scheduling preventive service calls, field service companies will eventually notice gains in productivity across their operations as a whole.
Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.