Mobile Workforce Management Blog

Field Service as a Profit Center – Dollars and Sense

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 24, 2014 1:27:54 PM

field-service-as-a-profit-center-dollars-and-senseDo you see your service organization as a cost center or a profit center? Your answer has a big impact.

In many organizations, field service is shifting from a cost center to a profit center. But because service organization goals are different by industry, the shift is based on your industry.

For example, in industries where there’s less competition, but more regulation (e.g., utilities), the service organization is still seen as a cost center. For utilities, delivering service efficiently is the most significant business goal.

In some industries, customer satisfaction has become more and more important (e.g., telecommunications). These organizations can see the connection between customer satisfaction and the financial benefits received as a result. So they’re starting to think about their service organization in a different way.

For these industries, service isn’t just about efficiency, but the effectiveness of service delivery. If customers are happier, these industries can connect customer satisfaction to retention and service to the acquisition of new customers which increases revenue.

There are specific metrics that can increase customer satisfaction (and financial benefits), including:

  • time to initiation of service
  • time to wait for service
  • time to resolution
  • first-time resolution

Communication – as part of the customer experience – also has a big impact. For example, if you can’t meet your commitment, but you communicate that in the right way, you can improve the customer experience.

A Faster Shift

In other industries, the shift is happening even faster. Because service is a key business model for the organization as a whole.

For example, manufacturers that service their equipment think about service as their biggest opportunity. And as a business model, service is as important, if not more important, than the manufacturing process itself. When service is part of a new business model, then, of course, service is related to revenues.

Manufacturers can utilize ideas from the Internet of Things and create a connection between the sophistication of the equipment and the delivery of service. If you constantly collect information from the equipment that you manufacture, then you can be much smarter about how to service the equipment. You’ll know when equipment needs to be maintained, moving from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.

An example is the smart trash bin which tells you when it’s full. It completely changes the planning for emptying trash bins. You don’t waste time traveling to half-empty bins. It’s one example of how service is changing.

Also, you can use the information you collect to give technicians more knowledge before they arrive on-site. Sometimes, this information can be used to fix things remotely. Then, if necessary, doing a truck roll. But now your technicians know much more before they get to the site.

Let’s Make Some Money

Because technicians spend more time with customers than anyone else in the organization, you can take advantage of this quality time for follow-up sales. But, in service, there’s an inherent tension between customer satisfaction and effectiveness. It could be that those technicians – that you’re encouraging to sell on-site – might spend too much time with customers. Technicians trying to close a deal might be late to the next job. Whenever you have an initiative, it’s important to understand the potential impact on other things. So you must communicate the balance that you expect.

One of our customers decided that technicians should engage in follow-up sales when they’re on-site as a way to increase revenue. However, the internal compensation plan wasn’t clear. The internal processes weren’t structured properly. The measurement points weren’t clear.

The field technicians contributed to closing the sale, but only the sales staff enjoyed the outcomes of these transactions. When technicians realized they wouldn’t receive any benefits from selling, they stopped participating. So this program failed to reach its potential.

Creating the Connections

In shifting to field service as a profit center, there are some challenges. Sometimes, it’s hard to create a clear connection between quality of service and revenues. Because it’s difficult to justify the business model around this connection. There are similar challenges for ideas related to the Internet of Things. Overall, it may make business sense. But there’s a lot of information needed to justify investing in more sophisticated and more expensive equipment. The fragmentation of information makes it hard to justify the business model.

To pull together the different fragments of information, you need a strong performance management practice. You need to understand that you’re going through an iterative process in which collecting and analyzing information and measurements is the key to making progress and taking the next steps. And this performance management practice is what drives the process.

Sometimes, when you focus on an initiative, you may forget that this initiative by itself isn’t the end-all, be-all for the organization. You need to understand how this goal might impact other metrics that are important to your organization. There needs to be a clear translation from overarching goals to more specific targets, using communication and process to more easily translate your objectives to targets.

You need to connect the tools you’re using to the objectives that drive revenue growth. If you’re talking about customer satisfaction, there are planning tools that can be aligned with your business objectives (e.g., shortening the time window; doing priority jobs first). These planning tools can better align the execution of the work with your business goals.

Any benefits gained from the tools you have in place are closely tied to your business objectives. When shifting field service to a profit center, you must close the loop on the business model.

A good example is from one of our customers who wanted to reduce the downtime of critical equipment in their retail stores. Reducing equipment downtime is closely connected with the customer experience at the store and profits.

So this customer conducted an analysis that closed the loop:

  • What is the customer experience at the store?
  • What needs to be done in order to improve the customer experience?
  • How can our service organization be organized differently in order to improve that metric?

This customer decided that there are cases when it makes sense for in-house technicians to fix critical equipment at the store. The in-house technicians were deemed “better” because the company had more direct control which meant these technicians could arrive more quickly to fix critical equipment.

Achieving Success

Organizations that can focus on the right metrics are the ones that can implement change and improve. Unfortunately, more often than not, organizations don’t focus on the right metrics. They reach some plateau of success. But they’re stuck there. Their workforce is the same size. They achieved a certain level of efficiency. They attained a certain number for customer satisfaction. But they have no idea how to make it to the next level.

It’s not likely that these organizations set goals to reach that first plateau of success. It’s more likely they invested in better tools. And those tools helped them get to a certain point. That’s not the same as setting goals and conducting a deeper analysis of what’s preventing your service organization from achieving its goals.

Improvement processes are all about closing the loop and doing things better and better. As with any improvement processes, what needs to be clear is:

  • What are we measuring?
  • And how are we measuring it?

With performance management, you can see what’s working and what’s not. Moreover, you can identify the root cause of problems to determine what could be executed better. Conducting a root cause analysis, putting improvement processes in place, and measuring again is what takes your service organization to the next level.

Think about the shift to a profit center as a change process. To be successful in a change process, you need to have the right mindset for iteration. You set a goal. You start small. You measure. You adjust. And once you achieve success, you leverage and build on your success.


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Building Mobile Field Service Applications for Offline Use

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 16, 2014 8:00:00 AM

building-mobile-field-service-applications-for-offline-useMobile connectivity isn’t guaranteed 100% of the time.

There are still many places where field technicians don’t have connectivity.

They could be driving in a rural area. Or entering an elevator. Or working in a basement.

So connectivity should be an important design consideration for developing mobile field service applications.

Because there’s nothing more annoying than using a mobile application, but not being able to access information or complete tasks.

Even in a mobile world, it’s still a given that offline capabilities should be taken into consideration. Because we’re used to having this information in our hands.

The bigger questions are:

  • What are the challenges?
  • And how can offline capabilities be handled successfully?

When you’re online, you have connectivity. You have an unlimited amount of storage on the backend servers. And nearly unlimited bandwidth to access the information on those servers. So there’s no question about getting information and providing a good user experience. Because, typically, the time to access information is insignificant.

But when you lose connectivity, you can’t store all the information you’ll need on your mobile device. Even when you have connectivity, sometimes you have a good signal; sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, it takes a second to access the information. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer than a second.

So from a mobile design perspective, what could be done to help users when they don’t have connectivity or the quality of the connection isn’t good?

The first step is to make connectivity (or lack of connectivity) as transparent as possible for the user. When we say the experience is “transparent” or the transition is “smooth”, these are elements that could be put into the design to improve the user experience.

Whether the user is connected or not, the user shouldn’t have to do anything. For example, users shouldn’t have to think about whether the information they’ll need will be stored offline. When we present information to the users, they don’t need to know whether the information is being delivered from online or offline storage. We want those transitions to be completely transparent. So the users won’t have to worry about it.

There are times when we still need to inform users about what’s happening, for example:

  1. When you’re collecting information in the field and you don’t have connectivity, we should indicate that for you.
    We should let you know that the work you’re doing right now isn’t being sent immediately to the office. So you won’t be surprised the next time you call the office and they don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, you’ll have an indication that, at the moment, the information is waiting to be sent. We don’t expect you to send it later. You can continue with your work. Just as you would if you were connected. But making you aware that you’re not connected right now is important for the user experience.

  2. If you’re not connected, there are certain things that just won’t work.
    Let’s say that you want to search for missing parts in all the warehouses in the area. It’s very likely this function is designed only to work in an online mode. Because you want to know the real-time status of the availability of parts. We could help by changing the user interface for functions that we know will fail without connectivity. While we want to keep the user experience completely transparent, there are certain things that we can’t do. So a subtle treatment of graying out or hiding functions within the mobile application would be useful. Because we still want to make you aware. And we wouldn’t want you to try to do things that we know would fail without connectivity. This better design of a mobile field application could help users with a much smoother flow in offline scenarios.

In addition, it could be made clear to users that not only are certain functions unavailable, but why these functions aren’t available. From a design perspective, we could build visual cues that can be understood by the users.

The biggest thing in building mobile applications for offline use is making a smart decision regarding which information is stored offline. This decision could be based on predicting which information you’ll need when you’re not online. And this decision could be where a good design performs much, much better than an ordinary design.

If the application had the smartness to predict frequently used functions and commonly accessed information, then this information could be stored for offline use in a transparent way. In addition to accessing information at the time that you’re requesting it, the mobile application could prepare the information for future use. This capability could have an even greater impact on transparency.

When building mobile applications, there are different levels of sophistication. Most applications start by identifying the information and tasks frequently used by all users. A more sophisticated design could look at user roles in the application. An even more sophisticated design could track usage patterns by individual users.

Designing a mobile field service application isn’t black-and-white: What do I have online? What do I have offline? A good design is about a smooth transition between online and offline.

To be successful, mobile field service applications should provide subtle indications when connectivity is lost and should predict the field technician’s future needs for information. In this way, field technicians can continue their work seamlessly even when they lose connectivity.


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Moving Field Service Beyond Efficiency

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jul 9, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Moving Field Service Beyond EfficiencyAccording to Aberdeen Group, organizations with a high level of customer satisfaction have shown growth in both service revenues and overall company revenues as compared to those who didn’t create happy customers (those organizations saw a continued decline in revenues)1.

Aberdeen has seen that service drives 10.7% higher margins annually compared to products.

In addition, organizations that achieved a customer satisfaction level of 80% or higher were able to retain more customers.

And organizations have started to drive a higher proportion of revenue from renewals/referrals (vs. new sales) which also points to the need to focus on customer satisfaction.

Service Goals to Move Beyond Efficiency

service-goals-move-beyond-efficiency

Service can bring value to your top and bottom lines. Manufacturers have already seen servicing their equipment as an opportunity. Other industries – that are feeling the pressure of competition and reduced margins – now see service as a differentiator on the road to profitability.

So most industries can utilize service to drive revenues. And best-in-class companies know that the path to growth isn’t paved with just controlling or reducing costs. But resolving customer issues in a timely and profitable manner requires balancing customer needs and service resources.

These conflicting business objectives are the inherent contradiction between customer-friendly planning goals (e.g., quality of service, risk of missing a commitment) and resource efficiency planning goals (e.g., minimizing travel time, load balancing the work).

Mobile workforce management software that supports conflicting objectives can help improve your service organization by optimizing several goals together and balancing your business objectives when they’re in conflict. For example, balancing minimized travel time with better service. This priority-based approach ranks your objectives in order of importance to your service organization.

No Missing Links

According to the Aberdeen survey, in order to create a link between strategy, measurement, and execution, top performing organizations must:

  • Benchmark the service team’s performance – Service organizations much benchmark against top performers as well as top performers in other industries to discover best practices beyond your own industry.

  • Establish the right incentives – Align compensation and incentives with your operational metrics to ensure you’re encouraging the right behaviors for your service organization.

  • Design for service – Analytics and smart assets give technicians the necessary insight to fix problems before they occur or to know what’s happening before they arrive at the customer site.

  • Train the entire service team on the value of service – Provide training on service offerings to ensure that service is known to contribute value to the top and bottom lines.

Delivering resolution to your customers delivers more satisfied customers, higher customer retention, and more revenue. But your customer’s expectations never go away, so your service organization must continuously improve.

1Source: State of Service Management Roadmap for a Profitable 2014. March, 2014. Aberdeen Group, Inc.


White Paper: Service Differentiation - Your 3-Step Plan

Get the 3-step plan to differentiate your service. Learn how to use your service processes as strategic assets.

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Mobile Applications in Field Service – The 2 Dilemmas

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 27, 2014 4:28:57 PM

mobile-applications-in-field-service-the-2-dilemmasSmartphones, tablets, and mobile apps present many challenges to IT organizations.

Mobile apps are no longer glorified websites with caching capabilities.

These apps are designed specifically for mobile consumption, including different form factors, touch interfaces, hardware capabilities, and operating systems for different devices.

There are 4 main technical approaches to the development of mobile apps (as described by Gartner1):

  1. Native apps run only on one operating system and are written in a language specific to that platform (e.g., iPhone, Android). Native apps offer the best possible performance and the best use of features that are native to the mobile device (e.g., camera).

  2. Cross-compiled apps are compiled from a single-source language into native code for a range of devices and operating systems, adapting to the appropriate platform for the specific device.

  3. Hybrid apps combine Web and native technology. The majority of the app is created using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and embedded in a native app container which then accesses the features of the device.

  4. Metadata-driven apps consist of a native app with business logic provided in a metadata format. Business logic is defined in the backend and is synced and understood by the device.

When planning a field service mobile application strategy, IT leaders face 2 dilemmas: build vs. buy and native app vs. Web/hybrid app.

The enterprise application market has seen an interesting cycle: from the days of homegrown solutions to the dominance of monolithic solutions (e.g., ERP) and back to the world of composite apps. With the pressure to innovate and reduced barriers to developing your own mobile apps, IT organizations are tempted to go with a “build” vs. “buy” strategy. But is that the right move? (spoiler) I don’t think so.

Build vs. Buy

If you find a mobile app that meets your needs, you should focus on your business and adopt a “buy” strategy. But (and this is a big but…), your IT organization should still play a key role in identifying the right tools and architectures that will drive innovation and empower your business to implement its own service DNA into the overall solution.

When considering a mobile field application, you need to consider all the ways your service organization will use the application.

The 2 main use cases for metadata-driven apps are forms and work order status flows (e.g., the progress of the call).

There’s complexity for technicians collecting information in the field. This complexity requires that certain areas of the mobile field application be metadata-driven. In this way, you get the flexibility you need and the application reflects your service DNA – your unique processes and policies (e.g., data to collect) that must be captured in your mobile workforce management solution.

A metadata-driven app for forms includes the field types, how those fields behave, and whether those fields are mandatory. It’s a configuration option on the backend which means no mobile development is required by the customer. Your form data is translated by the metadata on the backend.

A metadata-driven app is also useful for status flows. In many cases, status flows are unique to every customer and every work type. For example, the field technician can’t leave the site without completing the job. Again, because these flows are metadata-driven. You define the rules on the backend. Then, the metadata is translated into functionality within the application.

Native Apps vs. Web/Hybrid Apps

The other dilemma is native vs. Web/hybrid apps. The pros and cons are clear. Native applications provide a better user experience. Web applications are easier to develop. Theoretically, Web apps can be developed once and deployed for different operating systems. In reality, you need a hybrid approach to close the still-existing gaps between HTML5 and the unique aspects of different hardware and operating systems.

If your organization uses “buy” as its main strategy, you don’t need to worry about how easy or difficult it is to develop a mobile app. You can focus on your users and provide your organization with the agility to innovate.

Instead of a hybrid application, ViryaNet’s field application combines both cross-compiled and metadata-driven. A cross-compiled and metadata-driven app is cost-effective without compromising the user experience. Cost-effective because code can be re-used for different devices. And a better user experience because native code provides an experience that’s unique to each device.

You may ask yourself “Why can’t my company just develop the application in-house?” Like any other application that you buy, it makes sense to get the best practices, the robustness, and the investment put into an off-the-shelf application without having to compromise your service DNA.

Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds, balancing the best practices of a cross-compiled app with utilizing a metadata-driven app in areas that are important for you to maintain flexibility.

1Source: Mobile Development Tools for SMBs. June 16, 2014. Gartner, Inc.


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Balancing Field Service Teams Without Losing Control

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 19, 2014 12:19:00 PM

balancing-field-service-teams-without-losing-control

Field service organizations are under pressure to deliver exceptional service.

One popular strategy to meet customer needs and fluctuations in demand is the use of subcontractors. In fact, Aberdeen Group1 reports that 64% of its survey respondents used subcontractors to “at least complete some percentage of daily field service tasks”.

When implementing this strategy, field service organizations may fear that they’re losing control or may feel that once the work is outsourced, it’s out of their hands.

But field service organizations must remember that they’re outsourcing the work, not the management of that work. And enabling visibility into all field resources – both in-house and outsourced – helps maintain service quality. To meet customer expectations, field service organizations must take strategic actions throughout the service process, no matter who’s doing the work.

Strategies to Support a Third-Party Field Workforce

strategies-to-support-third-party-field-workforce


It’s true that you have more control with an internal workforce. If your in-house technicians aren’t available, you can change their priority, so that they are available. When using subcontractors, there are checks and balances outside of your organization. At best, the service provider meets the requirements of a service level agreement. You don’t get the level of visibility when you outsource the work, but you’re still accountable for the work.

There’s a trend toward using in-house technicians. In fact, you may be bringing back outsourced work because your metrics show that you can reduce costs and provide better service with an internal workforce. However, you must consider whether you can hire the right people with the right skills. Your decisions may be different for different work types and equipment types. Depending on the volume of work and the geography, you may not be able to fully utilize the resources that you’re hiring. If there’s no work in a certain area, it might cost you more to hire in-house technicians.

Whether your technicians are in-house, outsourced, or a hybrid, your mobile workforce management software should allow you to easily schedule and optimize your workforce. Since you’re continuously reviewing the balance between in-house and outsourced, it’s likely that you’re managing a hybrid workforce.

Aberdeen names 3 areas of focus for managing a hybrid workforce:

1. Create a standard process for service execution. Offer your field service team (in-house and outsourced) clear guidelines for completing tasks. In this way, both your customers and your workforce know what to expect.

2. Plan for future demand. Forecast your future demand for work and plan your resource response to that forecasted level, including:

  • ensuring the appropriately skilled staff
  • handling anticipated peaks and valleys in demand
  • automating and consolidating your planning process
3. Capture and make data accessible across the organization. Provide your entire workforce with the ability to capture and transfer information seamlessly, allowing for real-time decision-making and faster resolution.

Service Excellence Begins with Strong Leadership

service-excellence-begins-with-strong-leadership

 


In order to meet goals related to customer satisfaction, productivity, and revenue, field service organizations must avoid an “out of sight, out of mind mentality” when it comes to subcontractors.

For example, one of ViryaNet’s utility customers has “gas disconnects” handled by subcontractors. In ViryaNet G4, this workforce is separate from the utility’s workforce, so that schedulers and planners can’t access and/or change any subcontractor work. This configuration – which is standard in the product – allows the subcontractor work to be isolated, yet still within one application to retain visibility.

The ability to easily separate the work means finding, managing, and measuring the work more efficiently. While the work may be separate in the mobile workforce management system, subcontractors are an extension of your organization. So your standard processes must include how issues are resolved and by whom. A flexible solution allows you to apply different processes, make process changes, and monitor the outcomes to make a decision about what’s best for your service organization.

Scheduling technicians must remain strategic, including assigning the “right” technician for the job. Within ViryaNet G4, objectives are categorized into 1 of 3 groups: which jobs to assign; to whom; when should the work and resources be assigned. So you can prioritize and balance technician suitability with your other business objectives.

Making performance data available across your organization – from executives interested in summarized metrics or longer-term performance trends (e.g., quarterly) to directors and managers focused on performance in a shorter time window (e.g., weekly, monthly) helps you benchmark the workforce and schedule for future needs. Your mobile workforce management software should enable your service organization to collect performance data, analyze it, and act on it.

Third-Party Field Service Teams Performance

third-party-field-service-teams-performance


To attain the benefits of a hybrid workforce, you must align goals, technology, and processes to deliver the results your customers expect. Otherwise, you’ll lose more than control. You’ll lose customers.

1Source: Third-Party Field Service: Work Together to Deliver High Levels of Quality. February, 2014. Aberdeen Group, Inc.


eBook: Best Practices in Mobile Workforce Management

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21 Blog Posts on Field Service and Mobile Workforce Management (You Might Have Missed)

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 11, 2014 3:17:07 PM

21-blog-posts-on-field-service-and-mobile-workforce-management-you-might-have-missedSometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Even with blog posts.

Some posts (I’m looking at you, Mobile Workforce Scheduling – The Optimization Problem) may just be more visible than others.

Here are 21 blog posts about field service and mobile workforce management that you might have missed.

#1 - What's Next for Your Field Service Organization?
Field service organizations must establish a performance management practice that includes mobile workforce management metrics and analysis.

#2 - How You Can Fail at Mobile Workforce Management in One Easy Step
While the technology components of mobile workforce management are important, they don't necessarily contribute to more effective service delivery.

#3 - How to Plan Better with Performance Management
If you can’t invest any more than you already have in your workforce, then the key to continuous improvement is to become more efficient and effective.

#4 - What Is Your Field Service DNA?
A flexible mobile workforce management solution must be smart enough to adapt to changing scenarios and adjust to your organization’s evolving needs.

#5 - Be Social Out There, You’re in Field Service
Integrating a social collaboration tool with your mobile workforce management solution facilitates the process of field technicians getting help.

#6 - Feeling SaaS-y About Mobile Workforce Management
Your mobile workforce management solution must integrate with enterprise applications and allow for configuration, customization, and extensibility.

#7 - 7 Elements for Faster and Easier BPM Adoption
Your service organization may need to actively monitor and update business processes and workflow to meet requirements that may change over time.

#8 - Field Mobility: The 3 Elements to Balance for a Mobile-First Solution
Field mobility can improve your organization by focusing technicians on the plan, handling changes proactively, and managing exceptions in real-time.

#9 - The Mobile Workforce Management Journey Q&A
You must have a well-defined strategy to meet your service objectives and a Performance Management Framework to support continuous improvement.

#10 - What Field Service Objectives Are You Trying to Balance?
To ensure optimal daily schedules, you must be able to continuously optimize scheduling resources within your dynamic field service environment.

#11 - Scheduling Optimization - Getting Your Priorities Straight
Solve the scheduling problem and you have the best potential (compared with the other planning stages) to increase your service organization’s ROI.

#12 - Speak of the Devil – Voice Recognition’s Bad Reputation
Field service organizations are more likely to adopt voice-enabled field applications because it makes more sense to speak than browse menus.

#13 - Brace for Impact – Breaking Down Silos in Field Service
By breaking down silos, your service organization can mature in terms of what you measure, and how you make decisions, based on those measurements.

#14 - Prepare Your Field Service Organization for Takeoff
Performance management leads to decisions that can transform your organization. Without performance management, you have visibility into nothing.

#15 - Putting the Work in Mobile Workforce Management
If your goal is to increase resource utilization, you need to know if your field service staff is working as much as possible.

#16 - Field Mobility – Get the Extensibility You Really Want
If your IT organization isn’t building other applications, why is it building mobile field applications? What you really want is extensibility.

#17 - Your Field Service Is About to Get Real-Time
From a mobile workforce management perspective, real-time has a major impact on how people work and how effective they are. Get ready for real-time.

#18 - If You Don't Do Performance Management Now, You'll Hate Yourself Later
To continuously improve, your Performance Management initiative must move the focus from the “things that you do” to the “things you can do better”.

#19 - 3 Ways You Will Overpay for Your Mobile Workforce Management Solution
Reduce the risk of overpaying for your mobile workforce management solution and the risk of failure throughout the application lifecycle.

#20 - Is Your Field Service Organization Out of Alignment?
The pinnacle for field service organizations is finding the balance between contradicting objectives and achieving alignment with strategic goals.

#21 - Got a Benchmark Problem? Good.
When you’re evaluating optimization solutions, don’t forget about quality. And remember to challenge your optimizer vendor with a benchmark problem.


eBook: Best Practices in Mobile Workforce Management

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This Is Your Field Service on Customer Satisfaction

Posted by Dolores Fallon on Jun 4, 2014 5:32:33 PM

this-is-your-field-service-on-customer-satisfactionFrom Aberdeen's research1, organizations that achieved a 90%+ customer satisfaction rate saw an annual 6.1% growth in service revenue, 3.7% growth in overall revenue, and 89% rate of customer retention.

And according to Aberdeen, there are 3 things that top-performing service organizations do that provide a better customer experience:

  • ensure resolution
  • exceed customer expectations
  • continuously improve the value provided to customers

Instinctively, customer satisfaction is strongly related to the contractual agreement between your service organization and your customers. Or more specifically, the service level agreement (SLA) part of the contract. Many service organizations do focus on measuring their SLA compliance. But measurement alone doesn’t provide better service.

Service organizations that want to become best-in-class need to think beyond the standard SLA metrics. When it comes to day-to-day execution, it’s easy to understand the concepts of predictability and communication to customers as key factors that make for a superior customer experience. But what about the planning phase? What elements can be brought to an assignments plan to make it more customer-friendly?

Impact considers the overall effect on customers which could be a combined measurement of: How many customers are affected? How long are they waiting? And what is the direct effect on them? You may decide to assign a higher priority to this work.

Risk looks at creating a plan where a lot of focus is given to meet service commitments (e.g., scheduled appointments). You have to examine the risk of meeting commitments in the event that something goes wrong. Would it be better to finish all your commitments as early as possible?

Bringing customer satisfaction policies into the planning process can help you make customers happier. A simple example is “your organization doesn't want to miss any service appointments”. In order to do that, your organization must build policies into the planning process to schedule service appointments as early as possible in the respective time-window, even if you must “pay” something in travel time or in other metrics.

Aberdeen’s research offers compliance in completion times as one way to meet the goals of service profitability, customer retention, and customer satisfaction. In fact, as a result of achieving greater than 80% compliance in completion time, customer satisfaction is significantly affected.

Completion Time < 80% Completion Time > 80%
Customer Satisfaction = 43% Customer Satisfaction = 75%
Service Profitability = 42% Service Profitability = 62%
Customer Retention = 55% Customer Retention = 60%


Quality
of service delivery is really about “knowledge” including elements, such as previous involvement or technician seniority. Your field service technicians are often the way that customers measure their experience with your organization.

The first step in becoming or remaining a top-performing organization is to ensure resolution. From the customer’s perspective, “the right technician” is the one who solves the problem…the first time. Aberdeen’s research shows that for best-in-class organizations, the primary goal in scheduling technicians is to increase customer satisfaction. The priority of customer satisfaction ranked more than twice as high as improving response time. And nearly 4 times higher than reducing travel time.

Primary Goal Tied to Scheduling a Technician – Best-in-Class vs. All Others

aberdeen-scheduling-a-technician

While it’s important to schedule efficiently, scheduling “the right technician” can help you achieve your goals in service profitability, customer retention, and customer satisfaction.

The ability to schedule the right technician also requires performance data to compare customer expectations and your results on an ongoing basis. Because as a service organization, you may be meeting your response and completion times, but customers still expect your service to continuously improve. So your measurement process must also include the analysis and development of policies, decisions, and best practices for continuous improvement.

1Source: Secrets to Optimize Field Service for Better Customer Experiences. September, 2013. Aberdeen Group, Inc.


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What’s Holding Back Your Field Service?

Posted by Dolores Fallon on May 28, 2014 1:55:00 PM

What’s Holding Back Your Field Service?Service organizations tend to have many competing priorities that impact the overall performance of their business.

In addition to addressing business issues, you need to set standards for your employees to improve the quality and agility of service delivery on an ongoing basis.

Through a continual comparison of what is expected vs. what actually happened, performance management is a critical component of mobile workforce management – from broader activities, such as setting overall company goals to more granular activities, such as work order definition.

Utilizing performance management methodologies with your mobile workforce management solution can help address most business challenges that may be holding back your service organization.

Your performance management methodology must include an understanding of your business goals and the measurement of your results from acting on organization-specific objectives.

Once performance issues have been brought to light, you need to promote best practices designed to find and implement improvement measures. Best practices may include:

  • coaching low-performing employees
  • redefining business processes
  • replacing IT infrastructure
  • adopting new technologies

Performance management is an essential part of ViryaNet G4. Our mobile workforce management software and how it operates is built around performance management concepts. Within this performance management framework, your service organization can choose from hundreds of key performance indicators (KPIs) to better measure and plan your activities.

But you shouldn’t depend on a large number of reports. Instead use focused reports that serve the needs of specific stakeholders. Various charts and dashboards in ViryaNet G4 can be tailored to serve different individuals or roles within your organization. ViryaNet’s implementation teams also match the right charts and dashboards to the right stakeholders.

For example, stakeholders involved in overseeing planned vs. actual results may take advantage of the Productivity and Work Effectiveness dashboard that shows how compliant employees are with your objectives (i.e., actual vs. planned). Typically, peaks and valleys are what indicate anomalies in what’s expected in terms of performance.

Another important report for stakeholders involved in either defining company objectives or overseeing operations are operational reports that show how the ViryaNet G4 Optimizer is performing and how it’s scoring on different dimensions (e.g., travel time, work time, utilization of resources, etc.).

If objectives or constraints change, then the Optimizer’s performance will reflect these changes. This capability is useful for the visualization of simulations and what-if scenarios to see the impact of prioritizing certain objectives on the overall performance of the company.

ViryaNet uses a series of performance management methodologies to help service organizations meet their business goals. When assisting service organizations, ViryaNet ensures it understands your objectives and how those objectives translate into measurable results.


eBook: 14-Step Guide to Building a Performance Management Framework in Field Service Organizations

Move the focus from the “things that you do” to the “things you can do better”.

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The Biggest Problem in Field Service Dispatch and How You Can Fix It

Posted by Dolores Fallon on May 22, 2014 8:48:00 AM

The Biggest Problem in Field Service Dispatch and How You Can Fix It

Typically, when you go to a dispatch center, you’ll see dispatchers following a pattern.

Every 15 to 20 minutes, they’ll open a certain zone to see what’s happening in that zone.

As time goes by, they may not be able to follow this pattern very closely.

Dispatchers manage many resources in the field. And there are a lot of exceptions accumulated from events reported in the field.

So what can be done to make sure your dispatchers stay on top of exceptions?

ViryaNet introduced a concept called “Reveal” to our mobile workforce management software that captures several ideas together in the dispatch process, showing dispatchers what they’re missing by pushing a prioritized list of items to be resolved to dispatchers and presenting only the information needed to solve the problem.

ViryaNet G4 Dispatch Board

The system is smart enough.

The system is smart enough to find exceptions, including:

  • detecting if work items are in jeopardy or if resources are underutilized
  • identifying even more complex situations, such as major delays in a certain area

The system is smart enough to do this work for the dispatchers. Through this automation, a prioritized list of exceptions – called the “To Do List” – is pushed to dispatchers, so they don’t have to look for problems.

The system provides context.

Integrated and filtered views make it easy for dispatchers to focus on the right information and provide a much better starting point for dispatchers to solve problems.

When you click an exception in ViryaNet G4, all the views of the dispatch board are filtered to correspond to that exception.

For example, when you click an emergency, the filtering logic could be “show everything in a 5-mile radius” because this is your process for this type of event or exception. Or if a technician is underutilized or other resources in an area are over-utilized, the filtering logic could be “show all the work this technician can do” or “show all the work in this area”. With visibility to this information, dispatchers can move work from one resource to another.

The system offers decision support tools.

There is a powerful search mechanism used for both finding information easily and providing the context to solve problems. You can search for specific skills, resource statuses, or characteristics of actions not yet assigned. Using more sophisticated operators, you can show everything in a specific radius around the work or a resource.

With the search capability to provide context to solve problems, once you click an item in the To Do List, you can select a pre-configured search phrase to filter the information needed to resolve the exception.

You can view a history of frequently used searches and auto-complete suggestions from the system. When you start to enter text into the search, the system knows there’s a similar match in the database to complete the complex search phrase.

We combined the map view (geospatial information) with the Gantt view (time-based information) with a list of actions not yet assigned. When you click on a resource, the resource’s location is immediately highlighted on the map. When you click on the map, the corresponding information is highlighted on the resource list or on the outstanding actions list.

Dispatchers can also respond proactively to exceptions, using a combination of real-time information monitoring and a variety of automatic, semi-automatic or manual re-planning tools. For example, finding the best match and/or optimizing the route for a specific technician.

With the introduction of our Reveal concept, ViryaNet G4 shows dispatchers what they’re missing by pushing a prioritized list of items to be resolved to dispatchers and presenting only the information needed to solve the problem. Our dispatch board combines your current plan, your outstanding actions, and the map with decision support tools to optimally manage exceptions.

All these aspects of ViryaNet G4 bring innovation to the dispatch process, so that dispatchers can stop wasting time looking for problems and can start focusing on solving problems.


eBook: Proactive Dispatch in Field Service – Exception Management for an Effective Mobile Workforce

When dispatchers don’t handle exceptions properly, all the benefits of starting with a good plan are lost.

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Is Your Mobile Workforce Management Software Up to the Challenge?

Posted by Dolores Fallon on May 14, 2014 9:30:00 AM

Is Your Mobile Workforce Management Software Up to the Challenge?

Planning is a critical link to productivity in your business processes. Get it wrong and you lose ground to the competition. Get it right and you position yourself to optimize your response and meet budget and customer expectations.

In field service, there are 3 main activities along the planning spectrum: Strategic Planning, Tactical Planning, and Optimization.

1. Strategic Planning

Through Strategic Planning, you can answer questions, such as: How many people do I need? What should be their skill set? Where should they be located?

Using ViryaNet G4, you can forecast the workload, based on analyzing historical trends. All the information gathered in the system goes through a statistical process that considers aspects, such as seasonality, and can project a future workload.

This forecasted workload is then compared against the average profile of the workforce. With all the information that’s gathered, you’ll know, on average:

  • how much your technicians are utilized
  • how much they work
  • how much they travel
  • how much they just don't do anything
  • how much overtime they work

Also, ViryaNet G4 can average how much time it takes to complete certain work types. If the forecast says you’re likely to have many more of those work types next month, you can compare this dimension to how much time it would take to complete the work. When you conduct this comparison, you can identify gaps and surpluses. It's not just gaps and surpluses for the overall organization, but gaps and surpluses in different dimensions.

For example, you can see the gaps and surpluses for specific work types and specific zones. And based on this analysis, you can decide whether:

  • you need more people
  • you need to change overtime policies
  • you need to train your workforce on more skills to help bridge the gaps

2. Tactical Planning

Tactical Planning in ViryaNet G4 is mostly geared towards work types that are known many months in advance. For example, in utilities, this known work is mostly with preventive maintenance types of work orders.

Typically, in this case, the asset management system sends a schedule to ViryaNet G4 for preventive maintenance jobs that could be executed from now until the end of the year. So, a process must be in place to ensure that although you’re focusing on the day-to-day and the urgent cases, you would still make those commitments by the end of the year.

With Tactical Planning, when ViryaNet G4 creates the plan for the workforce each and every day, it takes into consideration and tries to find opportunities to complete those preventive maintenance jobs in the most effective way. If the system knows that a technician (who’s not 100% utilized) will be in a neighborhood where there are preventive maintenance jobs, the system would try to include these jobs in that technician’s schedule. Tactical Planning tries to think about the day-to-day and about your longer-term commitments.

3. Optimization

Optimization is also part of planning and has 3 aspects:

When to run the optimization and to what scope. Optimization is a continuous effort throughout the day, starting with a big plan for the day. You could run a full-scope optimization for the entire workforce. Or throughout the day, once events start to be gathered by the Optimizer, you can run a smaller optimization. You could have small optimization runs to resolve local problems.

Constraints on who can do what. ViryaNet G4 has a broad model for work and resources, so it knows many things about the resources, for example:

  • Where are they located?
  • What are their start and end locations?
  • How does their calendar look?
  • What are their skills?
The system also knows a lot of things about the work because of an extensive work model to define aspects in the system, such as: short-duration work, long-duration work, work for individuals, and work for crews, etc.

When it comes to long-duration work, there’s an automatic process that segments this work to each and every day without the need to define 8-hour segments. For example, the system can take a 32-hour job and segment it in the most optimal way over the next couple of days.

Also, the system can create dependencies between job elements. For example, there are many times that you can't start something before you've ended something else. Or you could have 2 things that must be done in parallel. So this extensive model in the optimization engine translates to black and white rules, for example: Who can do the work? When the work can be done?

Contradicting business objectives. ViryaNet G4 covers the full Planning Spectrum from long-term planning to day-to-day to exception management. And it supports multiple, likely conflicting, business objectives. Conflicting objectives are the inherent contradiction between customer-friendly planning goals (e.g., quality of service, the impact of a network failure, the risk of missing a commitment) and resource efficiency planning goals (e.g., minimizing travel time, load balancing the work).

Other solutions that support conflicting business objectives have a fixed configuration that translates the balance of these conflicting objectives to the internals of the optimization engine. But this fixed configuration creates problems.

First, it's a very cumbersome process to end up with a good configuration. But once you’re happy, the configuration is very sensitive to the data that you used at the time the configuration was created. So you could take the sample data, play with the internals of the optimization engine, and get to a point where you're happy with the configuration. But, from that day on, this configuration is fixed. If, on another day, the workforce is more utilized or less utilized because of the sample data that was used, the configuration of the optimization engine is no longer optimal.

ViryaNet was the first to introduce auto-tuning where the internals of the optimization engine aren’t “fixed”. Instead, we discuss with you how your service organization wants to prioritize your objectives. Then, ViryaNet G4 auto-tunes the internals of the optimization engine with each and every run, based on the data set you’re trying to optimize at that time.

ViryaNet also encourages you to conduct an Optimization Challenge. Compare our optimization engine against other optimization engines by defining the optimization problem (the in-use constraints and desired objectives) and using a broad set of data that represents variations in your operational conditions.

Then, you can test an optimizer against benchmark problems (there are 56 in all), for example, the number of customers serviced by a vehicle, percent of time-constrained customers (appointments), tightness and positioning of the time windows, and geographical distribution.

Not every service organization has this capability. But if possible, we would recommend that you conduct this comparison. Getting good results against many variations, without changing your optimizer configuration, is a challenge for a strong optimizer.


White Paper: The Balancing Act of Mobile Workforce Management

Learn how to handle the challenge of an optimal plan that best reflects your service organization's business needs.

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