journalist, tech entrepreneur
The Covid-19 pandemic and its ongoing ramifications have caused a dramatic shift in how businesses adapt to the rapidly changing world. Field service providers are not an exception — according to a CGS survey, nearly half of the respondents from the field service industry reported that their plans for 2020 had dramatically changed due to the pandemic. Along with common problems like anti-covid restrictions and supply chain disruptions that affected most businesses, field service companies have also faced industry-specific challenges. Let's have a look at the most prominent ones.
Like many offline-based businesses, the field service industry has been dramatically affected by new safety restrictions. Ensuring employees' and customers' safety and health has become the number one priority for most field service providers. Almost one-third of such businesses had to temporarily freeze all field activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 15% viewing this situation as the new normal.
For those businesses that continue to deliver on-site services, a number of challenges arise, from equipping the workers with masks, gloves, sanitizers, etc., to minimizing service times to increasing first-time fix rates and reducing the need for follow-ups.
Many companies have turned to the remote support model, which uses video calls for diagnosing issues and assisting with fixing them remotely. However, some cases require a specialist's physical presence, so businesses had to invent safe and 'contactless' ways of delivering services to minimize risks.
Increasing first-time fix rates has also been crucial for field service providers to avoid multiple on-site dispatches. Distant diagnosing and empowering field workers with all the necessary guidelines and information along with accessible support from the office can help improve productivity and minimize the number of visits per customer.
Field service companies have faced an increased demand during the pandemic, which is no surprise — with so many people staying at home, they are more likely to experience issues more often than usual, left alone the fact that many businesses had to put field operations on hold.
At the same time, 41% of companies had to deal with a reduced workforce due to the quarantine requirements, employees getting sick, or company layoffs. As a result, fewer specialists were available to work in the field, so companies needed to maximize their efficiency while ensuring their safety.
This is where automation solutions came to the rescue — modern field management software is capable of many things like routing optimization, improving delivery times and increasing transparency of field operations. For example, tools like Planado always dispatchers to check an employee's current workload and location and change their schedule on the go.
According to a study by McKinsey & Co., using field management software can increase the field workers' performance up to 2 times — specialists were completing an average of 8 jobs a day, compared to 4.5 without the field management tool. This is certainly a good incentive to start relying on technological solutions when it comes to managing field operations.
Despite the overall instability, maintaining quality standards is crucial. Businesses that fail to deliver a high level of services even in hard times will be less successful in the long run.
It can be pretty challenging since delivering a superior service requires a wise orchestration of a large number of processes and ensuring each of them runs smoothly. Besides, in crisis times, customers can be more emotional and sensitive to stress, so there is little room for error.
More and more businesses implement a data-driven approach and start tracking different metrics, such as first-time fix rates, mean repair times, and customer satisfaction rates. All this data gathered in one place can give you insights on how to improve the quality of the services you offer.
When it comes to more practical steps, using checklists can be a quick and easy solution to maintain a consistent quality level. Checklists help field workers to follow the guidelines and not miss any steps. Another way to control quality is to include photo reports of the completed work into the standard workflow. And of course, collecting customer feedback is always a great source of information on what else can be improved.
This challenge can probably apply to everyone living in the post-covid era and is for sure not specific to the field service industry. In a quickly changing environment, it is more important than ever for businesses to develop resilience to uncertainty.
When trying to make out what helps companies navigate turbulent times, a few things appear more helpful than others: high adaptability and flexibility, access to technologies, agile approach, and positive company culture. All these factors can help build a more stable and sustainable business.
Field service providers have long been on a conservative side, with less than 50% of companies actively using automation in their operations. However, the coronavirus crisis has become a significant driver of the digital transformation process — more and more field service businesses are now investing in technology.
Most adaptation strategies involve digitalization and the implementation of new technologies. Although it's been a long-term trend well before the Covid, the pandemic has become a strong impetus for those companies (and whole industries) that would otherwise stay conservative in their practices. The success of businesses now largely depends on their ability to incorporate technological innovation, data-driven approaches, and process automation as strategic support for their operations.
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