Using technology to empower field technicians

by FM Media
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The speed of technological change continues to gather pace, delivering substantial advantages to companies that embrace this unstoppable business dynamic. It’s important to acknowledge that businesses that have a commitment to embedding new technologies in their operations benefit from efficiency gains and heightened competitive advantage.

Early adopters are presently reaping the rewards of prioritising technology investment. But there is an opportunity for every enterprise, not just those that have already realised how the power of technology can improve business performance, to profit from technology. The risk for businesses that don’t take this approach is that they will experience a drop in the service levels they are able to deliver because their ageing systems and processes can’t compete with the high levels of service businesses that have invested in technology are able to deliver. Moreover, customers of businesses that have not invested in technology are likely to start questioning their loyalty to companies that don’t offer a high level of service, even if they have a long history with them. These clients are likely to look for new service providers that do offer accentuated service levels.

Supporting technicians in the field
Leading service businesses are increasingly exploring how they can use technology to support their technicians. For instance, they are examining how mobile applications can deliver up-to-date product information and technical documents for staff operating remotely. They are also looking for ways to use technology to foster a collaborative environment between technicians, so they can share insights and observations, for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Some of the advantages this approach delivers include improvements to first time fix rates, happier customers and higher staff retention. The best service organisations are presently exploring the way technology can be used to make best use of employees’ time so they are spending more time on value-adding tasks, in addition to the administrative and financial benefits such as improved billing cycles that technology investments achieve.

In this scenario, field technicians essentially become brand advocates, focused on how can they improve customer relationships and add value to the customer base beyond simply addressing the issue for which the service call was organised. Service providers that leverage these technologies can position themselves to offer broader solutions to their customers and diversify their service offering.

Improving first time fix rates
First time fix rates are a key metric for service businesses and organisations must invest in technology that delivers real time information on this data point. According to recent research by the Aberdeen Group on the field services sector, on average 25 per cent of all service calls require at least one additional visit to resolve the customer’s issue.

Customer satisfaction levels are highly correlated with first time fix rate performance. Leading businesses are able to monitor whether technicians are able to address a customer query within the agreed timeframe, while minimising any negative events that can potentially reduce first time fix rates.

Potential barriers to increasing first time fix rates include not having access to the right information to identify why the issue wasn’t fixed during the first service call, sending the wrong tech with the wrong skillset to the customer, inability of the service centre to offer triage and lack of parts in the technician’s vehicle to enable the job to be completed.

Each of these factors has the potential to increase the likelihood customers will choose another service provider and can impact profitability. For instance, a second call costs businesses between $200 and $300, which clearly shows how not fixing a customer’s problem the first time affects business performance.

Technology can go a long way towards helping to minimise the frequency of revisits. It arms technicians with the right information, ensures they have the right stock in their vans and enables the service centre to triage issues at the first point of contact.

Above all, integrated technology across the enterprise needs to work harmoniously and instantly to deliver improved organisational performance and better customer outcomes.

The author, Bruce Minty, is product marketing manager, Pronto Software

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