28 Feb Four “Must Ask” Questions in Any Field Service Project
Discovery questions to build your Field Service business case
By definition, field services involve the deployment of a worker to a remote site to provide a service. The remote site may be a place of business, a consumer home, or a remote location belonging to the organization itself. (An example of the latter would be a telecommunications service provider that needs to upgrade a remote office with new equipment.)
Field service activities range from the initial deployment or configuration of equipment at a remote site to its ongoing maintenance (planned) or repair (ad hoc). These activities can be performed on assets belonging to the customer—located on its premises—or on assets (e.g., physical plant, equipment, etc.) belonging to the organization itself.
Field services are more than the simple act of sending personnel out to a customer site. They are indeed multifaceted. Field service involves a number of departments (e.g., customer provisioning, customer support, and logistics), business processes (e.g., dispatching, shipping, support, billing), and information artifacts or documentation (e.g., work orders, bills of materials, lists of tools and parts, installation and configuration instructions, product manuals, field notices, invoices, and customer history). Many of the business processes and documents required to support external customers or consumers apply for internal purposes as well.
If you are in the process of evaluating how a Field Service Automation solution can help your business grow, how it can help make it more profitable, or both … then we suggest asking those four questions.
How complex are the manager’s dispatching tasks? Is this a situation where multiple dispatch criteria have to be considered? The job may require unique skills that only some of the available technicians have. The distance between the available resource and the job to dispatch and/or the route to access the work site may add another level of complexity to the dispatching decision. Additionally, the customer may also impose his own time constraints – only being able to provide access during a limited time frame throughout the day (after hours in the case of a commercial business) – or impose specific environmental conditions (ex. hazardous materials) where unique certifications are required in the technician’s skillset.
The urgency of the service to be provided is always a matter of interpretation, but the quicker you can respond and fix the problem, the better you are … in all cases!
Asking about the complexity of the dispatching tasks is a must!
How often is there a need to modify the daily schedule based on job completion time or unexpected emergencies that must be handled? Ask if your managers may have to revisit their decisions during the day or if the plan is likely to be carried out as expected. For example, if the technicians perform installations and repairs, it is quite possible that emergency work required throughout the day will force the dispatcher to move jobs from one technician to another or to reschedule them to another day.
It’s not uncommon to have to deal with interdependencies within the dispatching process. That is why this is another key question that must be asked!
How critical is it to be able to receive feedback from the field worker regarding response time and how much detail needs to be communicated?
In other words, we want to know how important it is to receive feedback from the technician throughout the day (or to communicate with him or her). For example, if the technician is assigned one job a day, chances are we will not require much feedback. On the other hand, if each worker is assigned six or seven jobs and completes one ahead of time, which frees up his or her schedule, we want to know about it. We also want to know how much changes in the workload are likely to affect his daily environment. The technician may also need to receive feedback from the head office, for example when carrying out remote software testing on the client’s equipment being repaired in order to verify that everything is working properly, therefore avoiding another trip to the client site. One last example of feedback may be the need to order parts in real-time while doing the repairs on site in order to minimize the downtime of the failing equipment.
As you can see, the requirement for two-way feedback is another one of these “must ask” questions.
How valuable are the upselling opportunities noticed by the technician?
When the technician sees an opportunity to upsell to the customer, for example, if he or she can identify more work to be done (noticing other parts or machines needing repair), or if the work requires using inventory parts that are billable or that must be ordered, the field service automation solution will have a larger scope.
For those reasons, the importance and dynamics of upselling are an important question!
In summary, in any Field Service project evaluation, Nubik’s best practice in order to properly scope the solution is to provide a discovery questionnaire to assess the level of complexity of the project.
For example, a customer in the business of cleaning window panes will have much simpler skill management requirements than someone dealing with hazardous or high security work environments. Only a few technicians may be certified to work in these conditions and the manager must take this skillset into account when assigning the job. If in addition the work order form specifies that the technician has to be certified to repair or install a specific equipment model, the dispatcher’s decision process becomes even more complex and he or she needs to know all this information before making a decision.
By Bruno Gagnon, Customer Solutions Director