The ABC of Field Service

Posted by Ross Coundon on January 27, 2015

A is for assets.

If you’re an asset centric organisation you’re acutely aware of how important it is to ensure your assets are carefully maintained. That’s a given. Have you considered that your real assets are more than just the physical objects that you send people to install and repair. We’ve all heard it stated that your greatest assets are your employees and that by looking after your people, listening to and acting upon their feedback, and giving them the tools to excel in their job will help your company to be successful.

I believe there are two further types of assets that you must consider to be truly successful.

Those in the retail and logistics industry will recognise the complexities of dealing with perishable assets but businesses of all types have to maximise the use of the most perishable asset of all: Time. Understanding, in the moment, how you are making use of time, is the single most powerful aspect of workforce optimisation. Every hour, every minute that goes by was an opportunity to delight a customer, an opportunity to be proactive, a chance to improve.

Tim Ferriss QuoteSo many businesses just don’t know where the time goes, they’re busy being busy and being busy is so often a sign of laziness because until you invest the time and effort in understanding how to stop running to stand still, your business cannot ever improve. Getting a handle on this through real time analytics is a game changer and it doesn’t need to be complicated.

The other asset that is so often ignored are your customers. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of chasing new business at the expense of time servicing your existing customers. Delight your existing customers and make it a mission to understand and address the reasons underlying any that leave you. In this hyper connected world of social media, this is the most powerful thing you can do to win both new business and repeat business.

I’m going to cheat here and state there’s another A of workforce management, and that’s Analytics because without a comprehensive, real-time and historical view of the business, none of this is possible.

B is for Bang for your Buck.

Most of the businesses we work with have made an investment in scheduling and optimisation, many have optimised shift planning, some have created mobile capability. Those boxes are ticked and there’s an assumption that the ROI that was sold by the vendor still stacks up. You’ve heard the pitch, we can save your engineers 20 mins per day, that’s 100 minutes per week. Your average job duration is 60 minutes so each engineer will be able to do an extra 1.7 jobs per week. You make £100 profit on each job and you have 500 engineers so that’s £85,000 of extra profit per month, this system pays for itself in no time! We all know that the operation on the ground just simply doesn’t work that way and, okay, this is an exaggeration to illustrate a point, but how do you know whether you’re actually getting a benefit from the systems you’ve implemented? So often we see over complicated, poorly implemented, opaque systems that create a huge reliance on the vendor. Expensive to change, impossible to understand and lacking any kind of visibility of operational performance.

To rectify the situation requires opening Pandora’s box and peering inside. This is uncomfortable but not nearly as uncomfortable as paying money hand over fist for a sub par system that doesn’t allow you to delight your customers.

What do we need in order to look inside the box? Analytics to bring about a transparency to the business; to cause the fog of war to lift.

C is for Change

Change is hard. There’s no getting away from that fact. We get used to the way things are done and, even when we get frustrated with those ways, we still find it difficult to transition to new ones. We embrace the familiar, we are wary of the new. Yet we all recognise that change is necessary for improvement and when we make that change, so often we look back and think, “How did we ever put up with the way things were?!”

The journey to implement that change is what makes the difference and is the key to embedding the change successfully. Much has been written about managing change and I won’t repeat the detail here but there a a few important things to remember:

Don’t confuse change with transformation. Small tweaks here and there are unlikely to have a transformative effect. Think broadly, disruptively; look at end to end process, remove silos.

Be inclusive, let everyone know why the changes are happen, consult those affected and listen to the feedback, be adaptable to changing the change!

Lead from the front, change is something that is done with, not done to. Show that everyone at the company has a part to play.

To understand where you’re going, you have to appreciate where you’ve been. For example, understanding the baseline performance of your business so that you can evaluate the effects of the change. This requires analytics from the outset, do you see a pattern emerging?

So there we have it, the ABC of field service, it’s not exactly child’s play but by focusing on these areas, positive transformation is eminently possible.

 

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Ross Coundon

Ross has many years experience in providing mobile workforce management advice and solutions to a wide range of industries, and as a result, he is ideally placed to support field service organisations in their transformation initiatives. Having worked with the likes of Vodafone, Scottish Water and the Environment Agency, Ross has particular expertise in the use of mobile technologies to improve field service operations.