Businesses in every industry are dealing with the “big data” dilemma. Where do we store it? How do we keep it accurate? How do we use it for competitive advantage? According to a study by IDG Enterprise, 65 percent of IT decision-makers said they feel overwhelmed by the volume of incoming data, and 53 percent said it has slowed down important decisions.
Service companies in particular are constantly seeking data-driven ways to optimize portfolios, address customer pain points, and outperform competitors. Sadly, these companies often leave one of their richest sources of data untapped: field service. That’s because field service management (FSM) has been long underestimated, and often viewed as a form of damage control. In reality, your FSM framework presents a huge opportunity to improve high-level decisions with item-level data.
Data? What Data?
Field service management is far from linear. It’s more like a neural map, a network of dependencies between personnel (dispatchers, contractors, technicians), customers, equipment, logistics, administrative tasks, and environmental factors, all of which must be perfectly in sync to bring about an effective service call.
These interactions generate numerous data points that are unique to FSM. Here are a few examples:
- Asset data (performance, specs, maintenance history)
- Technician data (availability, performance)
- First-time fix rates
- Parts/tools/materials inventory
- Customer account data (invoicing, billing)
- Job details (cost, start/end time, follow-up info)
- Geospatial data (job locations, routes, heatmaps)
Many service companies try to find field service management software with built-in analytics tools. This is an excellent first step, and usually fruitful in the long run: field service companies that invest in analytics technology have seen profits increase as much as 18 percent, and customer retention as much 42 percent.
But putting your field service data to work requires more than a plug-and-chug solution. Business intelligence is about making better decisions and turning insight into action. This could be as simple as planning a better route between jobs, or as complex as adopting a servitization based business-model. Either way, don’t just peruse your data; decide what insight you’re looking for, what tools you have to find it, and how you plan on putting it to work.
Three Strategies to Get You Started
See where you’re failing your SLA: If you promise quick, efficient resolution of service interruptions and free maintenance of proprietary equipment, are your teams delivering this on a daily basis? Your FSM data can show you where the bottlenecks are, where your technicians encounter obstacles to productivity, and which issues customers complain about the most. These insights can help you make the changes necessary to uphold your service level agreement, which has a strong influence on satisfaction and loyalty.
Trim the fat: Field service data can help decision makers identify opportunities to reduce overhead costs in several areas. Asset performance metrics (for equipment, fleet vehicles, firmware, etc.) can indicate when assets need to be serviced or replaced. This reduces downtime and unnecessary maintenance. Geospatial and fleet data can save vehicles wear and cut-down fuel costs by providing insight on optimal routes. You can also use data from job trends to anticipate demand for specific parts and materials (demand planning) and decide which ones don’t need to stay in your truck/van/warehouse inventory.
Better workforce management: Business intelligence isn’t just about the work, but also the workers. By tracking technician/contractor KPIs (first-time fix rate, on-time arrival, jobs per day, units installed, schedule adherence, etc.), managers can decide when it’s time to reassign or restructure the workforce, provide additional training, hire additional workers, or in some cases take disciplinary action.
Gather field service data requires that you have the right technology in place, whether that’s a few basic reporting tools built in to your field service management software, or a dedicated business intelligence platform. But it also requires a shift in mentality for many companies: instead of seeing your field service department as a clean-up crew, see it as an active player in core business growth – one that can drive better decision-making and provide unique insights.
Aleksandr Peterson is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, CRMs, project management, and other emerging business technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.