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How to Build a Field Service App

by Anna Klimenko
How to Build a Field Service App

86% of clients would pay an extra $25 for the option to have Jake (Gerard Butler) from Geostorm come and fix their equipment   choose a convenient time for a technician to visit them.
The increase in customer satisfaction can bring a revenue lift of up to 15% while lowering the operational costs by as much as 20%.

Today, personalization, quality of service, and moderate cost are three whales that support user expectations. If you can provide the balance among all these components, you are at the top. But it is easier said than done, as from many field service companies the automation of their routine operations is still a great challenge.

At what stage should I start using Field Service App? What size of a company does it suit and how do I choose the right app for my use? Is it necessary to build a field service app or can I solve my issues with a ready-made solution? Is it possible to shorten my appointment windows, increase the level of personalization and quality of services, and reduce operational costs with the help of technologies? Probably these and some other questions brought you to this article.

Let’s find out the answers!

Challenges of Businesses

First of all, let’s agree that there is no limitation to the size of business that can or cannot use a field service management app. There is only a question of choice of the right scope of functionalities depending on your necessities. That’s why it would be reasonable to consider the types of business and their challenges.

Small-to-midsize business

A small field service company growing to medium size with up to 10 technicians and 1-3 managers is highly dependant on its reputation as most clients come from the word-of-mouth channel. Small service companies often do not want to spend money on automation solutions believing that they already have done well with spreadsheets, paper invoices, and manual scheduling. However, such an approach leaves no space for further growth of the business.

Challenges:

  • Poor scheduling as all information is kept on paper and managed manually. Statistically, 52% of service companies still do things manually—paper, pens, headaches.
  • No full view of business productivity and analytics, thus, inability to identify weak points and areas where it is possible to improve or save money.
  • Huge operational costs because of uncontrolled fuel wastage and unoptimized routing.
  • Big load on managers for dispatching, invoicing and other paperwork.
  • No customer and knowledge database to securely store all information.
  • Delays in receiving payments on bills as there is no electronic invoicing.

Solution: CRM, Scheduling, Dispatching, Routing, Alerts, Accounting, and Reports.

Home service companies that outsource from third-parties

About 20% of all field service companies attract their workforce from third-parties (independent technicians). Third-parties allow companies to expand skills variability and geographic area of service while reducing the operational costs.

Challenges:

  • No transparency on what is going on in the “field”: time of arrival, job completion, spare parts used, fuel wasted, etc.
  • Difficult to track the changes in technician schedule to alert the client about a delay.
  • The risk of losing the history of visits to clients, in case of changing a contractor.
  • Difficult to control the compliance with service level agreement (SLA).

Solution: Dispatching, Alerts, and CRM Knowledge Database.

Enterprise

A big company with a large team of technicians, multiple fleets and many departments of administrative staff will deal with large volumes of orders and need very accurate dispatching and dynamic scheduling. They already may use separate systems like CRM, ERP, and Accounting, but there is still no consolidation of information for analysis.

Challenges:

  • Huge operational costs because of fuel waste, unoptimized routing, idle time.
  • Poor communication between office and field, no online access to the stock of spare parts and materials.
  • An absence of knowledge database and instant chat to collaborate with nearby colleagues.
  • Difficult to assign the right technician for a job as many factors such as skill sets, location, route and a client’s history and preferences should be linked.
  • If they already use a CRM and other applications, they still spend a lot of time manually transferring data between systems.

Solution: Integration among all internal systems, Dispatching, Routing, Automatic Invoicing, Alerts, CRM Knowledge Database, Online Chats.

Challenges for Clients and Staff

Besides the issues that you struggle with on the administrative level, you should also pay attention to the challenges of those who work for you and your clients.

Challenges of clients:

  • Online scheduling. 98% of respondents would prefer to schedule technicians online instead of the call center. A client wants to have immediate scheduling, select a comfortable time for a service call, and get alerts in case of changes or delays.
  • Personalization. All Client’s data should be collected and stored in the system to be available to the technician who is assigned. This allows them to be properly prepared and have all the necessary parts with them.
  • Security. They want to feel more secure by getting info about technician (name, photo). Here is a curious statistics on this case:
User expectations
CSGI

 

 

Challenges of technicians:

  • Unoptimized routing that causes technicians to waste time and be late
  • Inaccurate assignment of jobs to the technician’s skills
  • No online access to client’s history and parts stock
  • No opportunity to alert of changed arrival time
  • An absence of communication with other technicians for advice, spare parts or help
  • Losing time on calls asking a dispatcher for details, or spare parts in stock

All challenges are linked and, as a rule, can be solved with the same features. As you identify the bottlenecks in your business that do not allow you to grow and increase your revenue, it’s time to discuss how to address these challenges with technology.

Features of a Field Service App

Dynamic Scheduling

Nowadays, when people value their time more than all other assets, there is nothing more irritating than waiting for a technician from 9 to 18 and he comes at 17:30. That is why people are willing to pay an extra fee for the opportunity to have a technician come at a convenient time. But instead of taking this additional money from them, you can increase their loyalty and rise above competitors if you make it a normal practice to schedule for a shorter period or even an exact time.

  • 64% of customers would never hire a company again if the technician was an hour or more late for a scheduled appointment.
  • 23% of customers wouldn’t rehire a company that was 30 minutes late.
  • 12% would never rehire a company that was 15 minutes late.

However, managing this can be a nightmare for a company that has to schedule multiple jobs taking into consideration such factors as starting location, road traffic, technician’s skills, the seriousness of the job, time of appointment, etc. Manual scheduling through the day can be an exhausting task especially if you have a large pool of specialists.

Using Dynamic Scheduling in your FSM, you can benefit from an automatic assignment of the right workers to jobs. The system will be able to combine the right skills to the level of job, geographical position and availability to optimize the process. The rules can be set so that they automatically re-assign technicians for more urgent tasks or in case a technician is sick.

For example, a client from the UK who deals with emergency lock services wanted an FSM system to address it’s scheduling challenges. We developed a desktop and mobile versions of the field service app for Android for both office and ‘field’ employees.

In essence, when there is a request for a job, a manager can check in the system what locksmiths are available and closest to the client via GPS, and assign them to the task.

The worker receives the job description, address, and photos on the mobile app via API. When the problem is fixed, he changes the status of the order and submits details and photos to the app. Thus, the process goes smoothly, without multiple calls between technician and office. This is a huge saving in time and effort.

locksmith system
Locallocksmith

Route Optimization

Using Google Maps, data about traffic, GPS location tracking, and the schedule of technicians the system can automatically create the most optimal route and edit it through the day, assigning the relevant incoming jobs instantly to fill the gaps in the schedule. Tracking a technician’s location can also prevent deviation from the route as well as prove if a technician is late due to a traffic jam.

“The biggest advance in routing technology is the emergence of the dynamic routing capabilities we see today,” said Colin Sutherland, executive vice president, sales & marketing for Geotab Inc. “This technology accounts for changing road conditions, weather conditions, and other valuable points of data, which are customizable based on business needs and priorities.”

route optimization
Optimoroute

 

Routing technology is a very useful feature that can minimize fuel consumption and increase the efficiency of your staff. All information about fuel consumption, idle time, and being late for an appointment can be collected in reports to analyze personnel performance and overall company weak points.

“What’s the most expensive or dangerous mile? The mile you didn’t need to run — if I can eliminate that mile, I can eliminate the fuel used, the labor cost, and the accident — the elimination of unnecessary miles drives so many benefits — fuel savings, labor savings, productivity improvements, customer satisfaction, and it’s also the safest mile, because you’re not doing something that shouldn’t be done,” said Frey of Telogis.

This is how you can benefit from the GPS tracking:

benefits of FSM
SoftwareAdvice

Real-Time Alerts

89% of consumers would use a mobile application like Uber to see where their service technician is and how soon he will arrive.

A contemporary customer wants to be notified of delays or cancellation of a technician’s visit so they can reschedule their plans for the day. The real-time alerts save time for technicians, managers, and clients and eliminate overall misunderstanding and frustration. Having data about the location of a technician or the progress of his current job allows the system to automatically adjust and send out notifications.

realtime alerts
Xfinity

Invoicing and Accounting

One of the frequent challenges of Field Services is a delay in invoicing. The necessity of coming back to the office to provide a report on jobs completed and to create invoices is inefficient and does not motivate anyone.

You and your employees will greatly appreciate the automatic invoice creation in the system that allows for the shortening of billing cycles. FSM allows you to say goodbye to paperwork. A technician can submit through mobile field service management all necessary information about the job, and the system will calculate the total price taking into account level of seriousness, types of jobs done, time spent, parts used, client’s discount, and warranties.

Thus, one of our clients from the Netherlands that deals with repairs and maintenance of robots in cattle farms was in need of an app to facilitate the process of invoicing. As the farms are located 200 miles or more from each other, inspectors were visiting them one by one and once a month or so delivered the results to the main office. Thus, the creation of invoices was always delayed.

farm robots
Pixabay

A new custom field services management app developed by Greenice changed this process. Now, the engineers can fulfill an inspection on the farm and instantly fill in the electronic service reports: robot conditions, provided repair, parts used, etc., and send reports to both the office and the farm’s owner. Managers can process the report and create the invoice to send it out to the client without delay.

FSM report
A part of electronic service report for used materials

 

CRM Knowledge Base

Having a database of your clients can significantly simplify your life. The CRM capabilities are limitless and allow you to collect and store data such as contacts, transactions statuses, invoices, client’s history, level of loyalty program, info about assigned technicians, reviews, electronic signature, etc.

Keeping and updating the data about your clients can save your employees a lot of time preparing for a visit as they can look through the details of previous visits and jobs already done and take all the necessary equipment and parts.

If a technician takes a leave or is sick and is replaced with someone else, the knowledge base allows a new technician to dive quickly into the case details and provide the expected level of service.

Having a CRM is a must for field services that work with third-party technicians. If they stop working with a contractor, they risk losing the client’s info as well.

It is a good practice to have an SLA compliance list and to make sure all technicians and especially contractors follow it. Checklists are one of the best ways to keep up the standards of your organization and ensure that your customers get the same quality level of service no matter who provides it: a full-time technician or a subcontractor.

Inventory Management

It is useful to be able to see the availability of specific parts in the warehouse, or if another technician near you has them in their truck. An Inventory Management system allows managers to order necessary parts in advance and at better prices. Depending on specifics of your niche, the system can be tailored to track the warranty terms, have notifications on timely technical service, repair or shortage of spare parts in stock.

inventory management
Miracle Service

Online Chat

Technicians should be able to communicate with other workers if they need advice or help from colleagues. For example, those who may work nearby and can assist or share spare parts and materials. Also, having a quick communication channel with managers can facilitate some processes as sending of videos, invoices, photos, attachments, or asking for a client’s previous job history.

Chat can also be used to communicate with clients when scheduling an appointment. For example, when managers may be unaware of the competence of their technicians on some issues, or it could be difficult to estimate the time of a job. Thus, a dispatcher may quickly add a technical expert to a chat session to get assistance in identifying the nature of the client’s problem. In the end, it may happen that an issue can be resolved with an online consultation without the necessity of going to the ‘field.’

Reports

For any business, it is vital to track performance and see what further steps are necessary for growth. Every organization can have their own measurements. However, for Field Service Management the most valuable KPIs are:

  • Customer Satisfaction – the percent of a customer’s positive experience with your services. To measure these and the two following KPIs you can use customer surveys to ask for their impressions after the technicians visit. If this rate is low, think of reducing manual work, route optimization and elimination of other obstacles that prevent better performance.
  • First-Time Fix Rate (FTFR) – the percentage of repairs that are resolved on the first customer site visit. The measurement depends on the success of the first visit to a client. If you see that this measure is getting down, you need to find out the reason. This can be because of an absence of necessary equipment or parts, inappropriate technician skills, bad scheduling, insufficient time to complete the repair during the first visit, plus other factors. Also, each next visit increases overall expenses. Improving your FTFR will lead to customer satisfaction increase and reduction of costs.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance is the measure that shows customer’s satisfaction with the service when their expectations meet the provider’s predefined standards. SLA can consist of technician’s punctuality, technician’s expertize level, availability of all necessary parts and equipment, first-time fix rates, warranty compliance, routine maintenance schedule completion, and other contracted services.
  • Workforce Utilization – the amount of time your technicians spends on the actual task versus idle time like other non-value-added activities, driving, phone calls, filling in reports and other documentation. To calculate the workforce utilization rate, you need to divide technician’s billable hours by total labor hours and multiply by 100%:

20 billable hours / 40 labor hours x 100%= 50% utilization rate

(This means that you are only using half of the working potential of your employed resources)

  • Number of Jobs Completed per Day shows the productivity of your service. This measure depends on your scheduling, route optimization, and other organizational questions. Alongside with this indicator, you can count the number of scheduled jobs to view the performance. It goes without saying that each additional order completed per day can significantly increase the overall income of the company.

Which is the best field service app: off-the-shelf or custom?

With so many ready-to-use solutions it is reasonable to ask why on earth build one more if you can use what exists?! You are not alone asking this question, but let’s look at facts!

1. There are so many solutions but which one will fit your needs?
Even if you read all the reviews and subscribed for a trial period, you still risk buying a pig in a poke. As a first step, almost any off-the-shelf app may be enough to satisfy your needs. However, as your business starts expanding, you may find yourself constrained with features and the inability to make changes or add new features. If you already use some CRM and want to integrate it with FSM, it may be impossible or very expensive. That is why it may be reasonable to start with a custom web development to escape painful and expensive data transfer in the future.

2. Which is cheaper: off-the-shelf or custom?
The cost range of canned solutions starts from zero to several thousand dollars. If we take an average price of $5-10/user/mo, and you have 50 to 100 employees, it means that your payment will be $250 – $1000 monthly, which is $3,000 – $12,000 per year!

Supposing that you use the system for more than one year, you can imagine how much will it cost you. When selecting a cheaper alternative, you agree for limited functionality.

We do not say that custom development from scratch is cheap. It is not, but it gives you such advantages as:

  • full ownership of code and database
  • the highest possible security of stored information
  • flexibility of changes and meeting the requirements that mirror exactly your business needs.

The price to create a field service app will depend on the scope of features and their complexity. But once you build the system, it stays yours forever regardless of the number of users and without a monthly fee. Development of an FSM may vary from 5 to 10 months depending on the volume of tasks and will cost you from $21,000 to $42,000. To make a field service mobile app may cost around $7,500 – $9,000 and will take 2-3 month.

How to Apply This to Your Business

To sum it up, the benefits of FMS can be visualized in a short formula:

Benefit of FSM = Increase of Efficiency + Operational Costs Reduction + Better Customer Experience

  • An increase of efficiency is gained as you introduce dynamic scheduling, online communication between “field” and office, and reduce the amount of routine manual tasks with automation.
  • Costs can be drastically reduced when you start tracking fuel consumption and optimize routing.
  • And the percent of satisfied customers can be increased by using personalization of services to know a client’s issue and their previous history, be well prepared and equipped with necessary parts and inventory, and provide real-time alerts to clients in case of changes in schedule.

When selecting between a ready-made application and custom mobile field service app development take into account your needs like feature scope, business processes specifics, integrations, and ownership.

Ready to make your field service more efficient?

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