There are a million and one ways to schedule field service work. It may come as no surprise (and you may even be in this situation) that over half of all field service organizations—52% to be exact, according to FSM market tracker, FinancesOnline—still rely on manual processes to carry out service work. Every time I think about that statistic it makes me cringe, because I know there are much better ways to utilize the never-going-to-get-it-back-once-it’s-wasted, time.
I decided it was time to put together a quick list of best practices for improved field service management scheduling.
Get Organized with a Centralized Schedule View
Let’s start at the most important best practice: organization. You need to know what your field workforce is doing, when they are doing it and where they are doing it. If you have a centralized schedule view that shows you everything you need for the day or week, this will make your life so much easier.
Employ Skill Tags Whenever Possible
Service work can vary by job, industry or time of day. Variability means your field workers may not all have the same necessary skills to complete the work. A wasted effort I see time and time again is sending a worker on a call when they do not have the right skills.
Skill tags are a quick, effortless way of ensuring the right worker to the right job. In the case of Field Squared software, you can easily add skills, certifications, qualifications or specific training on any field worker. It’s a painless process but one that will reap the benefits of increased efficiency and improved first time fix rates.
Assign the Nearest or Next Available Technician
In field service, it comes with the territory that service calls may shift, technicians may run behind or emergency work orders come in. Now, you could spend your day manually shifting schedules around to accommodate daily field work schedule changes. Or, you can automate it.
Scheduling automation can happen at a number of points in your process, including:
- Automated status notifications to customers that a technician is running late.
- Notifications from the field to operations management that the worker can’t make a call or is out sick, allowing operations to review the schedule and assign someone else.
- For emergency work orders, assigning the nearest or next available technician may be the way to go. This would leverage the aforementioned skill tags, as well as field workforce location tracking via GPS, to check for the best possible technician to send to the job. If the field service management software has inventory management, you would also ensure the technician has the right parts and equipment to complete the job.
Use an Interactive Map
Sometimes the simplest solution is to go to the map. Real-time field workforce location tracking yields a wealth of information for effective field service scheduling.
To start, you gain visibility into service operations (i.e., where technicians are, are they where they are supposed to be, a historical replay of their day, is someone speeding) to help enforce safety and compliance.
Maps also provide other contextual information to help plan schedules in advance. Traffic patterns are an example of something you can’t control, but you can schedule field work around. Why send a technician to a non-emergency job during rush hour? Schedule around it.
If you manage internal or customer-owned assets, a map view allows you to see where assets are located. Additional tools like color-coding assets (i.e., red, yellow, green) to denote anything from range validations to required upcoming/overdue maintenance, provides a strong visual representation that something needs attention. The burden of then prioritizing field service schedules is reduced and you can move to other projects.
Employ Route Optimization Tools
You may be familiar with the story of how UPS drastically reduced drive time while slashing fuel costs just by reducing the number of left turns their drivers took on a route.
The concept of route optimization plays a major role in making improvements to field service scheduling. Here at Field Squared, we conducted our own analysis of how route optimization saves significant time using a property management company that was setting field service schedules by hand. You can read the full blog here, but, briefly, a 6-day workweek was reduced to a 5-day workweek simply by applying route optimization. And that’s just one small example.
If you have no other tool at your fingertips, use schedule route optimization.
Provide Turn-by-Turn Directions
When I started compiling a list of best practices for field service management scheduling, I did not initially have turn-by-turn directions on my list. I had expected this was just something every field worker had access to. The truth is, they don’t.
Sure, some field workers use their phone’s built-in map app to get driving directions, but there is an even better way if you have the right software. Our field service mobile application that your field workforce would use comes standard with capabilities to provide your teams with turn-by-turn directions. At least in our case, it’s a native feature that does not require the worker to have multiple applications or to switch out of the software; it’s in-app like for ease of use.
All in all, this is was quick list of best practices for field service management scheduling. Making small improvements should be a goal you have. Really, there is no need to boil the ocean. With that said, what small change will you make today to improve field service schedules at your organization?
Image Source: Unsplash by Keith Misner