Unprecedented. That’s the word used to describe our current environment. Now is a time that the majority of us have never experienced before and hopefully will never have to endure again during our lifetime. Specifically, for field service businesses, of which many are considered essential, there are no established rules to follow when it comes to past experience.
The composition of the U.S. economy over the early twentieth century, for instance, was entirely different than the economic composition of the early twenty-first century we live in now. WWI raged on, Henry Ford rolled out the first assembly line and the Wright Brothers took the first flight. Today, these are well-established industries, making way for new inventions over the past 100 years that have reshaped the world in which we live. Entire industries have come and gone since.
What remains the same throughout history is humans conducting mobile work. Be it in the actual field or maintaining an asset in a factory, we have always relied on humans to conduct field service work.
For service businesses large and small, it can be daunting to approach how to plan field work, determine which services are essential, steps to take to effectively socially distance, and what additional safety protocols to put in place during a pandemic. It’s not an easy task, especially when the average operations manager is juggling multiple activities and field workers are busy completing work orders. To help, we put together a blueprint for field work during a pandemic. We hope this helps you better manage and plan for uncertainty across your field operations.
Provide Enhanced Safety and Health Guidelines as Mobile Checklists
To ensure employee health and safety, adhering to CDC guidelines or those of your local government, means creating an established list of protocols your organization will maintain.
Out in the field, you can supply field workers with a mobile form that includes a health and safety checklist. This can be an internal form that each worker completes at the start of each day, for instance, and is automatically emailed to the human resources officer, safety officer or operations manager, whomever is in charge of ensuring the health and safety of your field workforce.
An advanced method is to add rules and logic to the forms that prompt the worker to answer questions based upon the answer to the previous question. For example, logic on a question could be as follows:
The form can also be enabled with an out of range temperature that alerts management when the worker completes the form.
Additional checklist criteria may include personal protective equipment required:
- Face mask
- Face shield
- Protective suit
Such protocols aim to help keep field workers safe.
Plan and Schedule Work Using an Interactive Map
If you have the option in the field service management software you use, leverage a map view to plan and schedule work orders. Viewing job locations on an interactive map provides the ability to be aware of and/or avoid areas of outbreak. You can also check drive time, typical traffic or construction projects to steer (no pun intended) clear of.
It also helps to see in real-time where field workers are located. If someone needs help, you can easily schedule the nearest technician with the right skills and parts on-hand.
Truly Socially Distance with Collaboration Tools
It may seem like social distancing is a given for a field workforce, but that is not always the case. There are instances where a field worker must interact with a peer, management or a customer.
When social distancing is possible, real-time field service collaboration will be your team’s best kept secret. Proper collaboration tools include the ability to:
- Easily troubleshoot an issue in a one-on-one or group conversation
- Send a link directly to a work order and other pertinent details
- Create team-wide messages as a push notification, so everyone is on the same page
Go Fully Paperless
There are very few reasons to use paper in the field today. In fact, the only case is if a customer requires a paper receipt or invoice. Other than that, paper is another vector to potentially spread disease.
Even before this pandemic paper has been problematic for service businesses. For one, not everyone has great handwriting. On a paper form, the field collected data may be illegible, leading to inaccurate data entry or collection–by an office staff member or field staff. Paper is also very easy to lose track of when traveling from work site to work site.
I have been in this space for some time now and I am still surprised how many customers we have helped capture otherwise lost revenue from paper invoices gone missing or that contain inaccurate information.
It should be part of your plan to integrate third-party systems with the field service software you utilize in a further attempt to eliminate paper-based processes.
Keep up with Regular Maintenance Activities, Automatically
A pandemic means one should avoid unnecessary travel. That holds true for essential field service businesses as well. Oftentimes, assets need repair, equipment necessitates updates or regular maintenance is required and businesses deploy a field worker without knowing when the last service occurred.
Not just during a pandemic but from a best business practices standpoint, employ service scheduling software that offers the ability to schedule future maintenance activities, including recurring work, at a date/time you specify. The best software will enable you to schedule a work order series, so you know exactly when future service is needed.
Communicate Frequently with Employees, from the Office to the Field
Uncertain, challenging times present a great challenge for many organizations, but perhaps more so for field service businesses. As I have said, many field services are essential. So, while many people around the world are safe at home, field-based workers are out-and-about, in the thick of it. Experiencing anxiety and depression for the first time in someone’s life happens during such times as these, where we are all under tremendous stress.
The plan you come up with and ultimately adopt should contain a section specifically for communicating with employees. From the office to the field, the best way to keep employees engaged is through continuous communication.
Further improve the employee experience through a company mechanism to provide feedback (i.e., what is working, what could be improved). Allow employees to ask questions of management. Be open to simply talking things through with anyone who could use it.
At the end of the day, there are many things organizations can do today to help grow stronger tomorrow. This blueprint for field service work during a pandemic is a start that we hope will help as your organization navigates these unprecedented times.
With the right field service management software, you can future proof your business. It’s easy to get started. Field Squared is cloud-based, implemented and delivered online. Get a demo and see how we can help your service organization manage operations today.