Myriad vendors offer field service management solutions, and different systems address the needs of different types and sizes of businesses, from small pest control or maid service companies to global enterprises in industries such as communications or manufacturing. We’ve written this buyer's guide for buyers who want to understand this complex market.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
If you have ever waited from noon to 6 pm for a representative to appear, you know the importance of a good system. This mobile field service software category helps companies schedule and track outside operations. For representatives, it provides schedules, routes, customer information and information regarding necessary supplies and parts. Managers can schedule outside agents and resources, track customer history and manage work orders.
Core functions include trouble ticketing, repair center, order management, SLA compliance tracking, resource scheduling, dispatching, route planning, parts inventory management, contract management, partner management and forecasting and reporting. Advanced programs feature mobile support, failure analysis, RMA management, voice-generated customer appointment reminders and project management.
In the customer support spectrum, these systems expand on help desk (HD) systems and overlaps customer support systems. HD systems provide applications for trouble ticketing and directed problem resolution but do not offer field-related functionality. Customer support systems may provide scheduling and inventory management or may integrate to a complete system. Some solutions also focus exclusively on one function, service dispatch software, for example.
Before starting your research, you’ll need to assess what kind of buyer you are. We believe 90 percent or more of buyers fall into one of the following categories:
Direct buyers. These buyers work for firms that maintain their own unit. They have straightforward needs which are addressed by a wide range of providers.
Contract buyers. These buyers work for firms that contract out work. These buyers have special requirements for passing work requests, tracking request fulfillment and tracking customer satisfaction.
Enterprise buyers. These buyers work for large organizations. These buyers may have multiple fleets and they place a premium on integrating information across units and with the customer support organization.
Small business buyers. These buyers work for small businesses moving beyond Microsoft Outlook, spreadsheets or even whiteboards and sticky notes, and want to add FSM capabilities for planning orders and tracking customer satisfaction.
Every year, Software Advice talks to hundreds of field service software buyers, which provides us unparalleled insight into their motivations for investing in new technology. Recently, we analyzed a random sample of these interactions with companies evaluating field service systems to uncover the following trends. Click here for the full report.
Reduce scheduling costs. One of the big costs is the actual scheduling of calls. Manual systems needed to leave large “windows” for appointments and allow ample time between scheduled stops. These systems can schedule appointments more densely and reduce travel times through intelligent routing.
Increase customer satisfaction. Systems can increase customer satisfaction in three ways. First, they can state more precise arrival times for technicians. Second, they can predict the tools and parts that a rep will need. Third, they can allow the customer to pick the most convenient appointment time.
Reduce parts inventory costs. Systems can analyze history files to predict which parts will fail on what schedule. Companies can use this information to more accurately manage part inventories to reduce costs.
Reduce fuel costs. Intelligent route planning is a feature of most systems. It calculates the most efficient way for sales agents to drive to their appointments. This can dramatically reduce mileage and consequently fuel costs.
But there are two potential issues. The first is obvious: there is a potential to over-schedule reps, which decreases both their effectiveness and level of job satisfaction, and also decreases customer satisfaction since appointments are missed. The second problem is more typical of enterprise software; proper implementation, change management and adoption is required for customers to realize the true benefits.
Mobile. When Microsoft introduced the Tablet PC version of Windows in 2001, field work organizations were listed as a market. More than a decade later, mobile support is available for all major mobile and tablet platforms from Blackberry, Android and iPhones to iPads and Windows 7 tablets.
Software as a Service (SaaS). Many vendors now offer cloud-based products, typically through a monthly subscription plan.
Web-based interfaces. Reps and managers can interact with Web-enabled systems at the office or on the road. Web-based tools can also let partners access the systems and can even allow customers to schedule their own appointments.
Customer support consolidation. Vendors are including more functionality directly in CRM and service/support software. For example, Microsoft Dynamics CRM lets agents generate a trouble ticket, set an appointment, create an order, and dispatch a rep. Once the rep has completed the work, the order is closed, which closes the trouble ticket.
Oracle acquires TOA Technologies. In July 2014, Oracle announced the acquisition of leading field service SaaS TOA Technologies (TOA). TOA’s real-time field service management software will be integrated into Oracle Service Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud Solution. Prior to the merger, TOA was featured on Force.com., Salesforce’s platform as a service (PaaS) offering.
Apple and IBM partner to transform enterprise mobility. In July 2014, Apple and IBM announced their partnership. Big data behemoth IBM will build business applications exclusively for iOS, providing business operators with access to top-level data analytics and apps on the same mobile devices they use everyday.
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