Selecting and implementing field service management software is a tall task for service businesses. There are a ton of capabilities, requirements and vendor specifics to consider before making a selection.
To help, we’re highlighting three must-have field service management software features to look for in a new system. We’ve identified these features as must-have through an analysis of the many conversations we have every day with small, independent field service businesses like yours.
Then, we’re taking it a step further and laying out important vendor criteria presented in a Gartner field service study, “Best Practices in Selecting Field Service Applications,” written by William McNeill, Michael Maoz and Gordon Van Huizen (this content is available to Gartner clients).
Armed with this advice, you can make sure your new system checks all the right boxes, and you’ll be set up for newfound efficiency and success.
(Click on a link below to jump to that section.)
Arrive on Time With Scheduling and Dispatch
First on our list of must-have field service management software features: scheduling and dispatch. This is the central hub of day-to-day operations. Mobile technicians plan their day around their schedule, and dispatchers rely on communication tools to quickly update job orders and assignments.
It’s no surprise then that 91 percent of the field service businesses we’ve talked to in the past year specifically request scheduling and dispatch features.
Our report on HVAC scheduling features identifies three scheduling and dispatch capabilities that would serve any field service business well. These are:
- Smart scheduling: Enables dispatchers to change-up schedules on the fly and have technicians automatically updated. Also sorts technicians by expertise, availability etc. for assigning new jobs.
- Text notifications: Text notifications in this example are customer-facing and can be used as a service reminder as well as a notification either that a technician is close or needs to reschedule.
- In-vehicle telematics: Keep track of mobile employees throughout their day so you can quickly assign the most closely located technicians to emergency jobs. Also enables monitoring compliance.
The success or failure of your scheduling and dispatch processes have a direct impact on the customer experience. Customers value their time, and you should too—especially if you want repeat customers.
Our consumer field service study discovered that 67 percent of field service customers won’t rehire your business if you’re an hour late to an appointment.
As the data shows, if you want to build a loyal customer base, your technicians must be punctual and hit their appointment times.
Improve Customer Communications With Contact Management
Our second must-have field service management software feature is contact management. This feature offers many of the same capabilities as customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
You can use contact management to reach out to specific groups of customers and set up automated messaging.
It’s apparent that your peers see the value in contact management features, as 82 percent are specifically requesting that it be part of their field service management systems.
The streamlining of customer communications offers users hugely impactful operational efficiencies. Rather than using employee hours to send out messages, you can set up automatic emails, store and manage contact info and segment customers (based on duration since their last job, location etc.)
Depending on how advanced the capabilities are, contact management functionality found in field service management software can include:
- Automated communication: Notify customers automatically to remind them of their scheduled service or to schedule repeat services, such as lawnscaping, HVAC checkup etc.
- Customer segmentation: Group customers into segments based on geographical location, type of service, time since last job etc. to execute targeted communications.
- Email marketing campaign management: Set up successful email marketing campaigns by tracking when emails are opened, when customers click through emails to your site etc.
Some systems take automated communications a step further and actually enable technicians and dispatchers to send updated arrival times if they’re going to be later than planned.
As we saw in the previous section, being late can be detrimental for a service company. Just communicating effectively and keeping customers in the loop can curb the negative effects of being tardy.
So much so that nearly three-quarters of customers say they’re more likely to rehire a tardy service company if they’re notified of the time change and kept in the loop.
Stay Organized With Work Order Management
If scheduling and dispatch are the central hub of your day-to-day operations, work orders are the information that passes through that hub.
Every time a dispatcher sets a technician’s schedule or dispatches out an emergency job, they are relaying work order information to technicians. That’s a lot of information to relay so frequently, so most field service companies use some form of paper or digital input to record and track work orders.
Just as with manually emailing a thousand customers individually, managing work orders by hand is simply impractical. This explains why formal work order management capabilities are our third must-have field service management software feature.
With a work order management system in place, you can send digital forms containing everything your technicians in the field need to know about their next job. Once a job is complete, technicians can go into the system and update the status of the work order.
As an example, a technician may go out to clean a customer’s air vents (and this is stated as the objective of the work order). However, upon inspection, the technician discovers a bigger issue with the A/C unit’s cooling mechanism.
Using work order management software features, the technician could either close out the first work order and submit a new one for fixing the cooling mechanism, or the cooling mechanism problem could be tacked onto the existing work order, from the field.
There are multiple ways to approach the use of your work order management system, but they all pretty much rely on the same capabilities:
- Record job details: Record customer information and details of customer issues so that technicians are well-informed for the job.
- Track job status: Dispatchers and other back-office employees can track when technicians complete each job during the day.
- Mobile forms: Enable technicians to formally record notes on valuable job and customer information as well as potentially open or extend work orders for unseen issues.
Imagine having all these efficient capabilities at your disposal. You could get rid of all your filing cabinets and quit worrying about not getting paid because you lost a work order form.
Ensure Your Vendor Meets These Crucial Requirements
Now you know the field service management features your peers value most, so we thought we’d conclude the article by offering some insights on evaluating vendors. Why? Even if a vendor offers all the features you need in a system, that doesn’t guarantee it’s a good fit.
What if you have to mortgage everything you own to afford the license? Or, what if the software doesn’t support your system requirements? Or, what if the vendor has a terrible reputation of offering shoddy service and support to customers?
These are all things to keep in mind, according to the Gartner study by analysts William McNeill, Michael Maoz and Gordon Van Huizen (this content is available to Gartner clients). They’ve found that the most important criteria field service companies use for choosing a new field service system are the vendor’s:
- Service and support offerings
A great way to determine whether a vendor possesses these qualities is by reading reviews from your field service peers who’ve used the systems in question. Here are just a couple great insights from reviews left on our site for field service management vendors MHelpDesk, ServiceMax and Wintac software:
Where Do You Go From Here?
Now that you know what features and vendor qualities to look for, it’s time to select your new system. But how do you do that?
- Again, learn about the vendors you have in mind by reading our many user reviews on today’s best field service systems.
- Here at Software Advice, we’ve literally built a business by helping independent, small business software buyers like you make the best selection. If you want additional guidance after reading this, just answer a couple questions here and get some vendor price quotes!
- If you’re replacing an existing system and have feedback about any field service management software systems you’ve used, visit the product profile, click the “write a review” button at the top and share your experience with others.