Every year, Software Advice works with thousands of professionals in search of the right field service software for their business. This gives us unparalleled insight into the needs of today’s software buyers.
We recently analyzed a random sample of these interactions from the past year to learn buyers’ biggest pain points and what features and functionality they want most in new field service software. We also spoke to Vele Galovski, vice president of field service research at Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), for additional insight into the trends we uncovered.
- Fifty-four percent of buyers are currently using paper, whiteboards and other manual methods such as Excel and Quickbooks to handle all of their field service needs.
- The most desired functionality included scheduling (81 percent), routing and dispatching (66 percent) and integration with other systems (66 percent).
- Ninety-seven percent of buyers preferred one integrated suite with multiple applications and functions, as opposed to separate, best-of-breed solutions.
Most Buyers Using Paper and Spreadsheets
When asked what they are currently using to support their field service operations, a majority of buyers said they were either using manual methods, such as paper or whiteboards, or using simple software such as Excel or Quickbooks to manage their business (54 percent).
The second most popular answer was commercially available field service software—but that only represented 12 percent of buyers. Galovski believes this has to do with the small size of the companies in the sample.
“The size of the company, and where they are in the [purchasing] life cycle, would help explain why they are using manual methods,” Galovski says. “I think a lot of smaller companies try to get by with what they have or what they are familiar with in the beginning.”
Prospective Buyers’ Current Methods
Enough of our sample was using one method, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system or paper, combined with Quickbooks that it deserves to be noted (10 percent). These findings are in line with Galovski’s experience with startups.
“The last two companies, early stage startups that I was working with, did exactly that,” Galovski says. “They started with Quickbooks, then they purchased Salesforce to help manage the sales pipeline and to improve revenue performance—and then they quickly had to integrate with services and the delivery component.
Invariably, this puts pressure on finding an updated financial platform that would connect with the CRM or field service management product that they were using.”
With field service buyers needing many functions to operate their business, and given that only 15 percent of our sample was using dedicated field service software, it is no surprise that one of the biggest pain points among our buyers was that their current solution is missing necessary features (37 percent).
Top Reasons for Software Purchases
Integrated Scheduling, Routing and Dispatching Desired
Our field service buyers had many needs in terms of their software’s functionality, with scheduling (81 percent), routing and dispatching (66 percent), integration with other systems (66 percent) and work order management (62 percent) taking priority. Galovski says scheduling, routing and dispatching are especially important for small field-service businesses.
“If the companies are in [the] early-stage startup phase, dispatching the right field service engineer to the right job with the right skills, [minimizing] travel time and [knowing] where everyone is are all important, because [the companies] may not have a lot of people,” Galovski says.
Top-Requested Field Service Software Functionality
In fact, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report, field service industries such as fixed-line telephone service, subscription television service and Internet service providers rank near the bottom in terms of customer satisfaction—with “unreliable service” being a main factor.
Thus, being able to schedule, route and dispatch technicians efficiently through dedicated field service software can help companies avoid these dreaded customer service pitfalls.
Some other desired applications and features that stood out included the ability to do billing and invoicing (a combined 69 percent); CRM, including contact management and appointment notes (51 percent) and mobile/tablet access (24 percent).
CRM functionality is especially important today, as technicians are being pushed more to turn the field service appointment into a value-added experience.
When it comes to the solution itself, field service buyers overwhelmingly (97 percent) wanted an integrated suite—which includes multiple applications—to manage their business, as opposed to individual “best-of-breed” applications to meet specific needs.
Companies are seeking a solution that can handle the entire field service life cycle, which can become complicated over time.
Pest Control Buyers Have No Clear Deployment Preference
Looking specifically at the $12 billion pest control segment, it’s interesting to note that, besides the healthcare services segment (represented by just one buyer in our sample), pest control had the highest percentage of buyers with no deployment preference (81 percent), meaning they did not care whether their solution was Web-based or on-premise.
This was 25 percentage points higher than the 56 percent average of all segments that had no deployment preference.
Buyers With No Deployment Preference by Segment
Most Buyers Are Small Companies With 10 Employees or Less
The buyers looking for field service software in our sample were from incredibly small companies. Most of the companies had 10 employees or less (a combined 55 percent), and only 7 percent of companies had over 100 employees. Additionally, a majority of the buyers in our sample had less than $1 million in annual revenue (53 percent).
These findings were reflected in the number of users that the companies estimated would be using the software. Sixty-nine percent of companies estimated that their required software would only need to handle less than 10 users.
Demographics: Prospective Buyer Size by Number of Employees
Demographics: Prospective Buyer Size by Annual Revenue
Demographics: Prospective Buyer Size byNumber of Users
Buyers Represent a Variety of Segments
We had 23 different segments of the field service industry represented in our sample, with most of the buyers coming from heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC, at 12 percent), cleaning services (11 percent) and commercial equipment companies (11 percent). But many other segments also represented a significant percentage of the whole.
Demographics: Prospective Buyers by Segment
“You’ll always have some degree of customization, but the basics can go a long way,” Galovski says. For any field service business, he explains, when something goes wrong, a technician must be dispatched to fix it:
“They have to travel there; they fix it; they close out the order, and then they go on to the next job. The basics are the basics.”
Field Service Buyers Want Solutions Sooner Rather Than Later
In terms of the time frame in which field service buyers were looking to make the switch to a new solution, the majority (a combined 74 percent) wanted new software in place within three months.
Prospective Buyers’ Time Frames for Implementation
With 57 percent of incoming service calls in a 2013 report requiring a field visit, it is vital that companies have an efficient software solution to keep track of their workforces and handle the long and complex service life cycle.
The field service industry is filled with buyers looking to combine all of the functionality they desire—from scheduling and routing to customer relationship management and accounting—into one, integrated suite.
Both in-office employees and field technicians will be using this solution, so having a Web-based solution that is accessible through a mobile device is also becoming more and more important.
Software Advice regularly speaks with buyers who contact us seeking new field service software. To create this report, we randomly selected 375 of these phone interactions from 2013 and 2014 to analyze. These findings exclusively represent those buyers who contacted Software Advice for guidance on software selection, and may not be indicative of the market as a whole.
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