What Is Telematics—and How Can It Improve Your Business?

By: on March 17, 2016

What is telematics?

If you’ve ever wondered this, you’re probably not alone. Despite the advantages of using telematics software with field positioning capabilities, our research shows that 70 percent of field service businesses still don’t have it.

This is a shocking statistic, given the major benefits field service systems have to offer. In this article, we’ll tell you more about these perks. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Telematics Software Brings Operation-Wide Benefits
What Type of Telematics System Do You Need?
Telematics Systems Grow Your Bottom Line

Telematics Software Brings Operation-Wide Benefits

To answer the question “What is telematics?”, we turn Gartner Inc.: an industry-leading technology consultancy and Software Advice’s parent company. Gartner defines telemetrics as:

“The use of wireless devices and ‘black box’ technologies to transmit data in real time back to an organization. Typically, it’s used in the context of automobiles, whereby installed or after-factory boxes collect and transmit data on vehicle use, maintenance requirements or automotive servicing.”

Gartner IT Glossary

The word “telematics” is the merger of tele and matics: short for “telecommunications” and “informatics.” A telematics system records information about vehicles. It can then send, receive, process and store this information via telecommunications channels (i.e., GPS and cellular).

Telematics systems record data on driving habits, including:

  • Average speeds
  • Accelerations
  • Braking tendencies
  • Speeds at which turns are taken
  • Fuel usage
  • Idle times
  • Location

This data is invaluable for monitoring your mobile employees, technicians and other drivers. Armed with telematics information, you can keep employees accountable and incentivize them to improve driving habits.

What Type of Telematics System Do You Need?

Many field service management software systems offer a variety of telematics capabilities. These telematics tools typically integrate with scheduling and dispatching, giving the back office valuable transparency into the daily whereabouts of on-the-go employees.

If your business focuses more on the management and maintenance of a fleet, you might want to choose a full-fledged fleet management system.

While these platforms may lack the operational capabilities of field service software (e.g., customer management, work order management), they often have as many—if not more—telematics tools. And fleet software includes additional preventative maintenance capabilities to handle the care and management of vehicle fleets.

It’s important you fully understand your telematics needs when shopping for a system. You don’t want to end up paying for more than you need, or to struggle with an underperforming system.

This was the subject of a recent webinar, hosted by Field Technologies Online and featuring Fleetmatics, a telematics cloud provider:

Matt Portner is director of strategic accounts at Fleetmatics. In the webinar, he highlights the importance of reviewing and analyzing various telematics solutions to find the best one for your needs:

“Focus on what drives results for your specific business. Everybody is doing [telematics] a little bit different[ly]. The configuration of the product may be different. How you are going to use it? What users and functions are going to be involved in that, from dispatchers to administrators to managers?

Matt Portner, director of strategic accounts at Fleetmatics

Fleetmatics’ live map
 

A good place to start is by defining your pain points and the goals you hope to achieve. This allows you to easily see how the platforms you’re evaluating stack up.

Joe Marcotte, product manager at Fleetmatics, says an important consideration when making your decision is how the software and its data will be used during day-to-day operations.

You can evaluate whether a platform’s telematics capabilities will match your needs at an operational level by asking vendors:

  • What functional areas their system performs best in
  • Which metrics and other features their clients use most
  • What additional capabilities the system offers

In addition to day-to-day operational capabilities, ensure the telematics system you choose offers fuel reduction tools and metrics. These can include measuring average speeds, suggesting optimized routes and monitoring idle times.

Fuel reductions are, as Marcotte puts it, the easiest benefits to reap from telematics systems. Not to mention, lowering fuel costs is hugely impactful for any organization with mobile assets:

“Even with low [fuel] prices right now, a fuel-saving culture is important for fluctuation in the future. [Fuel reductions] can come in many forms, so make sure you’re getting the full picture of what fuel reduction metrics are being measured: It could be a combination of idling, harsh driving, fuel card abuse, etc.”

Telematics Systems Grow Your Bottom Line

Our research shows telematics systems can provide unparalleled benefits. For example, a survey of field service business owners who use software with GPS tracking—which is a form of telematics—reveals the following:

 

Revenue-Boosting Benefits of Telematics
for Field Service Operations

This data clearly shows that using telematics systems can help stretch your company’s bottom line.

“A driver-centric, operations-focused solution can have a really huge impact on field productivity and service delivery, if it’s utilized correctly,” Marcotte adds.

Our data affirms Marcotte’s sentiment: First on our list, improved punctuality is crucial for sustaining repeat business. The previously mentioned report indicates 64 percent of field service customers won’t rehire you if you’re an hour or more late to an appointment.

Completing more work orders per day has an obvious positive impact: Work orders translate to revenue, so more work orders equals more money.

As for spending less time traveling from job to job, this adds to an overall increase in productivity. It also saves on fuel costs.

Marcotte’s emphasis on operations is highlighted in the final data point on the chart: Resolving more issues on the first service call is a result of improved organization and greater insight when assigning jobs.

Many field service management systems provide information about the skill sets of each mobile technician and the equipment they have available in their vehicle. Utilizing these features allows dispatchers to schedule employees who are well-equipped to handle the job at hand.

As Portner emphasizes, these positive impacts make telematics software invaluable: “Get focused on ROI and stay focused on ROI. You’ll be really glad you did in the end.”

Next Steps

Hopefully, you’ve gained a better understanding of telematics and how beneficial this technology can be to your service company. These systems help reduce losses and stretch your bottom line.

Still, it can be a challenge to decide which platform is right for you. Here are some ways we can help with your selection process:

  • Take our free service software questionnaire. Do you need a fleet management system, or formal field service software? Take our free questionnaire to define your individual needs and shrink your options.
  • Talk to a Software Advice telematics expert at (855) 998-8505. Our Advisors will work with you to determine what sort of telematics system you require, then provide the best options to suit your needs.

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