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Mobility: Focus on Field Service

If we closely observe the traffic in our cities, we see people commuting to and fro from their offices and you can associate a set pattern to this routine. There will be congestions on all major roads of the cities during peak hours both in the morning and the evenings when people return back to their homes. But, there is a big section of these commuters who travel the entire day frequenting various places which fall under their zones. These people are the field service engineers who can be our cable operators, furniture carpenters, electricians, equipment maintenance guys, etc.

Today's customer is WE. Just analyze our daily way of living and we realize that due to a fast paced life, most of us want instant solution to all our problems. Why would our customer be any different?  Speaking in particular for field service, today's customer want accurate and more specific appointment times, faster resolution and more importantly the best possible one.

I felt mobility in more ways than one has definitely given a breath of fresh air to this segment. Hence I wanted to dedicate this blog of mine to a typical Field service Engineer. I will try to cover the following:

1) Challenges faced by a field service personal in managing their daily engagements
2) Possibilities provided due to adoption of mobility solutions
3) Benefits achieved

In today's challenging business landscape where companies are grappling with recessionary pressures, facing hits on their top line and bottom lines, finding it difficult to manage the impact due to reduced  customer spending, an average organization tries to manage multiple facets of their customer interaction whether it be phone, web, email or physical visit to the customer site. Field service holds a distinct place as it simply gets impacted by more than one external factors, hence affecting the performance of the on-field work force and hampering the operational efficiencies. I have tried to outline the day to day challenges that a typical Mr. A faces when he leaves his office at 10 AM to address the open issues assigned to him:

a. Long Travel times and delay in customer visits(especially so in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, New york, Heathrow, or any other major cities in the world)
b. Zero or limited optimization and often manual allocation of locations to travel to
c. Limited access to the customer or product knowledge base which assists him/her to address the customer complaint better
d. Remote locations impacting the connectivity if they are using any wireless devices with access to applications
e. Difficulty in capturing any particular detail of the case on hand and then feeding it into the system when they return to office
f. Difficulty in managing the follow up calls and entering the assigned tasks and tracking activities on the calendar
g. Longer Invoice to Payment cycle because of lot of manual bottlenecks in the workflow such as capturing the service details in the system only when the technician or the engineer is back to the base location
h. Limited options available for cross selling and on the fly offers to the customer   

Mobility: What does it have to offer?

Mobility solutions offered by leading field service vendors are having some key features:
a. Applications for laptops, tablets and smartphones
b. Options for both online and offline mode to handle work at remote locations with limited connectivity
c. Capabilities to integrate with 3rd party apps such as credit card readers to enhance customer experience
d. Compatibility with all commonly used Mobile OS such as Blackberry OS, Apple's iOS, Android from Google etc., and windows from Microsoft
e. Remote access to locally stored data for easy access
f. Possibility to integrate or use in-built GPS capabilities for better route tracking and management with maneuvering
g. Rich graphical user interface
h. Consistent UI across the interfaces, thanks to technologies such as HTML 5

The features or capabilities listed above are truly revolutionary in nature and enable the service and technology professionals to avail the following benefits:
1. An exhaustive customer view at all times to sift through the available information, past history of the case, comments from other engineers if applicable, and details about the solutions offered to the customer in the past
2. Opportunity to cross sell with offers that can be shown to a happy customer making him/her even more happy
3. Better brand image and customer satisfaction guaranteeing repeat business or customer retention ( More important in these times when a new account acquisition has become costlier)
4. Reduction in response times, allow the engineer to manage customer visits, and eliminating scenarios where SLAs are failed resulting in penalties
5. Real time or near real time access to organization's knowledge base, such as articles, videos, access to inventory and stock, past case history, peer collaboration
6. Support for signature capture at run time, assisting generation of invoices and faster route to that all important dollar

All in all, if we converge the points that I discussed above, we can see a customer who is happy at the end of the experience, a customer who will be eager to come back to you rather than your competitor and one who will open his wallet for you, because retail therapy is still very effective in "Such times".

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