Without the proper systems and standards in place, field service feels a bit like the 1600’s when explorers sailed off into the unknown. Ok, maybe it’s a little less serious than that, but there are some similarities. You send the field service mechanic off with a list of tasks and hope for the best.
To illustrate this point, here’s a quick story from a recent rental branch visit with a customer who does not use a field service tool:
A customer called the front desk of the branch asking about an equipment repair. The mechanic still hadn’t stopped by yet and the customer was wondering where he was at. Not good!
At the branch, the questions began to flood in. Where was the mechanic? Has he sent any recent updates? Did anyone at HQ even send him an email about the service request? Was he lost?
There were a lot of questions with no answers. Even worse, there weren’t any answers for the customer that had been patiently waiting for someone to fix the equipment they needed for their project. What a mess.
We’re in 2024! We have modern technology like software, internet, email, and phones. With a touch of a button, we know the exact status and position of our pizza order, but we can’t find our field people? There shouldn’t be this large of a disconnect between your field service mechanics, branch teams, and customers.
Let’s look at 5 tips for your team to consider for better field service. We’ll also introduce some exciting new capabilities coming out of our development team related to field service.
5 tips for improving field service operations:
1. Prioritize preventative maintenance
If equipment doesn’t break, field services is not needed. If you’re noticing a large influx of equipment breakdowns, it might be time to investigate your preventative maintenance procedures.
Almost all equipment comes with a preventative maintenance schedule. It’s important to add this schedule to your service team’s priority list. Understandably, this is difficult to manage with thousands of pieces of different types of equipment. That’s where a robust platform like Service Solution helps.
2. Develop communication and status update SOPs
In our story above, the branch team was in the dark on where the field mechanic’s location. A simple geo-location check-in from the mechanic alleviates much of the confusion in the story we shared.
This is where standard SOPs save the day. A good place to start with SOPs is with routine check-ins from mechanics on their status and location, especially when they complete or arrive at a stop. This isn’t just being big brother. These check-ins improve safety.
3. Optimize routing and scheduling
Route planning and scheduling increase the efficiency and productivity of your field service team. It’s important to have a highly trained and talented team making the right scheduling and routing decisions. These are not always natural skills in the incoming labor-force, so training is important. Consider taking another look at how this team operates and if some additional training might be beneficial. Teaching Lean manufacturing waste elimination principles will help team members identify improvement areas.
Supplementing the team with software tools optimizes the assignment of jobs based on technician skills, location routing, availability, and priority. Integrated GPS and traffic data helps in planning the most efficient routes, saving time and fuel.
4. Train and support your mechanic
To operate efficiently in the field, mechanics need to know how to work on the equipment that they are servicing. Whether it’s water cleaning solutions, or dozers, it’s important to keep the team up to speed on the latest in the equipment service. Many manufacturers offer training. For example, Genie and JLG offer training online, at a training center, or even at your branch.
Knowledgeable, self-sufficient field mechanics will solve issues faster and easier. Make sure they have the training they need to be their best! A team of quick problem-solvers keeps your customers happier too.
5. Leverage customer feedback
If you haven’t yet, consider implementing a feedback system with your customers. This is a great way to gauge customer experience and investigate situations where your field service team excelled or failed. There are plenty of good, inexpensive tools to build, send, and analyze surveys if this is something you’re interested in.
Wynne’s new field service capabilities
(featuring Craig Richmond – Sr. Product Manager)
Throughout 2023, we noticed that field service complexity is a pressing issue coming from both our customer base and the rental industry. There is a need for simple, easy field service operations. No more whiteboards, emails, and phone calls. To meet the need head on, we started building software.
This resulted in a new field service capabilities for Wynne Hub by integrating both Service Solution and Logistics Solution. The new capabilities provide rental teams with a fully digitalized cradle-to-grave process for field service, streamlined for efficiencies both from a servicing manager and a field mechanic’s perspective. This also integrates directly with RentalMan out-of-the-box so no additional third-party integrations required. That helps users view key operational and financial data in real-time.
Walking through the new process –
1. The customer raises a service request
Using Wynne System’s Customer Portal, your customers create their own service request to report an issue with a piece of rented equipment. This request flows automatically through to Wynne’s Service Solution for review. Customers utilize the same process to request maintenance on their own equipment too.
Field service requests arise from several different processes such as an automated scheduled maintenance check, but again there’s no manual intervention required as these automated maintenance requests also flow directly through to Wynne’s Service Solution.
2. The service manager receives a notification and approves/rejects the service request
The Service Manager receives the service requests by email and approves the request, which automatically creates the workshop quote or order.
3. Service Solution creates a workshop order and sends notifications
Wynne’s Service Solution automatically notifies the team of the created workshop order by either SMS or email. The automated workshop order prioritization algorithm inside Service Solution sets the priority of the workshop in your interactive dashboard without manual intervention, reducing process friction, and increasing your team’s time savings.
4. The scheduling job automatically populates in Wynne Logistics Solution
The field service task automatically appears in our 360-view scheduling application to be scheduled based on the estimated hours stored against the task. This gives your coordinators and dispatchers full visibility of all your field mechanics based on their current location, and their schedule by hour, day, week and month. All tasks update in real-time, ensuring you allocate your field tasks to the closest mechanic.
5. The customer receives automatic notifications
Automatic notifications are sent to the customer in real-time informing them of upcoming services, reducing the need for time-consuming phone calls and emails.
6. The field mechanic sends updates via the Mechanic App
As field mechanics perform their work throughout the day, they view and update information related to their schedule, workshop orders, jobsite locations, and equipment via a mobile application. This app provides real-time visibility across your entire field servicing department with built in syncing capabilities, even if the mechanic is off-line due to poor reception at a remote jobsite. The app will sync as soon as they have reception again.
7. The Service Manager receives an update on job completion
Service Manager automatically gets updated by either SMS or email upon completion of task(s).
8. The Service Manager reviews and closes the workshop order
The Service Manager reviews the workshop order in the Close and Bill Application.
9. The system automatically creates an invoice
On completion of review, the system automatically generates a workshop invoice for the customer. This automation speeds up the invoicing process, improving customer service and cash flow.
Ultimately, field service is a great way to improve your customer relationships and competitive edge. If your local pizza shop is better at status and location updates than your rental team, it may be time to take another look at this topic. There are a ton of options for improvement in the area of field service. Software improvements like Wynne’s new field service capabilities are helpful but, there are plenty of “quick wins” to consider too. Those quick wins can take form in small SOP changes, adding a small survey to emails, and more.