We are all consumers living in digital times. Every day we interact with people around the world through our smart phones and tablets. We influence the market through reviews, ratings and discussions online. We expect to be treated as an individual, not as part of the mass. We demand an instant response, we want extra service and above all, we want a personalized experience. How does your company respond to this reality? How do you ensure people in the field are living up to these expectations?
Within Field Force Management, we see the following trends:
- Customers become more demanding: clients expect real time status reports; unavailability of technicians is becoming hardly accepted; higher customer service expectations (guaranteed with time penalties).
- Margins are under pressure: stronger competition, field forces in general are becoming more efficient; increased sales power of customers; trend towards service contracts with global coverage.
- Lower cost of technology: prices of technological solutions for field forces and data communication are decreasing.
- Use of “Big data”: large amounts of data become available through digital tools and software (e.g. mobiles, tablets, apps, GIS) bringing a new challenge on how to generate useful insights from these databases.
- Interfaces are more user-friendly: traditional websites are being replaced by apps with an easier look and feel.
- Competitive advantage by excellent service: customers demand “full” service, being more than just repair; products are no longer a distinguishing factor, but services are!
- Outage recovery is used to drive staffing levels: 80% – 90% utilization is often acceptable in normal daily work.
Real time communication between technicians and back offices is essential to provide adequate service and speed. Empowering employees with the right digital tools offers the solution. Figure 1 shows an example of how a digitally empowered field force could work.
Figure 1: Example digitally empowered field force management
Dispatch and Schedule: dispatch/schedule software evaluates asset and customer needs against workforce skills, location, tools and equipment, availability of technicians and asset history to create an efficient schedule with the “best qualified” technician.
Location: GPS satellites continually track the exact location of workforce resources (e.g. person, asset type such as type of vehicle), proving dispatch centre and customers with real time location of their technicians.
Routing information is generated: fastest route is calculated, dynamic traffic information is used to minimize transport time.
Mobile Work Order Information: technician receives details of their next job in the field; optimal route & traffic info is available; remote access to asset, work order and client history; typical causes of defects; checklists or work instructions; parts or tools required; check parts availability (vehicle stock or depot); asset status; update asset record / work order once task is completed; capture customer signature and relevant work order information (e.g. photos) and immediately attach information to work order; immediate invoicing upon completion of work.
- Stock replenishment: vehicle stock levels are updated after the completion of each task.
We believe the story doesn’t end here. Every day new technologies become available, bringing new solutions for field force management. For example using drones for inspections of wind turbines, high voltage cables or electricity pylons, enables a faster execution and significantly improves safety. Another truly inspiring example is the use of Google Glass by field forces. More details in the video below.
Video from Wearable Intelligence. Company website: http://wearableintelligence.com
Typical advantages of a digitally empowered field force include:
- Less time spent on paperwork since information is available digitally in the field.
- Better, faster and more consistent service and information.
- Higher first time fix rate by using the best qualified technician equipped with client and asset history.
- Reduced need for support from back office and data entry.
- Efficient & flexible scheduling.
- Improved repair time.
- Real time updates of stock levels.
- More accurate stock levels per vehicle, making it possible replenish stock levels overnight.
- Less obsolete spare parts in stock.
- Quicker response to customer requests.
- Faster and more accurate billing & improved cash flow.
- Fewer disputes, adjustments and queries.
Despite the numerous list of advantages, companies often fail to reap the benefits of this digital transformation. Capgemini Consulting, in a study with MIT, had one-on-one interviews with 157 senior executives at global companies to examine how they are dealing with the digital transformation. We found that companies are facing obstacles or pressures in three categories as explained in figure 2.
Figure 2: Issues in initiation, execution and governance
To find out more on how to tackle these obstacles and to succeed with a digitally empowered field force, you can download our eBook on “Connected Workforce” for free: http://www.ict-books.com/books/inspiration-trends/the-connected-workforce-pdf1-en-detail