Your field management strategy is critical to your overall strategy.

But how do you balance efficiencies with increasing customer expectations?

And be more proactive in your approach?

A great field management strategy brings together digital tools that enable service teams to arrive on site, understand what problems they are there to solve and to be equipped so they can meet the customer’s needs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

That strategy needs to be supported by the right tools and practices that meet the needs of both the service provider and the client.

Think beyond break/fix

Is your strategy primarily focussed on reacting to problems?

A field management strategy needs to work across multiple dimensions.  Firstly, it needs to be supported by tools and processes that support the business when it’s in a reactive mode. That means having systems in place, so customer-initiated requests are easily integrated into the field service workflow.

Those requests might come from several different sources, ranging from chatbots and phone calls through to email and mobile apps.

In other cases, a more proactive approach is needed. By understanding service intervals and when specific pieces of equipment need to be inspected, it’s possible to deliver improved service by helping customers avoid costly breakdowns that interrupt their operations. A field service management strategy that measures results in customer service levels will give you a market advantage.

The advent of the global pandemic has added increased focus on asset management. A field management strategy that allows you to take direct control of plant and equipment reduces the number of site visits that are needed. This minimises many risks such as those associated with travel, on-site hazards and COVID.

Underpinning the three foundations of reactive, proactive, and asset-based field service management is the need to focus on the right outcomes. While it’s true that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, it’s important to measure the right things. For example, while it might be desirable to have a technician on site within an agreed service level, the real goal is to resolve the issue faster, to minimise the risk of a financial loss or ensure safety.

Put the customer at the centre

Did you develop your strategy in consultation with customers?

When evaluating your field service strategy, it’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae of different metrics and lose track of the big picture. The central focus of your field management strategy is the customer. When you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, you give yourself a very different view.

Successful field service organisations excel at the reactive elements of their strategy. When a customer contacts them, they are able to quickly assign the ticket to a technician who’s chosen based on their skill, availability and proximity to the client. They arrive, promptly fix the issue and everyone is satisfied with the service.

While the customer is satisfied that the problem was solved, they have still suffered an unexpected interruption. The best outcome for the customer was if the machine had not failed at all or, if failure had a high or escalating probability, for the maintenance to be performed at a scheduled time that didn’t impact services.

Ask any customer whether they would prefer problems to be fixed fast or whether they prefer them to never occur. Preventing unexpected problems is extremely valuable.

Sync your service levels

Are your service levels based on your performance or what matters to your customers?

If we take Mean Time Between Failures, the traditional approach considers unplanned downtime and breakdowns. The best way to avoid those is to be proactive about maintenance. All mechanical systems are subject to failure at some point. By monitoring equipment and understanding how assets are used it’s possible to minimise the risk of unplanned downtime and to fix issues before they escalate into costly breakdowns.

By linking your service levels to what matters to your customers, you can focus on improving the overall equipment effectiveness – a measure of availability, performance, and output quality.

Data is crucial

Are you taking advantage of all the data at your disposal?

Understanding and anticipating your customer’s needs is the heart of a successful field management strategy. By using data from your field service management solution, financial information from your ERP or business software system and customer insights from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application you can build a picture of your customer’s needs so you can be ready to meet their needs at the right time.

As a service provider, you’re able to give advice to customers based on more than a single dimension. For example, your CRM might tell you about recent contact with the client while your field service software can tell you how often a machine has been repaired or when it was last serviced. Financial data can indicate things such as the amortised value of a machine. Those pieces of data can help you make a better decision about whether a repair or replacement is the best option to recommend to the client.

When you start asking customer-focussed questions, you can take your field service strategy away from being purely reactive.

Whose problems are you solving?

A successful strategy for a service organisation must be focussed on the best outcome for the customer using the most efficient and effective tools at your disposal. While arriving on site quickly is important, a better outcome for the customer is the prompt resolution of an issue.

A great field management strategy is built around understanding the customer. It focusses not only on fixing issues as they arise but anticipating problems before they escalate and taking proactive steps to minimise business interruptions.