Field service is any work that is conducted at customer’s site, where trained field workers are sent to perform a specific task.
Over the years, as different industries develop, companies have been required to send their professionals to the different locations where they will work for clients. In many cases, these professionals will even be required to travel far away from the location of their company.
Field Service Definition
Field service is defined as any work that is done at the customer’s site instead of the company’s premises. Because of the many advantages that come with this method of working, a lot of businesses are including it in their product and service delivery.
While field service can be done in almost every industry, it is more common in the manufacturing, healthcare, and technology industries. These industries that practice field service usually dispatch their experts to the client’s location for inspection, treatment, maintenance, repairs, etc.
Companies that offer field service options for their customers are known as field service providers, and because the demand for field service keeps increasing, what used to be known as a mere onsite job model has grown into a booming field service industry.
Field service is now a major part of product and service delivery because certain jobs cannot be done unless the needed experts are with the necessary equipment on the client’s site.
No matter how skilled a technician may be, they will not be able to fix a dysfunctional machine properly without going to the customer’s site where the machine is located. So, field service is required for optimal delivery of services like this.
It is also important to note that field service improves customer relationships and experience. And some customers go as far as providing free food and accommodation for the field service workers in charge of their needs.
In the field service industry, there are three main activities or categories—installation, maintenance, and education.
In this category, technical field service comes into play. When a company, organization, or even an individual buys new equipment, they will need an expert to come and install it in the operating environment, and field service technicians are the ones who provide this service.
This is mostly applicable to heavy duty equipment because it requires more skill to install. But even less-complicated equipment can be installed through technical field service. It all depends on what the customer needs.
What the technical field service professional does here is to make sure that the equipment is installed properly in the safest way possible, set it up to be fully operational for immediate use, and also set a standard for how the machine will be used in the future.
This is the aspect of technical and industrial field services that a lot of people are familiar with. It involves the carrying out of different maintenance practices by field service technicians in order to prolong the lifespan of equipment.
Maintenance can be divided into three parts: proactive, preventive, and corrective.
In proactive maintenance, an engineer or technician goes to the customer’s site to compare the equipment operation with the standard way that type of machine is supposed to operate. If there are any abnormal findings, the technicians will start working on them before the equipment fails.
Preventive and proactive maintenance practices are wrongly assumed to mean the same thing, but they are different. The similarity they share is that they both involve actions taken to prevent a complete breakdown of equipment.
Specifically, preventive maintenance involves the use of equipment data and appropriate field service solutions to get a better understanding of a machine’s condition before the field service engineers or technicians go to the machine site for routine checks.
Corrective maintenance measures are taken when a machine starts working improperly or when it does not work at all. In this case, the field service engineer will go to the machine’s place of operation and fix the problem so that the machine can start working normally again.
Sometimes, what a company needs is the proper enlightenment of its staff. So, a field service provider can be called to spend some time at the company’s location and give the required classes to the company’s staff.
Virtual classes are not always the best option for sessions that require hands-on demonstration, like how to handle heavy-duty equipment or safety practices in the workplace. This is why field service education is important.
There are many factors that shape the trends in the field service. Technology advancements, but also the COVID pandemic have influenced the current trends. Field service companies understand that being efficient in completing their tasks is their number one priority. Following the current trends is a big priority of every company and when working directly with customers the goal is to always achieve the best customer service as possible.
These are the current trends in the field service industry:
Cashless and mobile payments
Not that cashless payments were not here before, however, during the COVID pandemic, most people have opted for contactless payments due to health concerns. Paying contactless in stores and using digital payments in the B2B sector is the new standard.
During the pandemic many companies started to promote home office and even after the situation has calmed down, they allowed their employees to continue using the benefit of remote work. Field workers have always worked remotely but the need to return to an actual office has also vanished since most of their work could be done thanks to cloud-based software. Saving and accessing important data has never been easier.
Self-service and customer portals
Developing new apps and software for customers allows them to get an easier experience when they want to request assistance. Using apps and computers to report their problems or request assistance is the new standard. Therefore, the field workers can be aware of their problem before the actual field visit, and they can come better prepared.
Inventory management software
Many industries have suffered from material shortage and delays resulting in increased prices. Having a great inventory management software and knowing exactly what is missing and calculating the next orders is a must for every company. The supply chain issues resulted in companies focusing more on investing in reliable inventory management software.
Building a knowledge base
A lot of people were quitting their jobs and this trend was highly impacting the manufacturing industry where the companies were losing skilled workers with valuable years of practice. Knowledge retention is a very important trend, the main focus is now on building cloud-based knowledge libraries that would promote collaboration and knowledge sharing among workers from different departments and positions.
Software solutions that take a lot of time are currently out of style and the emphasis is on low-code development. The goal is to offer powerful custom solutions that require minimal coding and can be completed faster. Developing custom solutions can be completed faster with intuitive user interfaces that use drag and drop functionality and others.
What does a successful field service operation look like?
Here is how a field service operation is supposed to be in order to provide excellent service in the shortest possible time.
Mobile operations should be easy.
In a successful field service operation system, all mobile solutions will be easy to use. This is why a field service manager needs to vet the software before use so as to be sure that it is compatible with mobile devices, including the personal smartphones of all the field service workers.
The field service management solution should be integrated with other systems.
Any field management solution that a service company chooses to use has to integrate seamlessly with other systems already in place. Like the HR system, the customer service system, the payment system, and every other system already in use.
Service data should be captured proactively
For a field service system to be successful, the software in use should be able to easily share data in real time between the back office staff and workers on the field. This will enable smooth operations between all the workers involved in the project and also make it easy for field workers to close out while still on the client site.
What Is Field Service Management (FSM)?
Field service is directly connected with field service management, as it involves the organization and optimization of all the activities performed during field service operations.
Everything involved in the process of working at a client’s site is professionally coordinated. Aspects like transportation, feeding, the tools needed, the number of service professionals that will be required, accommodation, tracking work schedule, the working hours involved, etc. are properly handled in field service management.
The person in charge of field service management is called a field service manager. And they supervise the way field service teams carry out their duties from start to finish. If the job to be done is complicated and involves a large team, the field service manager will coordinate the team with their subordinate managers or high-ranking professionals within the team.
Field Service Management Software
There are many aspects involved in field service management, so even with subordinate managers, the work of a field service manager can be hectic, especially for big projects with several teams—this is where field management solutions come in.
Most of the complications involved in balancing several operations during field service can be streamlined and controlled with field service management software. This is why many companies use them, and so far, they have served as perfect field service management solutions.
Just like most apps we have today, field service software applications are compatible with desktop and mobile devices.
Here are some of the things that field service management software can do:
- It enhances easy communication between all parties involved in the field service project.
- Makes it easier to balance essential operations.
- Better scheduling.
- Aids the dispatching of workers to the client’s premises.
- It helps everyone to get real-time updates on changes during the project.
- Makes the job of a field service manager easier.
Field service management is sometimes used interchangeably with field service providers and mobile workforce management, but they are not the same. Have a look at the differences between these terminologies.
Field service management (FSM) vs. field service providers (FSPs)
Field service providers (FSPs) do not cover as many functions as is done in field service management. What they do is to dispatch the needed workers (usually technicians) to different client sites, where they carry out repair, maintenance, and other related services that are agreed on in a predefined contract.
But in field service management, more services are covered. Think of it as an umbrella that covers all field resources, including personnel, customers or end users, and equipment. So you see, it’s a lot more than simply sending workers to fix a client’s faulty machine.
Here are some of the operations that field service management touches:
- Managing the availability and inventory of products.
- Assigning skilled professionals to work on client sites
- Communication between service workers in the field and desk workers at the office.
- Field service data collection and usage
- Scheduling of work for different field services
- Building relationships with the clients, etc.
Field service providers are just a part of field service management. And as the industry continues to grow, field service management will have more lines of work to cover, which is going to further widen the gap between FSPs and FSM.
Field service management (FSM) vs. mobile workforce management (MWM)
The best way to tell the difference between these two areas in the field service industry is to look at the aim the client wants to achieve after each project is completed.
Field service management solutions work in such a way that physical assets are prioritized. So, if the aim of a project is to optimize physical products and carry out activities that focus on deployment, maintenance, repairs, and installation, then such a project falls under field service management.
Mobile workforce management focuses more on customer journeys than physical products. Therefore, if a project aims at optimizing human inputs and the dispatching of field service workers, a mobile workforce management solution is the best tool to use.
Challenges in the Field Service Industry
Like every other industry in the world, field service management has its own challenges. Here are some of them:
This may sound like an easy thing to do, but it is easier said than done in the world of field service. This is because scheduling involves predicting the length of a call, ensuring that the assigned field service workers have the necessary experience and skills, predicting the transit time of workers, and many other tasks that demand accountability.
Therefore, it is important to use a field service management software that can work well with all devices and the company’s different systems. It will really help to make scheduling easier.
Field service involves a lot of traveling, sometimes to very far distances away from home. And when people have to leave their states for a job, safety has to be one of the top priorities of their employers. If workers don’t feel safe, they will not commit to their jobs and may even quit.
This is why it is important to carry out enough research about a new location before sending field service workers there. The FSM software used should also have safety features like a periodic “check in”, just to be sure that every field service worker is accounted for.
For a company to make progress, they have to be able to track performances and use the information to make improvements for the next field service project. But it is not easy to do because of the amount of data involved—some of which will be prone to mistakes.
Hence it always makes sense for field service managers to use effective field management software that has an automated dashboard and reporting module.
Optimization of service delivery
The main goal of field service work is to ensure that clients get the best service within the shortest period of time. So, to optimize service delivery, one visit to the location of work should be enough. This will save time and money. It will also help the customer focus on business because their system was quickly restored to normalcy.
But this is not usually easy to achieve and requires a lot of preparation and long hours of data processing. But a good field service management solution will always make things easier.