Field Service Management | 2021 Ultimate Guide Edition
Table of Contents
Introduction: “What is Field Service Management?”
FIELD SERVICE MANAGEMENT (FSM) refers to the management of company resources for businesses that service clients on their own property rather than company property.
If your company provides homeowners HVAC installation or repair, plumbing or electrical services, or any other offerings considered "home services," then your company conducts field service management every day. That includes being watchful of new technological developments in your field so that you’re ready to offer customers cutting-edge solutions.
But that vigilance shouldn’t just end with new advancements in billable services—you should also be looking for new ways to better conduct business, as well. How long have you been doing things the same way? Is it time to examine your processes and consider better, modern tools to conduct business? Or upgrade how your company runs on a day-to-day basis?
In this guide, we'll zero in on the different aspects of Field Service Management, current trends in the industry, and the practices, strategies, and technologies industry leaders are using to best position themselves in an increasingly complex marketplace.
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The Trades in the 21st Century
“Why Does Our Field Service Management Need to Change?”
If you're already running a functional home services shop, you may be wondering why it may be important to examine the way you do business. Isn't what you're doing already working?
It might very well be. But the critical question is how can it be working better? This is especially true considering the emerging data that not only shows the trades confronting rapid changes in the industry but lagging behind other sectors that have embraced new technologies and philosophies to enhance the way they operate.
Improving Your Intake Process
Securing revenue starts with making customers feel like they’ve made the right call.
One the most critical types of management you and your team do every day is facilitating a smooth intake process that both captures the information your company needs to provide services—but also assures homeowners that they've chosen the right company.
In the past, good intake has involved taking phone calls and jotting down customer information. In the past few years, however, customers have grown to expect more from this process. But remember: refining your intake process doesn't just benefit the people calling your business—greater efficiency and flexibility also means gains for your organization, as well.
Home service intake best practices include:
1. Hire dedicated staff. While some shops have office staff who wear many hats, it's always recommended that you hire dedicated Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who are committed to intake tasks and can apply their undivided attention to attending customers.
2. Watch out for loyal customers. Whether you are using telecom technology or CSR scripts, make sure your team knows how to identify returning customers as they call in. Today's homeowners want to be recognized, not have to repeat personal information or feel as if they have been sent to the back of the line every time they call a service.
3. Cultivate CSR skills and capabilities. Customer service is a skill that can be honed and improved just like any other. You should regularly check in with your CSRs to monitor their performance, determine where they might improve, and get a feel for what they find most challenging and rewarding parts of their job are.
Harnessing the Power of Mobile
Home service intake isn’t limited to phone calls anymore. In fact, Hubspot found that 97% of smartphone users conduct mobile searches to find local businesses—and Google found that nearly a third (28%) of these searches result in a purchase.
Be mindful of new technologies and integrations that emulate on-demand apps like Uber or Amazon that allow users to enter personal info to schedule service or request more information. Not only is this convenient for potential customers, but freeing up your phone lines reduces CSR workload/errors.
Dispatching Your Team
Getting your team where it needs to be—when it needs to be—has never been more critical.
One of the most crucial—and complex—aspects of field service management is the scheduling and dispatching of your team. This is especially true for shops that offer emergency services in 2018, a time when over 86 million Americans have become accustomed to on-demand services.
The good news is that there have been a number of technology-driven advancements over the last few years that can make GPS-enabled dispatching your team smarter, faster, and even less costly.
Benefits of GPS-enabled dispatching software include:
1. Better responsiveness. Giving your dispatcher better, real-time oversight of your service area means you can better fulfill emergency services. Certain dispatching systems even show where in the job cycle a tech currently is, allowing dispatchers to ping those who are ready to respond ASAP.
2. Fewer expenses. Better trip efficiency also means financial savings. An Aberdeen Group study found that teams using GPS technology on their trucks save more than 13% in fuel expenses. A HUB International Insurance survey also found that small businesses could save anywhere from five to 25% in insurance expenses when their fleet is GPS-enabled.
3. Easier scalability. When even one additional truck represents countless new decisions to be made every day, company growth can spell headaches for your dispatcher. However, the right dispatching software allows for your team to easily incorporate new trucks into your schedule and increase your dispatcher-to-truck ratio with as little growing pains as possible.
Dispatching for Profit
When dispatchers have the insight to make high-level decisions, they can help your team capitalize on bigger business. "Dispatching for profit" is one strategy that can boost profit by matching individual techs to jobs they may be specifically suited for.
There a number of "offline" elements to dispatching for profit (such as scheduling as many upcoming jobs in the morning, leaving more of your techs available for urgent jobs in the afternoon), but the right technology is key. Dispatch boards that allow access to tech strengths, skill sets, job cycle progress mean dispatchers can better ensure that potentially big jobs are properly assigned—and more likely profitable.
Managing Worker Activity
Honing team skills and meeting new goals together should be a priority in every shop.
In an ideal world, we should be able to trust workers to handle every responsibility, every curveball that comes with the job with confidence and candor. But technicians, CSRs, dispatchers, and other home service professionals are like any other member of the workforce: They need coaching, guidance, and reinforcement when they meet or surpass expectations.
Study after study has shown that the best way to ensure high-quality performances is to create an organization that inspires commitment, diligence, and gratitude. Gallup found that only one-third of American workers are engaged with their company's values and goals and Blueboard reports that companies with strong, engaging cultures outperform the competition by 33%.
How can home service companies do this?
1. Zero in on company identity and mission. How is your company different than your competitors? What are your values? How are you contributing to something valuable to the community? Creating a foundational identity for your brand helps foster pride and purpose for your team.
2. Revamp your company culture. Does your team set goals together? Represent your brand in community events? Celebrate together? Creating a culture where workers look forward to coming to work is key to retaining talent.
3. Be an advocate for your employees. It’s critical to establish accommodating staff policies, but it's also important to stay engaged with your individual employees, as well. Learn about what they bring to your organization, their lives outside of work, and what their professional goals are.
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Tapping Into Employee Metrics
As a field service manager, you have to give your team the resources to do their job—and determine how successful they are. Technology can now help monitor worker performance, whether they're office staff or out in the field serving homeowners.
Consider business software that tracks various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each of your employees. Do you have a tech that has a low rate of same-day installs? A CSR having trouble converting incoming calls into booked jobs?
With this kind of data, you can identify opportunities for coaching and ensure your team is productive, competitive, and generating revenue for your business.
Communicating with Customers
Navigating homeowner expectations in the “on-demand economy.”
Field service means your team will be meeting customers where they live, coming into their homes, and interacting with their property. As home service professionals, it's easy to think nothing of these jobs, but for homeowners, this process can generate a number of anxieties—anxieties that could be squashed with better communication.
A growing number of marquee on-demand services (such as Uber, Lyft, Amazon, etc.) have transformed what the average consumer expects with their purchase… and home service shops have only just started to adopt these methods to better communicate with customers.
What kind of experience are today’s homeowners looking for?
69% say having on-the-spot product info is very or extremely important
63% say having multiple payment options is very or extremely important
55% say companies not following up with them can dissuade them from repeat business
52% of Gen X and Millennial homeowners prefer to communicate over text
53% of Millennial homeowners would like to be sent tech bios before an appointment
45% say a lack of convenience has dissuaded them from repeat business
18% say they would switch companies for better convenience
(Thrive Analytics’ homeowner survey)
Finally Solving a Chronic Pain Point
What's one of the most common complainants homeowners have once they’ve scheduled an appointment with a home service shop? "They said they'd be here at x and they didn't get here until y!" Thrive Analytics found that 64% of homeowners cited that not showing up on time dissuaded them from returning to a home service company.
A growing number of shops are finally ending this pain point with the same communication tools popularized by ride-sharing apps. There are now software solutions that allow homeowners to receive SMS text notifications, communicate directly with a shop via text, and even track where their truck is on the road before an appointment!
Just how critical is this kind of modern, mobile-enabled communication to customers? One recent survey found that 30% of customers who were already satisfied with their current service provider would switch to another company if that company offered more convenience.
Streamlining Internal Operations
Gaining insight on day-to-day processes helps better position your business for success.
To effectively manage any enterprise, leaders need to understand just how exactly their business is running. What is it good at? Where can it improve? And, most importantly, how can it work smarter?
What managers need to better run their businesses is insight. For too many businesses, insight is limited to big, end-of-quarter numbers like revenue or units sold. But new technology is now allowing managers to see what kind of numbers their enterprises are generating on a day-to-day basis—and where efficiency can be improved.
What insights are technology-enabled home service shops looking at?
1. Real-time numbers. Do you know how what today's receipts are? How one department's revenue compares to another? Cashflow is the lifeblood of your enterprise and diagnosing efficiency issues requires up-to-the-hour oversight on the transactions and trends affecting your business.
2. Individualized tech performances. Members of your team have different strengths and weaknesses that should be evident in performance trends. When you know which of your techs can blast through a difficult job or which needs help getting faster, more days are won and efficiency improves.
3. Intake data. Are your CSRs booking enough jobs? Are your marketing campaigns resulting in incoming calls? Intake data is extremely important in gauging how well ad spend is performing, how loyal your customer base is, and how successful your office is at securing new work.
Making Sense of Your Finances
Managing payroll in any organization takes significant time and effort but, in the trades specifically, where spiff and commission payments often vary week-to-week, it can be particularly time-consuming. Shops can mitigate bookkeeping tasks with cloud software solutions that integrate directly with transactions that occur in the field, so critical numbers, receipts, and signatures are captured in real-time.
Further efficiency can be achieved by adopting a payment processing system that frees your enterprise from relying on a third party vendor. Not only can this help properly batch incoming payments and easily resolve refunds, but customers prefer being provided a PayPal-like payment portal to use at their convenience.
Embracing Field Service Software
Technology is the connective thread that ties all of these disciplines together.
Now that you've read through this guide and considered the different aspects of field service management, what would you say is the most prominent commonality running through each of these different responsibilities? It isn't "hard work." Or "hiring ideal personnel."
In every case, cloud-based technology enables businesses to achieve more—from assessing employee performance and finances to delighting customers and building brand loyalty. And this is not simply assumption or speculation, either…
Confronting the Numbers
In 2017, Thrive Analytics was hired to conduct an industry survey focused on cloud-based software usage at electrical, HVAC, garage door, and plumbing shops. That survey collected data from more than 1,100 enterprises across the U.S. and here’s what they found:
40% of businesses that were utilizing cloud-based software to conduct field service management were growing. Why? Thrive found that because these companies were bettering their efficiency and accuracy, they could afford to spend more time and resources on higher level business goals like marketing, customer service, and community engagement.
But that’s just part of what Thrive found. More convincingly, they found that 70% of companies that were using a comprehensive software solution—one that integrated all of these different functionalities with one another—were experiencing growth. In these cases, this comprehensive software solution had a name: ServiceTitan.
Many of those in field service management dedicate their lives to not only make a living in the industry but to do right by their employees and the communities that they serve.
And just as the technology used to deliver water, heat, or power to a home continues to evolve, so does the technology available to run these businesses with the responsiveness, clarity, confidence expected by both customers and employees in the 21st century.
Field service managers who know this using technology to drive major changes in the industry right now.
Can your organization afford not to be part of it?
ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.