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Field Force Automation : Where We Are, and Where We Need to Go

By Kelvin Hubbard, COO & CIO, Visual Mobile Technologies, Inc.

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Kelvin Hubbard, COO & CIO, Visual Mobile Technologies, Inc.

Today’s Field Service workers are dealing with little to no visibility into the customer’s issue

First-Time Fix Rates (FTFR) are affected by many factors including proper triage, technician experience level, detailed resolution steps, resolution knowledge base, and availability of service history. Whether you are an industry laggard with a 56 percent FTFR, an average player with a 75 percent FTFR, or a Best-in-class organization with a FTFR of 89percent, you can always improve your FTFR, even if only by one or two percentage points. Improvements in the above factors can be accomplished through the use of the proper technologies.With every truck roll costing between $200 and $300 (according to Aberdeen’s March 2013 article, ‘Fixing First-Time Fix’), or up to $1,011 (according to TSIA’s February 25, 2013 report, ‘The State of Field Services: 2013’), every saved truck roll goes directly to the bottomline.Proper triage is one of the largest factors affecting FTFR. If theCall Center representative or Property Manager must rely on a customer’s description of an issue and then pass that description on to the field service technician; important information is often lost or miscommunicated when the message is relayed to the field service technician. Often times, when the field technician arrives on sight, they find that the issue is completely different from what was described to them, many times not arriving with the right equipment, parts, or knowledge to resolve the issue, requiring an average of 1.6 additional trips to properly resolve the issue (according to Aberdeen’s March 2013 article, ‘Fixing First-Time Fix’).

“The way to neutralize the myriad of factors that affect FTFRS is to put the right technology and information in the hands of both the customers and the field technicians via mobile devices”

What is needed to improve FTFR

The way to neutralize the myriad of factors that affect FTFRS is to putthe right technology and information in the hands of both the customers and the field technicians via mobile devices. When mobile technology is available in the field for both the customer and field technicians, the customer can capture media (images, audio, and video) of the issue and collaborate with both the Call Center representative or Property Manager and the field technicians, providing everyone an accurate, first-hand assessment(see figure). It is said“a picture is worth a thousand words”, we say “a video is worth thousands of pictures.”By properly tagging saved content, such as images, videos, and documents, service history, resolution steps, and training materials can be easily located and leveraged from a comprehensive knowledge base, turning an inexperienced technician into an expert. For those occasions where content doesnot exist, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) can be available to lend assistance with real-time collaboration.

Best-in-breed technologies and delivery-

So how dodevelopers of applications provide these capabilities to our users and customers? All of the necessary technologies are already there to provide the functionality needed. Start with a cloud solution so there are no on-premise requirements for hardware and support of infrastructure. It must be able to be delivered in all environments (Web, Android, iOS) and on any device (laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc.), as BYOD is here to stay, especially with this diverse group of users.Using a noSQL database andmetadata tagging makes content easily searchable, and provides for an extremely flexiblestructure. A noSQL database also gives you the ability to easilyadd and remove new data elements.

Using WebRTC for your communications API provides ease-of-use and enhanced security for both signaling and media. While this limits the use of your application on the Internet Explorer browser, the advantages far outweigh this limitation.

The payback

Now that you have the technology in the hands of those that need it, what does that mean for your users and customers? The typical organization can see between a10 percent and 20 percentreduction in their repeat trips from their current rates. This is dictated by where they fall on the maturity scale. Those that are laggards can expect to see reductions of up to 20percent(increasing their 56percentFTFR to around 65percent), while those at the other end of the scale (Best in Class) can expect toimprove their FTFR from 89 percent to around 91percent. Recall that it takes an average of 1.6 additional trips when an issue is not resolved on the first trip.Each trip costs an average of $200-$300, or about $250 pertrip. With an average organizationsimprovement of 15percent (from 75percentto 79percentFTFR), and an average of three service calls per day (at 21 days per month), the average user of this type of technology can expect to increase thecompany’s bottomline by $945.00 per field technician per month. Therefore, organizations cannot afford not to implement this type of technology, as long as a solution with a Total Cost of Ownership of less than $945.00 per technician per month can be found. Additional benefits provide further motivation to implement these solutions:  increased productivity via team collaboration, reduced training costs, risk mitigation, and increased customer retention are just a few examples.

The Best-in-Class organizations have already started to implement these types of solutions.All organizations will need to follow suit just to remain competitive.

Summary:

When selecting a solution for your business, make sure that it includes the capabilities needed to properly assess the situation, collect and catalog conditions, facilitate real-time communications, and provide online, anytime, anywhere training, and historical perspective for your field service customers. In particular, make sure the solution you chose can do both content and collaboration, real-time one to many collaboration, document and file sharing, content tagging, enterprise application integration, and online & offline capabilities.

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