Efficient use of time is critical in field service. Customers don’t want to wait on repairs, installation, or preventive maintenance. Technicians who can deliver service quickly and effectively keep their lives on a schedule, and help contractors earn their trust — which, in the long run, translates to customer loyalty and repeat business. In addition, contractors depend on the productivity of their techs in the field. Accurate, efficient service is fundamental to success. As critical as good time management is, small changes can make a big difference. Almost any business owner can achieve immediate meaningful results by improving workflows and processes to solve the biggest and most common time wasters.
Here’s a closer look at six ways field service professionals lose time and accuracy, and how data-powered technology solutions designed to center and enable techs can prevent them and help service businesses grow.
1. Manual tasks and data entry: Manual processes are one of the biggest time sucks for technicians in the field. Whether it’s entering the make, model, and serial number of an HVACR unit or writing out a descriptive summary to communicate the scope of work to a client, these tedious tasks extend a technician’s time on site. Also, manual data entry increases the risk of errors in documentation. Technology solutions that arm techs with automated workflows and optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities streamline the service process and eliminate the risks associated with manual data entry.
2. Searching for support on the job: For new field service technicians, many lessons can only be learned through experience. Traditionally, new field service technicians might learn many of their skills by shadowing a more experienced tech — not the model for operational job site efficiency. Proper training and real-time support enable even new techs to commit to best practices, reducing risks on every single call.
Too often, qualified techs who want to solve an issue on their own find themselves losing precious time sifting through online search results. Not only do they lose time searching and reviewing the results, but the so-called solutions they find may also be inaccurate, leading to callbacks and customer credits or refunds. Instead, technician enablement tools empower teams in the field by putting thousands of hours of earned experience, trusted resources, and collective wisdom right at their fingertips.
3. Calling for help and second truck rolls: When working on a complex repair or intricate piece of equipment, it’s not uncommon for an onsite technician to call in for feedback or additional support to get the job done. While this is a useful step toward accuracy and efficiency, it adds time to any job. If the technician is playing telephone tag or has other obstacles to real-time communication, it can introduce additional opportunities for errors to enter the job.
Contractors can prevent these delays and mistakes by investing in proactive technician training tools that enable live, interactive video support that saves technicians and customers valuable time. Technician-focused technology that can index and analyze data from data plates is also an excellent solution to having to roll a second truck. With the aid of that specific type of technology, technicians have immediate access to answers — manuals, diagrams, and job history based on the serial or model number of the unit they are working on.
4. Missing service sales opportunities on the job: With cloud-based technology, a technician can efficiently gather information about the unit, capturing photos and videos to send out to a customer/sales team in real-time—quite literally showing a customer that their piece of equipment is ready to be serviced. Generating this level of transparency validates everything that a technician has communicated to the customer, making upsells seamless.
Additionally, using OCR technology, when a technician snaps a photo of a data plate, the make, model, and the serial number of the unit are automatically indexed. Any information uncovered from that indexed data— issues from anywhere in the world — the technician will be alerted to look for those problems, be proactive, and upsell their service.
5. Inventory and extended lead times on parts and materials: With 94% of companies on the Fortune 1000 list seeing supply chain disruptions, the service industry is now facing equipment and parts shortages on top of the growing labor shortage. With lead times for receiving specific parts and materials at an all-time high, one of the best ways to save time and complete a job faster is to perform remote diagnostics before a technician makes a trip on-site. Utilizing a remote video communication tool can help counteract extended lead times by allowing technicians to survey sites and diagnose problems ahead of time, and order the necessary parts and equipment sooner.
6. The customer decision-making process: In field service, most customers aren’t trained to know and understand the technical details of their HVACR, plumbing, or mechanical equipment. This lack of understanding can lead to a lengthy decision-making process if there’s also a lack of transparency regarding the work a technician is recommending.
Today’s tech-savvy customers expect more than just words when facing a high-cost repair or replacement. They want to see visual evidence — the laboring compressor that is wheezing away or the water dripping below the unit. Utilizing technologies that provide customers a complete visual overview of the state of their equipment and quoted or performed work is one of the fastest ways to keep them informed and build trust, which helps expedite the current decision-making and ensure more informed, efficient decisions on future projects.
If these time-consuming tasks and roadblocks are consistent challenges to efficiency and productivity, consider tech-enablement technology solutions that can streamline all stages of field service, from diagnosing issues to decision-making. A tech-enablement approach means simply starting with a technician’s perspective. The curb-to-curb experience of the hard-working people on the front lines of field service should drive workflows from the start of a job to its completion. By delivering essential job data and real-time AI-driven analytics, contractors and their teams can streamline workflows and see immediate improvements in productivity and financial performance. When technicians in the field have the powerful tools they need to operate efficiently and accurately, they’ll spend less time on support, inventory, upsells, and data entry. And they can help you become the employer of choice in your market.
Leon Weiss is the chief financial officer for XOi Technologies, a provider of technician-first smart technology that empowers commercial and residential field service teams to drive productivity, elevate customer experience and help close the skilled labor gap.