It seems like only a short time ago that one of the key discussions within the global field service sector was whether companies should shift the focus of their field service operations from being a cost centre to a profit centre.

At the time, this was a major break from tradition in terms of how field service was placed within the business and how it was perceived at large. Service was often very much a necessary evil that was in place to support product sales. Service delivery was an opaque mystery for all of those in the business whose role lay outside of the service domain.

Fast forward to today and the world in which we live is radically different. The shift to field service being a profit centre has become the norm, and as we enter an age of servitization, advanced services and outcome based service offerings, we are beginning to see service revenue often becoming a significant, if not primary line on an organisation’s profit and loss sheet.

In such an environment, it is, of course, essential that every single aspect of field service operations is fully optimised. To achieve this a modern field service management (FSM) system is essential.

A Return on Investment is one of the key selling points that FSM solution providers will put forward when engaging with their prospective customers for a good reason – it is something that catches the attention of the C-Suite and can be delivered in several different areas within the field service operations.

These include:

Reducing ‘Windscreen-Time’

Perhaps the most obvious and most effective area in which a company can see ROI on an FSM solution is by increasing the effective time of their engineers through better scheduling.

Whether it be the move from spreadsheets and whiteboards to a relatively simple assisted scheduling solution or upgrading a solution from a standard scheduling tool to something more advanced which utilises artificial intelligence based algorithms and real-time traffic data – improving the routing and dispatch of your engineers, can lead to significant reductions in ‘windscreen time’ for your engineers.

The ability to leverage more efficient scheduling can enable an organisation to see their engineers spending more time on site with customers and being productive – this is often referred to as engineer utilisation.

In some cases, the results can be as dramatic as adding in an extra couple of jobs per engineer per day, but even a small amount of minutes saved per engineer each day will translate into significant cost reductions when multiplied across a fleet.

Increasing first-time fix rates

As the adage goes, if you can make a repair on the first service call you are breaking even, every time you need to send an engineer to the same site after that you are losing money. Fortunately, there are many areas in which technology can help improve a field service engineer’s chances of performing the right repair, the first time around. As with the service call itself, let’s start with the triage and diagnosis of the fault.

The implementation of easily accessible knowledge banks can be of benefit not only for the service engineer onsite but also the contact centre agent who may be able to troubleshoot the problem and either help identify the problem so the engineer is arriving fully prepared, or even provide remote assistance and guidance to avoid the need for a service call entirely.

To add another layer of automation to this process, artificial intelligence (AI) can be embedded within the triage process allowing for effective diagnosis of multiple calls simultaneously – with handover to a human agent for more complex queries a seamless transition.

Beyond the triage stage, knowledge banks are also incredibly useful for the field service engineer onsite to both diagnose problems and guide them through maintenance on assets that may be unfamiliar to them.

However, while knowledge banks can be useful in improving first-time-fix rates, solutions that allow for engineer to engineer communications are shown to have an even more dramatic impact on this core KPI.

Recent Field Service News research revealed that 86% of companies* who have implemented some form of engineer-to-engineer communication stated that they saw an improvement in first-time-fix rates. Another means of increasing this metric, that has emerged within recent years, is the concept of connected field service. This is where assets are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and can identify faults themselves, ahead of failure.

This allows for a shift away entirely from the traditional break-fix approach to a far more cost-efficient preventative maintenance approach. While this is not a transition that can be made overnight, it is one in which the savvy field service organisation should be heading towards as it offers a means of delivering better service in a less costly manner.

Removing unnecessary costs within the business

Indeed, there are many touchpoints within the field service operation where an FSM solution can bring further cost reductions both quickly and often surprisingly simply.

For example, the shift to a fully digital workflow can see a significant reduction in costs, simply by removing paper and stationery costs from a business. While this may not seem, at the outset, like an area where significant savings can be made, it can often add up to tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds – and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

As a field service organisation introduces more and more elements of digitalisation into their business processes, both within the back office and in the field, additional savings become apparent.

For example, dedicated inventory management solutions, designed for tracking van stock and the regular movement of parts that occurs within a field service cycle, can offer far greater visibility into stock across the business and offer major cost savings, as cash tied up in unnecessary stock can be eliminated. Similarly, providing engineers and customers alike access to parts ordering via eCommerce portals can open up new revenue streams that are easy to implement and quick to establish.

Another quick win that comes from digitalisation of field service workflows lies within shortening the service to cash cycle. This can be vastly improved by simply automating the invoicing process and connecting it to the field service engineer’s ability to collect job completion approval from the client via a mobile application while onsite.

Ultimately, there are many ways in which an FSM solution can deliver a clear and tangible return on investment across the field service operation, and when implemented correctly this can be achieved within a relatively short time frame of between just six to eighteen months. When we consider that with the advent of Cloud computing and the introduction of the Software as a Service model the initial outlay for implementing a solution is also reduced, the potential ROI of an FSM solution makes for an incredibly powerful argument.

86% of companies who have implemented some form of engineer-to-engineer communication stated that they saw an improvement in first-time-fix rates…

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