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No Strings Attached: Creating a Wireless Environment for Service Techs

9 Jul, 2004 By: David Hastings imageSource

No Strings Attached: Creating a Wireless Environment for Service Techs

as any other service-oriented business, copier dealerships are continuously
looking for ways to improve operations and provide customers with the best
possible support. Countless dealerships have invested in technology such as
pagers, cell phones, wireless laptops, or Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) for
its service technicians in order to speed the flow and enhance the accuracy of
information to and from the field. Yet, others have yet to take the plunge due
to resistance to change or concerns about cost or reliability.

your business grows, however, service staffing and costs must increase to keep
up with rising customer demands. If most of your customers are under contract,
as most are in the copier/ printer industry, you are receiving a fixed fee that
obligates you to deliver service whenever and wherever needed. Anything you can
do to meet this obligation with less labor, fewer manual steps and errors, and
greater efficiency increases profits. And fewer service glitches such as missed
response times, recalls, improperly prepared technicians or inaccurate billings
always translates into satisfied customers.

you are considering making a move toward a more efficient and productive field
service operation, there is far more to improving day-to-day operations than
just buying some laptops or two-way pagers. By following some guidelines based
on the experience of others—both good and bad—you can get your service
organization up and running effectively with the latest in wireless technology.
To make progress you will need to wear several hats: entrepreneur, project
manager, teacher, and, possibly, psychologist.

wireless field service system has a number of components that must work smoothly
together to be effective. The mobile device, software on the device, wireless
service and back-end service management program must fit with your operation’s
way of doing business. It also must reliably pass information back and forth to
your existing service management system.

the real key to achieving improved service and reduced costs is an effective
change management plan directed at the users of the new technology. That means
convincing your service techs to change their minds and change their behaviors,
which translates, in all probability, into improved results.

Unfortunately, some companies have skipped this step only to find that the new
piece of equipment is rattling around in the technicians’ trunks. Instead, you
want your technicians to believe that the new system is such a necessity that
they cannot leave home without it. Most people naturally resist change, but some
anticipation and planning on your part can lead them to a successful result.

are ten steps that will help your business make the transition to wireless
technology for your service techs out in the field.

Set Business Goals

Paint a picture of what a successful project result looks like in your
organization, and how it fits with overall company goals. By clearly defining
the desired outcome, such as less overtime, reduced paperwork, more techs per
dispatcher and fewer “free” calls, you can keep everyone focused and on track.
Set specific targets for reduced costs, or increased revenue. Show how the
system will more than pay for itself.

months after implementing EFI’s Automated Dispatch System (ADS), Bob Smith, a
director at DocuSource, LLC in Middletown, Connecticut, said that his dealership
has already reaped the benefits of setting up a wireless service system.

liked the idea that we could improve the efficiency of our service force. In
particular, we wanted to be able to get more service calls out of them,” said
Smith, who along with his personnel, spent a week with EFI techs and trainers
learning the ADS system, which automates standard processes surrounding service
dispatch, field service, help desks, credit collections and meter readings. The
system, in turn, interacts with the techs’ wireless devices.

Smith said, has allowed customers to place a service call via the company’s
website or through the system’s voice mail system, which has freed his service
techs and other employees from constantly having to use the telephone. That, he
said, has increased employee efficiency.

biggest change we have seen is we get hardly any phone calls into our Customer
Interaction Center for service anymore. Most everyone places their call into ADS
via the voice mail system and some via the Web,” added Smith, who said the
system has abolished 100 daily calls into the service center. “This has been a
tremendous change. For one, we lost our dispatcher about a month ago and decided
to hold off on replacing her. It is now obvious to us that we don’t need to hire
another dispatcher.”

Although ADS costs DocuSource about $16,000 a year, the small company, which did
around $7 million in sales last year, has saved $13,000 a year by eliminating
the $29,000 a year dispatcher position.

time goes on and we become more familiar with the feature of ADS, especially
reporting, I’m confident we will reap additional benefits from the system,”
Smith said.

Recruit a Sponsor

Present your case to your CEO or vice president of service and enlist one of
them (or another executive) as your project sponsor. Select someone who has
credibility with the primary users of the technology and has strong influence on
their views and behavior. Assure that your sponsor provides consistent, visible
and on-going personal support, even if things get a little bumpy along the way.
Most employees pay attention to what the boss wants—in this case, your wireless

Enlist the Troops

You rely on your rank-and-file technicians to deliver on your service programs
to customers. They are focused on taking care of their customers and know the
operation forward and backward. They are also the ones who will have to use the
new system every day. Recruit a few technicians to your team on a part-time
basis early in the process to ensure that the system you select is a good fit
for their work routine, and to build some grass roots buy-in and credibility.

matter how well informed and intentioned the project leadership is, the
technicians will add valuable feedback on what will and will not work in their
environment. Their input on the real day-to-day issues techs in the field face
will help you avoid having to make costly changes to the system later. Their
involvement early on will help you later in selling the new system to the other
techs. Yes, I said “sell.” Pick at least one tech who is popular and respected
by fellow employees. Similar to the cereal commercial, if “Mikey likes it,” the
rest are likely to follow.

Focus on the Meat and Potatoes

Remain focused on the basics of the process. Identify the routine technician
tasks that, when wireless enabled, will save the technician the most time and
money and achieve the business goals. For example, your summary list might
include: receive call, accept call, order parts, close call, and enter mileage.
Do not try to include every possible function or exception. Adhere to the 80/20
rule and target the 80 percent, publish this basic list of functions and stick
to it.

5. Do
Your Homework on Technology

Seek your existing service management system vendor’s advice on wireless
enablement of their application. Ask other service providers with similar
characteristics what they are using. Attend industry trade shows and
conferences. Interview vendors of field service software both in and out of the
office equipment industry. Use a dash of healthy skepticism and ask to speak
directly to existing customers. Look for “proven art,” not promises and select
experienced vendors.

Spread the News Early and Often

Communicate your plans to your entire service organization, especially
technicians and dispatch staff. Tout the advantages from a technician’s and
dispatcher’s point of view (this is where the technician and dispatch team
members can really add values) but, at the same time, set realistic expectations
about what the new system will and will not do. When developing the campaign,
think, “What’s in it for me?” from the technician and dispatcher perspective. In
addition, explain why this initiative is important to the company, how it will
help the company reach its goals, and what their role will be in achieving
success. Let employees know that you are investing in their operation and their
success. Involve them and invite their input. Provide updates as you progress.
Use your executive sponsor sparingly for key messages.

Take a Test Drive

Implement a minimum set of functions with live data and test it out with a few
techs in real day-to-day operations. Position this effort as a field test to
shake out the bugs. Ride along with the technicians. Make notes. Be willing to
listen to their suggestions and make adjustments.

Training, Training, Training

Without adequate and repeated training on the purpose, use, and care of the new
system, you may run into problems, frustration and delays. In addition to basic
usage, the training should include any new policies and procedures, and how to
get assistance from your help desk. Be sure to coordinate training time with
field operations managers, including scheduling and overtime authorization (if

said the only bump in the road while implementing the system was the training

have to say, pulling all of our techs out of the field at the same time was a
pain and we felt it for days, but we did get over it,” he said.


As you roll out the system, your techs will require on-going support, monitoring
and encouragement to ensure that they are using the system correctly and
consistently. This duty will fall to their direct supervisors. This group must
be as committed to the new system as the project team itself. They will be the
first to hear any complaints or frustrations from the techs. They will have to
keep operations going as techs take time out for training. Supervisory staff
must be prepped and trained to deal with these situations and to demonstrate
consistent support for successful deployment.

Measure and Monitor

Maintain and publish a scoreboard showing use and results from the new wireless
system linked to the business goals. For example, you might track the deployment
of the number of branches now online, the activity of number of calls closed
month-to-date and improvements like the reduced number of calls for which a
technician arrived unprepared. Report on those areas most interesting to the
technicians. Measurement keeps the spotlight on results. Be sure to brief your
sponsor regularly on your progress.

don’t have numbers yet, but I have to believe that because our service techs are
not spending as much time on the phone and we are able to track their start and
finish times much more accurately than ever before, we will very shortly see an
increase in the number of quality calls completed,” Smith said.

Whatever system you choose for your technicians, constantly aim for simplicity
and reliability. Your solution will have to perform day-in and day-out and month
after month to give you the opportunity to realize measurable operational
improvements. If you listen to your people and are willing to make mid-course
corrections, you will be positioned to give your customers great service at a
lower cost.

- - -

David Hastings is a senior manager with
BearingPoint, Inc., one of the world’s largest business consulting and systems
integration firms. Hastings has more than 20 years of experience in developing
technology strategy and delivering software application projects for field
service automation. He can be reached at

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