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Power Up Your Field Service

6 Mar, 2008 By: Rob Sombach, Nexent Innovations imageSource

Power Up Your Field Service

“Lightning Copier Company,” a young but fast-growing office equipment
dealership, has a problem. It can’t keep up with its own success. Using Excel
spreadsheets, white boards, sticky notes and fallible human memory to manage an
expanding customer base just isn’t working anymore. There have been mix-ups in
scheduling, inventory gone astray, slow-downs in responses to customer calls.
The company’s stellar reputation for service is starting to slip.

The company is hypothetical, the situation all too real. As a provider of
service management software (Miracle Service), I have the satisfaction of
helping turn such situations around.

Sooner or later, any firm that has not yet automated its field service
operations will run into trouble. The good news is that automation is much
easier than many dealers realize and the productivity gains are huge. Automation
software can smooth and improve every aspect of the servicing business — from
getting technicians to the right place with the right parts on time, to managing
contracts, inventory, billing and follow up. Plus, you get easy access to data
on how the business is performing — information essential for planning,
management and staying competitive.

Streamlining the service call

Let’s look at how an automated system can improve service calls. When the
customer phones in about a problem, dispatch has instant access to a wealth of
information. The customer’s profile, equipment, service history, contract
details, alerts, SLAs, service bulletins and preventive maintenance due — all
show up on screen at the touch of a key. Such information allows the dispatcher
to respond to clients knowledgeably and determine action needed efficiently and

The next step, scheduling the technician, is streamlined too. Another
mouse-click produces a visual display of technicians’ schedules to see who is
available to do the job. A work order with multiple tasks and multiple
technicians can be generated in seconds, then printed, faxed, e-mailed, sent to
a Blackberry or a cell phone. Both the technician and the customer can receive
the work order right away and the dispatcher can monitor all service calls in

Taking it a step further, systems that allow customers to place orders or
open service calls directly through a web portal not only provide more service,
but also boost efficiency. When customers can directly request service, order
parts, view jobs and review sales orders anytime through the web, dispatch
volumes go down and response time speeds up.

Good automated systems are proactive too, alerting your field service
department about preventive maintenance due for each customer’s equipment.

Those are just a few of the tools to help ensure:

• Improved first-call resolution

• Increased number of jobs handled per day

• Fewer errors

• Full customer satisfaction

• A service department that stands out from the competition

An automated service management solution that also tracks inventory, monitors
metered billing and contract renewals and handles other kinds of invoicing will
further improve service department performance.

Powerful management tool

A big part of any dealership automation software is the Management Reporting
it provides. The systems allow you to quickly view data on all parts of your
operation — sales, service, inventory, equipment and technician productivity and
service contract profitability. They provide the analyses you need to determine
what’s working well and what needs attention.

This is one of the features most appreciated by Gina Mitchell, President of
Office Equipment Source (OES), a New York-based authorized Xerox dealer,
providing a full range of office equipment and maintenance services. OES
implemented a service management solution early on in its development — a move
that helped the firm improve its service levels and bottom line.

“When you know the profitability of every one of your customers and service
contracts, then you can respond accordingly,” Mitchell says. “If you don’t have
that information, you can’t deal with the issues and risk loosing money on a
maintenance agreement.”

Getting started

So why do some firms delay automation? They fear it will take too much time.
But implementing a service management software solution doesn’t have to be
complicated. Many of our customers are up and running and using the system
within a couple of days. The key is a system that is flexible, allowing you to
add on functionality as you need it, to grow the software as your business
grows. For example, if you have an accounting program that works well for you,
you shouldn’t have to change it. By using a service management software that
integrates with your existing accounting system, you eliminate the extra cost
and learning curve involved in taking on a new accounting program. The switch to
automation will be that much faster and easier. And you should be able to count
on help from your automation software provider. All good automation software
companies will try to ease your transition — from importing your data to
on-going training and support.

Is the investment worth it?

You don’t have to buy a large, complex software package to get the benefits
of automation. An automated software solution tailored to your needs is less
costly than you think and can deliver a quick R.O.I.  Look into what resources
are available. One example is Miracle Service, where you may see savings of up
to $700 per month per technician.

Even factoring in the cost of the software, any on-going maintenance costs
and staff training time, an R.O.I. of less than six months is very common. 
After that, it’s all money in your pocket. As Gina Mitchell of OES says: “We
really couldn’t afford not to automate. It’s the only way to stay on top of
things and keep on growing.”

Rob Sombach is VP of Development of Nexent Innovations Inc., a provider of
Miracle Service™ and Service Accent™ field service software with thousands of
users in over 44 countries. To contact:

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