Posted by Guru Rao

From consumer maintenance top B2B field services, it’s time for better logistics.

It’s mind-boggling.

Amazon is trying to make deliveries with drones. With PrimeNow, I could have an ugly Christmas Sweater shipped to my house within two hours. Yet somehow, requesting not to sit at home all afternoon waiting for a field tech to come fix the internet is asking too much.

We’re living in a brave new digital world, but many of its benefits have yet to spill over into field service management. And we get it. You’re distributing a service, not a product. Some calls will require more time and complexity than others. In some cases, technicians won’t have a part that they need on hand, further adding to the day’s agenda.

But one thing we’ve learned from studying supply chains big and small is that flexible resource management is the heart and soul of any effective downstream operation. Here’s what we mean by that:

Manage by exceptions, not rules

“Your own setbacks don’t have to reflect poorly on the customer’s experience.”

There are simply too many factors to stick to a rigid service schedule – weather conditions, traffic, unforeseen complications during a repair. Managers know the best-laid plans go awry, which is why so many provide, at a minimum, a four-hour appointment window. And even that timeframe can get pushed back. Maybe the truck caught fire, or there was a pileup on the interstate.

But here’s what the customer sees: She had to leave work early, sit in traffic, get home and do crossword puzzles because the internet isn’t working. After waiting five hours, the tech never shows. She calls, upset, only to learn that they’ll have to do the same thing tomorrow, which means yet another evening without internet – not exactly a recipe for glowing customer satisfaction ratings.

So how can you improve? First, the customer needs to be alerted if there’s going to be a schedule shift. Ideally, this notification will come early, so maybe she’s able to leave work a few hours later, which brings us to our second point. Your own setbacks don’t necessarily have to reflect on the customer’s experience. If you’re managing your resources flexibly, you may be able to fix the problem before it affects the customer. In theory, this sounds difficult – and it is complicated. But there are ways to simplify field service management.

We have the technology

In answer to his own question – “Why hasn’t field service caught up to the rest of the world?” – Venture Beat contributor Michael Chou had this to say:

“One answer is that the industry hasn’t adopted the kind of technology that will improve speed, accuracy and reliability.”

Specifically, the industry hasn’t adopted advanced analytics and AI to manage their operations flexibly.

For example, imagine you could combine different types of data that includes techs’ current location, traffic and weather conditions, current progress on the service schedule, and estimated time needed to complete remaining calls.

With a mobile fleet manager like nuDeliverIt that integrates with your CRM, FMS and TMS, you don’t have to imagine. Service routes are optimized in real time, and the status of a call and tech ETA are always up-to-date based on all of the above factors. The customer always knows what’s what, and your available resources are always allocated to where they’re needed.

Now that’s mind-boggling.

How to not suck at field service