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How Much Of Your FSM System Is Automated?

Many companies, particularly smaller ones, still manage their field service operation using paper, spreadsheets and point solutions, i.e. software that looks after one aspect of the operation with no regard for the others

Written by Asolvi
Vantage Online, Workplace Technology

In the Managed Print Service (MPS) industry, automation is about making customers happier and service operations more effective. It allows companies to take on more work and deliver better, more reliable service that keeps customers coming back. As such, automation presents companies with an irresistible opportunity to increase their profitability.

Doing Things Manually

Many companies, particularly smaller ones, still manage their field service operation using paper, spreadsheets and point solutions, i.e. software that looks after one aspect of the operation with no regard for the others. Other companies are using functionally-limited service management software that isn’t really flexible or scalable enough to handle the complexity of their operation or facilitate a business that’s growing.

These companies’ operations are beset with manual processes and are working hard, but not smart, to deliver the calibre of service customers expect. In many cases dispatchers allocate and schedule jobs with phone calls, emails, paper-based diaries and whiteboards. Customer, job and asset information is entered in various disparate spreadsheets, forms and databases. Engineers have to handwrite service reports and post them to the back office, and back office staff have to try and interpret these for invoicing purposes. Any software being used will no doubt provide a degree of automation, but manual interventions such as data re-entry are required to make everything work together.

The Value Of Change

Imagine how much more productive everybody in your organisation would be if routine but time-consuming processes could be automated. If you had a system that automatically selected and scheduled the best engineer for a job. Or automatically informed and updated everybody in your service chain with the data they needed when they needed it. Or automatically extracted and inputted key data into service contracts, invoices, reports and compliance certificates.

If a lot of what you do is manual and paper-based, implementing software that automates your service chain will involve big change and a major cultural shift. But with it you’ll be able to grow, adapt and diversify in ways you otherwise couldn’t. You’ll also be able to give your customers the quality of service they demand. Without automation, keeping up with these demands is going to become more and more difficult, as competition rises and technology continues to advance.

The Robots Aren't Taking Over - They're Helping

Increasingly field service organisations are looking at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Last year, McKinsey Global Institute reported that although only 5% of occupations are candidates for full automation (which means the robots aren’t coming for your jobs), virtually all occupations have “partial automation potential”. They estimated that about 50% of the job responsibilities of the global workforce could be automated using contemporary technology, which is nearly $15 trillion in wages.

With this in mind, field service organisations are assessing whether any of their service processes could be refined, expedited and made more effective with automation. In every case there will be routine administrative and technical tasks that can be automated, leaving employees to focus on the thing that matters most: the customer experience.

Examining How Automation Works

Bringing automation to your service operation requires the deployment of a dedicated field service management (FSM) software solution that centralises your data and integrates the different parts of your service chain. With all of your processes in one place, powered by one system, the true value of automation shines through.

For instance, Vantage Online is a cloud-based application that unites your job management, scheduling, parts management, asset management, contract management, invoicing and reporting into one fully integrated and optimised system. It consolidates all data about customers, assets, service contracts, sites and parts into one database, so that everybody in the service chain has real-time access to the information they need. It also includes a mobile tool that enables engineers to access the system in the field. Using this tool they can submit service reports electronically; check stock levels and request parts; view service histories, checklists and job details; and capture e-signatures from customers.

With Vantage Online information flows automatically between back office teams, engineers, warehouse operators, customers, partners and suppliers. Forms, certificates, invoices, reports and new contracts are generated automatically, pre-loaded with the correct information. The best engineer for a job in terms of location, skill set and availability is automatically selected and notified. Costings are calculated automatically by the system rather than by finance teams. And automated alerts tell service teams when action is needed, e.g. contracts are due for renewal, response time deadlines are looming, or there’s a scheduling clash.Happier Customers, Better Service Operations

The individual benefits of automation can be boiled down to two main areas: improving operational effectiveness and improving customer satisfaction.

Improved operational effectiveness is how much faster, more streamlined and more accurate your service processes are when powered by the sort of automation a solution like Vantage Onlines promises. Delays to do with filling in, sending, finding and receiving paperwork are eliminated. Re-entering the same data in multiple systems to ensure that information about jobs, assets and customers is up to date is not necessary. Errors that can result from misreading forms, miscalculating costings or forgetting to check a contract term no longer happen. And far less time is spent on the phone and drafting emails. As a result, your organisation can get more work done with the same or fewer people, radically reducing salary and operational costs and improving cash flow.

Customer satisfaction is improved by minimising machine downtime for end-customers and giving them more visibility of the service you provide. The first of these is made possible by an automated flow of data through all stages of the service chain. This is because it gets engineers to the right place, on time, with the right parts and tools, thereby improving response times and first-time fix rates. The extra visibility comes from automated reports and communications and the provision of a self-service web portal. These are all features that come with Vantage Online

Deploying new service management software across your organisation can seem like a daunting prospect. However, the rewards are great and the return on investment is high. Plus, in a service-driven economy with customer demands and expectations rising exponentially, it won’t be long before a software-centric service management system becomes a pre-requisite.

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