field service management (FSM)
What is field service management?
Field service management (FSM) is a system of managing off-site workers and the resources they require to do their jobs efficiently. Originally this was a manual process that involved phone calls and paperwork exchanged among field service technicians, customers and office personnel. Today, FSM software handles much of the information exchange and manages the field service process.
FSM software lets field workers view and make changes to schedules, work orders, customer account records, inventory, invoices and other databases and records. The tools also give customers a way to schedule service, track service requests and technicians' progress, engage field personnel and have input in the field service process. FSM software is accessible through mobile devices.
Field service management software is popular in industries like telecom, where field technicians need information about service requests, scheduling and other details. It is also used in industries such as healthcare, letting homecare workers track and update patient information. Specialized industries like mining use FSM software to give workers information about the location of a service event and what's needed.
As mobile capabilities have improved, FSM software has become more integral to the work and workflow of field service workers. It schedules and dispatches technicians for service calls. It also provides information through work orders, account information, product inventory and availability and product knowledge bases. Advanced FSM software provides capabilities such as voice to text and integration with internet-of-things (IoT)-connected devices.
What are the main components of FSM?
Field service management consists of several components.
- Contract management involves managing service level agreements and ensuring that providers meet their SLA commitments. SLAs specify the type of service provided and the standards that the provider will meet.
- Customer self-service components enable customers to pay for, schedule and track a job, as well as communicate with staff.
- Dispatch management designates which field technician is sent where and when they are sent out.
- Employee training provides field service teams with the skills they need to do their jobs and stay up to date on product and service changes.
- Inventory management tracks parts and supplies as they are ordered, stored, used and sold. It helps workers know what to order, when to order and reorder, and how much to order.
- Job scheduling establishes work order completion timelines, employee schedules and service appointments.
- Work order management assigns work orders to employees and tracks them to completion with job status updates.
Why is field service management important?
Field service management enables off-site workers to do their jobs correctly and efficiently. Software tools provide them with the resources they need and establish a communication channel among office workers, field workers and customers. Each party is connected to the field service process through the software.
FSM software helps structure and automate repetitive tasks, reducing errors. These tools also help off-site workers adapt to changing circumstances in real time. If a job doesn't go according to plan, technicians can quickly access knowledge bases and technical support groups for expert advice and answers.
For example, if a technician runs into an issue servicing a machine, they could snap a picture of it and write a description of the problem on the mobile FSM app. The technician will get instant feedback without having to leave the job site.
FSM applications are also important to improving customer satisfaction. They provide customers with information on order scheduling, service requests, work progress and payment. Field work goes more smoothly when customers are informed and engaged in the process. It also increases customer satisfaction and retention rates.
What is FSM software?
Field service management software generally is a software-as-a-service platform that lets technicians work from mobile devices or tools. Field service is mobile by nature. The software enables technicians to do more work on site, rather than transferring equipment back to the service provider's offices to be fixed.
FSM apps have dashboards that show technicians details about upcoming jobs and work orders, including the following:
- customer contact information;
- location of service event;
- directions to the job site;
- purpose of the visit;
- the account associated with the order;
- background on the machine to be serviced; and
- priority work involved.
Some core features of field service management software include the following:
- customer portals and notifications;
- job status updates;
- knowledge and asset repositories;
- payment processing and integrated invoicing features;
- regulatory compliance measures;
- route optimization and GPS navigation; and
- time tracking and driver logs.
Modern field service platforms use augmented reality (AR) to perform tasks like information overlay, knowledge capture and training. Technicians can use AR to superimpose a digital twin of a machine they are repairing onto the physical machine. This approach can provide a technician with direction for the repair or maintenance work they are doing.
AR can also virtually connect technicians to an expert who can watch over the technician's shoulder as they work. Some tools have chatbots that automate repetitive tasks such as customer notifications or scheduling job follow-ups.
FSM software can also use artificial intelligence to analyze and draw insights from data repositories. For example, FSM software could analyze maintenance data and recommend preventative maintenance for a machine or product.
Some field service management providers combine field service management with other applications in a single offering. FSM can be paired with enterprise resource planning, enterprise asset management and customer relationship management applications.
What are the benefits of field service management?
FSM software can be an asset to businesses in several ways, including the following:
- Customer experience. FSM tools promote better customer experience by giving customers real-time insight into the work being done. It also lets them communicate directly with technicians and back-office personnel in real time.
- Efficiency. Companies can improve operational efficiencies by optimizing work order routing and technician scheduling. FSM software also lets companies spend less time documenting details and increases the task completion rate and the timely resolution of issues.
- Flexibility. FSM software makes customer service nimbler. Management has more insight into the work process and customer experience using FSM tools, and they can coordinate jobs in ways that satisfy everyone.
- Increased productivity. Improved data insights and access to better back-office support through real-time communication allows field technicians to cut down on errors. These capabilities also improve technicians' first-time-fix rates and increase the quality and quantity of work.
- Improved safety and compliance. FSM applications allow technicians to attach digital proof of work to their work orders and preserve a compliance audit trail. This approach helps organizations comply with safety and other regulations.
- Reduced cost. Field service management tools digitize paper-based tasks such as invoicing and data entry, lowering administrative costs.
- Reporting and monitoring. FSM software provides technicians and back-office staff with easy-to-understand information about their jobs, improving decision-making. Job completion rate and average revenue per job are examples of the types of metrics provided.
What are the challenges of field service management?
There are several challenges to field service management, including the following:
- Data availability. Technicians sometimes work in environments that have limited or no internet connectivity. They must proactively store job-related data locally on a device, so it can be accessed without an internet connection. A technician leaving a job to access data or having to make repeat visits can negatively affect customer satisfaction and quality of service.
- Difficulty adapting. Technicians may struggle with new FSM tools as they are introduced.
- Monitoring technicians. Field technicians working remotely, sometimes without internet connections, can be difficult to track and monitor.
- Tool integration. Organizations may have implemented multiple tools over time for different tasks as the service they provide developed. Those tools aren't always compatible with one another.
- Underutilized customer feedback. FSM apps collect customer data and feedback. However, this data can go to waste if staff cannot respond appropriately or doesn't collect the right kinds of customer-experience metrics.
Industry examples of field service management
Some examples of industries that use field service management include the following:
- Education. Field service applications can help with university facilities maintenance. Campus managers and technicians can use these tools to perform both preventative maintenance and fix active problems. They also can help find new uses for unused campus space or other campus resources.
- Healthcare. Homecare employees use FSM software to track patient data. Field technicians may use it to repair and perform maintenance on remote medical devices.
- Hospitality. A field service application might be used to coordinate hotel maintenance jobs so as not to disturb guests and still have visibility into all the building's assets.
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Technicians use field service management applications to schedule appointments and perform HVAC evaluations, maintenance and repairs with easy access to support.
- Industrial and manufacturing. Technicians are dispatched for preventative repair and maintenance on a wide variety of machines that FSM applications can help them diagnose and fix. They can also provide locations of service jobs, and integrate with industrial internet of things devices to provide predictive maintenance
- Postal and food delivery. FSM software is used to track deliveries and delivery drivers as they proceed along their routes. It may also be used to take inventory of deliveries.
- Telecom. Technicians installing cable and phone lines use FSM software to track work orders and service locations. Customers use it to schedule routine maintenance or installations.
Learn how AI, machine learning and deep learning are being used to build next-generation field service IoT technology that understands and evaluates service situations in real time.