Mobile Field Worker Apps: Avoid the Silos. Embrace Integration
Sep 21, 2017
The smart field service organization is outfitting its workers with the mobile devices and mobile apps they need for real-time tracking and on-the-job information exchange. But the visionary business is already going a step further.
The field service sector is dealing with a number of challenging trends:
- Field employees are often a company’s front-line ambassadors to its customers—and competition at the field service level has become fierce.
- Customers have become more demanding, expecting faster and better service. They also want more information—before, during and after whatever interaction takes place.
- Field workers are often now expected to sell product and grow revenues—while also trying to address the immediate service issue.
- And a large portion of field service personnel are getting older, forcing their employers to strategize about who will take their place and how will these newbies ever replace the vast knowledge and experience that is being retired.
Without mobile technology, management remains blind to activity in the field, customers become frustrated, and workers operate in isolation and are forced to deal with issues without real-time guidance and support.
Mobile field solutions have been created to address these challenges. At their most basic, mobile worker apps can leverage wireless and location technologies to provide simple tracking capabilities. However, even more value-add is possible in the form of:
- Real-time work process management. For example, using mobile forms and other types of data capture on the worker’s smartphone or tablet.
- Optimized routing and scheduling of service appointments.
- Even, in the future, on-the-spot guidance with the help of smart glasses and augmented reality.
These solutions are typically cloud-based, scalable, and priced on a monthly per-user basis. According to our most recent Frost & Sullivan survey of North American businesses, the benefits that current users are experiencing are impressive, including:
- Improved competitive advantage
- Enhanced customer engagement
- Faster trouble ticket resolution
- More accurate billing
However, many mobile field worker solutions are standalone, siloed products. As a result, they do not recognize or take advantage of synergies with other related solutions.
The next phase of field service transformation rests on the ability of related solutions to integrate with each other to expedite communications, educate, improve productivity, and even more aggressively reduce costs. For example:
- A first level of integration is already common – Connecting mobilized field service apps with a company’s relevant back-end systems. These back-office systems could include payroll, inventory, customer relationship management, etc. The app accesses these various databases as needed in order to supply the service worker with valuable information (ex: sales history, parts availability, service history, product specs), and the worker in turn feeds relevant field data (ex: wireless time cards, signature capture) back to these databases.
- The next level of integration interacts with adjacent third-party solutions such as document storage or accounting software or a leading mobile forms app. Wireless carriers are often resellers of mobilized field service apps, and leaders in this space are also integrating their relevant voice communications services (such as push-to-talk) with components of the field service solution. These adjacent connections can save time, can increase worker productivity, and can reduce unnecessary paperwork.
- A third level of integration combines field worker tracking with fleet vehicle tracking and remote asset/equipment monitoring – all managed out of a single web-based portal and providing unrivaled mobile resource visibility.
Field workers are a company’s front line force, interfacing directly with customers throughout the work day and expected to provide consistently excellent service and support. Wise companies will arm these employees with the technology they need to succeed. The wisest companies will make sure these mobilized field service solutions can integrate deeply and broadly with related capabilities both now and going forward.
More of our thinking around mobilized field service management apps can be found in the Frost & Sullivan study, “North American Mobile Workforce Management Solutions: Transforming Today’s Field Service Sectors,” K0EF-65, May 2017 at www.frost.com.
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