How To Optimize Your Field Services in 2021 (Video)

Are your field workers still using pen and paper? Is information frequently lost or not captured? Are manual processes slowing down your company?

ExpandIT Field Service software enables organizations to reduce errors, improve customer service, and increase cost and time savings. It connects to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, NAV and Finance & Supply Chain Management to ensure information flows automatically between your field service software and ERP system, enabling you to improve the speed of processes such as invoicing.

In this recorded session ExpandIT shows you how to optimize your business in 5 key areas:

  • Manual processes
  • Scheduling
  • Resource utilization
  • First time fix rates
  • Invoicing

Transcription below:

Melissa: Hi there, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. This is Melissa from Encore Business Solutions. And today, we’ve got ExpandIT with us. We’ve got Julissa and Tayler, so I’m gonna hand it over to them to take you through their solution. Hi there.

Julissa: Perfect. Thank you. So my name is Julissa Gonzalez as mentioned, and I work on the marketing side here at ExpandIT. And I also have Tayler Wroge, who is a field service product expert and business analyst who will be speaking in just a moment. And today, we will be discussing, “How to optimize your field services in 2021.” So the agenda is as follows. We’ll take a look at the stakeholders in the field service and a little bit about ExpandIT. Next, we’ll look at the common pain points, service organization space. Then Tayler will get into how organizations can optimize field services. And then we’ll share one of our customer stories. And lastly, we’ll finish off with considerations companies should have in mind.

So a little bit about ExpandIT. ExpandIT was founded in 1998. So we have more than 20 years of experience as a Microsoft independent software vendor, and we specialize in service management. And so we have a standard integration to all versions of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Finance and Supply Chain Management. And we target small and medium-sized companies, and our essentials offering comes at an affordable rate that can be implemented within a short period of time. And we provide hand-held training to empower your service and installation staff with information they need to serve your customers.

So we have seen that in the field there are usually four different stakeholders. And we have service organizations who want happy customers, productive employees, and profitable operations. Next, we have service technicians who work out in the field and need real-time information to complete their work. Then we have planners or dispatchers who plan, schedule, and communicate with field technicians and customers. And lastly, we have the end-customer, who is an organization or an individual needing fast and easy installation.

And these are some of the common pain points that we have observed from organizations that do field-based work. We see frequent errors and lost paperwork when recording time and materials consumption in the field, difficulty making adjustments due to emergencies or changing priorities on projects or service calls, time-consuming manual process in both scheduling and in fieldwork, inefficient and poor communication between schedulers and technicians and between the end-customer, significant invoicing delays, lack of visibility and ability to verify job status internally for the end-customer. And we have also seen that information is often difficult to access for many of the stakeholders involved.

And so now we’ll get into the five ways companies can optimize and simplify field operations. And so the first way that companies can optimize field operations is by eliminating manual processes. So we all know that running a service business or really any business means juggling a lot of tasks and ensuring you stay on top of them. And research has actually found that 52% of service organizations are still using manual methods for service. And some of these manual processes we see in the field are using paper reports and documents while out in the field, tracking time and materials consumed manually, and also using disconnected or outdated technology to communicate. And with paper reports and documentation, for example, paper reports are prone to error as it can be misplaced, lost, or illegible. And when documentation is lost or misplaced, retrieving the original document can be a hassle, time-consuming, and in many cases, impossible. Additionally, technicians often forget to track their time, or maybe they track their time midway through a job, underestimate or overestimate the number of materials used, and all of this leads to inaccurate data.

Using manual processes like email to communicate with technicians can be inefficient and ineffective. Technicians often don’t have access to their email or don’t check it regularly, and when planners or dispatchers communicate time-sensitive updates to technicians through email, ensuring technicians have in fact received the update is difficult to track. And so the field service optimizes and simplifies processes by digitizing people forms and reports, tracking time and materials consumed, and streamlining communications. And now Tayler will walk through how our service organization helps eliminate manual processes.

Tayler: So risk management software enables the technicians to complete reports and forms digitally. By creating forms that are on-the-go for the field to fill out, the back office is receiving the information almost instantaneously. This is connecting your field with the back office. Not only does this optimize business processes, but digital reporting ensures compliance from the field. Specific questions can be set as mandatory, questions can have dependencies upon answers, and forms can be marked as needing to be filled out at the beginning or end of a visit. This guarantees that the form is filled out and that the back office and/or customer can receive the information as if they are on-site. Having the digitalized forms and reports saves money by eliminating the duplication of work and the process of scanning and turning in. Once the form is approved from the office, it can immediately be emailed out to your customer or any email addresses selected.

Tracking time and materials consumed is so important because this is the data that’s approved and sent back to become the cost on the job. If this information is not collected, the back office will not know the profitability of the job or service order. Having an easy-to-use list of items that were planned on being used to make the field call allows the field to quickly fill out what has been used. If a field technician has check inventory, they’re able to filter down to the items they have used and search to consume that item. The time the field technician is out on the site can be collected through automatic timers based on the buttons that are selected, such as travel or work time. The technician can also fill out any manual hours to the correct work type as well. Either way, the time information is important for costing to make sure estimates are accurate and any sales adjustments can be made.

Expenses also can be incurred out in the field and can be easily lost when the field have to turn those in. The mobile solution is able to easily collect those expenses, if it’s inventory, quick runs to the store, or time, and it will not only save your field management time, but also for the back office. This is also real-time cost information which can easily be recorded. Once a visit is finished for the day, the information will be sent back to approvals to be reviewed or even auto-approved and sent back to the ERP for costing purposes. We also have been able to streamline communication from the back office to the field through messaging. The dispatchers and planners can communicate with technicians through our mobile client. This is important when a company needs to get a message out to the team quickly. As we’ve seen, especially in the last year, as everyone has dealt with new COVID safety requirements and area shutdowns, they were able to get messages out to their teams immediately to let them know what was going on. These messages can save time by communicating all at once to the resources and staff rather than contacting each technician individually.

Messages can also be sent related to the planned visit. The message and subject can be pre-populated based on configuration options to pull information from within the scheduled visit to that message. Those messages can be sent internally to a text message or even an email. This will keep a history of all messages being sent out as well for the planner to easily reference. Within our messaging capabilities, we even have the ability to send a calendar invite to someone externally who is linked to an email. This is only for the messages at the planned visit level, but it allows the customer to keep the visit in their calendar as well.

Julissa: And so the second way to optimize field services is by improving scheduling. And so getting the right person to the right job with the right tools at the right time is critical for any business. And Verizon Connect research has actually found that 25% of field service organizations are still using spreadsheets for job scheduling while the rest still use whiteboards or other manual methods. And this manual approach to scheduling makes it difficult to react to changes or quickly make adjustments. And so, a manual scheduling process can be inefficient and often leads to errors or miscommunications. And when companies schedule work orders or jobs on standalone solutions like whiteboards, Excel files, or email, having a complete overview of the scheduled jobs can get very messy. And so organizations can optimize and simplify the scheduling with the field service management software by using the digital schedule, having a complete overview and having visibility of job status.

Tayler: A digital schedule will eliminate paper, whiteboards, and trips to the office by making schedules easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet. Having the ability to go offline when the mobile user drops service is allowing the field to continue their job and getting information back to the office when they have received a new connection. Every few seconds, the system is looking for service. And when it is found, the modified and new information is sent back to the dispatcher screen while receiving any new and modified records as well. Having visibility of what works have been scheduled for the field technician is just as important as a dispatcher knowing what status or state the job is in. Our solution interacts with the mobile device, allowing for little to no paperwork needing to be exchanged. It does not require additional communication to get the schedule out, which in return allows the service tech to service more jobs each day and the dispatcher didn’t know what has been scheduled.

ExpandIT gives dispatchers a complete overview of the job details at the tip of their fingers, knowing what the job entails and what is expected out in the field. Customer contacts, job site address, dates, and much more comes from the ERP system and is displayed in an easy-to-read format for the dispatch team. We even have mapping capabilities from both the dispatcher side and the mobile device. When a dispatcher is not sure where the job is or if the job is located in your other work, the mapping capabilities will allow the dispatcher to plan accordingly. We are not doing route management, but we display all needed information on a map to make wise route decisions and giving an option based on distance. By using Google Maps, it allows the dispatcher to see all landmarks, cities, restaurants, hotels, etc., nearby.

From the Planning Board, the dispatcher is able to see the status of the planned visits that have been scheduled to the technicians. As long as the mobile device is online and has service, the visit statuses is updating on the Planning Board. This gives the dispatchers a quick glance of the schedule and statuses of those visits. At all times, the dispatcher should be able to answer a question from their customer, reduce double bookings of their resources, and know each resource is working…what they’re working on and what step in the process they’re at. The Planning Board gives a summary of what is happening for the day or past days and future. The details lay behind each of the planned visits on the board.

The third way to optimize field service is by enhancing resource optimization. To better explain this, I’ll paint a picture. Let’s say you have 100 service technicians in the field covering a huge geographic territory. For most tasks, we understand that some people are better at certain tasks and some technicians perform very specialized services. As a service organization, you not only have to juggle the skills of your technicians, but also their geographic location when trying to respond to service requests. Getting it right has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. Organizations can enhance resource optimization with the field service management software by having a single source of information, being able to easily message technicians and track technician location, and manage work orders in one place.

Having a single source of information is key when planning work. The planners or dispatchers are juggling multiple functions of the process and need to see all pertinent information at once. Having a quick access of information will make scheduling a breeze. Our system receives all job and order details from the ERP, and we will send the approved information to the ERP for the next person in the process. Being most efficient when scheduling not only saves money, but it improves customer satisfaction. Our field service management software includes a built-in map showing the location of service technicians as well as the location of jobs and estimated time, which enables dispatchers to make informed decisions about the right person for the job. Our system can help optimize the routes and scheduled resources, which leads to a reduction in travel time and improved response time. The mapping capabilities will visually help any dispatcher. A setting can be turned on to see the location of the field technicians as long as they have the application open and are in reception while they are in route to the site. This will update the map for the dispatchers to see the person and how far away they are from the site.

From the Planning Board, the dispatcher has the ability to easily create a new work order, a job or service order within ExpandIT instead of having to go over to the ERP system. When there’s an emergency call, it makes it easy to get the visit on the schedule all from one screen. New work orders can be created against existing customers, projects, and service items from within the ERP. But if a new project comes up, it is able to be filled out at the most basic level to get the work scheduled. Since this is being fully created within ExpandIT, all fields would have to be filled out and selected, just like you would in your ERP. Once this work order has been worked on and approved, it will be sent back to the ERP system for creation with all consumed materials and time. Again, this is allowing the field to quickly create work orders to get a visit on the schedule.

Julissa: And so the fourth way to optimize field services is by increasing first-time fix rates. And some questions you wanna ask yourself is, are your service technicians properly prepared for jobs? That meaning, do they have the tools and parts needed to complete a job the first time? And what about access to previous job history or other critical information they need to get the job completed correctly the first time. And so research from the Opportune group has found that best-in-class field service organizations resolve the issue on the first visit 88% of the time, while average companies achieve an 80% rate, and the laggers struggle at 63%. That means in many cases, over 20% of customers are unhappy with the service being provided to them. And the long-term impact of that is huge. And organizations can increase first-time fix rates with the field service management software by having mobile access to all information, having a field service software that integrates into your ERP, and being able to capture required information out in the field.

Tayler: Accessing the historical data from the mobile device for a given customer service item or job is important. If most of the visits are being scheduled, the field should know what has previously happened at visits to make sure they are only working on what has been assigned or what is needing to be done. Having the access to forms previously filled out, pictures of the work that has been done, or the condition of the site that it was left in previously can help the current visit be accomplished much quicker. Viewing the history gives a complete picture of the job site. The history will show previous work orders, materials consumed, time consumed, forms filled out, comments or messages made, and pictures that have been saved. Integrating with the Microsoft Dynamics ERP system ensures data can be retrieved as required, enabling service technicians to prepare more effectively for a service visit and increase their first-time fix rates. All data collected in the field can be reviewed, modified, and sent directly to the accounting system for costing, billing, and invoicing. Having a seamless integration is key to making multiple systems feel they are a one-stop-shop, even with an add-in application. The add-in applications are to elevate the business process but to make sure that the integration seems seamless.

Julissa: And the fifth way to optimize field services is by speeding up invoicing and payment. And every day that service companies wait for information to come in from the field about service work performed is lost profit. Something to ask yourself is, are manual processes, paper documents, and disconnected system making invoicing a slow process for your organization? If the answer is yes, and if sending invoices out takes weeks after a job is completed, it’s time to find a better way or at least to learn about the options that exist. And in this age, customers expect to use modern on-demand technology that enables them to self-serve. And organizations can speed up invoicing and payment with the field service management software by allowing customers to view and pay invoices online, enable customers to request service, and ensure accurate invoicing.

Tayler: ExpandIT has a self-service portal, which enables customers to not only pay invoices online but encompasses all interactions with the customer, which reduces administrative costs for service companies. Customers have the ability to request service calls, report incidents, or even see where a particular visit stand. Most importantly, it shows the status of that visit. Approving consumed time and material from our system is a breeze. We are displaying the information that is needed to be reviewed and can then be sent to the ERP system at the next injection of data. The time and materials can be modified, added, or deleted before approval to make sure the costing will be correct. This will allow the accounting team to have the information without having a manual process for checking the data. We do have an auto-approval capabilities as well, which will streamline the information coming from the field to the ERP system. We see some customers wanting to review the data before it makes it to the ERP system, which makes it easier to correct the records before it’s sent.

Julissa: And so now that we’ve gone through the five ways companies can optimize and simplify field services, we’ll share one of our customer’s stories and we’ll discuss the pain points that the organization faced and followed by how a field service solution helped them simplify their processes. So I’m really excited to be able to share this one example of a customer that’s a leading manufacturer of power solutions to electric utilities in the USA. And so prior to implementing a mobile field service solution, the customer experienced significant business pain in their field operations. To start with, the degree of manual processes, such as manual disconnected scheduling that resulted in phone and email communication in the field was expensive. And this frequently delayed work on a job or a project or resulted in a slow response time on a critical service call. And there was very frequent errors in paperwork. Technicians often made errors, forgot to submit, or lost their paperwork with the time and materials consumed on the job. And because of these manual processes and errors, the invoicing-to-payment period was frequently greater than 120 days.

And so after implementing a mobile field service solution, scheduling was a lot smoother. Planners in the office now have a complete overview of field resources, which increases the capacity of workers in the field. And they are now able to complete up to 20% more work per day. And using on-site digital reports, manual paperwork is no longer lost or forgotten. Technicians can fill out all required forms digitally on the job, and everything is automatically stored in the right place. And the organization is able to invoice the customer within 24 hours. And the customer receives a summary, an invoice, right away, which helps the company improve cash flow. And by having an integrated and connected system, communication between planners and technicians has improved dramatically.

Tayler: We have mentioned throughout this presentation that ExpandIT field service management software works best with the data from Dynamics ERP and a workflow that ends in the Dynamics 365 ERP system, having all needed field data captured by ExpandIT to finish the posting and invoicing process. It is important to know ExpandIT does not replace or duplicate functionality in service orders, projects, or jobs, but instead we provide the tools that make the management of field service staff possible with the Planning Board and the field client we showed. As well, we do want to point out that ExpandIT does have a customer portal option that can provide your customers with a view into the work being planned, work in process, and work completed, which includes copies of forms and invoices all online in a branded web portal.

Julissa: And so with that, thank you Tayler and Melissa for having us. And for more information, you can visit our website or speak directly with your partner at Encore. I’ll pass it back to you, Melissa, for closing remarks.

Melissa: Great. Thank you very much both of you for joining us today. That was awesome. And I’ll just say good afternoon to everyone else. Take care.

Julissa: Thank you.

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